Concluded Research Centers

Until October 2017, the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (Director: Gerd Gigerenzer) investigated human rationality, in particular decision-making and risk perception in an uncertain world. Research focused on (1) bounded rationality, that is, the simple heuristics, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral that lay people and experts use to make decisions under constraints of limited time and knowledge, (2) social intelligence in cooperation and competition and (3) risk understanding and uncertainty management in everyday life, including applications in medicine, law, and education. Each of these research areas emphasized the evolutionary foundations of behavior and cognition, in particular their domain specificity and functional adaptiveness.

Until July 2010, the Center for Educational Research (Director: Jürgen Baumert) examined learning and development from an institutional point of view. Educational settings such as schools offer a variety of developmental opportunities, but at the same time exclude others. The impact of such settings has been investigated from three perspectives: (1) the long-term consequences of schools' opportunity structures on individual development in terms of cognitive competencies as well as motivational and social resources, (2) international comparison of the outcomes of schooling in the fields of reading comprehension, mathematics and science literacy, and cross-curricular competencies, and (3) improvement of learning and instruction in terms of the cognitive activation of students, mainly in science and mathematics.

In the Center for Sociology and the Study of the Life Course (Director: Karl Ulrich Mayer; closed since 30 June 2005), empirical research was oriented toward the analysis of social structure and institutions in a multilevel, historical and comparative perspective. This research was organized around four major foci: (1) Education, Training, and Employment; (2) Life Courses in the Transformation of Former Socialist Countries, (3) Welfare State, Life Courses, and Social Inequalities, and (4) Life-Course Research and Analysis: Theory, Methods, and Synthesis. The research centers on the degree of interdependence among the processes of family formation, educational careers, and occupational trajectories in the life histories of members of various birth cohorts that differ in their historical situation as well as in their sociopolitical contexts (e.g., former East vs. West Germany). The methodology of sociostructural analysis and the analysis of dynamic processes provided additional foci of activity.

The Center for Development and Socialization (Director Wolfgang Edelstein; concluded in 1997) examined human development and the social and individual developmental conditions of the competence to act and interact. Research interest was focused on the development of cognitive, social, and moral competence and on interaction competence in the context of increasing social inequality in the wake of the modernization process.

Concluded Research Groups

Until April 2018, the „Otto Hahn Research Group on Associative Memory in Old Age“ (Research Group Leader: Yvonne Brehmer) investigated neural correlates of different performances in associative memory in old age. The group was specifically interested in structural and functional brain correlates and genetic markers accounting for inter-individual differences in associative memory functioning.

Until May 2018, the multicenter collaboration "Socioemotional Development and Health" (Research Group Leader: Michaela Riediger) investigated the interplay of socioemotional and health development across the lifespan. The focus of the group was on empathic accuracy, that is, the ability to infer other persons’ thoughts and feelings. Researchers from the MPI for Human Development, the FU Berlin, the FSU Jena, and other institutions worked together on this multicenter collaboration project.

The Max Planck Research Group REaD (Reading Education and Development, Head: Sascha Schroeder) investigated the acquisition of reading skills in elementary school and their interaction with children’s general cognitive development. The group’s research combined longitudinal and experimental approaches to assess children’s reading skills from various perspectives and to model their interrelationships. The goal of this research was to identify the determinants of successful reading development and to evaluate which processes should be targeted by reading interventions.

Until fall 2015, the Max Planck Research Group Felt Communities? Emotions in European Music Performances (Head: Oliver Müller) investigated the historical development of the emotions triggered by music in the 19th and 20th centuries. Focusing on emotions as a public form of communication, the Research Group aimed to decipher the emotional structure of communities and the role music plays in the development and cohesion of communities.

The Heisenberg Research Group „Socioemotional Development and Health Across the Lifespan“ (Head: Michaela Riediger) examined whether and why people of different ages vary by social and emotional experiences and competencies and how these processes are associated with health development. The group was part of a cooperation with the Freie Universität Berlin. Among others, it was supported by the Focus Area DynAge and the German Research Foundation (DFG). In its research work, the group combined the method of mobile-phone-based experience sampling with psychophysiological measurement and experimental paradigms.

Until December 2014, the Max Planck Research Group "Affect Across the Lifespan" (Head: Michaela Riediger) investigated differences in people’s emotional experience and affective competencies from adolescence to old age. The group’s research focused on questions such as the following: Do emotional experiences change across the lifespan? Do people from various age groups differ in their abilities to deal with the emotional aspects of life? To address these questions, the researchers combined mobile phone-based experience sampling with psycho-physiological monitoring and experimental paradigms.

Until fall 2010, the Max Planck Research Group "Neurocognition of Decision Making" (Head: Hauke R. Heekeren) investigated mechanisms of decision-making in the human brain. A combination of psychophysical methods, functional and structural neuroimaging (MRI, MEG, EEG), modeling, and pharmacological intervention had been used to (1) explicitly link brain function and behavior during perceptual decision-making processes, (2) investigate the interaction of cognitive and emotional processes during social decision-making, and (3) examine the impact of individual differences, aging, and brain disorders on these functions.

Why are there less-edcuated youth and who are they? Which are the long-term consequences of the lack of training in young adulthood? The Research Group Lack of Training (Head: Heike Solga) investigated these questions until May, 2005. Beyond these research foci, the research results helped to specify the significance of education in society and on the labor market, and the exploration of the interrelations between the labor market and other domains of life.