Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Max Planck Institute for Human Development

The Max Planck Institute for Human Development is dedicated to the study of human development and education. Researchers of various disciplines – including psychology, education, sociology and medicine, as well as history, economics, computer science and mathematics – work together on interdisciplinary projects at the Berlin Institute. The research questions they examine include how people make effective decisions even under time pressure and information overload, which effects the institution of school has on students’ development and learning processes, how the interaction between behaviour and brain function changes over a person’s lifespan, as well as how human emotions change in a historical context and how they have affected the course of history itself.

Contact

Lentzeallee 94
14195 Berlin
Phone: +49 30 82406-0
Fax: +49 30 8249939

PhD opportunities

This institute has several International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS):

IMPRS on the Life Course (LIFE)
IMPRS for Moral Economies of Modern Societies
IMPRS on Computational Methods in Psychiatry and Ageing Research

In addition, there is the possibility of individual doctoral research. Please contact the directors or research group leaders at the Institute.

Six components of healthy family meals

Meta-analysis of data from over 29,000 respondents worldwide shows links between eating habits and nutritional health

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Play it safe!

Play it safe!

August 14, 2019

Study with 950 managers from a public institution investigates frequency and causes of defensive decisions

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In poor countries birth spacing affects infant mortality

A longer birth interval significantly reduces the death rate of infants in developing countries

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A vote of her own

A vote of her own

January 17, 2019

A contribution by Ute Frevert of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development on 100 years of women's suffrage in Germany

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Obesity seen as self-inflicted

Representative survey in Germany, the UK, and the US

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Max Planck scientists travel to all the continents in the world to conduct research. Here they write about their personal experiences and impressions. Lou Marie Haux from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin spent three months on Ngamba Island in Uganda studying the risk-taking behavior of chimpanzees. In this article, she reports on her behavioral studies, everyday life on a small island and her most cherished moments.

Children explore their environment with all their senses, and their curiosity knows no bounds. From a certain age onwards, they never seem to stop bombarding adults with questions. Many people consider this form of active learning to be ideal. Until now, however, almost nothing has been known about the strategies that children use on their own initiative. At the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Azzurra Ruggeri and her team are developing sophisticated tests in order to understand the way children learn.

Rituals of degradation have been used throughout the ages as a means of exercising authority. Judges made a public show of people by having them placed in the pillory, teachers made unruly pupils the object of ridicule with dunce caps. Such practices have been consigned to the past, but modern society has developed new methods for publicly stigmatizing outsiders, as our author describes.

Decisions follow a script all their own. Sometimes current facts play a role, sometimes utility is the driving force – and sometimes they are rooted deep in human evolutionary history. Ralph Hertwig, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, studies the dynamics of choice, uncertainty and risk. And he advises grandparents to help look after their grandchildren.

Music arouses emotions. But exactly what people feel when listening to a piece of music and how they express these feelings is influenced mainly by the times they live in and their culture. A research group led by Sven Oliver Müller at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin has carried out research on the changing emotions in Europe’s musical life, focusing in particular on the impact of music’s communal spirit.

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“You can do it!?” The history of emotions and cancer

2018 Hitzer, Bettina

Cognitive Science Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Some assumptions are so widely shared that they are rarely questioned. One such assumption is that positive emotions increase chances of beating cancer. Although researchers have yet to establish a clear link, this assumption continues to define society’s view of cancer. Even in the twentieth century, guides for doctors advised them against revealing a diagnosis of cancer to their patients in the belief that feelings of fear might negatively influence the recovery process. How did these assumptions gain broad acceptance? This text looks at the history of how emotions can influence cancer.

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The R factor: Is risk preference a personal trait?

2017 Hertwig, Ralph

Cognitive Science Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

People differ widely in their willingness to take risks. Moreover, an individual’s propensity for risk taking can vary across domains. But new research shows that – akin to the general factor of intelligence – there appears to be a general factor of risk preference, which remains relatively stable over time. Importantly, this factor cannot be assessed by conventional behavioral tests, which often yield contradictory results. The new findings cast light on the nature of human risk-taking propensity.

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Brain plasticity and the inverted U: On the time course of experience-dependent plastic brain changes in humans

2016 Wenger, Elisabeth; Lindenberger, Ulman

Cognitive Science Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development investigate the time course of plasticity. Results show an initial increase followed by decrease of gray matter volume during skill acquisition. These plastic changes would have gone unnoticed, had a standard pretest-posttest design been employed. Such two-occasion designs are inadequate to identify the time course of plastic changes. Future research on human neuroplasticity needs research designs and theories that take the nonlinear dynamics of behavioral and cerebral variability and change into account.

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Informed patients through distribution of fact boxes

2015 Gigerenzer, Gerd; Rebitschek, Felix G.

Cognitive Science Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Many doctors do not understand health statistics sufficiently, thus lacking basic knowledge and facts to perform crucial tasks such as properly discussing potential treatment plans with their patients. The current system of training health professionals unfortunately does not aim at rectifying this deficit. An evaluation study has proven the effectiveness of fact boxes, as developed by the Harding Center, in imparting knowledge to patients as a basis for informed decisions. Patients, doctors, and the health care system as a whole benefit from understanding the data provided by fact boxes.

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A transnational history of emotions

2014 Pernau, Margrit

Cognitive Science Cultural Studies Social and Behavioural Sciences

Emotions are not the same for all people at all times. They have a history. In the Research Group for the History of Emotions at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, researchers come together to investigate the history of Europe and India – not only to compare regions, but also to study what is called the provincialisation of Europe: overcoming the perception of Europe as universal, as the norm from which all other regions represent, to a greater or lesser extent, deviations.

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