Research Group: Contextualized Decision Making

The Research Unit "Contextualized Decision Making" (FOR 1410) is a joint endeavour of cognitive and social psychologists. Building on the common theoretical ground that decisions are constructive and thus context-dependent, the proposed projects aim at identifying and disentangling the mediating cognitive processes and the moderating variables that affect decision making. Next to formal modelling, the main methodological approach is experimental. The proposal for the second funding phase continues and extends the successful work from the first phase. Three interrelated topical clusters focus on (a) the role of the information ecology, (b) cognitive processes in accessing and integrating information and (c) (social) construction processes in the framing of decision situations. All proposals build on the premises stated above and continue the work started in the first funding phase. In addition to the continued investigation of environmental structure and information formats (Hilbig; Hütter & Fiedler; Kutzner & Fiedler; Unkelbach), cognitive and affective processes mediating decision strategy selection will be further analyzed by experimentation as well as by formal modelling (Bless; Bröder; Erdfelder & Pohl). The research question concerning moderators and mediators of decision making will be extended in scope by adding the aspects of intertemporal choice and advice-taking (Scholl) and communication pragmatics as a potential determinant of decision framing (Wänke). Next to workshops and guest visits, overarching activities proposed include the organization of three interdisciplinary small-group meetings as well as a summer school on decision research.


  • Project Bless - Our project addresses the role of affective and cognitive feelings in decision making. We assume that feelings can influence how a decision situation is mentally represented. In particular, by providing information about the problematic or non-problematic nature of the current situation, affective and cognitive feelings trigger different levels of construal.

  • Project Bröder - The project aims at formally modeling the processes of knowledge acquisition and knowledge application in memory-based decisions. First, this will dispense with the oversimplified notion of a dichotomy between rule-based or exemplar-based learning strategies. Second, working memory load will be investigated as a moderator governing the switch from parallel to sequential decision making. Finally, the project will propose and test a rival interpretation of the "unconscious thought effect".

  • Project Erdfelder & Pohl - The project serves several goals that are closely related to the overarching themes of the research unit ‘contextualized decision making’. In particular, we are concerned with underlying processes in simple non-compensatory judgment mechanisms investigated herein, for example the recognition heuristic, fluency heuristic, take-the-best, and others.

  • Project Fiedler - The goal of this research project is to specify eecological conditions under which decisions based on small information samples can lead to better outcomes than decisions based on large ones and under which conditions the contrary effect occurs.

  • Project Hütter & Fiedler - Decision quality as a function of the amount of information: Small sample versus large sample advantages in individuals and groups

  • Project Keller - In this project, the impact of individuals’ self-regulatory orientation on decision making and behavior will be assessed using established game theoretical paradigms (e.g., one-shot dilemma games involving public goods, altruistic punishment paradigm). The core idea underlying this research holds that a vigilant, prevention-focused mode of self-regulation entails several elements that are of crucial relevance with respect to individuals’ behavior in social dilemmas involving public goods.

  • Project Kutzner & Fiedler - Decisions based on features and dimensions: How contextual framing changes processing

  • Project Meiser - This project investigates the use of sample information and inferred contingencies as a basis of decision behaviour in situations in which (a) information about the choice alternatives and (b) the actual outcomes depend on some context variable. In particular, the planned experiments analyze effects of pseudo-contingencies and cue competition on decision making in complex scenarios.

  • Project Unkelbach - The present project investigates the central role of subjective frequencies of information on judgments and decisions. For example, if people remember more positive aspects of Brand A than of Brand B, they should buy Brand A. The standard assumption is that subjective frequencies should be a function of objective frequencies in the environment.

  • Project Wänke - Pragmatic influences on judgment and decision making


This Research Unit is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG).

Research groupPublicationsSummer School 2015Activities