The opening session of President Shimon Peres’ Tomorrow bash this evening had sex (Dr. Ruth Westheimer), tears (paralympic swimmer Keren Leibovitch), a global brain (Yuri Milner, an Internet entrepreneur) and then came Daniel Kahneman who astounded me. The official release informed us that “Facing Tomorrow 2012: Nobel Laureate Professor Daniel Kahneman Offers A Recipe for Better Tomorrow”. Kahneman’s recipe was an incomprehensible flop of immeasurable proportions. He allowed his personal political prejudices out.
Kahneman, Palestine Mandate-period born, is a psychologist and winner of the Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel. His work is in the field of the psychology of judgment and decision-making.
Basically, he told us his talk would be dealing in politics as he wanted to know why “hawks” win debates over “doves”. He was disturbed that whereas the doves were more correct, the hawks always had the upper hand. His conclusion? The situation was biased in favor of the hawks. How else could hawks win arguments more easy?
His lowest common denominator, in his understanding, was that of concessions. According to doves, the willingness to concede, usually territory, should encourage a peaceful resolution. According to hawks, concessionists only encouraged a more warlike situation. That face-off, though, gives hawks a strategic advantage,, unfairly. And, he asserted, hawks do not deserve to win.
He then crossed over to the realm of pseudo-certainty whereby in a cognitive sense, hawks benefit from perhaps 10 or so psychological biases (see p. 465 here) but only dealt with one: fundamental attribution bias. That bias, of course, reveals Kahneman’s own bias, his left-wing ideology.
There is no equality of circumstances in the Arab-Israel conflict. It is not territorial. It is not reflective of aberrant behavior by Jews. It is not a matter of colonial occupation. And it is, surely, heavily influenced by hatred of Jews without any connection to Zionism. Indeed, there are asymmetries but there exists an historical record which clearly permits us to observe who tried to buy back their homeland and not dispossess and those who immediately and constantly employed terror and violence; who had international law on its side and who consistently rejected any political or diplomatic solutions; who accepted partition and who did not; which groups deny Jewish history; etc.
Although he said that doves are not always right, his listeners were hearing him say, they presumed, that the right is always wrong. And that is a psychological trick, Nobel Prize notwithstanding.