2018 William James Fellow

Jonathan Cohen

Princeton University

Jonathan Cohen, the Robert Bendheim and Lynn Bendheim Thoman Professor in Neuroscience at Princeton University, has been a seminal figure in cognitive psychology and neuroscience since the beginning of his career. In his earliest work, Cohen introduced one of the first computational models of prefrontal function. Originating in a neural network model of the Stroop task, this work developed into what remains one of the most influential applications of neural networks in cognitive neuroscience. Cohen’s prefrontal cortex work provided the foundation for new proposals concerning the computational role of the neuromodulator dopamine and its role in schizophrenia. With these, Cohen made one of the first contributions to what has become known as computational psychiatry. Building on this work, he also laid the methodological foundations for contemporary functional MRI research, conducting some of the first studies to elicit robust activity from the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex.

Cohen’s work has gone on to illuminate a range of important topics in the area of decision-making, including perceptual evidence integration, exploration, and moral reasoning. A subset of this work, focusing on intertemporal choice, economic games, and self-control, helped establish the field of neuroeconomics, where Cohen has remained a central contributor.

A consistent theme through Cohen’s work has been a balanced emphasis on cognitive, computational, and neuroscientific perspectives. This powerful triple focus has become a template for many front-line researchers who have joined the field subsequently. Indeed, Cohen has trained many of these researchers, serving both as a revered mentor and as the architect of large-scale training programs.

Cohen is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He is a recipient of several awards including the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (APA) the Joseph Zubin Memorial Fund Award for Research in Psychopathology, and, from Columbia University, the Edward J. Sachar Award.