Last week, Dr. Johannes Spinnewijn of London School of Economics was named by the British Academy and Wiley as the winner of the 2015 Wiley Prize, awarded for academic excellence in the field of economics, in particular his research in current and topical policy.
Also last week, Dr. Peter Fonagy of University College London was awarded a lifetime achievement award from Wiley and the British Academy for his numerous contributions to the field of psychology.
We recently had the chance to ask them a few questions about these achievements.
Q&A with Dr. Spinnewijn
A.My choice for economics has been rather practical. My topical interests were mostly in humanities, but I wanted to do something mathematical in its approach, so I ended up studying economics as a compromise. I have never regretted it afterwards.
Q. Can you tell us briefly about the research which won you The Wiley Prize in Economics?
A. My research is in public economics, trying to integrate theory and empirics. A recent trend in public economics is to revisit important issues that have been studied before, but expressing the relevant policy recommendations in terms of statistics that can be estimated empirically. This exercise has been very fruitful as it provides both a new lens to think about the policy issues and a clear guide for empirical work. I have been applying this in the design of unemployment insurance and health insurance interventions. My work also tries to understand how behavioral frictions distort individuals’ behavior in these contexts and how that affects optimal policy design.
Q. What does winning the Wiley Prize in Economics mean for you?
A. I feel of course greatly honored to receive this prize. I am very pleased with the recognition of my work in public economics. It is a very exciting field to be in today and it has been a joy to try contributing to it at LSE.
Q&A with Dr. Fonagy
A. Research being put to practical use is always very pleasing. The original research with two PhD students on attachment in expectant mothers predicting forward to the future child’s relationship with their parent is probably the finding that I think is most relevant, but none of us anticipated the impact that understanding the mechanisms underpinning the associations would have on prevention and early intervention. Writing brief forewords to practical guides to parenting based on these ideas brings me the greatest pleasure.
Q. As one of the founders of the concept, how would you explain mentalization to those unfamiliar with it?
A. Mentalization doesn’t need explaining. It is the most natural of all human mental capacities. We talk about understanding people and we mean understanding their thoughts, their feelings, their wishes as these relate to what they do. We never think about our own actions, other than as prompted by some wish, desire or belief. Understanding that other people have minds and that their actions are the product of their thoughts and feelings is probably as close to a definition of a human being as we can get.
Q. What does winning this prize mean to you?
A. It’s an enormous honor to be in the company of great psychologists such as Martin Seligman, Michael Tomasello and Anne Treisman. Whilst I shall never be able to think of myself as being a deserving recipient I do feel proud on behalf of the many collaborators I have worked with over the years who genuinely deserve this prize. I have enjoyed my work because if has always been work in teams and I have been extraordinarily lucky in having the most able and talented individuals to work with across a range of disciplines. I am principally pleased to receive the prize as a celebration of the contribution they have made to psychological science and allied disciplines.
Image Credit (first image)Dr. Johannes Spinnewijn Source: London School of Economics
Image Credit (second image)Dr. Peter Fonagy,Source: University College, London