Helen Fischer


Dr. Helen Fischer

Foto Helen Fischer

Current position

Helen Fischer left the Department for Experimental and Theoretical Psychology, Heidelberg University im April 2019. Please check her personal website:

Research interests

I am interested in how people make decisions in the context of dynamic systems and complex situations, particularly in the field of climate change. I am also interested in interdisciplinary research with behavioral economics, particularly concerning the question how individual cognitive resources such as working memory influence behavior when dealing with common property resources.


  • Herrmann, A., Fischer, H., Amelung, D., Litvine, D., Aall, C., Andersson, C.,Baltruszewicz, M, Barbier, C., Bruyère, S., Bénévise, F., Dubois, G., Louis, V., Nilsson, M., Richardsen Moberg, K., Sköld, B. & Sauerborn, R. (2017). Household preferences for reducing greenhouse gas emissions in four European high-income countries: Does health information matter? A mixed-methods study protocol. BMC Public Health, 18(1), 71.

  • Fischer, H. and Holt, D. V. (2016). When high working memory capacity is and is not beneficial for predicting nonlinear processes.Memory & Cognition, 45(3):404–412

  • Amelung, D., Fischer, H., Kruse, L. & Sauerborn, R. (2016). Defogging climate change communication: How cognitive research can promote more effective climate communication. Frontiers in Psychology. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01340

  • Herlihly, N., Bar-Hen, A., Verner, G., Fischer, H., Sauerborn, R., Depoux, A., Flahault, A. & Schütte, S. (2016). Climate Change and Human Health: Where Are The Research Trends? A Scoping Review Protocol. BMJ Open.

  • Hundertmark, J., Holt, D. V., Fischer, A., Said, N., & Fischer, H. (2016). System structure and cognitive ability as predictors of performance in dynamic system control tasks. Journal of Dynamic Decision Making, 1(1).

  • Fischer, H. & Gonzalez, C. (2015). Making sense of dynamic systems: How our understanding of stocks and flows depends on a global perspective. Cognitive Science, 40(2), 496–512.

  • Fischer, H., Degen, C. & Funke, J (2015). Improving stock-flow reasoning with verbal formats. Simulation & Gaming. doi:10.1177/1046878114565058

  • Fischer, H., Kapmeier, F., Tabacaru, M., Kopainsky, B. (2015). The more you see the less you “get”: On the importance of a higher-level perspective for understanding dynamic systems. Paper presented at the 33rd International Conference of the System Dynamics Society, July 19.23, Cambride, MA.

  • Degen, C., Kettner, S.E., Fischer, H. , Lohse, H., Funke, J., Schwieren, C., Goeschl, T. & Schröder, J. (2014). Comprehension of climate change and environmental attitudes across the lifespan. Zeitschrift für Gerontologie und Geriatrie.

  • Grants

    [1] FRONTIER (2017) (Exzellenzinitiative „Heidelberg: Realising the Potential of a Comprehensive University“): An Agent-based Modeling Approach to Information Spread in Filter Bubbles (With Said, N., Potschka, A., Kirches, C.)

    [2] Field of Focus 4 (2016): Self-regulation of common property resources: Using Agent-Based Modeling for Exploration of the Influence of Working Memory Capacity in CPR Dilemmas (With Said, N., Kirches, C. & Amelung, D.)

    [3] ZUK 5.4 Scientific Computing (2016): Situational and personal factors that contribute to a better understanding of climate change (With Said, N., Amelung, D., Kirches, C., & Körkel, S.)

    [4] Field of Focus 4 (2016): Self-regulation of common property resources: Working memory capacity – Can there be too much of a good thing? (With Lohse, J., Goeschl, T. & Funke, J.)

    [5] Field of Focus 4 (2014): Self-regulation of common property resources: Cognitive prerequisites for system sustainability. (With Lohse, J., Goeschl, T. & Funke, J.)

    Teaching and Supervision

    Current and recent classes

    • The Psychology of Climate Change: Understanding, decision-making, and problem-solving
    • Causality and Climate Change
    • Causality in the climate as a complex system—How do humans acquire causal understanding?

    Supervision of Master's, and Bachelor's Theses

    • Komplexe Problemlösung--der Spiegel meiner Persönlichkeit – BSc thesis, Semantha Ebert
    • Kommunikation klimabezogener Daten mittels Graphen – BSc thesis, Maria Doblinger
    • Die Abweichung des individuellen vom durchschnittlichen CO2-Fußabdruck als Prädiktor zur Umsetzung emissionresduzierender Maßnahmen – BSc thesis, Seval Akbal
    • Implicit and explicit learning in systematically varied dynamic system control tasks – MSc thesis, Jan Hundertmark
    • Thematische Präferenzen zur Reduzierung von CO2-Emissionen in Abhängigkeit von soziodemographischen Variablen in europäischen Haushalten – MSc thesis, Alexandra Aldoshina
    • Managing renewable resources under cognitive constraints – MSc thesis, Erika Riesebell

    Conference contributions

    Invited Talks

  • Fischer, H. (2017, May). Wie (un)verständlich sind die IPCC reports? Ergebnisse von der COP22 IN Marrakesch. Invited talk held at the Heidelberg Center for the Environment.

  • COP22 Delegation of Heidelber University (2016, Dezember): COP of action? The UN Climate Change Conference in Marrakesh. Invited talk held at the Heidelberg Center for the Environment.

  • Fischer, H. (2015, March). Lost in Translation: the particular challenges in communicating future risks in climate change. Invited talk held at the Institute of Epidemiology, University Hospital, Heidelberg, Germany.

  • Fischer, H. (2015, December). Understanding Dynamic Systems and Non-Linearity. Invited talk held at the colloquium social psychology, Institute of Psychology, Heidelberg, Germany.

  • Fischer, H.. & Gonzalez, C. (2015, March). Our understanding of dynamic systems depends on the way we “see” them. Lecture presented at the demadyn 15 in Heidelberg, Germany.

  • Selected conference contributions

  • Fischer, H., Amelung D., & Said, N. (2017). The confidence-accuracy relationship in CC knowledge and understanding. Poster at 2017 SJDM Conference, Vancouver, Canada.

  • Said, N., Fischer, H., Amelung D., & Kirches C. (2017). Using Agent-Based Modeling for Exploration of the Influence of Working Memory Capacity in CPR Dilemmas. Poster presented at MathPsych/ICCM 2017, University of Warwick.

  • Fischer, H., Amelung, D., & Said, N. (2017).Climate Change and the problem with overconfidence: The difference between perceived and actual understanding. Talk at Cambridge Risk and Uncertainty Conference (RUC), University of Cambridge.

  • Fischer, H. & Gonzalez, C. (2013). Seeing the forest for the tress predicts accumulation decisions. Poster presented at the 35th Annual Meeting of the Cognitive Science, Society, Berlin, Germany.

  • Fischer, H. & Gonzalez, C. (2013). Global-local processing predicts decision-making in stock-flow systems. Poster presented at the 25th Annual Convention of the Association for Psychological Science, Washington, D.C.

  • Fischer, H. & Degen, C. (2012). Stock-flow failure can be explained by the task format. In E. Huseman & D. Lane (Ed.), Proceedings of the 30th International Conference of the System Dynamics Society (p. 42). Oxford, UK: Wiley-Blackwell.

  • Degen, C., Fischer, H., Kettner, S.E., Lohse, J. & Schröder, J. (2012). CLIMAGE – Klimawandel und Politik in alternden Gesellschaften. Komplexe Klimasysteme, Kognition und finanzielle Beiträge. Vortrag im Rahmen der Heidelberg Center for the Environment-Reihe.

    Office hours

    On appointment

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