Award, Psychology, Personhood, Selfhood, Human agency,

Celebrating Dr. Jeff Sugarman's Award for Distinguished Theoretical and Philosophical Contributions to Psychology

July 20, 2023

We are delighted to announce that Dr. Jeff Sugarman has been honoured with the Award for Distinguished Theoretical and Philosophical Contributions to Psychology by the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (Division 24 of the American Psychological Association). This is the organization's highest award, which recognizes one of its members each year for lifetime scholarly achievement.

Dr. Sugarman joined the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University in 1998 and is also an associate member of the Department of Psychology. He has served as past president of the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (Division 24 of the American Psychological Association) and associate editor for the Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology and New Ideas in Psychology. In 2005, he received the Society for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology’s Distinguished Service Award, and in 2001 he was a co-recipient of the American Psychological Association Division 1 George Miller Award for Outstanding Recent Article in General Psychology. He is a Fellow of the American Psychological Association and of the American Educational Research Association.

Dr. Sugarman’s numerous publications reflect his studies of the psychology of personhood, selfhood, and human agency; the sociopolitical dimensions of psychology; psychology’s influence in educational institutions; critical educational psychology; the application of historical ontology and hermeneutics to psychological inquiry; the psychology of neoliberalism; and the psychological humanities.

Dr. Sugarman is co-editor of A Humanities Approach to the Psychology of Personhood (Routledge, 2020) and The Wiley Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015), and co-author of Persons: Understanding Psychological Selfhood and Agency (Springer, 2010), Psychology and the Question of Agency (SUNY Press, 2003), and The Psychology of Human Possibility and Constraint (SUNY Press, 1999).

Dr. Sugarman has made a number of significant contributions over his distinguished career. In Psychology and the Question of Agency and The Psychology of Human Possibility and Constraint, Dr. Sugarman and Dr. Jack Martin presented an original argument for an irreducible self-determining human agency, a comprehensive sociocultural developmental theory termed “dynamic interactionism,” uniquely detailed conceptions of selfhood and identity, a distinctive theory of ontogenetic emergence that accounts for psychological capabilities, and a hermeneutically inspired epistemology. Their follow-up to this work, Persons: Understanding Psychological Selfhood and Agency, refined and added greater theoretical and practical detail to their innovative ideas.  

With co-editors Jack Martin and Dr. Kate Slaney, Dr. Sugarman assembled The Wiley Handbook of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology, comprising 28 chapters by 37 contributors. One review of this handbook called it “a treasure trove of papers that both analyze the historical and philosophical basis of contemporary theories and methods in experimental psychology and its applied off-shoots, and recommend carefully crafted alternative theoretical paradigms for psychology’s future. A major contribution to the field.” Another reviewer wrote, “A volume of vast scope that provides an indispensable resource for anyone undertaking a serious study of almost any field of psychological inquiry. Presenting original ideas as well as authoritative overviews, the chapters of this book are remarkable for their foundational quality.”

Most recently, Dr. Sugarman’s work has been concerned with the psychology of neoliberalism and advancing the psychological humanities. His widely known writings on neoliberalism make a compelling case for a close linkage between neoliberalism and psychology, especially in tracing the conceptions and forms of personhood enabled at their intersection. Emphasizing the importance of taking persons as the subject matter of psychology, as opposed to brains, cognitive systems, or other assumed inner entities, Dr. Sugarman advocates that to attain greater understanding of the psychological features that both make possible and constrain not only what we are as persons, but also what we might become, psychologists must draw on the knowledge and practices of the humanities. As he insists, to be a person requires immersion in social and cultural practices that comprise ways and traditions of living, replete with values that guide our decisions and actions, perspectives, and possibilities for acting in consort with others, narratives that shape our experience and existence, and intentions and designs for undertaking life projects. All of this is the very substance of humanities disciplines like literary and cultural studies, history, anthropology, philosophy, languages, political studies, and the arts. In this light, Dr. Sugarman argues, the humanities have much to offer psychology.

Dr. Sugarman also contends that if educational psychology is to be a vital force in the pursuit of educational betterment, it will need to make greater provision for engaging with self-critical, historical, and alternative perspectives. This includes critical investigations of the ideological commitments undergirding contemporary educational psychology and how psychological expertise functions in orienting educational policies and practices, particularly by promoting psychological features and forms of selfhood fitted to the neoliberal agenda.

Over his career, Dr. Sugarman has compiled an impressive corpus of rigorous, refined, and innovative scholarship. We congratulate him for this well-deserved recognition, and we look forward to his further scholarly contributions to psychology and education.

Further Information on Dr. Sugarman’s Career and Work

Freeman, M., & Sugarman, J. (2022). The personal is political: A conversation with Jeff Sugarman interviewed by Mark Freeman. In H. Macdonald, S. Carabbio-Thopsey, & D. M. Goodman (Eds.), Neoliberalism, ethics and the social Responsibility of psychology: Dialogues at the edge (pp. 14–43). Routledge.