Collaboration

Reading Daniel Kahneman‘s Thinking, Fast and Slow (which I recommend), I was especially taken by Kahneman’s glimpses of his longtime collaboration with Amos Tversky. The book is dedicated to the memory of Tversky, who died in 1996, cruelly early, before he could share the Nobel Prize in Economics that Kahneman was awarded in 2002. (The brief bio of Kahneman in the book says, carefully, that he received the prize “for his pioneering work with Amos Tversky on decision making”.)

(The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences play important roles in the story. Eventually, Tversky ended up at Stanford and Kahneman at Princeton.)

On intellectual partnership: “I did the best thinking of my life on leisurely walks with Amos” (p. 40). The story of their long conversation (“in which we invented questions and jointly examined our intuitive answers” (p. 6)) is told in some detail on pp. 5-13; the high point is their 1974 paper in Science, “Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases”, which

described the simplifying shortcuts of intuitive thinking and explained some 20 biases as manifestations of these heuristics — and also as demonstrations of the role of heuristics in judgment.

Kahneman’s depiction of his collaboration with Tversky resonated with me. I’ve collaborated with many people in my academic career (going back to 1963), but three collaborative conversations of some years’ duration (each covering a range of topics) have been especially significant for me: with Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, with Jerry Sadock, and with Geoff Pullum.

With Ann, on syntax, style, and poetics, with publications beginning in 1971 and continuing through 1987 (the last two papers published after her death). With Jerry, starting in the early 1970s, on ambiguity, sentence types, and mathematical linguistics, with publications from 1975 through 1987. And most of all with Geoff, starting in 1973, on the Principle of Phonology-Free Syntax and topics springing from that (agreement, clitics, morphology, syntactic theory — morphosyntax in general), including work together at the Center for Advanced Study, with many resulting papers, published from 1978 through 1999.

I continue collaborative work with colleagues and students at Stanford, but not with the intensity of these three collaborations.

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