Daniel Kahneman: contributions to psychology


“Widely regarded as the world’s most influential living psychologist…”

  • He established  a cognitive basis for common human errors that arise from heuristics (simple rules or mental shortcuts which people often use to form judgments, involving focusing on one aspect of a complex problem and ignoring others) and biases (resulting errors of heuristics are called cognitive biases) (Kahneman & Tversky, 1973; Kahneman, Slovic & Tversky, 1982; Tversky & Kahneman, 1974)
  • He developed prospect theory (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). This is the idea that people make decisions based on the potential value of losses and gains rather than the final outcome, and that people evaluate these losses and gains using certain heuristics. He was awarded the 2002 Nobel Memorial prize in Economics for his work on prospect theory.
  • A small amount of his initial work focused on visual perception and attention; his first publication in the journal Science was entitled “Pupil Diameter and Load on Memory” (Kahneman & Beatty, 1966).
  • A large contribution to hedonic psychology has been made through his work. Hedonic psychology is the study of “what makes experiences and life pleasant or unpleasant. It is concerned with feelings of pleasure and pain, of interest and boredom, of joy and sorrow, and of satisfaction and dissatisfaction. It is also concerned with the whole range of circumstances, from the biological to the societal…”
  • Kahneman developed the notion of the focusing illusion (Kahneman & Schkade, 1998; Kahneman, Krueger, Schkade, Schwarz & Stone, 2006) to explain in part the mistakes people make when estimating the effects of different scenarios on their future happiness (also known as affective forecasting). The “illusion” occurs when people consider the impact of one specific factor on their overall happiness, they tend to greatly exaggerate the importance of that factor, while overlooking the numerous other factors that would in most cases have a greater impact.

Other notable contributions:

His contributions have been recognised through a variety of awards including the American Psychological Associstion’s Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology in 2007.







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