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For immediate release: Oct. 9, 2002

Contact: Jennifer Greenstein Altmann, (609) 258-3601, jlg@princeton.edu


Kahneman gets warm reception after winning Nobel

PRINCETON, N.J. -- In an auditorium filled with colleagues, students, reporters and staff who roared with applause as he was introduced, Daniel Kahneman talked on Wednesday about the pioneering work he has done integrating psychological research into economics, for which he was awarded the 2002 Nobel Prize in economic sciences.

Kahneman has been the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology and professor of public affairs in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University since 1993.

A video of the news conference is available at WebMedia. It is useful for listening to the audio portion. A higher-quality version will be available soon.




In its announcement, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences cited Kahneman "for having integrated insights from psychological research into economic science, especially concerning human judgment and decision-making under uncertainty." Kahneman's work, it said, has laid the foundation for a new field of research by discovering how human judgment may take shortcuts that systematically depart from basic principles of probability.

Asked how he learned that he had won the prize, Kahneman said, "At 9:15 (this morning) someone with a very distinct Swedish accent called, and he read me a citation -- actually, I was a bit excited, I suppose I didn't really hear it. And then he said . . . I will give you the chair of the committee, who happens to be someone I know, and so we verified that this was for real and not a particularly nasty crank call."

Kahneman was awarded the economics prize along with Vernon Smith, a professor of economics and law at George Mason University. Kahneman and Smith will share the $1 million prize money.

"We are honored to have Professor Kahneman on our faculty, and delighted that his work has gained this important international recognition," said Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman.

Asked what the prize meant to him, Kahneman said, "The work for which I'm honored is work I did collaboratively with a close friend and a very famous psychologist, Amos Tversky, who died in 1996. Certainly we would have gotten this together, and that's one of the things that this means to me today. There is that shadow over the joy I feel."

"Together we developed an approach to the study of judgment and decision-making that gained some influence in psychology and economics," Kahneman said earlier in the day. "Many others have contributed as well. The Nobel award in economic sciences is given in recognition of ideas that have been influential in some field of economics. In this case, the award reflects the remarkable success of an approach known as behavioral economics, which is pushing the frontiers of research by introducing psychologically realistic models of economic agents into economic theory."

Kahneman has "challenged the microfoundations of economics," said Deborah Prentice, chair of Princeton's psychology department. "He has documented the shortcuts people take and the biases they have in making decisions. When people don't have a systematic way of making a decision, they do what they can, and that was news to psychologists and economists."

Before Kahneman's work was published, economists had assumed humans were motivated by self-interest and made rational decisions. In addition, economics had been considered a non-experimental science that relied on real-world observations.

"If people are not always capable of making rational decisions, then a lot of what economists had inferred on the basis of those assumptions really needed to be re-examined," Prentice said. "Nowadays there's a growing body of research called experimental economics that is testing economic assumptions in the laboratory, largely because of Danny's work."

"He's challenged the basic model of how individuals behave economically," said Gene Grossman, chair of Princeton's economics department. "The standard model is that everybody is rational, self-interested, calculating; he's suggested that more psychological motives determine people's behavior and that these motives are important for economic phenomena."

The paradigm of the rational actor has not been thrown out, said Grossman, "but I think there is now a broader range of thinking about certain issues, especially savings behavior and participation in the stock market. There are certain phenomena in macroeconomics, especially concerning equity markets, that are very hard to understand without relaxing the rational actor model and relying on some psychological influences."

Kahneman's landmark paper on decision-making under circumstances where there is uncertainty, written with Tversky, was published in Econometrica in 1979. Kahneman said he would not have won the Nobel Prize "if exactly the same paper had been published in a psychological journal. Because it was published in an economics journal, it had a fair amount of influence on the profession and it sort of legitimized a certain approach to thinking about decision-making which eventually, through the work of other economists, became influential in economics itself."

Born in 1934 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kahneman received his bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics from Hebrew University and his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in 1961. He taught at Hebrew University from 1961 to 1978 and at the University of British Columbia from 1978 to 1986. From 1986 to 1994 he was a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

He has won the Hilgard Award for Lifetime Contribution to General Psychology and the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. The American Psychological Association recognized him with its Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award in 1982.

Kahneman has dual citizenship in the United States and Israel. He is married to Anne Treisman, the James McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Psychology at Princeton.

Since 1993, the year he arrived at Princeton, Kahneman has co-taught "Introduction to Psychology," better known as "Psych 101." "He likes introducing students to the field," Prentice said. "And he has been a good mentor to colleagues, turning his attention in recent years to collaborations, especially interdisciplinary ones."

"We at the Woodrow Wilson School could not be more pleased and proud, not only of Danny but of the superb work he has done," said Anne-Marie Slaughter, dean of the school. "He has married psychology and economics in ways that enrich both academic theory and policy practice."

Kahneman will receive the prize in ceremonies Dec. 10 in Stockholm.

The last member of Princeton's faculty and research staff to win the Nobel Prize in economics was senior research mathematician John Nash, who won in 1994. Kahneman's selection brings to nine the number of current faculty and research staff who have won a Nobel Prize.

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