Ralph Hertwig

Ralph Hertwig is Director of the Center for Adaptive Rationality at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin.

  • Deliberate Ignorance

    Deliberate Ignorance

    Choosing Not to Know

    Ralph Hertwig and Christoph Engel

    Psychologists, economists, historians, computer scientists, sociologists, philosophers, and legal scholars explore the conscious choice not to seek information.

    The history of intellectual thought abounds with claims that knowledge is valued and sought, yet individuals and groups often choose not to know. We call the conscious choice not to seek or use knowledge (or information) deliberate ignorance. When is this a virtue, when is it a vice, and what can be learned from formally modeling the underlying motives? On which normative grounds can it be judged? Which institutional interventions can promote or prevent it? In this book, psychologists, economists, historians, computer scientists, sociologists, philosophers, and legal scholars explore the scope of deliberate ignorance.

    Drawing from multiple examples, including the right not to know in genetic testing, collective amnesia in transformational societies, blind orchestral auditions, and “don't ask don't tell” policies), the contributors offer novel insights and outline avenues for future research into this elusive yet fascinating aspect of human nature.


    Sarah Auster, Benjamin E. Berkman, Felix Bierbrauer, Gordon D. A. Brown, Jason Dana, Stefanie Egidy, Dagmar Ellerbrock, Christoph Engel, Jens Frankenreiter, Simon Gächter, Gerd Gigerenzer, Russell Golman, Krishna P. Gummadi, Kristin Hagel, David Hagmann, Ulrike Hahn, Ralph Hertwig, Christian Hilbe, Derek M. Isaacowitz, Anne Kandler, Yaakov Kareev, Lewis A. Kornhauser, Joachim I. Krueger, Christina Leuker, Stephan Lewandowsky, Robert J. MacCoun, Richard McElreath, Thorsten Pachur, Peter J. Richerson, Lael J. Schooler, Laura Schmid, Barry Schwartz, Nora Szech, Eric Talley, Doron Teichman, Pete C. Trimmer, Sonja Utz, Lukasz Walasek, Michael R. Waldmann, Peter Wehling, Roi Yair, Eyal Zamir

    • Paperback $45.00
  • Taming Uncertainty

    Taming Uncertainty

    Ralph Hertwig, Timothy J. Pleskac, and Thorsten Pachur

    An examination of the cognitive tools that the mind uses to grapple with uncertainty in the real world.

    How do humans navigate uncertainty, continuously making near-effortless decisions and predictions even under conditions of imperfect knowledge, high complexity, and extreme time pressure? Taming Uncertainty argues that the human mind has developed tools to grapple with uncertainty. Unlike much previous scholarship in psychology and economics, this approach is rooted in what is known about what real minds can do. Rather than reducing the human response to uncertainty to an act of juggling probabilities, the authors propose that the human cognitive system has specific tools for dealing with different forms of uncertainty. They identify three types of tools: simple heuristics, tools for information search, and tools for harnessing the wisdom of others. This set of strategies for making predictions, inferences, and decisions constitute the mind's adaptive toolbox.

    The authors show how these three dimensions of human decision making are integrated and they argue that the toolbox, its cognitive foundation, and the environment are in constant flux and subject to developmental change. They demonstrate that each cognitive tool can be analyzed through the concept of ecological rationality—that is, the fit between specific tools and specific environments. Chapters deal with such specific instances of decision making as food choice architecture, intertemporal choice, financial uncertainty, pedestrian navigation, and adolescent behavior.

    • Hardcover $50.00


  • Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions

    Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions

    Envisioning Health Care 2020

    Gerd Gigerenzer and J.A. Muir Gray

    How eliminating “risk illiteracy” among doctors and patients will lead to better health care decision making.

    Contrary to popular opinion, one of the main problems in providing uniformly excellent health care is not lack of money but lack of knowledge—on the part of both doctors and patients. The studies in this book show that many doctors and most patients do not understand the available medical evidence. Both patients and doctors are “risk illiterate”—frequently unable to tell the difference between actual risk and relative risk. Further, unwarranted disparity in treatment decisions is the rule rather than the exception in the United States and Europe. All of this contributes to much wasted spending in health care.

    The contributors to Better Doctors, Better Patients, Better Decisions investigate the roots of the problem, from the emphasis in medical research on technology and blockbuster drugs to the lack of education for both doctors and patients. They call for a new, more enlightened health care, with better medical education, journals that report study outcomes completely and transparently, and patients in control of their personal medical records, not afraid of statistics but able to use them to make informed decisions about their treatments.

    • Hardcover $45.00
    • Paperback $25.00