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Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

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Daniel Kahneman to receive Medal of Freedom from President Obama

Daniel Kahneman, a professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton University and a Nobel laureate in economics, is one of 16 people who will receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom later this year from President Barack Obama.

The White House announced the awards — the highest civilian honor in the United States — on Thursday.

Kahneman is the Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Princeton and a professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He joined the University faculty in 1993.

The citation for Kahneman issued by the White House reads: "Daniel Kahneman is a pioneering scholar of psychology. After escaping Nazi occupation in World War II, Dr. Kahneman immigrated to Israel, where he served in the Israel Defense Forces and trained as a psychologist. Alongside Amos Tversky, he applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research and earning the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002."

Deborah Prentice, chair of the psychology department and the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, said she was delighted that Kahneman would be honored. She noted his collaboration with Tversky and added, "Danny was also one of the first to see the enormous potential for behavioral-science research to improve public policy.

"Here at Princeton," Prentice said, "he created and co-taught the first course on behavioral policy and championed the appointment of many talented behavioral scientists to faculty positions in the Woodrow Wilson School. Behavioral approaches are now gaining in prominence in policy schools, think-tanks, and government agencies, thanks in large part to Danny."

Born in 1934 in Tel Aviv, Israel, Kahneman received his bachelor's degree in psychology and mathematics from Hebrew University and his Ph.D. from the University of California-Berkeley in 1961. He taught at Hebrew University from 1961 to 1978 and at the University of British Columbia from 1978 to 1986. From 1986 to 1994 he was a professor at the University of California-Berkeley.

He has won the Hilgard Award for Lifetime Contribution to General Psychology and the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists. In 2011, he was named a distinguished fellow of the American Economic Association. The American Psychological Association recognized him with its Lifetime Contribution Award in 2007.

Kahneman's most recent book is "Thinking, Fast and Slow" (2011), which examines the way people think. Kahneman asserts that the fast thinking approach is intuitive and emotional, while the slower thinking approach is more deliberate and logical. He provides insights into how people make choices in their business and personal lives, and demonstrates "where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking."

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded for meritorious contributions to the security or national interests of the United States, to world peace, or to cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Besides Kahneman, Obama will present medals to former President Bill Clinton, television host Oprah Winfrey, women's rights leader Gloria Steinem, among others.

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