Gerd Gigerenzer is a well-known German psychologist, Currently responsible for the Max Planck Institute for Human Development and the Harding Center of Risk Literacy. He is an important author who, in addition to performing the above functions, has studied and analyzed the role of heuristics and intuition in decision-making in our lives.
Throughout this article, we’ll take a brief look at her figure, through a brief biography of Gerd Gigerenzer and a look at his major contributions to the field of psychology.
A brief biography of Gerd Gigerenzer
Gerd Gigerenzer was born in Wallersdorf, Germany on September 3, 1947. During his youth he expressed artistic concerns, and in fact mentioned in some interviews that he played the banjo and even played in the band “The Munich Beefeaters “which would feature the soundtrack for Volkswagen Golf’s first television commercial. However, at some point he decided to leave this world and pour himself into the academic world.
He graduated in psychology from the University of Munich, And in 1977 he received his PhD in psychology from the same university with a thesis that would analyze nonmetric multidimensional scaling as a model of judgmental behavior (Nonmetrische multidimensionale Skalierung ALS Modell des Urteils Verhaltens). That same year he began to work as a professor of psychology in the same institution that had trained him.
In 1984 he joined the University of Constance, where he remained until 1990, when he returned to the University of Salzburg. Two years later, he left this post to work as a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.
Throughout his teaching career, he was the doctoral tutor of another great and renowned psychologist, Daniel Goldstein, with whom he would begin to theorize about heuristic recognition and reality processing.
It was in 1995 that, in view of his contribution to the field of psychology, he was appointed director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, a directorate he still occupies today. As of 2008, on top of that, he also runs the Harding Center for Risk Literacy. He also directed the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition (ABC) at the same institute. He married Lorraine Daston, a well-known science historian and great authority on the history of the scientific and intellectual development of European modernity, with whom he has a daughter in common.
His life today
He is a member of the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences, as well as of the German Academy of Sciences and an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Philosophical Society. Throughout his career he has received numerous awards, As the German Psychology Award, and holds several honorary doctorates from other universities, such as the Open University of the Netherlands. His publications are also widely recognized, notably Instinctive Decisions. Intelligence of the unconscious (calculated risks, intestinal feelings: intelligence of the unconscious). Finally, he is linked to several projects, such as the one in which he collaborates with the Bank of England, “Simple heuristics for a safer World”.
His work and areas of research
There are many contributions of Gerd Gigerenzer in the field of psychology, of which we will quote some of the best known.
The elements that stand out throughout his career are interest in aspects such as decision-making, the role of heuristics, The constraint of time and the uncertainty in it and the great power of intuition, social intelligence, risk communication and the training and strategies of doctors, judges and managers in decision-making.
Perhaps the best known of all of this is the defense of the role of intuition in decision-making, which has traditionally been seen as outlier and difficult to choose. Unlike most authors, Gigerenzer argues that most people make decisions based on their hunches, based on unconscious intelligence.
The author also indicates that intuition is a product of evolution, the result of learning the rules that our species has acquired and incorporated into its repertoire. This is used to make all kinds of decisions, especially those that involve emotional elements such as choosing a mate.
Mental shortcuts are useful
Studies conducted at the Max-Planck Institute show that, contrary to what logic seems to dictate, people guided by intuition need to make effective decisions when using shortcuts. These mental shortcuts would save cognitive resources and allow rapid decision making, receiving the strategies used for this under the name of heuristics. However, a logical analysis requires locating and analyzing all the possibilities, which takes time and generates a less efficient choice.
There is a risk in choosing the rule best suited to each case, which for example could have negative consequences in the formation of prejudices and stereotypes, which can lead to cognitive biases. In these cases, the problem would be that one of the rules learned and acquired throughout the subject’s life is being generalized, but not a rule applicable in the particular case in question.
Another item he is best known for is for the idea of the “Adaptive Toolbox” or “Adaptive Toolbox”, Which mainly proposes that we have different cognitive systems, using one or the other to adapt to a given situation. Different areas of thought require different cognitive mechanisms, this idea being contrary to the existence of a universal strategy.
- Gigerenzer, G. (2008). Instinctive decisions. The intelligence of the unconscious. Barcelona: Editorial Ariel.
- Gigerenzer, G and Selten, R. (2001). Limited Rationale: The Adaptive Toolkit. Reports from the Dahlem workshops.
- Corrals, I. (2010). Intuition as a cognitive process. Communication, year 31, 19 (2): 33-42.