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Daniel Kahneman Lecture

At the same time famous tennis player Andre Agassi spoke across campus, about 800 students crowded into Irvine Auditorium to choose academia over celebrity.

Speaking for the Levin Family Dean’s Scholar presentation on Thursday, 2002 Nobel Prize winner for Economics and acclaimed psychologist Daniel Kahneman focused his lecture on the complexities of psychology.

After Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Rebecca Bushnell introduced each of the Dean’s Scholars — undergraduate and graduate students selected based on academic merit — on stage, Kahneman began his lecture on the marvels and flaws of human intuition.

He divided the human mind into two systems: involuntary intuition and interactive process.

“System one allows you to subconsciously read billboards as you drive, while system two interacts with a map,” Kahneman said.

Throughout the talk, he interacted with the audience through trick questions: “How many animals of each kind did Moses bring on his arc?” He responded that Noah built the arc — not Moses.

He also warned against the dangers of pure intuition. “We are rarely stumped,” he said, “but we are also unlikely to get it right. System one is a fantastic machine for jumping to conclusions.”

He added that “we have a lazy concept — if it sounds more or less reasonable, we trust it.”

Kahneman’s lecture drew a positive reaction from students.

Dean’s Scholar for the History of Art in the graduate division Erin Kelley said that “not being a psychologist, the lecture still gave a lot to think about. It’s extremely relevant to teaching, scholarship and pedagogy.”

Wharton sophomore Joseph Cohen added that it was a “stimulating and thought-provoking topic, especially in the context of awarding academics.”

“I’m glad he spoke to the downsides of intuition,” Wharton freshman Joseph Cohen said. “It’s relevant for Penn students who rely on it for academic success.”

Kahneman’s closing was tentative towards isolating the two systems.

“We all believe some people are blessed with this magical sense of intuition,” Kahneman added. “This is all bunk. The world is impossible to comprehend.”

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