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In spite of these beliefs I do think about decisions as reasoned or instinctual when I'm thinking about them for myself. And this has obviously been a very powerful way of thinking about how we do things  because it goes back to earliest written thoughts. We have reason, we have emotion, and these two things can compete. And some are unique to humans and others are shared with other species.

And economists, when thinking about decisions, have also adopted what we call a dual system approach. This is obviously a different dual system approach and here I'm focusing mostly on Kahneman's System 1 and System 2. As probably everybody in this room knows Kahneman and Tversky showed that there were a number of ways in which we make decisions that didn't seem to be completely consistent with classical economic theory and easy to explain. And they proposed Prospect Theory and suggested that we actually have two systems we use when making decisions, one of which we call reason, one of which we call intuition.

Kahneman didn't say emotion. He didn't equate emotion with intuition.


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Elizabeth Phelps

My research examines the cognitive neuroscience of emotion, learning and memory, notions of notions of fairness and economic decision making, especially with regard to the neural correlates, linked to emotion. My primary focus has been to understand how human learning and memory are changed by emotion and to investigate the neural systems mediating their interactions. I have approached this topic from a number of different perspectives, with an aim of achieving a more global understanding of the complex relations between emotion and memory. As much as possible, I have tried to let the questions drive the research, not the techniques or traditional definitions of research areas. I have used a number of techniques (behavioral studies, physiological measurements, brain-lesion studies, fMRI) and have worked with a number of collaborators in other domains (social and clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, neuroscientists, economists, physicists). It is my belief that having focused questions and a broad approach to answering these questions has enhanced the overall quality of my research program and the cross-disciplinary relevance and appeal of my work.

ELIZABETH A. PHELPS received her PhD from Princeton University in 1989, served on the faculty of Yale University until 1999, and is currently the Silver Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University. Her laboratory has earned widespread acclaim for its groundbreaking research on how the human brain processes emotion, particularly as it relates to learning, memory and decision-making.  Dr. Phelps is the recipient of the 21st Century Scientist Award from the James S. McConnell Foundation and a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the Society for Experimental Psychology.  She has served on the Board of Directors of the Association for Psychological Science and the Society for Neuro ethics, was the President of the Society for Neuro economics and is the current editor of the APA journal Emotion.


Elizabeth Help's Home Page
Phelps Lab

Articles & Press:

Making the paper: Elizabeth Phelps, in Nature
Fear memories erased without drugs by Lazy Beechen, in Nature
Preventing the return of fear in humans using recon solid at ion update mechanisms by Schiller. Moonfish, Radio. Johnson, Leadoff & Phelps, in Nature
Train Your Mind, Kick Your Craving by Sharon Beg ley, in News week

Elizabeth Help's Edge Bio page