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Head: Comparative Psychology

Prof. Dr. Tobias Kalenscher
Institute of Experimental Psychology
Heinrich-Heine-University
Universitätsstraße 1
40225 Düsseldorf

Research Interest

We make decisions all the time. Sometimes, these decisions are rather mundane, such as whether to have coffee or tea for breakfast, but sometimes our decisions can have very important consequences, such as what career to pursue or how to invest our money. Usually, we are pretty good in making these kind of decisions, but sometimes we make decisions that are not consistent with our actual interests. Such irrational choices violate mathematical models in economics and psychology that prescribe how we should make decisions, but apparently fail to capture the reality of decision making.

Curiously, not only humans behave this way, but many of the behavioral violations of economic principles can be found in animal behavior, too, suggesting that there are evolutionary roots to the way we make decisions. This leads to the idea that the development of economic principles must have taken place at an early level in the course of evolution and served as functions that benefitted the survival of species.

Our research deals with the neural and mental underpinnings of economic choices, and violations of economic principles. We use animal and human models to approach these questions. The comparison of animal and human behaviour allows shedding light on the evolutionary pressures that shaped the decision patterns we observe today. To this end, we apply various behavioural and neuroscientific techniques, including lesion studies, psychopharmacology, tetrode recordings (single unit and local field potentials) and functional magnetic resonance imaging.

Further information
Selected Publications
  1. Studer B, Koch C, Knecht S, Kalenscher T (2019) Conquering the inner couch potato: precommitment is an effective strategy to enhance motivation for effortful actions. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 374:20180131. PubMed
  2. Margittai Z, Nave G, Van Wingerden M, Schnitzler A, Schwabe L, Kalenscher T (2018) Combined Effects of Glucocorticoid and Noradrenergic Activity on Loss Aversion. Neuropsychopharmacology 43:334-341. PubMed
  3. Hernandez-Lallement J, van Wingerden M, Kalenscher T (2017) Towards an animal model of callousness. Neurosci Biobehav Rev 91:121-129. PubMed
  4. Soutschek A, Burke CJ, Beharelle AR, Schreiber R, Weber SC, Karipidis I, ten Velden J, Weber B, Haker H, Kalenscher T, Tobler PN (2017) The dopaminergic reward system underpins gender differences in social preferences. Nature Human Behaviour 1: 819-827 PubMed
  5. Soutschek A, Ruff CC, Strombach T, Kalenscher T, Tobler PN (2016) Brain stimulation reveals crucial role of overcoming self-centeredness in self-control. Science Advances Oct 19;2(10):e1600992. eCollection 2016 Oct. PubMed
  6. Hernandez-Lallement J, Van Wingerden M, Schäble S, Kalenscher T (2016) Basolateral amygdala lesions abolish mutual reward preference in rats. Neurobiol Learn Mem. 127: 1-9. PubMed
  7. Strombach T, Weber B, Hangebrauk Z, Kenning P, Karipidis, II, Tobler PN, Kalenscher T (2015) Social discounting involves modulation of neural value signals by temporoparietal junction. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 112:1619-1624. PubMed
  8. Crockett MJ, Braams B, Clark L, Tobler PN, Robbins TW, Kalenscher T (2013) Restricting temptations: neural mechanisms of precommitment. Neuron 7:391-401. PubMed
  9. Kalenscher T, Pennartz CMA (2008). Is a bird in the hand worth two in the future? The neuroeconomics of intertemporal decision making. Progr Neurobiol, 84, 284-315. PubMed
  10. Kalenscher T, Windmann S, Diekamp B, Rose J, Güntürkün O, Colombo M (2005). Single units in the pigeon brain integrate reward amount and time-to-reward in an impulsive choice task. Curr Biol, 15, 594-602. PubMed
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