Max Planck Research Fellow

Gert G. Wagner (1953-2024) was Research Fellow in the Institute

The Max Planck Society appointed Gert G. Wagner a Max Planck Fellow in 2008. In so doing, it recognized the interdisciplinary and fundamental research of an internationally renowned scientist. In 2018, Martin Stratmann, President of the Max Planck Society, appointed Gert G. Wagner Senior Fellow of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development (MPIB) until the end of 2023.

Gert G. Wagner, Max Planck Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development died on Sunday 28 January 2024 at the age of 71. "We bid farewell to a highly respected scientist, esteemed colleague and amiable person. It was an absolute pleasure to work with Gert, because he was one of the most curious, open-minded and least dogmatic people I know," says Managing Director Ralph Hertwig. Click here for the Institue’s obituary.

At the MPI for Human Development, Wagner worked mainly with the research areas “Adaptive Rationality” and “Lifespan Psychology.” Wagner was also a faculty member of the LIFE Doctoral School (International Max Planck Research School on the Life Course) and co-PI of the Berlin Aging Study (BASE-II). He was also a member of the National Academy of Science and Engineering (acatech); Associate of the Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Potsdam; and Fellow at the Federal Institute for Population Research (BiB Fellow), Wiesbaden and Berlin.

Wagner was a member of the Editorial Board of the multidisciplinary journal PLOS One and of the Commission for Research Ethics of the Leibniz Association and the Ethics Board of the European Social Survey (ESS). He was also a member of the German Council of Consumer Experts (SVRV), of the Social Advisory Council of the German Federal Government, and of the Evaluation Panel of the Research Foundation – Flanders (FWO).


Wagner’s research focused on the causes of individual differences in life courses, with a special focus on risk preferences. He worked primarily with the data of the German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP), which he directed from 1989 to 2011. Findings from psychological research in a controlled laboratory environment often cannot be generalized to the world at large. Conversely, large-scale surveys in the social sciences rarely allow causal conclusions to be drawn on behavior and development at an individual level. This methodological dilemma is increasingly being overcome by integrating questions on psychological personality traits into representative longitudinal studies such as the SOEP and, in particular, by incorporating behavioral experiments into a representative longitudinal survey with the “SOEP Innovation Sample.” The SOEP also serves as a reference sample for the Berlin Aging Study (BASE-II) located at the MPIB.


The German Socio-Economic Panel Study (SOEP) is a representative longitudinal survey that has been providing microdata for basic research in the social and economic sciences every year since 1984. The SOEP and its innovation subsample (SOEP-IS) is hosted at the German Institute for Economic Research (DIW Berlin).

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