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“I SEE a train wreck looming,” warned Daniel Kahneman, an eminent psychologist, in an open letter last year. The premonition concerned research on a phenomenon known as “priming”. Priming studies suggest that decisions can be influenced by apparently irrelevant actions or events that took place just before the cusp of choice. They have been a boom area in psychology over the past decade, and some of their insights have already made it out of the lab and into the toolkits of policy wonks keen on “nudging” the populace.
Dr Kahneman and a growing number of his colleagues fear that a lot of this priming research is poorly founded. Over the past few years various researchers have made systematic attempts to replicate some of the more widely cited priming experiments. Many of these replications have failed. In April, for instance, a paper in PLoS ONE, a journal, reported that nine separate experiments had not managed to reproduce the results of a famous study from 1998 purporting to show that thinking about a professor before taking an intelligence test leads to a higher score than imagining a football hooligan.
The idea that the same experiments always get the same results, no matter who performs them, is one of the cornerstones of science’s claim to objective truth. If a systematic campaign of replication does not lead to the same results, then either the original research is flawed (as the replicators claim) or the replications are (as many of the original researchers on priming contend). Either way, something is awry.
To err is all too common
Academic scientists readily acknowledge that they often get things wrong. But they also hold fast to the idea that these errors get corrected over time as other scientists try to take the work further. Evidence that many more dodgy results are published than are subsequently corrected or withdrawn calls that much-vaunted capacity for self-correction into question. There are errors in a lot more of the scientific papers being published, written about and acted on than anyone would normally suppose, or like to think.
Various factors contribute to the problem. Statistical mistakes are widespread. The peer reviewers who evaluate papers before journals commit to publishing them are much worse at spotting mistakes than they or others appreciate. Professional pressure, competition and ambition push scientists to publish more quickly than would be wise.
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Daniel Kahneman (Hebrew: דניאל כהנמן) (born March 5, 1934) is an Israeli-American psychologist and winner of the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. He is notable for his work on the psychology of judgment and decision-making, behavioral economics and hedonic psychology.
Awards and recognition
In 2002, Kahneman received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, despite being a research psychologist, for his work in Prospect theory. Kahneman states he has never taken a single economics course – that everything that he knows of the subject he and Tversky learned from their collaborators Richard Thaler and Jack Knetsch.
Kahneman, co-recipient with Amos Tversky, earned the 2003 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Psychology.
In 2005, he was voted the 101st-greatest Israeli of all time, in a poll by the Israeli news website Ynet to determine whom the general public considered the 200 Greatest Israelis.
In 2007, he was presented with the American Psychological Association's Award for Outstanding Lifetime Contributions to Psychology.
On November 6, 2009, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from the department of Economics at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. In his acceptance speech Kahneman said, "when you live long enough, you see the impossible become reality." He was referring to the fact that he would never have expected to be honored as an economist when he started his studies into what would become Behavioral Economics.
In both 2011 and 2012, he made the Bloomberg 50 most influential people in global finance.
On November 9, 2011, he was awarded the Talcott Parsons Prize by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. To see his lecture, click the link below.
His book, Thinking, Fast and Slow was the winner of the 2011 Los Angeles Times Book Award for Current Interest.
In 2012 his book, Thinking, Fast and Slow, was awarded the National Academy of Sciences Communication Award for the best book published in 2011.
In 2012 he was accepted as corresponding academician at the Real Academia Española (Economic and Financial Sciences).
On August 8, 2013, President Barack Obama announced that Daniel Kahneman would be a recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.