Paul Quinn, professor of psychology at the University of Delaware and an internationally known scholar in the field of perceptual and cognitive development of infants, has received the 2013 Francis Alison Faculty Award.
The award, the University's highest competitive faculty honor, was established by the Board of Trustees in 1978 to recognize the faculty members who best demonstrate the combination of scholarship and teaching exemplified by the Rev. Francis Alison, founder of the institution that is now UD. The annual award also confers membership in the Francis Alison Society.
"Paul Quinn has had a highly productive and influential research career that has fundamentally altered our understanding of infant perception and cognitive development," said Nancy Brickhouse, interim provost. "He truly exemplifies the 'scholar-schoolmaster' ideal and is a most worthy addition to the eminent pool of scholars."
Quinn is widely regarded for his research on how infants perceive the world and appear to classify objects and even faces into categories long before they are able to speak. He has been equally praised for his successful teaching in both introductory and advanced psychology courses and for the research opportunities and mentoring he provides in his lab to undergraduates as well as graduate students.
"We are fortunate to have Paul Quinn as a member of our faculty," said George Watson, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "He is one of our most influential researchers, opening important frontiers in cognitive psychology. His work and reputation have brought attention and recognition to the University of Delaware."
Quinn, who joined UD after previous faculty positions at Washington and Jefferson College and the University of Iowa, identified the "big question" in his field of research as how a baby develops into an intelligent adult. His research, in which he studies the length of time infants spend looking at objects to seek to determine how they are perceiving their environment, contrasts with the traditional view that the concepts humans use to think about the world are products of language and instruction.
"I think our work has shown that at least the initial beginnings of our ability to parse the world into meaningful groupings begins in pre-verbal infants," Quinn said. "Young infants do not experience the world as an undifferentiated bunch of grapes. They have the ability to sort, for example, the cats from the dogs just based on appearance information."