21.04.2009 | New Harding Center for Risk Literacy

New center opens at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin opened its doors on April 23, 2009.

How do I make decisions in this modern, technological world? Should I get vaccinated against disease? Is it safer to travel by car or by plane? Do I benefit from early cancer detection measures, or might they be harmful to me?

Questions like these are the focus of the research being conducted by a team of six scientists headed by Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, Professor, the Director of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy. The researchers will perform studies and experiments as well as surveys of the general populace. The results should help people to assess risks competently and accurately. The Center will also offer continuing education and professional education courses for physicians and journalists. Says Gigerenzer, “We want to examine how people behave in risk-related situations. And our hope for society at large is that it will be able to assess risks and learn to live with them. Through our work, we can contribute to meeting that goal.” The research performed at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy will focus on health and medicine as well as the education sector.

One example: When reports appeared in the British press stating that taking third-generation oral contraceptives raised the risk of thrombosis by 100%, many women panicked and stopped taking the pill. But what does “100%” really mean in this case? The absolute risk had risen from one to two out of every 7,000 women. If these numbers had been communicated, unintended pregnancies, an estimated nearly 14,000 abortions, and costs of between 4 and 6 million pounds might have been averted.


Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Public Relations Department
Dr. Petra Fox-Kuchenbecker
Phone: 030-824 06-211
fox [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de

Mathias Voigt
Phone: 030-531 40 70-10
Mobile: 0176-24 03 26 31
Fax: 030-531 40 70-99
voigt [at] literaturtest [dot] de

Further information: 

Gerd Gigerenzer

Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, Professor, is the Director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the author of many books, including “Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious” and “Das Einmaleins der Skepsis”, which were named “Science Book of the Year” (Wissenschaftsbuch des Jahres) in 2007 and 2002, respectively.

David Harding

David Harding is the namesake and patron of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy. Harding, an investment banker and head of Winton Capital, became aware of Gerd Gigerenzer’s work when “Das Einmaleins der Skepsis” was awarded the title of Science Book of the Year by the Royal Society. Meeting Gigerenzer also prompted him to endow the Winton Professorship of the Public Understanding of Risk at Cambridge University in the UK.

Website Harding Center