Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Collective goods are goods that the markets have some difficulty in dealing with. This becomes particularly problematic when access to such goods is hard to restrict. Examples include air, water and soil, physical and virtual networks, infrastructures and the systemic effects of financial transactions. One of the services that science can render for society is to identify precisely where the problems lie with these goods and compare the institutional rules that regulate their availability. The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn addresses these questions from an interdisciplinary perspective that combines economics, law and psychology. Whereas in the past the researchers were primarily concerned with environmental protection issues, the most important areas of application for the work today include cartel law, regulation and the stability of the financial markets.


Kurt-Schumacher-Str. 10
53113 Bonn
Phone: +49 228 91416-0
Fax: +49 228 91416-355

PhD opportunities

This institute has an International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS):

IMPRS on Adapting Behavior in a Fundamentally Uncertain World

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

Closing the gender gap in competitiveness with a psychological trick

The degree of willingness among men and women to assert themselves in competition can be balanced out.

Clichés about nations govern our actions

How people from different countries cooperate with one another depends on their preconceptions about different nationalities


Yearbook article 2016, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods Authors: Stephan Luck and Paul Schempp


Goals are essential

October 31, 2012

Field study shows motivational effect of performance targets

Martin Hellwig and Katharina Pistor receive Max Planck Research Award

Excellent research focus on the regulation of international financial markets


Whether it’s security, environmental protection, infrastructure or the internet – everybody has to play by the rules if we are to reap the benefits of collective goods. Fabian Winter of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn is studying the conditions needed for this to happen, and also providing surprising support for political intervention in social media.

Blank Space

1/2014 On Location

Someone did quite a job tidying up here. Even the curtains are all pushed neatly to the same side. The blue of the individual image elements harmonizes almost too well. But wait: Couldn’t they have also set the chair backs at the same level? And why are the number signs on the booths so mixed up? Where are we, anyway? In a deserted call center? At a polling station? Is science being done here when no one is looking? Let’s reveal the secret: The image shows the oldest lab for experimental economic research in Europe, the BonnEconLab. Scientists have been studying human economic behavior here since as long ago as 1984. To date, nearly 30,000 people have participated in their experiments. The Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods also regularly uses the lab. Research subjects with a penchant for experiment can earn money by “playing” the test games at the BonnEconLab. Whether as market participants, as bidders in an auction, or in negotiations: the test subjects continually make more or less successful decisions. Their success, on which the final reward for the individual participants depends, is influenced to a substantial degree by the decisions of their fellow players. Chance also plays a role – just like in real life. Experimental economics was long a controversial subject within the field of economics. With game theory came the first economic experiments in the 1960s. But people were slow to realize that experimental findings must be used more and more as a basis for economic research. Today, experimentation is a recognized research method in economics – and German researchers were at the forefront right from the start.

Every legal system in the world punishes corruption – but the punishments vary widely. The “how” is something that Christoph Engel, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, and his colleagues Sebastian Goerg and Gaoneng Yu are studying in a laboratory experiment at two universities in Germany and China.

Incentives for managers were used as far back as the 19th century. However, they proved to be not necessarily a profitable investment for the company.

It was not merely greed on the part of mortgage banks that caused the fiasco.

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Why does creativity need the law?

2018 Engel, Christoph

Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

Why does creativity need the law? US law believes: because authors would otherwise be starving. Continental law counters: because authors care about recognition. Consequently Continental law not only empowers authors to sell their works. It also protects moral rights, like the right to be named. In a field experiment, only a minority of photographers are willing to give up moral rights.


In Continental Europe, traditional legal thinking is rather remote from empirical research and statistics. Nonetheless lawyers have been trying for more than one hundred years to fuse knowledge about society’s “is’s and oughts”. Their attempts had to continuously adapt to changes in the dominant intellectual paradigms, and are now framed as discursive argumentation about different normatively infused descriptions of the world. As such, empirical discourse is indispensable for the law and will shape legal education in the future. Complex legal realities require statistical legal thinking.


Financial stability and government bonds

2016 Luck, Stephan; Schempp, Paul

Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

Banks typically grant long-term loans, but their liabilities are short-term. While this maturity transformation is one of the main features of banks, it also constitutes a major risk factor. A research project at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods shows that a strong government can reduce the refinancing risk of banks by providing them with government bonds. In case of countries that are financially interconnected, all parties might benefit if the strong country protects weaker ones by forming a banking union.


The cognitive processes involved in decisions in social dilemmas

2015 Fiedler, Susann

Cognitive Science Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

Little is known about the underlying processes of cooperative behavior in social dilemmas. By using eye-tracking a project at the Max-Planck-Institute for Research on Collective Goods shows that differences in social preferences are accompanied by consistent differences in information search. Decision time, number of fixations, the proportion of inspected information, the degree of attention towards the others’ payoffs, and the number of transitions from and towards others’ payoffs gradually increase with absolute deviation from a pure selfish orientation.


Individuals who disclose personal information often willingly accept an increase of social pressure. Monetary rewards from giving one’s consent to the disclosure of personal information can be interpreted as a compensation for the behavioral restraints resulting from increased social pressure. At the same time, only few people seem to care whether personal information is permanently stored. Only few people actually make use of a right to be forgotten, if they are not nudged to do so.

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