Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC)

The Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition existed from 1997 until July 2017, when Prof. Gerd Gigerenzer has become Director emeritus.

The Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) encompassed 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

Research addressed 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, the researchers developed three key concepts: bounded rationality, ecological rationality, and social rationality.

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

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. Research on “heuristics in the law” is applied to training both law students and judges. Business players and executives benefit from the research on "gut feelings." Last but not least, the center promoted statistical thinking in primary schools, helping to provide for a new, informed generation that is comfortable in dealing with modern-day risks.


Direktor emeritus

Gerd Gigerenzer

Gerd Gigerenzer
© D. Ausserhofer

sekgigerenzer [at] mpib-berlin [dot] mpg [dot] de

Are you risk literate?

Check your knowledge about risks and uncertainties of everyday life with our Risk Quiz!

Take the quiz

Research Report