Upfront

Princeton University professor emeritus and psychologist Daniel Kahneman, PhD, will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom this fall for his studies about human decision-making and groundbreaking research on behavioral economics.

Kahneman joins 15 other recipients, including Oprah Winfrey and President Bill Clinton, for this year's presentation of what is considered the most distinguished civilian honor in the United States.

"I was completely surprised," says Kahneman about being chosen as a recipient. "It's not something that anybody expects and I'm still surprised."

His research largely revolves around human decision-making and its effects on behavior. His decades-long work spills into many other fields, particularly economics. "I did have a substantial impact on several fields, including economics and behavioral economics, which is where it's been influential," he says.

His work with the late Amos Tversky, PhD, on prospect theory — a theory that explains why people often make seemingly irrational economic decisions — was honored with the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002.

Born in 1934, Kahneman is a Holocaust survivor who found refuge with his family in Israel, where he studied psychology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and later served in the Israel Defense Forces. During the 1950s, he developed a soldier assignment system that's still used today. Later he earned his doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley. He joined the faculty at Princeton in 1993 and is the Eugene Higgins professor of psychology emeritus.

Among a long list of awards and other recognitions, Kahneman is a recipient of APA's 2007 Award for Lifetime Contributions and its 1982 Award for Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Psychology.

"What's so remarkable about his work are the contributions it makes to fields of science way outside of psychology," says Steven Breckler, PhD, executive director of APA's Science Directorate. "He's unique in that way. He's worked as a psychologist, but the implications and the extensions of that work reach everywhere."

— Colleen Wilson