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Virtual Nobel Prize in Psychology 2003


The Nominees


Melvyn A. Goodale (Dept. of Psychology and Physiology, University of Western Ontario)
Benjamin Libet (ehem. Center for Neuroscience, University of California at Davis)
Walter Mischel (Dept. of Psychology, Columbia University)
Gerhard Roth (Institut für Hirnforschung, Universität Bremen)
Howard Shevrin (Dept. of Psychology, University of Michigan)

The Laureate


Benjamin Libet

The first prize for psychology in the history of the Nobel Prizes goes to Benjamin Libet. The prize was awarded "for his pioneering achievements in the experimental investigation of consciousness, initiation of action, and free will" (conference of the Student Scientific Board on June, 18th, 2003).

Benjamin Libet was born on April 12th, 1916 in Chicago, Illinois. He studied Physiology at the University of Chicago and graduated with a Ph.D. in Physiology in 1939. In his dissertation he worked on "Electrical activity of the isolated frog brain" under the supervision of Ralph W. Gerad. Between 1945 and 1948 he worked as an Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago. In 1956, he was working together with Sir John Eccles (Nobel Laureate in Physiology) in Canberra, Australia. In the course of his academic career he was Lecturer at the Albany Medical College, New York, Research Fellow at the Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia (in Neurochemistry), and Instructor at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School. Today, Libet is active as Professor Emeritus at the Medical Center of the University of California, San Francisco, and at the Center for Neuroscience of the University of California, Davis.

In 1979, Libet attempted his perhaps most ambitious, but certainly most spectacular trial to trace the unconditionally free will, unbound by matter or any other general framework (published and discussed in a seminal paper in Behavioral & Brain Sciences in 1985). He showed that consciousness emerges in the brain within a characteristic onset or delay of 300-1000 ms. With his ground-breaking (and still vigorously discussed) work, Libet demonstrated that phenomena of consciousness are scientifically accessible, and rang in a new area for Psychology and the Cognitive Neurosciences. (Carmen Morawetz)

Instead of the legendary "call from Stockholm", the Psychology Laureate receives the pioneering "Letter from Klagenfurt". Here you can find the Letter to Libet and the reply of the Laureate, the Letter of Acceptance.

In the framework of the Innovations in Teaching 2003 Gala at the University of Klagenfurt, the "Innovations in Cognitive Psychology" seminar, by which the Nobel Prize is awarded, received the 2nd Prize.

Video of Benjamin Libet's Nobel Speech (MOV-File, 8.15)