Topic 2  


Decision-making can be defined as the process of choosing an option from a set of alternatives. There is a long history of decision-making research in psychology, economics, and philosophy. Over the last ten years, decision-making research in these fields has further evolved in Berlin and now covers a broad range of different aspects: from studies on mechanisms of perceptual decision-making over conflict and heuristics to motivation, volition, and moral decision-making up to philosophical aspects of freedom and responsibility.

Several groups in the Berlin metropolitan area headed by faculty of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain have a strong focus on decision-making: Felix Blankenburg’s group focuses on computational neuroimaging of perceptual decision-making, with an emphasis on somatosensory decision-making. Gabriel Curio and Klaus-Robert Müller apply new approaches developed from brain–computer interface research to decision-making research. Gerd Gigerenzer’s group works on human rationality, in particular decision-making and risk perception in an uncertain world. Hauke Heekeren’s group investigates mechanisms of decision-making in the human brain, with a focus on explicitly linking brain function and behavior. In Andreas Heinz’s group, research addresses the influence of reward contingencies, emotion, and impulsivity on decision-making, with an emphasis on alterations in patients with alcohol dependence and affective disorders. Autonomy and free will are the focus of Michael Pauen’s group. Birgit Stürmer’s group investigates the function of conflicts for adaptive and regulative behavior.

The close ties to the other research topics illustrate how well decision-making lends itself as a target subject or our graduate school. Specifically, work under this subject area is closely connected to topic 1 (links between conscious and unconscious perception and perceptual decision-making; cf. work by Haynes and Blankenburg), topic 4 (decision-making across the lifespan; cf. work by Gigerenzer, Schooler, Li, Heekeren), and topic 5 (decision-making in neuropsychiatric disorders; cf. work by Dolan, Heinz, Bermpohl), and topic 6, “human sociality and the brain” (social decision-making; cf. work by Heekeren, Singer, Walter).

Researchers of the Berlin School of Mind and Brain have been very successful in securing third-party funding for collaborative research on decision-making, e.g., the Research Training Group “Sensory Computation in Neural Systems”, the Collaborative Research Center “Economic Risk”, which was renewed in 2009, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (BMBF) Bernstein Focus research group, “Neurocomputational models for complex learning”, the Research Unit (Forschergruppe) “Conflicts as Signals”, or the interdisciplinary research project, “Autonomy”, funded by the Volkswagen Foundation. An important milestone for decision-making research in Berlin was the appointment of Ray Dolan as an Einstein Visiting Fellow funded by the Einstein Foundation Berlin (2011–2014).

Contact details of the Mind & Brain faculty

Internal links to Faculty and Associated resarchers

Special Newsletter issue on decision-making research

View or download pdf here or see section Newsletter (internal link)



This page last updated on: 09 July 2015

Can we manage several tasks at the same time without loss?
Clearly, many things can be done at the same time: walking and talking, listening and watching the speaker’s lips move. Other things are trivially incompatible because the same effectors are involved. However, there is a class of processes that occupy the mind in such a way that only one thing can be done at a time. According to many researchers this is the case for making decisions: thus it seems impossible to decide at exactly the same time, for example, whether to turn left or right and which radio station to listen to while driving.