May. 19, 2014


Prof. Avishai Henik of the Department of Psychology has been awarded the new honorary degree - "Distinguished Professor" by the Rector and Senate of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He is only the third to be so recognized by the University.

The degree is bestowed upon someone who is renowned in the international community in his field and who has contributed with ongoing original research.

Prof. Avishai Henik is a world-renowned expert in Psychology and Cognitive neuroscience. A former student of Nobel Laureate Prof. Daniel Kahneman, he is one of the founders of the Zlotowski Center for Neuroscience and former Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. He studies numerical processing, attention, word processing, and synesthesia with the aim to elucidate the basic mental operations and brain structures involved in these processes. 

Numerical cognition is a fast developing area in cognitive neuroscience. Current research  holds hope not only for furthering our understanding of the neurocognitive basis of numerical cognition but also for informing education so as to improve teaching and help rehabilitate students with numerical deficiencies. In 2008, the Israel Science Foundation (ISF) recognized the importance of this work and endowed Henik and his colleagues (Professors Tzelgov and Berger from BGU and Dr. Rubinsten from the University of Haifa) with funding for a prestigious Center of Excellence for the study of numerical cognition. Funding was recently renewed for four more years.  

In 2012, Henik won the prestigious European Research Council’s (ERC) Advanced Research Grant for research on the abilities and deficiencies involved in numerical cognition. The research study, “Size Matters in Numerical Cognition,” examines the development of human numerical ability and the underlying brain system involved in this ability. The study aims to investigate the possibility that a system designed for the perception and evaluation of sizes and amounts is fundamental (i.e., a core system) to the development of basic numerical skills. 

In the area of attention, Henik examines both selective attention and visual-spatial orienting of attention. In addition to studies of humans, Henik also examines the evolution of attention by conducting studies on the archer fish (the latter research being conducted in collaboration with Prof. Ronen Segev of BGU’s Department of Life Sciences). 

In the past ten years Henik has received several awards, among them the BGU President's award for excellence in research. He was also elected a fellow of the American Psychological Society. Throughout the years, Henik has supervised an impressive number of graduate students, several of whom have gone on to successful academic careers.

Previous recipients of the “Distinguished Professor” honor include Prof. Amnon Aharoni and Prof. Jacob Blidstein.