Daniel Kahneman is a widely known American psychologist of Israeli descent. Over the course of his professional career, Kahneman has been drawn widespread acclaim for founding the behavioral economics discipline and investigating the various ways in which people make irrational decisions regarding risk taking.
Kahneman was born on 5th March, 1934, in Tel Aviv, Israel. His early childhood however, was spent in Paris, France, where his upbringing took place. However, he soon returned to Palestine in 1946 from where he was to receive his initial education. After completing his Bachelors degree in psychology from Herbrew University, Kahneman went down the civil services route. He joined the Israeli Defense Forces in 1954 as part of the division of psychology. In 1958, he decided to obtain further education and travelled to the United States in pursuit. Kahneman was matriculated in to the University of California, Berkeley, from where he completed his post doctorate in Psychology in 1961.
After completing his academics, Kahneman began teaching psychology at the Herbrew University in Jerusalem, the very institution he received his early education from. By 1966, his status as a professor was elevated to a senior rank. Kahneman travelled to various other universities to further his research endeavors, which he managed simultaneously with his teaching activities. His travels took him through the University of Michigan and Cambridge University. In 1967, he jumped ship to Harvard University to teach psychology, where he also earned a fellowship at the Center for Cognitive Studies.
At Harvard, Daniel Kahneman collaborated his research with another recognized psychologist, Amos Tversky. The two explored human behavior by studying the judgment and decision making processes of individuals, and managed to publish a number of articles in regarding their exploits. Kahneman and Tversky were amongst the very first academics who delve in to this type of study which looked in to human beings’ tendency of making wrong or bad decisions. Their findings culminated in their paper on prospect theory which was published in 1979. Kahneman claimed in this paper that when it comes to economic risk, most individuals in reality will tend to make the less optimal choice. This perspective was different from that of mainstream economists who simply believed individuals to be rational decision makers, as it took account of the impact of human perceptions and biases which clouded people’s judgment. The prospect theory thus dispelled the notion of economics as a perfect or rectifying mechanism, and paved the way for further research on behavioral economics.
Kahnneman received Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his groundbreaking study on prospect theory. After receiving the award he called on all experts in the field to put their professional rivalries aside and work in collaboration with one another for the good of the discipline, as this approach yielded more fruitful results according to him. Moreover, Daniel Kahneman has also been honored with numerous other awards during his career, such as the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association in 1982 and the Grawemeyer Prize in 2002; he was acknowledged jointly with Tversky for both awards. On an individual level, he has received the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists and Lifetime Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association in 1995 and 2007 respectively, among others.
Foreign Policy nominated Kahenman in their list of the world’s top thinkers in 2011 for his contribution toward behavioral economics and hedonic psychology. Kahneman is currently a professor and senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School in Princeton fellow, and also holds a fellowship at Hebrew University.