Home Health & Wellness Hebrew University Mourns the Passing of Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman

Hebrew University Mourns the Passing of Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman

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Hebrew University mourns the passing of Nobel laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman, fellow in the Hebrew University of Jerusalem Center for the Study of Rationality, lecturer, and graduate. He died at age 90 on Wednesday, 27th March 2024, according to stepdaughter Deborah Treisman.

During his tenure at Hebrew University from 1961 to 1977, Kahneman, together with the late Professor Amos Tversky, developed the prospect theory, integrating principles from psychology into economic science, and laying the foundations for the discipline of behavioural economics. The pair also delved into the realm of decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, uncovering significant biases that lead us astray from probability theory, often resulting in irrational behaviour.

Their findings fundamentally challenged previous concepts, brought about a real revolution in everything related to decision-making, economic and otherwise, and influenced the policies of many companies and entities all over the world.

“Before Kahneman and Tversky, people who thought about social problems and human behaviour tended to assume that we were mostly rational agents,” wrote New York Times columnist David Brooks. “They assumed that people have control over the most important parts of their own thinking. They assumed that people are basically sensible utility-maximisers, and that when they depart from reason, it’s because some passion like fear or love has distorted their judgment.”

But Professors Kahneman and Tversky, he went on, “yielded a different vision of human nature”. “We are players in a game we don’t understand. Most of our own thinking is below awareness. “Our biases frequently cause us to want the wrong things. Our perceptions and memories are slippery, especially about our own mental states. Our free will is bound. We have much less control over ourselves than we thought.”

The work of Professor Kahneman and Professor Tversky, he concluded, “will be remembered hundreds of years from now.”

In 2002, Kahneman was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences as a professor at Princeton University. In 2011, Kahneman published the bestselling Thinking, Fast and Slow. The study presented a comprehensive view of the mind as containing two systems, one fast and intuitive, and the other slow and more rational.

Kahneman was born in Tel Aviv and later returned to graduate from Hebrew University with a major in psychology. Beginning in 1954,  he served in the Israeli Defense Forces and was transferred to the psychology branch, where he was given occasional assignments to assess candidates for officer training.

The unit’s ability to predict performance, however, was so poor that he coined the term “illusion of validity,” meaning a cognitive bias in which one displays overconfidence in the accuracy of one’s judgments. Two decades later this “illusion” became one of the most frequently cited elements in psychology literature.

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