Max Planck Institute for Human Development


Current Research Results

Plasticity beyond early development: Hypotheses and questions

Lifespan Psychology

Lindenberger, U. (2018). Plasticity beyond early development: Hypotheses and questions. In A. A. Benasich & U. Ribary (Eds.), Emergent brain dynamics: Prebirth to adolescence (pp. 207–223). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press

Applying insights from research on critical periods in early development, this chapter outlines a life-span research agenda on human plasticity and uses it as the conceptual foundation for a set of research hypotheses and open questions. Plasticity is defined as the capacity for lasting changes in brain structure associated with expansions in behavioral repertoire. As a complement to plasticity, flexibility refers to the instantiation and reconfiguration of the existing behavioral repertoire during periods of stability that are characterized by the absence of structural change. Animal work on critical periods in motor and sensory development substantiates three hypotheses that can serve as guideposts for research on plasticity in later age periods.

Plasticity beyond early development

Architecture, Democracy, and Emotions: The Politics of Feeling since 1945.

History of Emotions

Großmann, T., & Nielsen, P. (Eds.) (2018). Architecture, Democracy, and Emotions: The Politics of Feeling since 1945. London and New York: Routledge.

After 1945 it was not just Europe’s parliamentary buildings that promised to house democracy. Architecture, Democracy, and Emotions shows that even hotels in Turkey, Dutch shopping malls and Housing programs in the Soviet Union proposed new democratic attitudes and feelings. The book focuses on competing promises of consumer democracy, welfare democracy, and socialist democracy. Spanning from Turkey across Eastern and Western Europe to the United States, the chapters investigate the emotional politics of housing and representation.

Developmental Psychology

Lifespan Psychology

Schneider, W., & Lindenberger, U. (Hrsg.). (2018). Entwicklungspsychologie [Developmental psychology] (8th ed.). Weinheim: Beltz.

What does a newborn perceive? How do children learn to deal with emotions? When and how do our personalities evolve? How do cognitive abilities change in adulthood? – The content areas of developmental psychology are more wide-ranging and accessible than is the case for most other fields of psychology. The textbook “Entwicklungspsychologie” – established by Rolf Oerter and Leo Montada – is regarded as the standard work in the field. Wolfgang Schneider and Ulman Lindenberger are the editors of its 8th edition.

Buchcover Entwicklungspsychologie

Cognitive costs of decision-making strategies: A resource demand decomposition with a cognitive architecture

Adaptive Rationality

Fechner, H. B., Schooler, L. J., & Pachur, T. (2018). Cognitive costs of decision-making strategies: A resource demand decomposition with a cognitive architecture. Cognition, 170, 102-122. doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2017.09.003

Several theories of cognition distinguish between strategies that differ in the mental effort that their use requires. But how can the effort—or cognitive costs—associated with a strategy be conceptualized and measured?


Looking for a Different Medicine. Psychosomatic Medicine in the 20th Century.

History of Emotions

Alexa Geisthövel/Bettina Hitzer (Hg.) Looking for a Different Medicine. Psychosomatic Medicine in the 20th Century., stw 2019.

What makes mind and body strong? Headlines like this are everywhere. Backache, breathlessness, skin rashes – we ascribe many physical complaints to emotional upheaval, too little mindfulness or long-term stress. But where do these concepts of psychosomatic medicine come from? This book provides the first overview of the history of psychosomatic medicine in Germany. Incisive chapters offer a panorama of the varieties of psychosomatics in the 20th century, while also portraying it as a form of medicine which saw itself as the more humane alternative to modern hi-tech, and therefore supposedly soulless, medicine.

Subsistence styles shape human social learning strategies

Adaptive Rationality

Glowacki, L., & Molleman, L. (2017). Subsistence styles shape human social learning strategies. Nature Human Behavour, 1:0098. doi:10.1038/s41562-017-0098

Social learning is a fundamental element of human cognition. Learning from others facilitates the transmission of information that helps individuals and groups rapidly adjust to new environments and underlies adaptive cultural evolution. While basic human propensities for social learning are traditionally assumed to be species-universal recent empirical studies show that they vary between individuals and populations. Yet the causes of this variation remain poorly understood. Here we show that interdependence in everyday social and economic activities can strongly amplify social learning.

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