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Chair of Social & Economic Psychology

Research Projects

Economic Rationality and Competing Behavioral Rules

Project Description

We consider a dual-process framework for decision making under uncertainty, contrasting “economic rationality” with a specific family of behavioural rules. The basic rational paradigm, which one would like to identify with a controlled/reflective decision process, leads to optimization behaviour based on Bayesian updating of beliefs. We contrast this with the human tendency to rely on past performance as an indicator of future outcomes. This tendency gives rise to behavioural rules characterized by an increased propensity to adopt actions associated with higher observed payoffs. Examples are reinforcement (based on own payoffs) and imitation (based on otheragents’ payoffs). Recent research in social cognition and neuroscience has shown that the associated, belief-free decision processes bear all the marks of automatic/impulsive processes.Our previous work has shown that a dual process paradigm is appropriate for the description of human behaviour in a belief updating paradigm. This project will build and expand on these initial studies, making use of techniques from psychology (response times, cognitive load, etc.) in paradigms from economics to better understand the automatic character of boundedly rational behaviour alphenomena. We will consider both individual tasks and interpersonal, strategic paradigms (games).

Contact: Prof Dr rer nat Anja Achtziger

Project Duration

from 01.10.2012 through 30.09.2015

Project Head

Prof Dr rer nat Anja Achtziger

Project Execution



Project-related Publications

  • Achtziger, Anja / Alós-Ferrer, Carlos, / Wagner, Alexander K.: Money, depletion, and prosociality in the dictator game. , Journal of Neuroscience, Psychology and Economics, 2015, (8(1)): 1 - 14,
  • Achtziger, Anja / Alós-Ferrer, Carlos / Hügelschäfer, Sabine / Steinhauser, Marco: Higher incentives can impair performance: Neural evidence on reinforcement and rationality, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2015, (10(11)): 1477 - 1483,
  • Achtziger, Anja / Alós-Ferrer, Carlos / Hügelschäfer, Sabine / Steinhauser, Marco: The Neural Basis of Belief Updating and Rational Decision Making, Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 2014, (9(1)): 55 - 62,
  • Hügelschäfer, Sabine / Achtziger, Anja: On confident men and rational women: it's all on your mind(set), Journal of Economic Psychology, 2014, (41): 31 - 44, http://http:/
  • Achtziger, Anja / Alos-Ferrer, Carlos: Fast or rational? A response-times study of Bayesian updating., Management Science, 2014, (1): 923 - 938,
  • Achtziger, Anja / Alós-Ferrer, Carlos: Intuition und Rationales Entscheiden – Aktuelle Erkenntnisse zu grundlegenden Prozessen ökonomischer Entscheidungsfindung. , SEM Radar, Zeitschrift für Systemdenken und Entscheidungsfindung im Management, 2014, (2 ): 1 - 10