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Psychologist who wrote best-selling book Thinking, Fast and Slow dies at 90


Daniel Kahneman, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, has died. He blended psychology and economics and helped create the growing field of “behavioral economics.”

Mandel Yan/AFP via Getty Images


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Mandel Yan/AFP via Getty Images


Daniel Kahneman, who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, has died. He blended psychology and economics and helped create the growing field of “behavioral economics.”

Mandel Yan/AFP via Getty Images

Daniel Kahneman, who understood that not all economic decisions are strictly rational, has died at the age of 90. His research, which focused on how human psychology distorts rational thinking, won him a Nobel Prize in 2002 and helped to give rise to the emerging field known as “behavioral economics.”

“Danny is a giant in this field,” said Princeton University professor Eldar Shafir. One of the research centers is named after Kahneman“Many areas of social science have simply never been the same since he arrived on the scene.”

Kahneman, who also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, attributes much of his success to good luck.

“My life changed by pure luck,” Kahneman said NPR’s Hidden Brains 2018. “We found a partner, an intellectual partner, who we got along with very well and we got a lot of work done.”

Kahneman’s long-time collaborator was Amos Tversky, who died in 1996. Both were trained as psychologists, and together they challenged the academic orthodoxy that people’s economic behavior was strictly guided by rational thinking. They found many examples of decisions being made in irrational ways. , but understandable—for example, judges grant parole more often after lunch than when hungry.

Another Nobel laureate, Richard Thaler, said that Kahneman and Tversky broadened our understanding by asking different questions than most economists, who focus on Mathematics, not psychology. When people do this, they ask how people really behave.

Kahneman summarized these findings in his 2011 bestseller, Thinking, fast and slow.

Some decisions, he writes, are made slowly and cautiously, just as standard economic models describe. But other decisions are influenced by snap judgments or shortcuts that fall into predictable patterns.For example, a gambler or investor might take The risk is greater after losing money Hopefully we can break even.

Psychology teaches us that sometimes the framing of economic choices can make a big difference. Many consumers welcome the idea of ​​restaurants offering discounts on certain nights of the week but balk at the idea of ​​paying a surcharge at other times, As Wendy recently discoveredeven from a strictly economic perspective, there is no difference.

By explaining these quirks, behavioral economics attempts to better understand people’s decisions and, in some cases, nudge them in more desirable directions.

“Obviously, the decisions we rely on as a society are fallible,” Kahneman told NPR’s All Things Considered year 2011. “It’s easy to make mistakes and we should know that.”

Kahneman had his own mental shortcuts, Thaler said, describing his friend as a “rabid pessimist.”

“He always expected the worst to happen,” Thaler recalled, “and he claimed it was rational because he wouldn’t be that disappointed with how life turned out.”

Thaler, a self-described optimist, said he tried unsuccessfully to persuade Kahneman to spend less time worrying.

“He lived to be 90 and in good health, which should prove me right, but I made no progress in changing his mind.”



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