Indiana University Bloomington

Expert on decision-making research to present Patten Lectures at IU Bloomington

  • March 12, 2014


BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Gerd Gigerenzer, a world leader in research on decision-making whose work has influenced how scientists and others think about making choices in health care, public policy, law and business, will present two Patten Lectures this month at Indiana University Bloomington.

Gigerenzer is director of the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition and the Harding Center for Risk Literacy at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, Germany. He has studied topics including the history of probability theory in psychology, simple strategies for fast-and-frugal decision-making and better risk communication by doctors.

His lectures will take place from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, March 25, and Thursday, March 27, in Presidents Hall of Franklin Hall on the IU Bloomington campus. Topics will be:

  • March 25 -- "Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions"
  • March 27 -- "Simple Heuristics for a Complex World"

The March 25 lecture will go beyond discussions of confused and worried patients to look at physicians. Gigerenzer will show that a majority of doctors do not understand basic health statistics, and that this engenders superfluous treatment, anxiety and costs. A quick and efficient cure, he argues, is to teach risk communication that fosters transparency, an approach that can improve health and reduce costs.

On March 27, he will discuss the difficulty of making complex decisions in a world of uncertainty: decisions such as whom to marry, how to invest and whom to trust. In such a world, he says, more information doesn't always lead to better decisions. He says simple heuristics -- using rules of thumb or mental shortcuts to make decisions -- can lead to better decisions than rational strategies.

At the Max Planck Institute, Gigerenzer has studied how the structure of the mind’s mechanisms fits with, and exploits, the structure of information in the environment. More recently, he has begun to explore how individuals make moral decisions with the use of simple principles and has branched out into applied directions, training U.S. judges, German physicians, educators and top business managers to make better and faster decisions.

His academic books include "Rationality for Mortals: How People Cope With Uncertainty"; "Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart," with IU cognitive scientist Peter Todd; "Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox," with Reinhard Selten, a Nobel Laureate in economics; and "Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions," with Sir Muir Gray. His award-winning popular books "Calculated Risks," "Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious" and "Risk Savvy: How to Make Good Decisions" have been translated into 18 languages. A fellow of the Cognitive Science Society and the American Psychological Society, he has also published extensively in leading journals.

The William T. Patten Foundation

The William T. Patten Foundation, endowed by a student of the IU Class of 1893, provides funds to bring people of extraordinary national and international distinction in the sciences, the humanities and the arts to the Bloomington campus for a week. For more information, including more about Gigerenzer and his lectures, contact or visit the Patten Foundation website.

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Gerd Gigerenzer

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