Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman’s 1974 paper ‘Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases’ is a landmark in the history of psychology. Though a mere seven pages long, it has helped reshape the study of human rationality, and had a particular impact on economics – where Tversky and Kahneman’s work helped shape the entirely new sub discipline of ‘behavioral economics.’
The paper investigates human decision-making, specifically what human brains tend to do when we are forced to deal with uncertainty or complexity. Based on experiments carried out with volunteers, Tversky and Kahneman discovered that humans make predictable errors of judgement when forced to deal with ambiguous evidence or make challenging decisions. These errors stem from ‘heuristics’ and ‘biases’ – mental shortcuts and assumptions that allow us to make swift, automatic decisions, often usefully and correctly, but occasionally to our detriment.
The paper’s huge influence is due in no small part to its masterful use of high-level interpretative and analytical skills – expressed in Tversky and Kahneman’s concise and clear definitions of the basic heuristics and biases they discovered. Still providing the foundations of new work in the field 40 years later, the two psychologists’ definitions are a model of how good interpretation underpins incisive critical thinking.
Table of Contents
Ways In to the Text
Who areAmos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman?
What does Judgment under Uncertainty Say?
Why does Judgment under Uncertainty Matter?
Section 1: Influences
Module 1: The Author and the Historical Context
Module 2: Academic Context
Module 3: The Problem
Module 4: The Author's Contribution
Section 2: Ideas
Module 5: Main Ideas
Module 6: Secondary Ideas
Module 7: Achievement
Module 8: Place in the Author's Work
Section 3: Impact
Module 9: The First Responses
Module 10: The Evolving Debate
Module 11: Impact and Influence Today
Module 12: Where Next?
Glossary of Terms
People Mentioned in the Text
Dr Camille Morvan is a psychologist, researcher and founder of the psychological human resources company Goshaba. She has taught at Sciences Politiques in Paris and at Harvard University, as well as working at the Ecole normale supérieure.
Dr Bill Jenkins holds a PhD in psychology from the University of Michigan. He is currently co-chair of the Department of Psychology at Mercer University.