Perhaps one of the most widely known and influential living psychologists, Kahneman’s work spans decades and diverse fields.
If his Wikipedia page is to be believed, Kahneman’s interest in psychology started young:
“It must have been late 1941 or early 1942. Jews were required to wear the Star of David and to obey a 6 p.m. curfew. I had gone to play with a Christian friend and had stayed too late. I turned my brown sweater inside out to walk the few blocks home. As I was walking down an empty street, I saw a German soldier approaching. He was wearing the black uniform that I had been told to fear more than others – the one worn by specially recruited SS soldiers. As I came closer to him, trying to walk fast, I noticed that he was looking at me intently. Then he beckoned me over, picked me up, and hugged me. I was terrified that he would notice the star inside my sweater. He was speaking to me with great emotion, in German. When he put me down, he opened his wallet, showed me a picture of a boy, and gave me some money. I went home more certain than ever that my mother was right: people were endlessly complicated and interesting. (Kahneman, 2003, p. 417)”
Without ever taking an Economics course he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics and he is often listed as one of the world’s pre-eminent thinkers.
A recent piece in the Guardian online asked some not-too-shabby-minds-themselves about Kahneman. Steven Pinker (not to shabby) explained:
“I’ve called Daniel Kahneman the world’s most influential living psychologist and I believe that is true… His central message could not be more important, namely, that human reason left to its own devices is apt to engage in a number of fallacies and systematic errors, so if we want to make better decisions in our personal lives and as a society, we ought to be aware of these biases and seek workarounds. That’s a powerful and important discovery.
My most recent book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, is about the historic decline of violence, a fact that I argue is underappreciated precisely because the human mind works the way Kahneman says it works, namely, that our sense of risk and danger is influenced by salient events that are available from memory. Our minds do not naturally process statistics on incidents of violence, and so Kahneman helps explain why my claim is news or why it’s hard for people to believe.
When I first presented the material that became my book The Blank Slate, he gave me a comment that really sat with me: he noted that the idea of human nature with inherent flaws was consistent with a tragic view of the human condition and it’s a part of being human that we have to live with that tragedy. It was a profound philosophical observation…
We have our differences. I think he is a pessimist, whereas I am an optimist. I do think he’s right that human nature saddles us with some unfortunate limitations, but I also think – and actually he himself shows in the “slow thinking” part of his book – that we have the means to overcome some of our limitations, through education, through institutions, through enlightenment.” (Emphasis added)
Could be some interesting thoughts for those interested in pain in Kahneman’s work it seems.
Finally, in his own words:
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