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Gigerenzer, Gerd 1947–

PERSONAL:

Born September 3, 1947, in Wallersdorf, Bavaria, Germany; son of Franz (a businessman) and Rosemarie (a singer) Gigerenzer; married Lorraine J. Daston (a professor of history and science), October 25, 1985; children: Thalia. Education: University of Munich, diploma in psychology, 1974, Ph.D., 1977, Habilitation, 1982. Religion: Roman Catholic.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Lentzeallee 94, Berlin 14195, Germany; University of Salzburg, Hellbrunner Str. 34, Salzburg 5020, Austria. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Writer, psychologist, statistician, behavioral scientist, lecturer, and educator. University of Munich, Munich, Germany, assistant professor of psychology, 1977-82, Privat-Dozent, 1982-84; University of Bielefeld, Center of Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld, Germany, research fellow, 1982-83; University of Konstanz, Konstanz, Germany, professor of psychology, 1984-90; University of Salzberg, Salzberg, Austria, professor of psychology, 1990-92; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, professor of psychology, 1992-95; Max Planck Institute for Psychological Research, Munich, Germany, director of Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, 1995-97; Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin, Germany, director of Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, 1997—. Princeton University, visiting scholar, 1984-86; Brandeis University, visiting scholar, 1987; Harvard University, visiting scholar, 1987-89; Stanford University Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, fellow, 1989-90; Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario, fellow, 1985; University of Virginia School of Law, John M. Olin Distinguished Visiting Professor, 1999. Musician and band leader, 1964-77. Member of advisory board, Bundestinstit fur Risikobewertung, 2005—; and Frankfurt Institute for Advance Studies Forum, 2006—. Military service: West German Army, 1967-69.

MEMBER:

Deutsche Gesellschaft für Psychologie, American Psychological Association, American Psychological Society.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Frizz Thyssen Foundation Prize, 1982; Association of American Publishers Prize for best book in the social and behavioral sciences, 1987, for The Probabilistic Revolution; American Association for the Advancement of Science Prize for behavioral science research, 1991, for "From Tools to Theories: A Heuristic of Discovery in Cognitive Psychology," Free University Berlin, honorary professor, 1998—; fellow, Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science, 2000; fellow, Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher Leopoldina, 2002—; Science Book of the Year, Bild der Wissenschaft, 2002, for Einmaleins der Skepsis (Calculated Risks); University of Munich, Professor of the University Society, 2004; Batten fellow, University of Virginia, 2004; Humboldt University, honorary professor, 2005—.

WRITINGS:

Messung und Modellbildung in der Psychologie (title means "Measurement and Modeling in Psychology"), Reinhardt (Munich, Germany), 1981.

(Editor) Psychophysik heute, Aktuelle Probleme und Ergebnisse, Volume 1, 1982, Volume 2, 1984.

(With David J. Murray) Cognition as Intuitive Statistics, Laurence Erlbaum (Hillsdale, NJ), 1987.

(Editor, with L. Krueger and M.S. Morgan) The Probabilistic Revolution, Volume 2: Ideas in the Sciences, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 1987.

(With wife, Lorraine Daston, Z. Swijtink, T. Porter, and others) The Empire of Chance: How Probability Changed Science and Everyday Life, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1989.

(With Peter M. Todd and the ABC Research Group) Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

Adaptive Thinking: Rationality in the Real World, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Reinhard Selten) Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox, MIT Press (Cambridge, MA), 2001.

Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002, published as Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty, Penguin Books (London, England), 2002.

(Editor, with Elke Kurz-Milcke) Experts in Science and Society, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers (New York, NY), 2004.

Heuristics and the Law, MIT Press in cooperation with Dahlem University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2006.

Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, Viking (New York, NY), 2007.

Rationality for Mortals: Risk and Rules of Thumb, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2008.

Contributor to academic journals, including Psychology Review and Science. Psychologische Rundschau, coeditor, 1989-92; Theory and Psychology, coeditor, 1990—. Member of editorial board, Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 1993—; Cognition, 1993-2000; Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 1996—; Evolution and Human Behavior, 1998—; Psychological Inquiry, 2005—. Reviewer for scholarly journals and periodicals. Author's works have been translated into English, Spanish, Dutch, Korean, Chinese, and Italian.

SIDELIGHTS:

Psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer, a noted educator and author, is the director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, a research facility located in Berlin, Germany. In Science News, contributor Bruce Bower noted that, "in scientific papers and in lectures at U.S. and European universities, Gigerenzer has tried to yank heuristics off their throne. Although not the first critic of the idea that highly fallible assumptions rule human thought, he is perhaps the most aggressive, and he comes armed with alternative theories to explain human reasoning. As a result, the German scientist has attracted both ardent supporters and detractors, and his wake has roiled the waters of psychological research." Adaptive Thinking: Rationality in the Real World is a collection of Gigerenzer's papers that Library Journal reviewer Mary Ann Hughes called "of obvious importance." However, noted Hughes, the volume is written in very technical language and is, therefore, understandable only by specialists.

The Empire of Chance: How Probability Changed Science and Everyday Life contains essays by Gigerenzer and other contributors on the increasingly important and prevalent role of mathematical probability in everyday life. The volume also explores how probability and statistics have fundamentally affected our individual thinking and the actions and behavior of society at large. "The first five chapters of this book will be useful to statisticians, philosophers, scientists, and other historians of science who want to understand the roots of the probability-based statistical methods we use so widely today," commented Glenn R. Shafer in a Science review. Other chapters "discuss impressionistically the role of statistics in contemporary life in the United States and wax philosophical on chance and determinism," Shafer stated. Several authors look at the function of statistics in scientific and technical areas such as medicine, psychology, physics, agriculture, and biology. Other contributors take a historical approach, looking at the application and philosophy of probability prior to the middle of the nineteenth century. Shafer concluded that The Empire of Chance is a "valuable book."

Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You, published in England as Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty, examines the ways in which numerical data and statistics can be easily misunderstood, manipulated, and misrepresented. Gigerenzer does not attribute malicious motives to workers, including health care professionals and law enforcement officials, who are charged with interpreting and relating the meaning of numerical data. Instead, he finds that even professionals with the purest motives and best intentions often provide information that is poorly understood by innumerates—people who do not have a functional grasp of statistical reasoning. When data is presented in percentages, Gigerenzer notes, there is a greater chance that it will be misinterpreted or misunderstood. Expressing probabilities in terms of actual frequency of the event or characteristic leads to a greater understanding of the data's actual meaning. The author provides numerous examples of problems that arise in areas such as breast cancer screening, DNA evidence analysis, domestic violence counseling, and AIDS diagnosis. Persons from all walks of life, whether they are professionals or laypersons, clients or service providers, "have something to learn from Gigerenzer's quirky—yet understandable—book," observed a Publishers Weekly contributor. Gigerenzer's "important research shows how to teach statistical reasoning and turn innumeracy into insight," remarked Library Journal critic Amy Brunvand. Reviewing the volume in Booklist, Will Hickman noted that Gigerenzer's humor and clarity "transform what could have been a turgid academic exercise into an intriguing lesson from a master teacher."

As a psychologist and statistician, Gigerenzer has long studied the role of intuition in human life and how it affects decision making. Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious explores how people make use of their intuition in weighing alternatives and reaching decisions. Intuition is not a scientifically based decision-making process. People may reach a sound conclusion without the benefit of considering all of the available information on an issue before rendering a decision. Intuitive decision making may even deliberately ignore some of the available facts. Intuition and "gut feelings" are not trivial forces; neither are they supernatural or the result of some form of extrasensory perception. Instead, intuition is the "product of your brain quickly, often unconsciously, using a rule of thumb (what academics call a ‘heuristic’) to arrive at a decision using little evidence," noted Farhad Manjoo in a Salon.com article about Gigerenzer. "Intuition is not a deviation from the right way to make decisions; it's how we make decisions all the time," Manjoo stated. Gigerenzer explains the nature of these heuristic rules and demonstrates how they are "generally dependable, though unconscious, techniques based on our evolved brain's structures and processes," remarked a Kirkus Reviews contributor. The author provides many examples of when these heuristics come into play, such as when baseball players accurately predict where a fly ball will land, or when amateur investors made financial decisions as accurate and sound as those of seasoned professionals. When faced with the need to make a decision, an individual may have only a small bit of information on a subject; in this case, Gigerenzer notes, that person can rely on heuristic rules to make a useful decision based on what they do know. The Kirkus Reviews critic called Gut Feelings "a pleasing, edifying tour of territory that has long been dark and unexplored."

Gigerenzer also served as the coeditor, with Reinhard Selten, of Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox.

In this book, Gigerenzer and his contributors consider and explain a biological model of reasoning that has been demonstrated in humans. They explore a "fast and frugal" model of reasoning and decision making that posits that people will make a quick, beneficial decision rather than spending time carefully considering all of their available options, as they would in a "rational actor" model of decision making. "Gigerenzer and his research group have successfully identified several of the major types of decision rules that organisms employ, shown that these decision rules work well on a range of problems, and demonstrated that ‘real’ people actually use these rules to make decisions," noted O. Curry in Human Nature Review. In the end, "The book does a good job of setting out the historical and intellectual background to the ‘fast and frugal’ approach, explaining its methodology, and of summarizing the results," Curry stated.

Gigerenzer once told CA: "I am performing research on how scientists' tools (computers, statistics) turn into metaphors of the mind and on how people deal with uncertainty, unpredictability of behavior, and randomness in their lives."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Booklist, May 15, 2002, Will Hickman, review of Calculated Risks: How to Know When Numbers Deceive You, p. 1561; June 1, 2007, Gilbert Taylor, review of Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious, p. 7.

British Journal for the History of Science, March, 1991, M.J.S. Hodge, review of The Empire of Chance: How Probability Changed Science and Everyday Life, p. 124.

British Medical Journal, December 14, 2002, Cameron Stark, review of Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty, p. 1426.

Choice, December, 2002, R. Bharath, review of Calculated Risks, p. 664.

Cio Insight, May 1, 2002, review of Calculated Risks.

Discover, August, 2002, Maia Weinstock, review of Calculated Risks, p. 80.

Economic Journal, February, 2003, Emanuela Sciubba, review of Bounded Rationality: The Adaptive Toolbox, p. 189.

History of Political Economy, spring, 1990, Philip Mirowski, review of The Probabilistic Revolution, p. 184.

Human Nature Review, March 14, 2003, O. Curry, review of Bounded Rationality, p. 163.

Isis, March, 1989, Donald MacKenzie, review of The Probabilistic Revolution, p. 116; March, 1991, Davis Baird, review of The Empire of Chance, p. 103.

Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, March, 2004, R. Koppl, review of Bounded Rationality, p. 431.

Journal of Economic Literature, December, 2001, review of Bounded Rationality, p. 1302.

Journal of Socio-Economics, September, 2003, Hugh Schwartz, review of Bounded Rationality, p. 593.

Journal of the American Statistical Association, June, 1990, Peter Guttorp, review of The Empire of Chance, p. 592.

Jurimetrics Journal of Law, Science, and Technology, summer, 2001, Craig R. Callen, review of Simple Heuristics That Make Us Smart, p. 513.

Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of Gut Feelings.

Library Journal, October 1, 2000, Mary Ann Hughes, review of Adaptive Thinking: Rationality in the Real World, p. 128; May 15, 2002, Amy Brunvand, review of Calculated Risks, p. 123; March 1, 2003, review of Calculated Risks, p. 51.

New England Journal of Medicine, January 2, 2003, Sue Goldie, review of Calculated Risks, p. 88.

New Scientist, January 27, 1990, Peter Donnelly, review of The Empire of Chance, p. 67.

New Statesman, July 22, 2002, Mike Hume, "You've Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself," review of Reckoning with Risk, p. 48.

Physics Today, April, 1988, Stephen G. Brush, review of The Probabilistic Revolution, p. 88.

Psychology Today, July-August, 2002, Paul Chance, review of Calculated Risks, p. 72.

Publishers Weekly, May 6, 2002, review of Calculated Risks, p. 47; May 7, 2007, review of Gut Feelings, p. 54.

Science, January 12, 1990, Glenn R. Shafer, review of The Empire of Chance, p. 225.

Science Books & Films, July, 2003, review of Calculated Risks, p. 156.

Science News, July 13, 1996, Bruce Bower, "Rational Mind Designs: Research into the Ecology of Thought Treads on Contested Terrain," p. 24; July 28, 2007, review of Gut Feelings, p. 63.

SciTech Book News, March, 2004, review of Experts in Science and Society, p. 12.

Times Higher Education Supplement, April 4, 2003, John Adams, "How Do We Rate Our Chances?," review of Reckoning with Risk, p. 24.

ONLINE

Bookbag,http://www.thebookbag.co.uk/ (January 20, 2008), Zoe Page, review of Gut Feelings.

Magnetic Messages,http://www.magneticmessages.info/ (November 21, 2007), Gihan Perera, review of Reckoning with Risk.

Max Planck Institute for Human Development Web site, http://www.mpib-berlin.mpg.de/ (January 20, 2008), curriculum vitae of Gerd Gigerenzer.

Salon.com,http://www.salon.com/ (July 30, 2007), Farhad Manjoo, "Should National Security Depend on Michael Chertoff's Gut?," interview with Gerd Gigerenzer.

Gigerenzer, Gerd 1947–

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