U. receives $10M anonymous donation to establish behavioral science center| May 5, 2015
The University announced on Monday that it received a $10 million donation from an anonymous donor to establish the Kahneman and Treisman Center for Behavioral Science and Public Policy at the Wilson School.
This is the second $10 million donation in the last month. The last such gift, which was received in mid-April, will be used to finance a new music building in the Arts and Transit neighborhood.
The new center will support research, conferences, visiting faculty and postdoctoral students to expand research in behavioral economics, a field in which psychology professor emeritus Daniel Kahneman is a pioneer. Psychology professor Anne Treisman has written seminal works in the areas of attention, memory and perception.
Kahneman and Treisman are married to each other.
The center’s location is still to be determined, according to Wilson School dean Cecilia Rouse.
The increased attention and resources to this field will benefit many students, Rouse said.
The University has named Eldar Shafir, a psychology and public affairs professor, as the inaugural director of the Kahneman and Treisman Center.
“Shafir is one of the preeminent behavioral psychologists in the world," Rouse said. "He has worked closely with Kahneman over the years."
Shafir explained that the Center will aim to incorporate research across campus in the social and physical sciences, engineering and the humanities.
“Our intention is for the Center to provide the intellectual milieu for everyone on campus — undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, faculty and other researchers — who is interested in exploring the role of behavioral research and findings in the conduct and implementation of policy,” Shafir said.
Shafir said the application of behavioral and cognitive science to policymaking is still in a stage of infancy. He added that policymakers are often misguided by inaccurate assumptions about human behavior.
“Behaviorally informed policymaking can deliver better, more effective products and increase people's well-being,” Shafir said. “Princeton has been at the forefront of this budding activity since its inception, and there is little doubt that our new Center will provide impetus for Princeton to remain at the forefront.”
Kahneman and Treisman, after whom the Center is named, did not respond to requests for comment.
Kahneman was awarded a Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 2002 for his work in judgment and decision-making. Kahneman had challenged the assumption of human rationality as the basis of economic choice making.
Treisman, a recipient of the National Medal of Science, specializes in the study of interactions between attention, memory and understanding, particularly the cognitive constructions of images from visual information.
“It is easier for universities to follow successful trends than to set them,” Shafir said. “In this case, Princeton was the first to establish this area of research formally in a policy school. It has been a clear success, has garnered generous support and we should be proud of that.”
The Wilson School is the only major public policy school in the nation that has a requirement for graduate students to take a class focusing on psychology for public policy.