Amos Tversky: Biography of this cognitive psychologist

Amos Tversky (1937-1996) was a cognitive psychologist, with significant training in mathematics, who provided much of the fundamental knowledge in cognitive science. Among other things, he has studied cognitive biases and risk management, issues that have been applied in important ways in other disciplines, such as economics or law.

In this article we will see a biography of Amos Tversky, As well as some of his contributions to the development of cognitive psychology.

    Biography of Amos Tversky: pioneer of cognitive psychology

    Amos Tversky was born on March 16, 1937 in Haifa, Israel. Son of veterinarian Yosef Tversky and Genia, a woman parliamentarian in Israel for almost twenty years. Yosef and Genia had both emigrated to Israel from Poland and Russia. In the 1960s formed a couple with one of the most representative cognitive psychologies of our time, Barbara Tversky, With whom he also had two sons and a daughter.

    From an early age, Tversky served in the forces of the IDF, first in the elite parachute unit, then as a captain on duty in three wars.

    In 1961, Amos Tversky received his undergraduate studies at the University of Hebrew, and later, in 1965, he received a doctorate from the University of Michigan. At the same university, as well as in Tel Aviv, he worked as a professor and researcher in psychology and economics, and later he did various works at the Advanced Center for Behavioral Studies at Stanford University, Where he practiced from the late 70s until his death.

    One of his main contributions is to have laid the foundations for understanding the psychological phenomena that occur in the context of business. For example, consumer decisions and reactions to certain market strategies such as offers, discounts or the use of credit cards. At the same time, his contributions were relevant not only to cognitive psychology but also to economics.

    Main theoretical contributions

    For a long time, Amos Tversky worked hand in hand with another Israeli psychologist and later Nobel Prize winner in economics, Daniel Kahneman. During the 1970s and early 1980s they developed theories of judgment under uncertainty; decision making in risky situations and rational choice.

    According to Tversky, when people make decisions, we remain active in the exercise of understanding and rational justification for what we have chosen (choice theory based on reason). In turn, elections are based on the same process of solving complex problems.

    This means that the rationale for a choice, and the preference for it, does not arise before the problem-solving process, but is generated as the process itself passes, especially faced with the need to make compromises between values ​​and goals for each decision.

    Cognitive biases

    With Kahneman, Tversky explained how “cognitive illusions” or human judgment biases occur. The latter has an important impact on later studies of reasoning, both in psychology and in economics, business, philosophy and medicine.

    From different studies, the two psychologists suggest that people tend to make decisions without taking into account the probabilities, that is to say by intuitive rules which often lead to fall into systematic cognitive biases.

    For example, the belief that the higher the price, the better the quality of a product. In fact, in the course of his studies, Tversky observed that indeed people reported a greater liking for the product when their brand’s price was high; compared to other product, the price was low. This bias has been called the “price-quality perception bias”.

    On the other hand, Tversky has done significant work on decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, noting that often limited understanding of the laws of chance results in an understanding of other processes marked by uncertainty. .

    From there, Tversky and Kahneman developed the theory of perspective, which had a very important pact in financial economics, as it addresses decision making in relation to variables such as time, uncertainty, and alternatives.

      Prizes and distinctions

      For his contributions to cognitive psychology, Amos Tversky has received various awards and honors. For example, in 1980 he was elected a member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences, And later, in 1985, he was an associate researcher at the National Academy of Sciences.

      On the other hand, he won the APA prize for his distinguished scientific contribution in 1982 and was recognized honorary doctorate from the universities of Chicago, Tale, Gothenburg and New York State University in Buffalo.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Amos Tversky (2016). New World Encyclopedia. Accessed August 29, 2018.Available at
      • Gutiérrez, J. (1991). The Perceived Value for Money: An Analysis of the Available Empirical Evidence. Online version. Accessed August 29, 208. Available at

      Leave a Comment