WASHINGTON (JTA) — US President Barack Obama awarded Daniel Kahneman, a Princeton psychologist known for his application of psychology to economic analysis, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The White House release Thursday naming Kahneman and other recipients notes that the Princeton University scholar, who shared the Nobel Price for Economics in 2002, escaped Nazi Europe and served in the Israeli army.

The statement refers to Kahneman as a “pioneering scholar of psychology,” who “applied cognitive psychology to economic analysis, laying the foundation for a new field of research.”

Among the 16 people receiving the award this year are former president Bill Clinton, feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem and the late Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii), who was for decades a pro-Israel leader in Congress.

The awards will be presented later this year.

The Presidential Medal of Freedom, established by President John Kennedy in 1963, is with the Congressional Gold Medal the highest civilian honor in the United States.

Past Israeli recipients of the award include President Shimon Peres and Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky.

Kahneman told Ynet news that the announcement took him by complete surprise. He said that the chances of being awarded was like the chances of being struck by lighting.

He added that the idea behind the medal is truly American in its nature, proving that there are many ways to contribute to democracy.