The entrance area of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development

Research Report 2020–2022/23

This website presents the scientific activities of the Max Planck Institute (MPI) for Human Development. The digital report is complemented by our novel magazine Spotlight, which gives readers a unique perspective into our Institute's inner workings and highlights our work's interdisciplinary nature. If you would prefer to read the Research Report in PDF format or our new Spotlight magazine, please download it here:
PDF Research Report
PDF Spotlight magazine


The Institute's Centers and Research Groups provide detailed information about their programs and the results of their scientific activities from January 2020 to March 2023. Our Emeriti and our Max Planck Fellow also present their current work in the Research section (left) of the main page. Publications are listed separately. You can also learn more about our graduate programs here.


Services & Infrastructure

Support services play a vital role in the smooth running of the Institute. On the following pages, we introduce our newly established Scientific Service Unit, present the latest activities of the Central IT Unit and the Library and Research Information Unit – with a particular focus on Research Data Management and Open Science – and showcase our future-oriented project, the Max Planck Dahlem Campus of Cognition (MPDCC).

Facts & Figures

This section completes the report with lists of academic degrees, honors and awards, scientific events, grants and stipends, and career paths. The lists of publications show all of the Institute's publications during the reporting period, the subset of joint publications resulting from Institute-wide cooperations, and the subset of Open Acess publications. All of this information will be updated regularly until the Scientific Advisory Board Meeting in October 2023.
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Spotlight 2023 Research Report Magazine

Our new magazine Spotlight focuses on cross-collaboration and resulting synergies at the Institute. The following articles present various collaborative projects, delving into the collaborative process, shedding light on the challenges of interdisciplinary research, and revealing some of the inner workings of these collaborations.

If you would like to read the entire magazine, you can download it here.

Stasi files

The Unread Stasi Files


Many people decide not to read their Stasi files. Ralph Hertwig, Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality, and Dagmar Ellerbrock, previously at the Center for the History of Emotions, have explored the reasons behind this choice. In this interview, they discuss the challenges and benefits of interdisciplinary collaboration, the first findings of their project, and the implications for societal and political transformation.
Illustration of a brain

Charting the Role of Dopamine in the Aging Human Brain


The COBRA study is an international collaboration between three institutions in Sweden and the Institute. It has attained the world’s first longitudinal evidence in humans on the role of dopamine in the aging of brain and behavior.

Left Simone Kühn, top right Johanna Drewelies, bottom right Kerstin Maria Pahl

“The Berlin Aging Studies Are a Gift for Interdisciplinary Research”


The individual and societal conditions necessary for successful aging are examined in the Berlin Aging Study II (BASE-II). Many aspects studied are relevant not just for psychologists, but for historians, too, and historical methods can yield new perspectives on this large dataset. Psychologists Simone Kühn and Johanna Drewelies, and historian Kerstin Maria Pahl talk about their joint project.
The picture shows a hand nudging a person

Do Organ Donations Increase After the Switch to an Opt-out Default?


To address the shortage of organ donors, many countries have changed, or are debating changing, the organ donation default from opt-in to opt-out. A longitudinal study by the Center for Adaptive Rationality and the Center for Lifespan Psychology suggests this change in default may not be the effective solution health care systems have hoped for.

Image of a forest

Pleasant Green or Deep Dark Woods: ­Do Forests (Still) Evoke Fear in Us?


Forests and natural environments are increasingly valued for their curative and therapeutic effects on humans. However, the forest has historically also been associated with negative emotions such as fear. This interdisciplinary study brings together researchers in environmental neuroscience and in the history of emotions to jointly investigate forest anxiety today.
Illustration of a mouse trying to get food

Brain Plasticity During Skill Acquisition: Bridging the Gap Between Animal Models and Human Research

In this collaborative project, which involves three Max Planck Institutes, we investigate experience-dependent brain plasticity during motor skill acquisition. By carrying out coordinated experimental research with humans and mice and by using multimodal neuroimaging methods, we seek to gain a more mechanistic understanding of human brain plasticity.

The picture shows a surfer

How People Know Their Risk Preferences


Previous work found that laboratory lotteries used to reveal people’s risk preferences are less stable and predictive of real-world risk taking than survey-based stated preferences. How can stated preferences, often criticized as “cheap talk,” be so informative? Together with Max Planck Fellow Gert G. Wagner, researchers from the Center for Adaptive Rationality have ­investigated this question in a study published in Scientific Reports.
Nils Köbis, left, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, right

“New Technologies Have the Potential to ­Permanently Change the Fabric of Society”

In this interview, Philipp Lorenz-Spreen from the Center for Adaptive Rationality and Nils Köbis from the Center for Humans and Machines talk about their “science fiction science” project, the transformative power of new technologies, and the need for regulation.


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