Conversing about “Noise” with Daniel Kahneman and Olivier Sibony

With a career that began in the 1950s, merited a Nobel Prize and other awards, and continues today with the recent publication of his book Noise (co-written with HEC Paris’ own Professor Olivier Sibony, along with Cass Sunstein), Daniel Kahneman’s work has had a huge impact on the fields of psychology and economics.

Today, he remains arguably the world’s most influential living psychologist. During his October 7 appearance at the #HECTalks lecture series, he described his lifelong research into the errors built into human judgment and decision-making. Along with his easy-to-understand explanations of his work, Kahneman’s acumen, humor and humility showed through. For example, when the event’s moderator (and Noise’s co-author), Professor Sibony asked what it was like to start an intellectual revolution back in the 1970s, Kahneman’s reply was simple.

“I was working with a close colleague and a close friend—Amos Tversky—and the main thing it felt like was a lot of fun,” he said about publishing their findings. “We thought we were doing good research, but we certainly had no idea of the impact it would have.”

Thoughout his life, Kahneman’s groundbreaking research has explored the mind and the science behind decision-making. He is widely credited for creating the field of behavioral economics, and revolutionizing the fields of cognitive and social psychology.

When Sibony asked him to explain the work that won him the 2002 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics, Kahneman said, “The main idea that we had is actually something that is obvious to almost everybody, but back then it was not accepted with economic theory. Psychologically, when you are looking at a bet—not a bet in which you face ruin, or the consequences are huge—you are not thinking in terms of wealth. You are thinking in terms of gaining or losing. That was the key idea, that when people are given a gamble where they can gain or lose, they have emotions about gaining or losing, and they are much less rational than if they were thinking in terms of final states of wealth.”

Watch a replay of Kahneman’s October 7 appearance at HEC Paris, in which he describes his latest research into “Noise” with his co-author, Professor Sibony:

Read more about HEC Paris’ new lecture series, #HECTalks, and its inaugural speaker, Christine Lagarde