Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC)

The Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) encompasses an interdisciplinary and international research group of psychologists, economists, computer scientists, mathematicians, behavioral biologists, anthropologists, philosophers, and researchers from other disciplines.

Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition | ABC Group 2015
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

Our research addresses a key question: How do humans and other animals make decisions under uncertainty, that is, when time and information are limited and the future is unknown?

In an uncertain world, humans often rely on simple cognitive strategies (heuristics) when making decisions. To investigate heuristics, we developed three key concepts: bounded rationality, ecological rationality, and social rationality.

On the basis of these concepts, we design models of cognitive processes and environments in which these processes are successful. Using experiments, computer simulations, and mathematical analyses, we then test the models to determine when and why heuristics perform well. The descriptive question of how humans make decisions in an uncertain world is thereby extended to a normative question: How should we make decisions if an optimal decision is out of reach?

Our research findings can be applied to many professional and societal issues. The Harding Center for Risk Literacy trains physicians and patients to better understand medical evidence. Our research on “heuristics in the law” is applied to training both law students and judges. Business players and executives benefit from our research on "gut feelings." Last but not least, we promote statistical thinking in primary schools, helping to provide for a new, informed generation that is comfortable in dealing with modern-day risks.


Gerd Gigerenzer
Gerd Gigerenzer Porträt
sekgigerenzer [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de

Article of the Month

March 2017

Gigerenzer, G., & Garcia-Retamero, R. (2017). Cassandra’s regret: The psychology of not wanting to know. Psychological Review, 124, 179-196. PDF (334 KB)

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