Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods

Initially founded as a Max Planck institute that investigates the provision of collective goods, the ­institute has developed into an international hub that focuses in its research mainly on applied economics and on behavioral law. Moreover, the institute hosts three independent research groups on “moral courage”, “economic cognition”, and “mechanisms of normative change”. The set of researchers from various disciplines, such as economics, law, psychology, and sociology, constitutes a truly interdisciplinary environment that facilitates a cross-fertilization of ideas. The institute’s research expertise covers a wide range of subjects, including the formation of economic preferences, team decision-making, the analysis of credence goods markets, the definition of normative problems that call for legal intervention, the effects of legal interventions, rule generation and rule application, the psychological processes of bystander interventions against norm violations, the cognitive and affective processes leading to choices, and reasoning about social norms.


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 Behaviorally Smart Institutions

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

Intentionally foregoing information can be a good decision for both individuals and society


Why Some Information is Better Ignored


We live in a knowledge society in which science and education is of particular importance. But under certain circumstances, we all benefit from deliberate ignorance. The Max Planck directors Ralph Hertwig and Christoph Engel explain why deliberately foregoing information in certain areas should even be prescribed and taught.


If a lie could harm their image, people are more likely to forgo financial benefits


Matthias Sutter from the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn researches what constitutes success in scientific terms.


For many people, waiting is simply a waste of time. According to Matthias Sutter, however, “those who can wait get more out of life.” At the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods in Bonn, the behavioral economist is studying how children and young adults can be trained to manage money sensibly and follow a stable path in life.

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.

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How social norms shape our culture of debate

2019 Winter, Fabian

Social and Behavioural Sciences

Hate speech is a dominant topic in social media, both as a rhetorical tool as well as an object of debate. The Research Group "Mechanisms of Normative Change" at the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods studies the conditions of its emergence and change as well as the influence of social norms on its prevalence.


Gender differences in the willingness to compete may contribute to differences in wages and career advancement of men and women. Policy interventions, such as quotas, come with unintended side-effects. Loukas Balafoutas, Helena Fornwagner and I have proposed priming subjects with power as an instrument to contain gender differences in the willingness to compete. We show that priming with high power closes the gender gap, in particular because it makes competition entry decisions more realistic and reduces the level of risk tolerance among male participants.


Why does creativity need the law?

2017 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

2015 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.

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