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.

In this joint interview, Anne Peters and Axel Ockenfels discuss legal and economic approaches to tackling the global climate crisis

 Portrait of Matthias Sutter

In his new book, Matthias Sutter, Director of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, presents current insights from the field of behavioural economics to better understand "human factor" in professional life and to enable successful cooperation.


A Covid-19 infection in the family leads to a reduction in trust and in the willingness to cooperate in adolescents from socioeconomically weaker families


Study with respondents from 42 very different countries shows that fellow citizens are generally preferred


The right to determine whether to go first or second in a penalty shoout improves the chances of winning

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Civil courage is essential in a free society. Yet, when it comes to the crunch, few people dare to protect the victims of crime or to take an active stance against hatred and racism. Psychologist Anna Baumert of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods is conducting research into the motives and conditions for civil courage – a work in progress.

Max Planck researchers cooperate with partners in more than 120 countries. Here they write about their personal experiences and impressions. Shambhavi Priyam of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods is coordinating an information campaign in northeast India in order to protect people from arsenic-contaminated well water. She reports on culinary delights, the slow wheels of the Indian bureaucracy, and celebrating her birthday in the midst of a pandemic.

“Together against corona” is the motto for fighting the pandemic. At present, the best way of containing it is for everyone to keep their distance, wear a mask, and minimize contact with others. However, the temptation to make an exception in one’s own case is great. After all, it is enough if everyone else is following the rules – right? The more dependent we are on mutual cooperation, the more egotism threatens our common goals. Economist Matthias Sutter explains the circumstances in which people can nonetheless cooperate successfully.

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.

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How to improve workplace climate

2023 Matthias Sutter

Social and Behavioural Sciences

Toxic workplace relationships, characterised by antisocial and unethical behaviour, have a significant negative impact on employee well-being. We present a field experiment in which we were able to help improve workplace climate and reduce employee turnover through an innovative training programme. The improved relationships between managers and team members seem to play a key role in explaining the positive effects of the programme on the work climate.


What Do We Mean by „Inflation”?

2022 Martin F. Hellwig

Social and Behavioural Sciences

The essay criticizes the idea that the word “inflation” refers to a single phenomenon that is accessible to theorizing. It stresses the need to distinguish between price adjustments induced by one-time changes in underlying economic data and inflation processes based on feedback mechanisms between market developments and public policy, fiscal and monetary. Developments in 2021 and 2022 reflect supply side effects. The policy challenge is to avoid generating a self-sustaining inflationary dynamic.


If others abide by the rule, I follow suit

2021 Engel, Christoph

Jurisprudence Social and Behavioural Sciences

To a surprising degree, individuals are willing to follow rules just because they are in force. This even holds for patently arbitrary rules. But there is a catch. The more of her peers violate the rule, the more the average individual is inclined to do the same. This suggests that rule following is a precious resource for governing society, but that this resource requires vigilance.


Intervention against others’ norm violations under ambiguity

2020 Baumert, Anna

Social and Behavioural Sciences

“Zivilcourage” is highly socially desirable in democratic societies, yet a lack thereof is often deplored. Systematic investigations paint strikingly different pictures on the prevalence of courageous interventions against others’ norm violations – depending on the methodological approach. The Research Group “Moral Courage” investigates psychological antecedents and barriers of this kind of behaviour. Our studies have shown that the ambiguity of a norm violation can be a strong inhibiting factor. However, some people incur costs to reduce ambiguity, and take informed decisions to intervene.


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.

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