Ralph Hertwig

Ralph Hertwig
Max Planck Institute for Human Development | MPIB · Center of Adaptive Rationality

Dr. rer soc.

About

381
Publications
159,267
Reads
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20,337
Citations
Citations since 2017
168 Research Items
10740 Citations
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Additional affiliations
October 2012 - present
Max Planck Institute for Human Development
Position
  • Managing Director

Publications

Publications (381)
Article
Risk preference impacts how people make key life decisions related to health, wealth, and well-being. Systematic variations in risk-taking behavior can be the result of differences in fitness expectations, as predicted by life-history theory. Yet the evolutionary roots of human risk-taking behavior remain poorly understood. Here, we studied risk pr...
Preprint
The spread of misinformation through media and social networks threatens many aspects of society, including public health and the state of democracies. A wide range of individual-focused interventions aimed at reducing harm from online misinformation have been developed in the behavioral and cognitive sciences. We, an international group of 26 expe...
Article
Full-text available
This Comment piece summarises current challenges regarding routine vaccine uptake in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and provides recommendations on how to increase uptake. To implement these recommendations, the article points to evidence-based resources that can support health-care workers, policy makers and communicators.
Article
Full-text available
When judging the average value of sample stimuli (e.g., numbers) people tend to either over- or underweight extreme sample values, depending on task context. In a context of overweighting, recent work has shown that extreme sample values were overly represented also in neural signals, in terms of an anti-compressed geometry of number samples in mul...
Article
We determined the scope of five decision models of choices across four environmental niches defined by whether outcome probabilities are described (risk) or experienced by sampling (uncertainty) and whether lotteries are simple (one or two outcomes per prospect) or complex (three or four). The majority of participants chose in accordance with cumul...
Preprint
Persistent inequalities and injustices are a blight on modern liberal societies. Examples abound, from the gender gap in pay to sentencing disparities between Black, Hispanic, and White defendants to allocation disparities in medical resources between Black and White patients. One cause of these and other inequalities is implicit social biases. In...
Article
Low-quality and misleading information online can hijack people’s attention, often by evoking curiosity, outrage, or anger. Resisting certain types of information and actors online requires people to adopt new mental habits that help them avoid being tempted by attention-grabbing and potentially harmful content. We argue that digital information li...
Article
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One of today’s most controversial and consequential issues is whether the global uptake of digital media is causally related to a decline in democracy. We conducted a systematic review of causal and correlational evidence (N = 496 articles) on the link between digital media use and different political variables. Some associations, such as increasin...
Article
Full-text available
Background Long-term prescriptions of strong opioids for chronic noncancer pain—which are not supported by scientific evidence—suggest miscalibrated risk perceptions among those who prescribe, dispense, and take opioids. Because risk perceptions and behaviors can differ depending on whether people learn about risks through description or experience...
Preprint
Full-text available
The use of information technologies for the public interest, such as COVID-19 tracking apps that aim to reduce the spread of COVID-19 during the pandemic, involve a dilemma between public interest benefits and privacy concerns. Critical in resolving this conflict of interest are citizens’ trust in the government and the risks posed by COVID-19. How...
Article
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Ecological rationality represents an alternative to classic frameworks of rationality. Extending on Herbert Simon’s concept of bounded rationality, it holds that cognitive processes, including simple heuristics, are not per se rational or irrational, but that their success rests on their degree of fit to relevant environmental structures. The key i...
Preprint
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When moderating content online, two key values may come into conflict: protecting freedom of expression and preventing harm. Robust rules based in part on how citizens think about these moral dilemmas are necessary to deal with the unprecedented scale and urgency of this conflict in a principled way. Yet little is known about people's judgments and...
Article
Full-text available
During the Covid-19 pandemic, people have been exposed to vast amounts of misinformation. This “infodemic” has undermined key behavioural and pharmacological measures to contain the pandemic. In a cross-sectional survey of residents of Germany, we investigated the perceived prevalence of misinformation, the strategies people reported using to disce...
Article
Full-text available
People routinely rely on experts’ advice to guide their decisions. However, experts are known to make inconsistent judgments when judging the same case twice. Previous research on expert inconsistency has largely focused on individual or situational factors; here we focus directly on the cases themselves. First, using a theoretical model, we study...
Article
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Background: The pressure on physicians when a patient seeks pain relief and their own desire to be self-effective may lead to the prescription of strong opioids for chronic noncancer pain (CNCP). This study, via physician self-reporting, aims to identify and measure (i) physician adherence to national opioid prescribing guidelines and (ii) physici...
Preprint
Full-text available
When judging the average value of sample stimuli (e.g., numbers) people tend to either over- or underweight extreme sample values, depending on task context. In a context of overweighting, recent work has shown that extreme sample values were overly represented also in neural signals, in terms of an anti-compressed geometry of number samples in mul...
Article
Full-text available
When acquiring information about choice alternatives, decision makers may have varying levels of control over which and how much information they sample before making a choice. How does control over information acquisition affect the quality of sample-based decisions? Here, combining variants of a numerical sampling task with neural recordings, we...
Article
Full-text available
During pandemics, effective nonpharmaceutical interventions encourage people to adjust their behavior in fast-changing environments in which exponential dynamics aggravate the conflict between the individual benefits of risk-taking and its social costs. Policy-makers need to know which interventions are most likely to promote socially advantageous...
Article
Children eat most of their meals in a family context, making family meals a key environment in which to learn about healthy food. What makes a family meal “healthy”? This diary study examined the practice of seven family mealtime routines (e.g., positive mealtime atmosphere, parental modeling, and longer meal duration) and their predictive value fo...
Article
Full-text available
Controlling the spread of an infectious disease depends critically on the general public’s adoption of preventive measures. Theories of health behavior suggest that risk perceptions motivate preventive behavior. The supporting evidence for this causal link is, however, of questionable validity. The COVID-19 pandemic provides a rare opportunity to e...
Article
Full-text available
The modern world holds countless risks for humanity, both large-scale and intimately personal—from cyberwarfare, pandemics, and climate change to sexually transmitted diseases and drug use and abuse. Many risks have prompted institutional, regulatory, and technological countermeasures, the success of which depends to some extent on how individuals...
Preprint
Full-text available
One of today's most controversial and consequential questions is whether the rapid, worldwide uptake of digital media is causally related to a decline in democracy. We conducted a systematic review of causal and correlational evidence (N=498 articles) on the link between digital media and different political variables, such as trust, polarization o...
Preprint
Full-text available
The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP) serves a global research community by providing representative annual longitudinal data of private households in Germany. The sample provides a detailed life course perspective based on a rich collection of information about living conditions, socio-economic status, family relationships, personality, values, p...
Article
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Objectives The impact of the quality of discharge communication between physicians and their patients is critical on patients’ health outcomes. Nevertheless, low recall of information given to patients at discharge from emergency departments (EDs) is a well-documented problem. Therefore, we investigated the outcomes and related benefits of two diff...
Article
Objectives Opioid prescription rates worldwide suggest miscalibrated risk perceptions among those who prescribe, dispense, and take opioids. Findings from cognitive science show that risk perceptions can differ systematically depending on whether people learn about risks by description or experience. We investigated the effects of descriptive and s...
Article
Full-text available
Die Frage nach der Natur menschlicher Rationalität und dem Maß, in dem wir ihr gerecht werden, ist bereits seit Jahrtausenden umstritten. Diverse Denkschulen haben ganz unterschiedliche Antworten darauf gefunden. In diesem kurzen Beitrag beleuchten wir drei unterschiedliche Denkschulen und ihre typischen Ergebnisse. Link: https://mint-zirkel.de/202...
Article
Background Strong opioids can have unintended effects. Clinical studies of strong opioids mainly report physical side effects, psychiatric or opioid use disorders. To date, too little attention has been paid to the psychological effects of opioids to treat patients with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP). This study aims to identify and measure (i) the...
Article
Full-text available
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen one of the first large-scale uses of digital contact tracing to track a chain of infection and contain the spread of a virus. The new technology has posed challenges both for governments aiming at high and effective uptake and for citizens weighing its benefits (e.g., protecting others’ health) against the potential r...
Article
Loss aversion has long been regarded as a fundamental psychological regularity, yet evidence has accumulated to challenge this conclusion. We review three theories of how people make decisions under risk and, as a consequence, value potential losses: expected-utility theory, prospect theory, and risk-sensitivity theory. These theories, which stem f...
Article
Full-text available
Online platforms’ data give advertisers the ability to “microtarget” recipients’ personal vulnerabilities by tailoring different messages for the same thing, such as a product or political candidate. One possible response is to raise awareness for and resilience against such manipulative strategies through psychological inoculation. Two online expe...
Article
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Understanding how people of different ages decide in competition is a question of theoretical and practical importance. Using an experimental laboratory approach, this research investigates the ability of younger and older adults to think and act strategically with equal or unequal resources. In zero-sum games of resource allocation, younger adults...
Preprint
During the COVID-19 pandemic, citizens have been exposed to vast amounts of mis- and disinformation. This “infodemic” has undermined key behavioural and pharmacological measures to contain the pandemic—for instance, by increasing vaccine hesitancy. In a cross-sectional survey of residents of Germany, we investigated citizens’ perceptions of and abi...
Article
Full-text available
Rationale Tracking the trajectory of people's emotional and behavioral reactions to the COVID-19 pandemic sheds light on how people cope with the emerging crisis, evaluates the impact of emotional reactions on preventive behaviors, and provides insights into how preventive behaviors can be encouraged and maintained in the long term. Objective We a...
Article
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Objectives. High opioid prescription rates in the United States and Europe suggest miscalibrated risk perceptions among those who prescribe, dispense, and take opioids. Findings from cognitive decision science suggest that risk perceptions and behaviors can differ depending on whether people learn about risks by experience or description. This stud...
Preprint
Full-text available
When acquiring information about choice alternatives, decision makers may have varying levels of control over which and how much information they sample before making a choice. How does control over sampling affect the quality of experience-based decisions? Here, combining variants of a numerical sampling task with neural recordings, we show that c...
Article
Full-text available
The social world is often portrayed as being less predictable and more uncertain than the nonsocial world. People may therefore feel the need to search more for information before making a choice. However, we suggest that cognitive tools such as social projection and norm‐based expectation may help people to predict others' behaviors in the social...
Article
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Decision makers in contexts as diverse as medical, judicial and political decision making are known to differ substantially in response bias and accuracy, and these differences are a major factor undermining the reliability and fairness of the respective decision systems. Using theoretical modelling and empirical testing across five domains, we sho...
Article
Within just 7 years, behavioral decision research in psychology underwent a dramatic change: In 1967, Peterson and Beach (1967) reviewed more than 160 experiments concerned with people's statistical intuitions. Invoking the metaphor of the mind as an intuitive statistician, they concluded that "probability theory and statistics can be used as the b...
Article
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People rely on data-driven AI technologies nearly every time they go online, whether they are shopping, scrolling through news feeds, or looking for entertainment. Yet despite their ubiquity, personalization algorithms and the associated large-scale collection of personal data have largely escaped public scrutiny. Policy makers who wish to introduc...
Article
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Comparison of different lines of research on statistical intuitions and probabilistic reasoning reveals several puzzling contradictions. Whereas babies seem to be intuitive statisticians, surprisingly capable of statistical learning and inference, adults' statistical inferences have been found to be inconsistent with the rules of probability theory...
Article
People sometimes choose to remain ignorant, even when information comes at low marginal costs and promises high utility. To investigate whether older adults enlist deliberate ignorance more than younger adults, potentially as an emotion-regulation tool, we presented a representative sample of 1,910 residents of Germany with 13 scenarios in which kn...
Article
Many people find it morally impermissible to put kidneys, jury duty exemptions, or permits for having children on the free market. All of these are examples of repugnant transactions-market transactions that third parties want to prevent. In two studies (N = 1,554), using respondents' judgments of 51 different market transactions across 21 characte...
Preprint
Digital contact-tracing technologies are being used for epidemiological purposes at scale for the first time in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This poses challenges for governments aiming at high and efficient uptake and for people weighing the advantages (e.g., public health) against the potential risks (e.g., loss of data privacy) of these un...
Book
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Open Access link: https://esforum.de/forums/ESF29_Deliberate_Ignorance.html
Chapter
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Individuals and institutions in societies in transition face diffi cult questions: whether or not to seek, explore, and produce public knowledge about their harrowing past. Not disclosing painful truths can be a conduit to reconciliation, as in premodern memory politics, but it can also mask the past regime’s perpetrators, benefactors, and its vict...
Article
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Uncertainty can arise in interactions with both social partners and nonliving objects. Previous research has shown that humans display higher aversion to uncertainty arising from social interactions than to uncertainty caused by interactions with objects such as gambling machines, and that this difference may be mediated by betrayal aversion. We in...
Article
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Despite the ubiquity of uncertainty, scientific attention has focused primarily on probabilistic approaches, which predominantly rely on the assumption that uncertainty can be measured and expressed numerically. At the same time, the increasing amount of research from a range of areas including psychology, economics, and sociology testify that in t...
Article
The social environment provides a sampling space for making informed inferences about features of the world at large, such as the distribution of preferences, risks, or events. How do people search this sampling space and make inferences based on the instances sampled? Inspired by existing models of bounded rationality and in accord with research o...
Article
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This survey study assesses attitudes of the German public regarding COVID-19 health communications with varying degrees of scientific uncertainty.
Article
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Social media platforms rarely provide data to misinformation researchers. This is problematic as platforms play a major role in the diffusion and amplification of mis- and disinformation narratives. Scientists are often left working with partial or biased data and must rush to archive relevant data as soon as it appears on the platforms, before it...
Article
Full-text available
The Internet has evolved into a ubiquitous and indispensable digital environment in which people communicate, seek information, and make decisions. Despite offering various benefits, online environments are also replete with smart, highly adaptive choice architectures designed primarily to maximize commercial interests, capture and sustain users’ a...
Preprint
Online platforms collect and infer detailed information about people and their behaviour, giving advertisers an unprecedented ability to reach specific groups of recipients. This ability to "microtarget" messages contrasts with people's limited knowledge of what data platforms hold and how those data are used. Two online experiments (total N = 828...
Article
Full-text available
Maladaptive risk taking can have severe individual and societal consequences; thus, individual differences are prominent targets for intervention and prevention. Although brain activation has been shown to be associated with individual differences in risk taking, the directionality of the reported brain–behavior associations is less clear. Here, we...
Preprint
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the lives of people worldwide. To understand how people’s emotional and behavioral responses have changed over the course of the pandemic, we conducted a three-wave longitudinal study in the United States and China across four stages of the pandemic: pre-pandemic, onset of viral outbreak, ongoing risk, and contai...
Article
Despite increasing life expectancy and high levels of welfare, health care, and public safety in most post-industrial countries, the public discourse often revolves around perceived threats. Terrorism, global pandemics, and environmental catastrophes are just a few of the risks that dominate media coverage. Is this public discourse on risk disconne...
Article
In many choice environments, risks and rewards-or probabilities and payoffs-seem tightly coupled such that high payoffs only occur with low probabilities. An adaptive mind can exploit this association by, for instance, using a potential reward's size to infer the probability of obtaining it. However, a mind can only adapt to and exploit an environm...
Article
Full-text available
People differ in their willingness to take risks. Recent work found that revealed preference tasks (e.g., laboratory lotteries)-a dominant class of measures-are outperformed by survey-based stated preferences, which are more stable and predict real-world risk taking across different domains. How can stated preferences, often criticised as inconsequ...
Article
Full-text available
Introduction: The US opioid crisis and increasing prescription rates in Europe suggest inappropriate risk perceptions and behaviours of people who prescribe, take or advise on opioids: physicians, patients and pharmacists. Findings from cognitive and decision science in areas other than drug safety suggest that people's risk perception and behavio...
Preprint
Despite their ubiquity online, personalization algorithms and the associated large-scale collection of personal data have largely escaped public scrutiny. Yet policy makers who wish to introduce regulations that respect people's attitudes towards privacy and algorithmic personalization on the Internet would greatly benefit from knowing how people p...
Article
The canonical conclusion from research on age differences in risky choice is that older adults are more risk averse than younger adults, at least in choices involving gains. Most of the evidence for this conclusion derives from studies that used a specific type of choice problem: choices between a safe and a risky option. However, safe and risky op...
Preprint
Full-text available
The modern world holds countless risks for humanity, both large-scale and intimately personal—from cyber warfare, pandemics, and climate change to sexually transmitted diseases and drug use and abuse. Many risks have prompted institutional, regulatory, and technological countermeasures, the success of which depends to some extent on how individuals...
Article
Medical history taking is an important step within the diagnostic process. This study aims to assess the quality and usability (effectiveness, satisfaction, efficiency) of a web-based medical history taking app in the emergency department. During three weeks, patients and junior physicians filled out study questionnaires about the app. Senior physi...
Preprint
Full-text available
Over the last decades, the relative benefits and costs of individual vs. collective decision-making systems have attracted ample attention in the behavioural sciences and beyond. This research however, has almost exclusively focused on accuracy as a performance criterion, neglecting another major performance dimension of decision-making systems, th...
Article
Public opinion is shaped in significant part by online content, spread via social media and curated algorithmically. The current online ecosystem has been designed predominantly to capture user attention rather than to promote deliberate cognition and autonomous choice; information overload, finely tuned personalization and distorted social cues, i...
Preprint
For many people, it is morally impermissible to put kidneys, jury duty exemptions, or permits for having children on the free market. All of these are examples of repugnant transactions—market transactions that third parties want to prevent. In two studies (N = 1,554), using respondents’ judgements of 51 different market transactions across 21 char...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Die Coronavirus-Pandemie stellt unsere Gesellschaft und den Alltag jedes einzelnen Menschen vor eine seit dem Zweiten Weltkrieg nicht dagewesene Herausforderung. Wir alle sind aufgefordert, zur Bekämpfung der Pandemie unseren Beitrag zu leisten -- und das heißt mit höchstem Vorrang: am Schutz des Lebens und der Gesundheit aller mitzuwirken. Dies gi...
Article
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This article argues that nudges can often be turned into self-nudges: empowering interventions that enable people to design and structure their own decision environments—that is, to act as citizen choice architects. Self-nudging applies insights from behavioral science in a way that is practicable and cost-effective but that sidesteps concerns abou...
Chapter
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The chapter describes simple heursitics for bthe estimation of numerical values of criteria which take advantage of skewness of certain environments.
Article
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People's risk preferences are thought to be central to many consequential real-life decisions, making it important to identify robust correlates of this construct. Various psychological theories have put forth a series of candidate correlates, yet the strength and robustness of their associations remain unclear because of disparate operationalizati...