Sprechstunde / Office hours

Aufgrund der gegenwärtigen Arbeits- und Reiseeinschränkungen, um die weitere Verbreitung des Corona-Virus zu verlangsamen, fällt die Sprechstunde von Prof. Kalenscher bis auf Weiteres aus. Zur Zeit können daher keine Anträge bearbeitet werden, die eine persönliche Unterschrift benötigen. In sehr dringenden Fällen, kontaktieren Sie uns bitte per Email.

Because of the current travel and work restrictions to contain the spread of the Corona virus, there will be no office hours until further notice. We apologize that we cannot process application forms, handle requests or provide signatures until the restrictions are lifted. For very urgent matters, please contact us by email.


Online Experiments

[in German only] Versuchsteilnehmer für unsere Online-Studien gesucht!

Rubix Cube Studie

Was? Aufgabe zum visuellen Arbeitsgedächtnis
Warum? 3 halbe VP-Stunden
Dauer? Ca. 80 Minuten
Wie? Zu Hause am PC, Laptop oder Tablet (mit ausreichend großem Display)
Projektkoordination: Felix Nitsch
Link zur Teilnahme hier


Wall Street Studie

Dauer: ca. 15 Minuten
Wo: Am PC, Laptop oder Tablet, in einem ruhigen Raum ohne Unterbrechungen
Wer: Jeder Mensch über 18 Jahre (auch Psychologie-Studierende), gute Deutschkenntnisse, keine mathematischen Vorkenntnisse benötigt
Wieso: Sie verdienen eine halbe VP-Stunde (Psychologie-Studierende)
Was wird benötigt: Eine funktionierende Internetverbindung
Projektkoordination: Dr. Manuela Sellitto
Link zur Teilnahme hier

Space Man Studie

Wo? Am PC oder Laptop, in einem ruhigen Raum ohne Unterbrechungen
Dauer? Ca. 40 Minuten
Wer? Jeder Mensch über 18, auch Psychologie-Studierende
Wieso? Sie verdienen 2 halbe VP-Stunden (Psychologie-Studierende) und haben die Chance, einen von drei Amazon Gutscheinen im Wert von bis zu €20 zu gewinnen
Was wird benötigt? Ein ausreichend großes Display, eine Tastatur, Lautsprecher und Kopfhörer
Ausschlusskriterien: neurologische/psychiatrische Vorerkrankungen
Projektkoordination: Felix Nitsch
Link zur Teilnahme hier


COLLOQUIUM CANCELLED. Because of the current restrictions put in place to contain the spread of Corona virus, we had to cancel our weekly talks in the summer term. We will resume our colloquium in the next winter term.



New paper out!

Stress changes how we socially interact with others. Decades of work on the effects of stress on social behavior has identified two distinct behavioral patterns in stressed individuals: fight-or-flight, i.e., the tendency to aggress or flee in order to protect oneself from potential threats, and the opposite behavior, tend-and-befriend, i.e., the tendency to affiliate with others in order to mobilize social resources in times of peril. However, no unifying framework exists that predicts under which circumstances one or the other response occurs. Here, we hypothesized that stress stimulates both tendencies, but that fight-or-flight is primarily directed against a potentially hostile outgroup, while tend-and-befriend is mainly shown towards a supportive ingroup. We further hypothesized that both tendencies are regulated by distinct, discernable neurohormonal mechanisms. We tested this hypothesis by letting stressed or non-stressed participants play a well-established intergroup social dilemma game in which individual resource allocations could reveal prosocial and hostile motives towards in- or outgroup members. Although our experiment was well powered, we find no direct effect of stress on prosocial and hostile decisions, but explorative analyses suggest that heart-rate, saliva testosterone, and saliva cortisol could predict allocation patterns. We conclude that further research is needed, especially to elucidate which task structure is needed to capture the underlying mechanisms of the impact of stress on social behavior.

Congratulations, Adam!

Schweda A, Faber NS, Crockett MJ, Kalenscher T (2019) The effects of psychosocial stress on intergroup resource allocation. Sci Rep 9:18620. pdf



New paper out!

Rats communicate with each other by using calls in the ultrasonic range, so-called ultrasonic vocalizations (USVs), which can be divided into two categories: USVs in the 50-kHz range provide information about a positive state, whereas USVs in the 22-kHz range signal a negative state or even a threat. Hearing USVs might be rewarding for rats, possibly due to their social-communicative function, and induces various behaviors in recipient rats. In this experiment, our postdoc Dr. Lisa Schönfeld and our PhD student Maurice Zech tested the importance of the basolateral amygdala (BLA) in motivating behavioral responses towards USVs. In an eight-arm radial maze, control rats robustly approached a speaker that emitted 50-kHz USVs located at the end of one arm, but spent more time in the middle of the maze when 22-kHz USVs were played from that speaker. Bilateral lesions of the BLA reduced approach behavior and increased the time spent on the central platform in the middle of the maze. These differences between rats with and without BLA lesions were only evident during phases of USV playback, but not during preceding phases, where rats could freely explore the radial maze without any USVs being played. Also general locomotion and hearing abilities of rats with BLA lesions did not differ from control rats, thus BLA lesions seemed to specifically affect behavior to stimuli with a social significance. Our results provide new information about the neurobiological basis of social communication, and eventually social behavior, in rats. Congratulations, Lisa and Maurice!

Schönfeld LM, Zech MP, Schable S, Wohr M, Kalenscher T (2019) Lesions of the rat basolateral amygdala reduce the behavioral response to ultrasonic vocalizations. Behav Brain Res:112274.pdf



New paper out!

In this paper, we investigated generosity among the Maasai in Kenya. We studied how generous behavior changes across social distance between the donor and the recipient of help, that is, how socially close or socially distance a participant felt to the recipient of help (a phenomenon called social discounting). We were particularly interested in how social discounting differs between different sharing commodities, such as money, water, milk, cows, access to grassland and so on. We find that the Maasai showed very similar social discounting to Western or Chinese participants. However, importantly, the steepness by which generosity decayed across social distance was highly dependent on the shared commodity. Our results imply that relatively more valued goods are shared less readily than less valued goods, even if relative valuation is purely subjective and culture-specific. In addition, it is likely that sharing behavior of the different goods is also modulated by social and cultural expectations. We discuss these aspects from an economic, psychological and anthrophological perspective. Together with Caroline Archambault and Joost de Laat.

Archambault C, Kalenscher T, Laat J (2019) Generosity and livelihoods: Dictator game evidence on the multidimensional nature of sharing among the kenyan maasai. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making:1-12. pdf




The schedule of our Friday colloquium for the winter term is out!

Talks are always on Friday, 3-4pm in room





Leonard Schilbach

Klinik und Poliklinik für Psychiatrie und Psychotherapie, LVR-Klinikum Düsseldorf, Germany

Behavioral and neural mechanisms of social interaction: New developments in social neuroscience and implications for the study of psychiatric disorders


No talk

No talk


No talk (All Saints’ Day)

No talk (All Saints’ Day)


Rima Rahal

Department of Social Psychology, Tilburg University, The Netherlands

Eyes on Morals: Investigating the Cognitive Processes Underlying Moral Decision Making via Eye Tracking


Maryvonne Granowski

Perceptual Psychology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Sensorimotor adaptation of perceived hand location


Luca Marie Lüpken

Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Getting over oneself - How performance-based financial rewards affect everyday physical activity.


Susann Fiedler

Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, Bonn

Fooling whom out of his money? Investigating arousal dynamics in the context of different honesty norms


Marijn van Wingerden

Social Rodent Lab, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Incorporating machine learning approaches in neuroscience


Alexander Soutschek

Department of Psychology, Ludwig Maximilian University Munich, Germany

Self-control beyond impulse inhibition


No talk

No talk


New year break

New year break


New year break

New year break


Caspar Krampe

Department of Marketing, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Utilising mfNIRS - How mobile neuroimaging methods improve the understanding of ‘Shopper Neuroscience


Mohammad Seidisarouei

Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Rats ultrasonic vocalizations difference based on the social and non-social contexts


Felix Nitsch

Comparative Psychology, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany

Irrational or dynamically adaptive? Decision making under stress



New paper out!

In this review paper, our PhD student Lina Oberließen reviews the literature on inequity aversion - the aversion against unequal reward distributions between conspecifics - in non-human animals. Despite growing evidence supporting the existance of inequity aversion in animals, there is still an ongoing debate whether inequity aversion represents a truly social phenomenon or whether it is driven by non-social aspects of the task. Lina provides a comprehensive and scholarly discussion of the evidence for or against the existance of inequity aversion in animals, and she examines mechanistic and evolutionary theories of inequity aversion. Congratulations, Lina!


Oberließen L, Kalenscher T (2019) Social and Non-social Mechanisms of Inequity Aversion in Non-human Animals. Front Behav Neurosci 13:1-11. pdf



New paper out!

Right on time for your new year's resolution! Did you plan to exercise more and live a more healthy lifestyle in 2019? And did you (once again, same procedure as every year, right?) quickly realize that you struggle to meet your exercise goals because procrastination, laziness or other temptations tend to get in the way of achieving them? If you do, this new paper might be interesting for you. We show that precommitment - a cognitive strategy by which access to anticipated temptations are deliberately removed ahead of time - helps to motivate us to persist with effortful actions in order to stay on track to achieve our long-term goals. Published in cooperation with Bettina Studer and Stefan Knecht from St. Mauritius Therapieklinik in Meerbusch and the Institute of Clinical Neuroscience and Medical Psychology, Heinrich-Heine-University Dusseldorf

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. pdf


New paper out!

People often cope with stress by investing into social relationships. We have recently shown that psychosocial stress alters the social discount function; that is, in times of stress, individuals offer costly help to a delimited group of close friends and family, but not to socially more remote others. In this new paper, we demonstrate that the stress-hormone cortisol has a very similar effect on social discounting compared to psychosocial stress: exogenous hydrocortisone administration boosts generosity towards socially close, but not socially remote others. Interestingly, this cortisol-related upregulation of prosocial behavior was offset by concomittant administration of yohimbine, a drug that amplifies noradrenergic action. These findings have implications for understanding why stressed individuals sometimes respond with a tend-and-befriend response, while, at other times, they show fight-or-flight tendencies: there is a time-dependent neuroendocrine response to stress with combined cortisol and noradrenergic action right after stress, and cortisol action alone in the aftermath of stress. Our data suggest that prosociality is upregulated in the aftermath of stress when coping mechanisms act to reverse the acute stress effects and, thus, normalize the stress response, but prosocial tendencies are actually downregulated right after stress when fight-or-flight tendencies dominate. Congratulations, Zsofia!

Margittai Z, Van Wingerden M, Schnitzler A, Joels M, Kalenscher T (2018) Dissociable roles of glucocorticoid and noradrenergic activation on social discounting. Psychoneuroendocrinology 90:22-28.



New paper out!

Our decisions are often very short-sighted; we are consequently not very good in making choices that are in line with our long-term interests. Why did evolution favor a choice mechanism that leads to overweighting of short-term outcomes at the expense of our long-term plans? In this new paper, we argue that it is true that we fail to maximize economic utility when making choices between future rewards, but that the very same choice mechanism that is considered suboptimal from an economics perspective is actually optimal when looking through the lens of optimal foraging: hyperbolic discounting - the steep and asymmetric devaluation of future rewards that leads to short-sighted decision-making - is a prerequisite for maximizing another currency than econoomic utility: long-term reward rate - the amount of reward gained per time unit. Thus, short-sightedness might not be so suboptimal, after all.

Seinstra M, Sellitto M, Kalenscher T (2017) Rate maximization and hyperbolic discounting in human experiential intertemporal decision making. Behavioral Ecology Early Online Publication:1-11.



New paper out!

When making decisions under risk, we often attach more weight to prospective losses than to equivalent gains. This is one of the most prominent and deleterious decision biases called loss aversion. By consequence of loss aversion, we might chase our losses, and thus accumulate more of them, or we may ask more money for selling goods than we would be willing to spend to buy equivalent goods. In this new study, we show that the two stress neuromodulators Cortisol and Noradrenaline combined, but not in isolation, reduce loss aversion. Our results have implications for understanding hormonal factors influencing the susceptibility to decision biases.

Margittai Z, Nave G, Van Wingerden M, Schnitzler A, Schwabe L, Kalenscher T (2017) Combined Effects of Glucocorticoid and Noradrenergic Activity on Loss Aversion. Neuropsychopharmacology.

Published online ahead of print.



New paper out!

This commentary article, just published in Nature Human Behaviour, accompanies a paper by Kruti Vekaria, Abigail Marsh and others showing that altruistic kidney donors value the welfare of socially distant others higher than normal control participants.

Kalenscher T (2017) Social psychology: love thy stranger as thyself. Nature Human Behaviour 04:Article no. 0108.



New study out in cooperation with Uni Zürich!

New paper out in collaboration with Alexander Soutschek and Philippe Tobler from Zürich University! In this paper, we show that brain stimulation can improve self-control. This idea is a follow-up on a recent neuroimaging study (Crockett et al., Neuron, 2013) in which we showed that the frontopolar cortex is engaged when we use a cognitive, strategic form of self-control - precommitment. Precommitment refers to the deliberate removal of tempting, but ultimately undesirable choice alternatives if the decision-maker anticipates he might succumb to the temptation. In the present experiment, we applied transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) over the frontopolar cortex and found that this brain stimulation increases the propensity to show precommitment in a self-control task.

Soutschek A, Ugazio G, Crockett MJ, Ruff CC, Kalenscher T, Tobler PN (2017) Binding oneself to the mast: stimulating frontopolar cortex enhances precommitment. Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci 12:635-642.

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