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October 25, 2020

Some fifteen years later, Rabin had earned the Clark medal, and George Akerlof had delivered a Nobel lecture entitled “Behavioral Macroeconomics.”. But we had also made a truly significant advance, by making it explicit that the objects of choice are mental representations, not objective states of the world. (A long list of classic studies preceded by the question “Which of the following is not a study of latent learning?” comes to mind.) The paper had about 90% of the ideas of Prospect Theory, and quite properly did not impress anyone. Our central observation was that in many contexts the existing situation (e.g., price, rent, or wage) defines a “reference transaction,” to which the transactor (consumer, tenant, and employee) has an entitlement – the violation of such entitlements is considered unfair and may evoke retaliation. I was an eclectic student. When confronted with their inconsistency, people are quite embarrassed. Because our treatment was mistakenly taken to be inclusive, our silences became significant. Amos and I shared the wonder of together owning a goose that could lay golden eggs – a joint mind that was better than our separate minds. Toward a positive theory of consumer choice. As we were writing our first paper, I was conscious of how much better it was than the more hesitant piece I would have written by myself. I audited the clinical sequence, and learned about personality tests from Jack Block and from Harrison Gough. He died as he intended. We have assembled a multi-disciplinary team for an attempt to develop tools for measuring welfare, with the design specification that economists should be willing to take the measurements seriously. It is a strange and rather arbitrary process that selects some pieces of scientific writing for relatively enduring fame while committing most of what is published to almost immediate oblivion. Anne Treisman and I married and moved together to U.B.C. People who make a difference do not die alone. On the psychology of prediction. And I have never had so much fun. I will never know if my vocation as a psychologist was a result of my early exposure to interesting gossip, or whether my interest in gossip was an indication of a budding vocation. I have a clear memory of the answer we gave him. Williams, A.C. (1966). The work on vision that I did that year was also more interesting than the work I had been doing in Jerusalem. He found most objectionable our method of using multiple single questions as evidence – and he was quite wrong there as well. The focus of my research for the past fifteen years has been the study of various aspects of experienced utility – the measure of the utility of outcomes as people actually live them. It took us a long time and several iterations to develop a forceful statement of this contribution to the rationality debate, which we presented several years after our framing paper (Tversky and Kahneman, 1986). Choices, values and frames. I will say more about the joy later. Kahneman, D. (1994). There we exchanged personal accounts of our own recurrent errors of judgment in this domain, and decided to study the statistical intuitions of experts. There has been much to cheer about. I got my first degree from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, in two years, with a major in psychology and a minor in mathematics. The main landmarks were examinations, including an enormous multiple-choice test that covered all of psychology. Our effort during those years was divided between the tasks of exploring interesting implications of our theoretical formulation and developing answers to all plausible objections. In this version, people prefer the program that will save 200 lives for sure. As was the case in our work on judgment, our central insights were acquired early and, as was the case in our work on judgment, we spent a vast amount of time and effort before publishing a paper that summarized those insights (Kahneman and Tversky, 1979). Because the psychology department had temporarily closed, I took some courses in philosophy, did some research, and read psychology on my own for a year. Many economists believe that it is a passing fad, and some hope that it will be. We also developed a training course for instructors in the flight school of the Air Force. (1970). But the people my mother liked to talk about with her friends and with my father were fascinating in their complexity. In October, Princeton University psychologist Daniel Kahneman, PhD, was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his groundbreaking work in applying psychological insights to economic theory, particularly in the areas of judgment and decision-making under uncertainty. Luckily for us, the editor had asked two economists quite open to our approach to review the paper. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I realized only recently how fortunate we were not to have aimed deliberately at the large target we happened to hit. If the controversy is so simply resolved, why was it not resolved in 1971, or in 1974? Although the extra 30 seconds are painful, they provide an improved end. Prix Nobel/ Nobel Lectures/The Nobel Prizes. We were concerned with the fact that a straightforward application of our model implied that the value of the prospect ($100, .01; $100, .01) is larger than the value of ($100, .02). Edwards had concluded from the results that people are “conservative Bayesians”: they almost always adjust their confidence interval in the proper direction, but rarely far enough. These are not parlor-game demonstrations of human stupidity. Alas, while writing up our second paper on fairness (Kahneman, Knetsch and Thaler, 1986b) we learned that we had been scooped on the ultimatum game by Werner Guth and his colleagues, who had published experiments using the same design a few years earlier. We were again trying when Amos died. I developed a structured interview schedule with a set of questions about various aspects of civilian life, which the interviewers were to use to generate ratings about six different aspects of personality (including, I remember, such things as “masculine pride” and “sense of obligation”). I got quite nice results in my one-question studies, but never wrote up any of the work, because I had set myself impossible standards: in order not to pollute the literature, I wanted to report only findings that I had replicated in detail at least once, and the replications were never quite perfect. When Amos’s first son Oren, then fifteen months old, was told that his father was at work, he volunteered the comment “Aba talk Danny.” We were not only working, of course – we talked of everything under the sun, and got to know each other’s mind almost as well as our own. Clinical versus statistical prediction: A theoretical analysis and a review of the evidence. On our usual schedule of spending afternoons together, a day in which we advanced by a sentence or two was considered quite productive. There was never any hurry, any thought of compromising quality for speed. I realized only while writing the acknowledgments for the book that I had revisited the terrain to which Rapaport had first led me. Amos Tversky and the ascent of behavioral economics. This autobiography/biography was written Daniel Kahneman I remember being struck by the reverence with which the rationality assumption was treated even by a free thinker such as George, and also by his frequent warnings to the students that they should not let themselves be seduced by the material we were presenting, lest their careers be permanently damaged. Training agents of social change in Israel: Definitions of objectives and a training approach. The group was doing the right thing collectively, although conversations with the participants and the obvious statistical analyses did not reveal any consistent strategies that made sense. Amos’ almost impossible achievements, as you all know, extended to the academic life. Unlike many of us, Amos could not be coerced or embarrassed into chores or empty rituals. Like many other Jews, I suppose, I grew up in a world that consisted exclusively of people and words, and most of the words were about people. Something dies in everyone who was affected by them. He wanted to hear the voices of his friends one last time, and he found a way to do that through the letters that he read with pleasure, sadness and pride, to the end. Fairness and the assumptions of economics. His advice to them was to stick to what he called “meat-and-potatoes economics,” at least until their careers were secure. I had a notebook of essays, with a title that still makes me blush: “What I write of what I think.” The first essay, written before I turned eleven, was a discussion of faith. I was also fascinated by my early exposures to neuropsychology. There is less wit. The ease with which framing effects can be demonstrated reveals a fundamental limitation of the human mind. Loss aversion also helps explain why real-estate markets dry up for long periods when prices are down, and it contributes to the explanation of a widespread bias favoring the status quo in decision making. He had two pieces in press in Psychological Review when he died. In his growing wisdom Amos believed that Psychology is almost impossible, because there is just not all that much we can say that is both important and demonstrably true. The Science article turned out to be a rarity: an empirical psychological article that (some) philosophers and (a few) economists could and did take seriously. This observation also came in handy some time later. It was worth every minute. Oxford, England: Prentice-Hall. My most significant intellectual experience during those years did not occur in graduate school. We soon became friends, and have ever since had a considerable influence on each other’s thinking. In that sense he was free, and the object of envy for many of us. He engaged in a deep exploration of the mathematical structure of decision theories with Peter Wakker. Amos had simply perfect taste in choosing problems, and he never wasted much time on anything that was not destined to matter.

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