2023 Patrick Suppes Prize

Elke Weber receiving the prize certificate
Elke Weber (left) receiving the Suppes Prize from APS President Linda Greenhouse and Committee Chair Richard Shiffrin

The American Philosophical Society’s 2023 Patrick Suppes Prize for Experimental or Mathematical Psychology is awarded to Elke Weber “in recognition of her research showing how people make decisions important for society, using creative experiments and mathematically precise models and theory.”

Elke Weber is one of the world’s most respected decision scientists. Her research is marked by her desire to help society by helping people make wise decisions in real world settings. At Princeton Dr. Weber runs the Behavioral Science for Policy Lab that cuts across three academic units -- the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment within the School of Engineering, the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy Center within the School of Public and International Affairs, and the Department of Psychology.  

Traditional economic theories of decision making have traditionally been based on rational principles, but humans routinely violate these in both the laboratory and the real world. Real decision makers are not rational, in good part because their cognition is limited.  Dr. Weber explores the way that humans with a strictly limited capacity for reasoning and cognition act, live, and make decisions in a world that is only partially predictable. The real world often fails to tell a decision maker what is the outcome of a decision, and often fails to tell the decision maker what is the decision’s personal or societal benefit. When the world does provide such feedback, it often does so at quite long delays. Dr. Weber’s research shows how humans deal with such an unpredictable world by discounting both risk and time, doing so not just in laboratory studies but when they make decisions in their natural environment. Traditional theories also have focused on humans as individuals. Her research has shown how the social network in which humans are embedded plays a critical role in their decision making, and has shown the important role of social norms and their violations. As an example, her research has been applied to energy policy and climate change.  Most generally, Dr. Weber’s research is aimed to help individuals and social planners deal with their limited cognitive abilities, the unpredictable world, and the unprecise knowledge of the consequences of their decisions, in order to capitalize on the full range of their human capabilities to choose goals well, and to make wise decisions.

The Patrick Suppes Prize honors accomplishments in three deeply significant scholarly fields, with the prize rotating each year between philosophy of science, psychology or neuroscience, and history of science. The Patrick Suppes Prize in Psychology or Neuroscience is awarded for a body of outstanding work which consists of at least three articles published within the preceding six years.  The work in psychology is to be either in mathematical or experimental psychology.

The committee members were Richard M. Shiffrin, Distinguished Professor, Luther Dana Waterman Professor, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science, Indiana University; Mahzarin Banaji, Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics, Psychology Department, Harvard University; Susan T. Fiske, Eugene Higgins Professor of Psychology, Professor of Public Affairs, Princeton University; John G. Hildebrand, Regents Professor of Neuroscience, University of Arizona; Elizabeth Loftus, Distinguished Professor, Criminology Law and Society, UC Irvine School of Social Ecology; and Jay McClelland, Lucie Stern Professor in the Social Sciences, Chair, Department of Psychology, Director, Center for Mind, Brain and Computation, Stanford University.