A $10 million gift to Princeton University will create the Daniel Kahneman and Anne Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy to enable the school to strengthen its leading role in the public policy field and improve the development of effective policy making.
The donation was made by a Princeton parent who has asked to remain anonymous. The parent is an admirer of the work of Kahneman, a Nobel laureate and professor emeritus of psychology and public affairs at Princeton; and Treisman, a psychology professor emerita at Princeton.
During the past 15 years, the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, home of the new center, has developed an array of research and teaching initiatives in the area of behavioral applications to policy involving faculty members from the departments of psychology and economics, sociology, politics and other disciplines.
The center will build on the research that earned Kahneman the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 2002. His work integrated insights about decision making from psychological research into economics.
Policies traditionally are designed for people who make rational decisions based on thorough consideration of the options and on well-informed cost-benefit analyses. In the approach pioneered at Princeton, policies are developed with a focus on what really drives people in decision making — the idiosyncratic and sometimes surprising ways in which they view their choices, perceive the social, economic and political world around them, and decide whether or not, and how, to act.
The gift will support graduate and postdoctoral fellowships, and provide flexible funding for short-term visitors, new research projects, lecture series and conferences, and the dissemination of research results. It also will play an important part in connecting Princeton researchers with policymakers.
“This generous gift will allow us to deepen and expand our efforts in an extremely promising area of teaching and research,” Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber said. “Princeton’s faculty members are applying behavioral science techniques to topics that include law, economics, health care, household finance and dispute resolution. We expect that the research conducted at the center will directly influence local, national and global public policy, identifying new approaches to address social problems and improve lives.”
Professor Eldar Shafir will serve as the center’s first director. A Princeton faculty member since 1989, he studies how people make judgments in situations of conflict and uncertainty, focusing in particular on decision making in the context of poverty. He was a member of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability and is the co-author of the 2013 book “Scarcity: Why Having Too Little Means So Much.”
Kahneman and Treisman, who are husband and wife, said they are honored that the center has been named for them.
“I find deep satisfaction in the idea of a continuing connection with Princeton through the center,” Treisman said. Kahneman added, “I am confident that great things will be accomplished in the center, and personally gratified that Anne and I are joined in its name.”
Treisman, who has made major contributions to the understanding of attention and perception in her exploration of how brains build meaningful images from visual information, joined the faculty in 1993 and transferred to emeritus status in 2010. She received the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest scientific honor, in 2013. She also has earned the Warren Medal of the Society of Experimental Psychologists, the Grawemeyer Award in Psychology, the Cognitive Neuroscience Society’s George A. Miller Award and the Golden Brain Award from the Minerva Foundation.
A faculty member at Princeton from 1993 until his transfer to emeritus status in 2007, Kahneman has received numerous awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013, 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, and the American Psychological Association recognized him with its Lifetime Contribution Award in 2007.