Press Release

American Academy presents prize to behavioral economics pioneer Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences today presented the Talcott Parsons Prize to Daniel Kahneman, considered one of the world’s most influential living psychologists. The prize is awarded for outstanding contributions to the social sciences.

With his friend and colleague, the late Amos Tversky, Kahneman conducted pioneering work that laid the foundation for the field of behavioral economics; in the 1970s, they were among the first academics to analyze what causes people to sometimes make wrong choices. Kahneman’s work changed how we understand the psychology of markets and individual financial decision-making.

Kahneman, Senior Scholar at the Woodrow Wilson School and Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs emeritus at Princeton University, received the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics.

At the Talcott Parsons award ceremony, Kahneman delivered a talk on “Two Systems in the Mind.” Academy President Leslie Berlowitz presided over the ceremony; Chair of the Talcott Parsons Prize Harriet Zuckerman, Senior Fellow and former Senior Vice President at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Professor of Sociology emerita at Columbia University, introduced Kahneman; and William Julius Wilson, winner of the Talcott Parsons Prize in 2003 and the Lewis P. and Linda L. Geyser University Professor at Harvard University, presented the award to Kahneman.The citation reads:

Daniel Kahneman

You have described the mind as “a machine for jumping to conclusions,” and for nearly four decades your pioneering research has shown how the gears and levers of that amazing machine function. By constructing elegant experiments and asking creative questions, your work has revealed answers to some of the most complex mysteries about the human mind – how it processes information, forms judgments, and makes decisions. Your insights and empirical findings have overturned conventional wisdom that for generations guided our understanding of how people perceive and assess risk.

Relying on a highly disciplined approach to probing the automatic system of intuition, and the deliberate system of rational decision making, you helped define a new area of scholarship – behavioral economics. Your facility to explain clearly abstract principles and describe their practical relevance to everyday life has made your findings accessible to both scholars and the wider public.

Transcending cognitive psychology, behavioral economics, and the science of well-being, your work has enhanced our understanding of the relationship between perception, intuition, emotion, and cognition.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is proud to bestow upon you the 2011 Talcott Parsons Prize for Social Science.

Kahneman was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1993.

First awarded in 1974, the Talcott Parsons Prize was established to honor the noted sociologist and former president of the American Academy.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy is a leading, independent research center that conducts studies in science and technology policy, global security, the humanities and culture, social policy, and education.