Third-Party Funding

Ongoing Projects at the MPIB

This overview presents the projects at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development currently supported by third-party funds. They are ordered alphabetically by the principal investigator's name.

 

Social Media for Democracy (SOME4DEM)

Understanding the causal mechanisms of digital citizenship

EU Horizon Europe
2023–2025

Phillip Lorenz-Spreen, Stefan Herzog, & Ralph Hertwig (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

The research project between the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and other European partners, like Science Po in Paris or the University of Venice, proposes to take the diagnosis of a structural change through the large scale adoption of social media seriously and seek to develop solutions that help make it work for democracy rather than against it. Our approach is driven by the recognition that one cannot simply return to the pre-social media era by re-establishing strong gate-keeping institutions without endangering essential features of the liberal democracy itself. Instead, we create solutions that are informed by three strands of research: (1) connecting the study of social media to theory of democracy; (2) investigating the causal mechanisms underlying the impact of social media on the public sphere; and (3) proposing interventions that respect the autonomy of users and empower them as informed digital citizens.


 

Curiosity Research Exhibition on Wheels 

VolkswagenStiftung (Volkswagen Foundation)
2022–2024

Azzurra Ruggeri (Max Planck Research Group iSearch – Information Search, Ecological and Active Learning Research with Children)

The CREW digital and interactive exhibition will be traveling around on an electric Cargo bike over the summer, and will be set up in public parks and open areas, e.g. in the courtyard of the Museum für Naturkunde, in the park of the Familien und Elternzentrum (FEZ), at the Zoologischer Garten or at Tempelhofer Feld in Berlin. The Cargo bike will serve as the exhibit home base. At each station we will present short, interactive experiences (games and questionnaires) to the audience, delivered both in digital formats—with tablets and augmented-reality glasses, and analogue formats—with card games and posters. Most of these experiences will be developed to be suitable for independent and self-paced exploration by children, adults, and families, although the support of the research assistants will always be available. Moreover, group activities, such as hide-and-seek games and treasure hunts targeting families or specific age groups, will also be planned and offered throughout the exhibition times and advertised online and on site. 

The unique idea behind this initiative is that we will go where people are, and not the other way around—becoming integral part of the space they are already familiar with. In this sense, we will be able to delicately reach the most diverse population of Berlin and Germany, both in terms of their age and their socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds, triggering their spontaneous, impromptu interest and curiosity. Participants will be able to pop in and out of the exhibition without any need to sign up, choosing whether and for how long they want to participate in each of the offered activities. Our research assistants will be there to answer any questions that the audience may have on the specifics of the “Towards a science of curiosity” project, as well as on its broader implications for, and place in the landscape of, other relevant work from education, developmental psychology, and cognitive science. 


 

Dynamics of Daily-Life Adaptation in the Corona Crisis Among Older Adults

VolkswagenStiftung (Volkswagen Foundation)
2020–2023
More information

Sandra Düzel (Center for Lifespan Psychology) & Johanna Drewelies (Lise Meitner Group for Environmental Neuroscience)

This project draws from and expand conceptual perspectives that consider old age an (endogenous) context that represents a promising Petri dish for studying the factors and mechanisms underlying the adaptive capacity of humans, especially in times of challenges such as a pandemic. One venue in which differences in the behavior and experiences of individuals during the SARS-COV-2 and COVID-19 crisis are expressed and can be observed readily are the daily lives of people. Pandemic-related changes of daily life might represent a testing-the-limits situation. The general idea is that between-person differences are not so apparent under normal conditions, but become readily apparent under stressful conditions – such as a global pandemic. From this perspective, old age in face of the pandemic is a natural experiment in which the adaptive and regulatory capacities of individuals are being pushed to their limits. As such, intensive study of old individuals provides a unique opportunity to observe and identify the mechanisms and pathways through which individuals adapt better or worse to the challenges of rapidly changing life conditions caused by the pandemic, day-to-day. In analogy to large-scale longitudinal studies, substantial between-person differences in how older people’s adaptive capacity is pushed to their limits are expected. Some experience steep decrements (in daily life: fluctuations), whereas others maintain relatively high levels of functioning and well-being.


 

The Social Individual’s Decisions:
How Are They Shaped by Group Affiliation During Collective Decisions?

European Union (EU) Marie Skłodowska-Curie Action
2021–2023

Marwa El Zein (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

Belonging to a group helps maintain a shared social identity. Individuals can belong to a political party, to a country, to a union of countries etc. How do these multiple group affiliations shape individuals’ decisions within groups? Through an interdisciplinary approach drawing on cognitive science, neuroscience, behavioral economics, social psychology and political science, this project aims to characterize the cognitive mechanisms underlying the influence of group affiliation on collective decision-making. It investigates how different stages of cognitive processes—from information processing to consequential decisions— are affected by the nature of the collective: multilevel in-groups and outgroup. Previously established experimental paradigms in individual behavior are applied to group decision making to test the predictions that:

  1. Group affiliation disrupts accurate information processing;
  2. Group affiliation increases alignment and responsibility sharing with group members for cooperative and leadership decisions; and
  3. The group affiliation influence on decisions varies as a function of individuals’ political attitudes and gender.

Given the relevance of the proposed research questions to the current political climate in Europe, they will be further explored in the political context: the experiments will be tested online on a European population sample in a dedicated political research center, in order to help explain individual citizens’ behaviors in our group-based society. The findings of this project will provide insights into the reasons driving an increase of inward-looking policies (Brexit and rise of populist parties in Europe), which represents a threat to the European Research Area that rests on strong collaborations between different European countries and their citizens.


 

How Do Students Learn New Concepts? Identifying Factors That Promote Students' Understanding of Physical Science Concepts

Jacobs Foundation
2019–2022

Yana Fandakova (Center for Lifespan Psychology)

The general aim of the project is to examine the role of curiosity in learning of scientific concepts in secondary school students. The project aims to evaluate the degree to which authentic teacher strategies can effectively boost students’ curiosity and learning, based on continuous physiological indices of curiosity, surprise, and understanding of key scientific concepts.


 

WEXICOM – Weather Warnings:
From Extreme Event Information to Communication and Action

Deutscher Wetterdienst (DWD)
2019–2023
More information

Nadine Fleischhut (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

Despite good forecasts and warnings, weather risks are easily underestimated and not responded to appropriately. One proposed solution is to communicate impact forecasts ("what the weather will do") rather than weather forecasts ("what the weather will be like"). Although the approach sounds promising, it is so far unclear whether quantitative impact forecasts actually improve decisions. The main goal of this project is to develop representations for probabilistic impact predictions to test how they influence risk perceptions, expectations, and behavior. Using crowdsourcing, the project aims to develop different ways of translating impact predictions into risk representations that are easily understood by the public. Another part of the project explores the potential benefit of impact predictions for population protection.


 

Toward a Structural and Functional Basis for Changes in Brain Signal Variability With Age

Emmy Noether Program of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)
2017–2022
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Douglas Garrett (Lifespan Neural Dynamics Group)

The Emmy Noether Group seeks to understand how and why the human brain fluctuates so markedly from moment to moment. In particular, the group examines brain signal variability and dynamics in relation to six core research foci:

  • Lifespan development;
  • Cognition;
  • Neuromodulation;
  • Structural/functional connectivity;
  • Transcranial stimulation; and
  • Methods/modelling.

Accordingly, the group has an inherent multivariate focus that allows the examination of brain signal variability phenomena across multiple levels of analysis.


 

Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality

Joachim Herz Foundation
2019–2023
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Ralph Hertwig (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

The Summer Institute on Bounded Rationality brings together talented young researchers and renowned scientists from around the globe and aims to spark a dialogue about decision making under the real-world constraints of limited time, information, and computational power. The Summer Institute offers a forum for young scholars from various disciplines to share their approaches, discuss their research, and inspire each other. The program will cover the fundamentals, methodology, and recent findings on bounded rationality.


 

Weighing Personal and Social Information in Cooperative Problem Solving

Deutsche Forschungsgmeinschaft (DFG) / Technische Universität (TU) Berlin
2020–2025

Ralph Hertwig, Ralf Kurvers, & Thorsten Pachur (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

A fundamental challenge in cooperative problem solving in human, animal and robotic groups is the integration of personal and social information. Relying too heavily on personal information prevents the spread of information among group members, whereas relying too heavily on social information may hamper profitable personal exploration and reduce collective performance. Here this key process is investigated by studying how collectives of different complexities dynamically balance personal and social information use across different levels of environmental complexity to achieve collective intelligence. The project will investigate both the performance of fixed strategies across different environments, as well as how agents learn about which strategies to use when facing unknown environments. The project proposes to investigate both human and robotic groups. To foster integration between both systems, similar experimental paradigms will be used: collective spatial search tasks. In human groups, the project plans to use immersive reality: humans will control avatars in the virtual world and collectively search for resources. This approach allows full experimental control, providing an ideal testbed for studying cooperative problem solving in humans. For robotic groups, the project plans to use swarms of Thymio II robots, performing collective spatial search tasks. Both ‘systems’ will be probed with collective search tasks of increasing complexity, starting with simple binary resources, and working towards more complex probabilistic resource environments (spatial multi-armed bandits). These tasks will share increasingly more overlap with cooperative shepherding. Human and robotic experimentation will continuously interact, using the following iterative steps:

  1. Extract fundamental principles of cooperative problem solving from human experimentation;
  2. Test the robustness of these strategies across a broader set of environments using agent-based-modeling;
  3. Use robotic simulations to test the performance of the most robust strategies in the ‘physical’ world;
  4. Implement these strategies in a robotic platform; and, finally
  5. Feed the insights and predictions from the modeling and robots back into human experimentation.

 

Reclaiming Individual Autonomy and Democratic Discourse Online:
How to Rebalance Human and Algorithmic Decision Making

VolkswagenStiftung
2021–2025
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Ralph Hertwig, Stefan Herzog, & Phillip Lorenz-Spreen (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

The research project "Reclaiming individual autonomy and democratic discourse online" between the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, the University of Bristol, and Northeastern University, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation's initiative "AI+Society of the future", seeks to find ways to rebalance human and algorithmic decision making. In doing so, the goal is to better understand the interaction and potential conflict between online information architecture and human cognitive capabilities, and to develop cognitively and technologically sound solutions to address problematic impacts of the current information architecture on the common good.


 

Assisting Behavioral Science and Evidence-Based Policy Making Using Online Machine Tools (POLTOOLS)

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2022–2024
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Stefan Herzog (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

The research objective of this project it to develop, deploy and empirically evaluate online machine tools (e.g., intelligent search and collaboration interfaces) that improve the scientific process and the interface between behavioral science and evidence-based policy making to help meet the challenges arising from COVID-19 and other, future global crises. We rely on state-of-the-art tools from natural language processing, machine learning, and artificial intelligence.
This project is part of the proposal package MULTIPAN - Multidisciplinary research consortium on preventing and curbing pandemic outbreaks. This proposal represents an interdisciplinary and international project as the team members are trained and working in multiple disciplines (cognitive science, psychology, decision science, information science, computer science), and involves members from Germany, the UK, and the U.S.


 

Hybrid Human Artificial Collective Intelligence in Open-Ended Decision Making (HACID)

European Union (EU) Horizon Action Grant
2022–2025

Stefan Herzog & Ralf Kurvers (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

HACID is a collaborate project with colleagues from Irelan, Italy, and the UK. It develops a novel hybrid collective intelligence for decision support to professionals facing complex open-ended problems, promoting engagement, fairness and trust. A decision support system (HACID-DSS) is proposed that is based on structured domain knowledge, semi-automatically assembled in a domain knowledge graph (DKG) from available data sources, such as scientific and gray literature. Given a specific case within the addressed domain, a pool of experts is consulted to (i) extract supporting evidence and enrich it, generating a case knowledge graph (CKG) as a subset of the DKG, and (ii) provide one or more solutions to the problem. Exploiting the CKG, the HACID-DSS gathers the expert advice in a collective solution that aggregates the individual opinions and expands them with machine-generated suggestions. In this way, HACID harnesses the wisdom of the crowd in open-ended problems, relying on a traceable process based on supporting evidence for better explainability. A set of evaluation methods is proposed to deal with domains where ground truth is not available, demonstrating the suitability of the proposed approach in a wide range of application domains. Demonstrations are provided in two compelling case studies contributing to the UN Sustainable Development.


 

Icefishing: Individual, Collective and Environmental Drivers of Human Foraging Dynamics in the Wild

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2021–2024
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Ralf Kurvers (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

In a world ruled by uncertainty, information acquisition is critical for adaptive decision-making. Comprehending adaptive decision-making requires a clear understanding of the type of information individuals gather (‘what’), the underlying mechanisms (‘how’) and the potential adaptive value of the information (‘why’). However, in human ecological research these fundamental questions have remained largely unintegrated and, hence, unanswered. To take the next step in understanding human decision-making from an adaptive perspective, the project therefore propose a novel integrative approach on information acquisition and processing in human behavioural ecology, focusing on a natural context of great importance: foraging behaviour in the wild. The overarching goal is to better comprehend how synergetic effects between individuals and environments shape human decision-making. The guiding questions are:

  • How does individual and collective foraging success develop over the lifespan of individuals?
  • What are the individual and collective information acquisition mechanisms underlying this development?
  • How does the socio-ecological environment interact with the above-mentioned processes?

Two complementary approaches are used for the project:

  • Analyses of longitudinal field data spanning almost 50 years, to quantify the development of individual and collective foraging success;
  • Fieldwork, to understand the mechanistic underpinnings of human competitive and cooperative foraging decisions in the wild. Therefore foragers will be equipped with (1) tracking devices to study spatial behavior, (2) head cameras to quantify visual information acquisition, and (3) heart rate monitors to quantify physiological foraging costs.

Combined, these approaches will render unique and novel insights into important long-standing questions in human adaptive decision-making.


 

African Studies in Germany Through the Lens of Critical Race Theory

VolkswagenStiftung
2022–2024

Stephanie Lämmert (Center for the History of Emotions)

The intellectual and political rupture between Diaspora Studies/Black Studies and white-dominated African Studies has only just recently begun to be bridged. This project delves into the way in which whiteness as a structure informs knowledge production in Germany. By proposing to anchor Critical Race Theory (hereafter CRT) into German African Studies, the project seeks to open up new frontiers of productively thinking about the African continent and Black Germany. Instead of perpetuating the narrative of Germany as a post-racial society, we call for a serious engagement with the colonial roots of African Studies in Germany and interrogate its lasting legacy through the lens of CRT. The approach is twofold. First, the project proposes to critically examine the canon literature of African Studies, recognizing the structural and institutional dimension of knowledge production and dissemination about Africa in German universities. The goal is to understand who defines this canon, what kinds of questions are asked, and whether the present canon points to any conspicuous omissions in the context of current decolonization debates. Second, the project aims to bring German Africanist scholarship into conversation with activists’ traditions, texts, knowledges, and practices. Activism around decolonizing knowledge production and society at large has played a powerful role in contesting anti-Black racism in German society since the 1980s, and yet has remained unheard in universities. The tools of CRT undergird and connect our two objectives. The project’s results will be disseminated in academic and activist circles as well as to the wider public through workshops, blogs, and lecture series.


 

Determining the Neural Basis of Episodic Specificity and Generalization in Development

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2021–2024
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Zoe Ngo (Center for Lifespan Psychology)

The goal of this project is to delineate a developmental timetable for the processes that support the emergence of schematic knowledge and episodic memory in early childhood. To this end, it characterizes the intra-individual developmental changes in generalization and episodic specificity processes spanning the pivotal transition from fragile to robust memory capacities. Further, research from the cognitive neuroscience literature has made strong predictions about the neural underpinnings of generalization and episodic specificity processes in adults. However, whether the maturational course of the neural substrates implicated in generalization and episodic specificity forecast the behavioral gains of corresponding memory processes is not well known. To achieve these goals, this project charts the concurrent developmental progression of generalization and episodic specificity with a three-year accelerated longitudinal design in 4- to 8-year-old children. This approach will allow testing the hypothesis that generalization presages episodic specificity in development, and whether schematic knowledge can be constructed sans the specific memories of individual episodes. Further, we will map the growth of generalization and episodic specificity to the developmental course of gray matter volume and white matter connectivity in the brain regions hypothesized to support these memory processes. Findings of this research will elucidate how maturation of the key computations instantiated by the brain may bear fruit on the diverse mnemonic functions of generalization and episodic specificity.


 

Jacobs Research Fellowship

Jacobs Foundation
2022–2024
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Zoe Ngo (Center for Lifespan Psychology)

This project first blueprints children's architecture of memory systems during the transition from preschool to formal schooling. It will employ a data-driven analytical approach to principles of neurocomputational models of memory, to examine when in development the ontology of memory resembles that of adults. Second, the project will map the longitudinal growth of each memory process to the developmental course of gray matter volume and white matter connectivity in the brain from age 4 to age 7. This approach will elucidate how maturation of the computations instantiated by the brain may bear fruit on the complementary mnemonic functions, and generate predictions about memory profiles in both typical and atypical development. Collectively, this plan will begin to reveal a process-focused developmental timetable of when children's memory competence lends itself to constructing generalizable knowledge and detailing our pasts.


 

Towards a Science of Curiosity

VolkswagenStiftung
2021–2025
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Azzurra Ruggeri (Max Planck Research Group iSearch – Information Search, Ecological and Active Learning Research with Children)

The aim of this project is to build a theory of child-like curiosity. Children are arguably the only known system that demonstrably and reproducibly develops into intelligent agents through playful exploration. The project wants to build machines that do the same. This involves studying how children explore their environment during free play, extracting the algorithms they apply, and using these models to build robots that effectively explore similar environments. Computationally mirroring this development requires a formal understanding of curiosity—the ability to explore environments in the absence of rewards. Studying curiosity demands an inter-disciplinary approach, where developmental psychologists, cognitive scientists, and roboticists work together to understand the human ability to be curious and build algorithms that mirror this ability. The proposed project will coalesce around three objectives. In the first objective, the curiosity by letting children play freely while tracking their actions will be studies. In the second objective, the best model to describe children's behavior will be identified, by building cognitive algorithms of child-like curiosity. Finally, in the third objective, we will build robots that can efficiently solve similar tasks will be built. The ultimate goal is to build more powerful robots that play like children, thereby moving towards a science of curiosity.
This project is in collaboration with Eric Schulz, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, and Georg Martius, Max Planck Institute for Intelligent Systems, both in Tübingen.


 

The Function of Hippocampal and Cortical Memory Replay in Humans

European Research Council (ERC) Starting Grant
2020–2025
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Nicolas Schuck (Max Planck Research Group NeuroCode – Neural and Computational Basis of Learning, Memory and Decision Making)

The project includes several behavioral, computational and fMRI studies that investigate the neural and computational function of fast sequential reactivations in the hippocampus and cortical areas.


 

Neural Representation of Belief States During Decision-Making Under Uncertainty

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2022–2024
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Nicolas Schuck (Max Planck Research Group NeuroCode – Neural and Computational Basis of Learning, Memory and Decision Making)

This project is a joint application together with John Dylan Haynes (Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience). A series of modelling and fMRI experiments related to the representation of uncertainty during decision making is proposed.


 

The Role of Dynamic Neural Functional Coupling in Spontaneous Thoughts

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) and Japanese funding agency AMED
2022–2024
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Nicolas Schuck (Max Planck Research Group NeuroCode – Neural and Computational Basis of Learning, Memory and Decision Making)

This project is part of the funding program “Computational Connectomics" and a joint initiative with Mingbo Cai. The project proposes to decode spontaneous thoughts of depressive and healthy volunteers while resting after watching a movie. It uses an analysis tool based on temporal Shared Response Models which allows to map brain activity onto a lower dimensional emotional and semantic space.


 

Dynamic Memory (Re-)Activation in Human Decision Making 

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2021–2024
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Bernhard Spitzer (Research Group Adaptive Memory and Decision Making)

When making decisions, our individual and situational preferences are strongly influenced by past experience and learning. Neurocognitive accounts of value-based choice have traditionally focused on procedural and semantic memory functions, in complement to formal descriptions of subjective value- and probability weighting functions in behavioral economics. More recently, it has been hypothesized that decisions may be crucially shaped also by retrieval and (re-)activation of concrete memories, for instance, in terms of sampling from episodic memory. To date, the contribution of concrete memory reactivation to decision-making, despite its theoretical and intuitive appeal, has not been studied directly in human neural signals yet. The project seeks to fill this gap using a newly developed analytical framework to disclose dynamic memory (re-)activations in human electroencephalographic patterns during decisional deliberation. In a series of experiments, the project tests for reactivation of previously encountered value items during decisional evaluation in

  1. Simple value judgments,
  2. Transitive inference, and
  3. Context-dependent value learning.

In further studies, the same analysis framework will be adopted to test the extent to which endogenous (re-)activation of previously experienced outcomes governs (iv) subjective preferences in risky choice and (v) active risk-taking in a dynamic real-world scenario. Combining multivariate neural pattern analyses with computational modelling of behavior, and capitalizing on the millisecond resolution of human electroencephalography, the project seeks to gain insights into the temporal dynamics of memory sampling, and its behavioral relevance in human decisional deliberation.


 

The Dynamic Representational Nature of Working Memory Storage

ERC Consolidator Grant
2022–2026
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Bernhard Spitzer (Research Group Adaptive Memory and Decision Making)

Working memory excels in keeping ready the momentary contents of all of human higher cognition despite being strictly limited in storage capacity. How the brain accomplishes this feat, beyond the temporary maintenance of just experienced information, is hardly understood. An emerging view suggests that working memory storage is topographically distributed according to the information’s endogenous level of abstraction. However, very little is known about how such distributed storage is orchestrated spatiotemporally, that is, how representations at different levels of abstraction are structured dynamically in time to suit current demands. In DeepStore, tailored experimental designs and newly developed multivariate analysis techniques are used to explore for the first time directly the depth-dimension of working memory storage, in terms of dynamic levels of abstraction. Combining functional imaging, magneto-/electroencephalography, and invasive neural recordings will make it possible to track levels of abstraction spatiotemporally, with millisecond precision. In three ambitious experimental series, DeepStore will shed new light on long-standing open questions about working memory storage, including how it is modulated by attention, inattention, and distraction, and how multiple contents are stored simultaneously. The work will shape a new theory of the neurocognitive capacity limit in working memory. We will further test novel hypotheses about how working memory interfaces with long-term memory, and how it develops over the lifespan. Finally, the innovative human neuroimaging approach will be combined with direct electrophysiological recordings in non-human primates during the same task, to disclose the fine-grained neural mechanisms of dynamic abstraction down to the single-cell level. DeepStore is anticipated to provide fundamentally new insights into the dynamic and multi-layered nature of working memory, beyond the number and precision of items it can hold.


 

Memory and Decision Making in Capacity-Limited Agents

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) Heisenberg Grant
2022–2025
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Bernhard Spitzer (Research Group Adaptive Memory and Decision Making)

The objective is to expand our understanding why human behaviors exhibit the apparent distortions and idiosyncrasies that the behavioral and neurosciences have unraveled over the past century – for instance, the diminishing sensitivity to larger values in psychometrics. Modeling frameworks were developed that explain such idiosyncrasies as efficient strategies that are surprisingly optimal once the intrinsic capacity limitations of biological brains are taken into account (e.g., in terms of working memory limitations). This framework of “optimal irrationality” has already been successful in accounting for over/underweighting of numerical evidence in sequential decisions (Spitzer et al., 2017, Nature Human Behaviour; Clarmann v. Clarenau, Pachur, & Spitzer, 2022), for the distortions of value- and probability information in Prospect Theory (Juechems, Balaguer, Spitzer, & Summerfield, 2021, PNAS), and for adaptive learning strategies in solving transitive inferences (Ciranka, Linde-Domingo, ... & Spitzer, 2022, Nature Human Behaviour). In all these domains, it was found that seemingly irrational human behaviors afford objective performance benefits over policies that seem normatively “rational” but are poorly adapted to the computational and metabolic limitations of biological brains. The aim of future work is to continue scrutinizing these fascinating ideas and models in new domains, from basic WM operations to memory-based decisions and risk-taking behaviors.


 

Strengthening Health Literacy of Sepsis Risk Groups to Improve Early Sepsis Detection and Prevention

G-BA Innovationsausschuss / Sepsis Stiftung
2020–2023
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Odette Wegwarth (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

This project is spart of a wider consortium which aims at developing evidence-based health information on early detection and prevention of sepsis for at-risk groups and its dissemination as part of a multimodal information campaign in the Berlin-Brandenburg region. This is intended to improve the health literacy of at-risk groups for this disease and to achieve an increase in the vaccination rate against sepsis-causing infectious disease in at-risk groups.


 

Evaluation of a Digital, Interactive Information Tool to Increase Vaccination Incidence Among Vaccine-Critical Individuals Using COVID-19 Vaccination as an Example

G-BA Innovationsausschuss / Charité
2022–2023
More information (in German)

Odette Wegwarth (Center for Adaptive Rationality)

The goal is to integrate an already piloted, digital, interactive information tool for communicating vaccination effectiveness — exemplary for the COVID-19 vaccination — into the general practitioner consultation of vaccine-skeptical people and to evaluate it with a view to increasing the vaccination rate. with a view to increasing the vaccination rate. Hypothesis: Compared with the control condition, the digital counseling tool increases vaccination readiness, subjective perception, and cost-effectiveness.


 

The Misperception of Randomness: A Developmental Study

National Science Foundation (NSF)
2021–2023
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Annie Wertz (Max Planck Research Group Naturalistic Social Cognition)

The project advances understanding of the development of the cognitive mechanisms underlying children's perception of randomness and susceptibility to erroneous judgments. To do this, three novel statistical decision-making paradigms assess how 3- to 10-year-old children understand randomness, and how children reason about sequential patterns in space and time. Previous research suggests that a tendency to over perceive illusory streaks or clumps in random sequences may be a human universal, tied to an evolutionary history of foraging for clumpy resources. The study tests, using novel tasks, the evolutionary account and makes methodological contributions to research on this topic with methods created for tests with young children that can be adapted for future use with infants (to further investigate when and how this statistical reasoning emerges), and adolescents (to fill an empirical gap in our understanding of origins of gambling addictions). This project provides a crucial piece of the developmental picture of misperceptions of randomness and a platform with which this development can be studied from infancy to adulthood.


 

Eat Your Vegetables: How Infants Learn About Healthy Foods

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2022–2023
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Annie Wertz (Max Planck Research Group Naturalistic Social Cognition)

This project aims to investigate particular actions infants rely on to learn that a novel food is safe to eat. It focuses on two specific types of actions: (1) eating, and (2) food processing (e.g., cutting). Eating actions and food processing actions are essential components of human food behaviors, but the impact of food processing actions on food learning remains largely unknown, particularly in infancy. This project examines whether infants view food processing actions as a signal of edibility per se by directly comparing them to eating actions. To do this, an eye-tracking experiment with 12-month-old infants will be conducted. It will be tested whether infants differentially attend to food processing actions — and whether they view food processing actions similarly to eating actions — by assessing which action infants look longer at and their pupillary changes while looking at each action. Then, infants will be offered the novel foods shown in the videos and their choices and eating behaviors will be measured. The results will shed light on the attentional mechanisms underlying food learning in the first years of life, and reveal what forms of social information infants use to learn that a novel food is safe to eat. The findings will help identify important mechanisms that increase acceptance of healthy foods early in life. This would be particularly important for future projects developing effective interventions for promoting the adoption of healthy eating habits during this critical food learning phase.


 

The Role of Neural "Belief State" Representations in Decisions Under Uncertainty

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG)
2022–2024
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Ondrej Zika (Max Planck Research Group NeuroCode – Neural and Computational Basis of Learning, Memory and Decision Making)

This project investigates how different sources of uncertainty are integrated to form a belief state representation and, in turn, how such representations drive decisions. To answer these questions, behavioural, physiological (eye-tracking) and neural (fMRI) measures together with reinforcement learning models will be used while perceptual, outcome and contextual uncertainty will be experimentally manipulated. Building on previous work, the project particularly focuses on investigating the probabilistic nature of belief state representations in the orbitofrontal cortex. 


 

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