Team witten

Topic and Research

After the financial crisis, many observers called for new approaches in regulation and its theoretical foundation. However, most regulatory approaches continue to be based on mainstream theory of finance, with its strong rationality-assumptions for actors and its efficiency-assumption for financial markets. Yet, challenges to these assumptions have been growing with the rise of behavioural, psychological and neuroscientific approaches to financial decision making.

Our Witten project explores the integrative potential of cutting-edge philosophy of science for merging neuroscientific and finance approaches, focusing on three methodological case studies:

  1. We investigate various disciplinary approaches to the phenomenon of ‘herding’ on financial mar kets, i.e. the emergence of strongly imitative and unintendedly coordinated actions of a majority of market players, for instance as when ‘bubbles’ emerge.
  2. We explore competing approaches to understanding behaviour towards risk: This is the core of fnancial theories of rationality, yet there is substantial cross-disciplinary evidence of systematic deviations, reaching from alternative mathematical models to empirically based neurophysiological perspectives.
  3. We want to get a better understanding of fundamental motivational drivers of professional decsison making in financial markets, with the possible inclusion of pathological phenomena such as addiction, which are in turn objects of competing explanations in economics, psychology and the neurosciences.

Based on our insights, we will formulate recommendations for more effective policy interventions, reaching from conventional topics to non-standard issues such as diversity management in the financial sector or regulating finance education.


We are a group of senior researchers and two PhD students covering the disciplines of philosophy, economics and neurosciences.

Prof. Dr. Jens Harbecke

Team leader is Professor Jens Harbecke, philosopher of science with a special focus on neurosciences and economics, who has contributed substantial research on the so-called ‘mechanistic’ or ‘constitutive explanations’ approach in the philosophy of science that we deploy in our project. Read More

Prof. Dr. Carsten Herrmann-Pillath

Professor Carsten Herrmann-Pillath is economist and transdisciplinary researcher in the field of evolutionary economics, who has published extensively on methodological issues of neuroeconomics, the interdisciplinary theory of money and multi-level explanations of economic phenomena. Read More

Prof. Dr. Martina Piefke

Professor Martina Piefke is neuroscientist who has done important research on integrating psychological and neuroscientific approaches in studying complex phenomena such as empathy. Read More

Prof. Dr. Matthias Kettner

Professor Matthias Kettner is a scholar of practical philosophy and a psychologist; he has published on the differentiation of forms of rationality. Read More

Prof. Dr. Mareike Kühne

Professor Mareike Kühne is an economist and philosopher whose research interests target normative conceptions of practical and economic rationality, decision making, and neuro-economics. Read More

Marie Christin Bobe

Marie Bobe has graduated in psychology and pursues the three case studies from the perspective of neurosciences. Read More

Lea Diederichsen

Lea Diederichsen is an economist and philosopher who looks at the three cases from the perspective of economics. Read More

Tobias Lentzler

Master student in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Witten/Herdecke University Read More

Florence Schimmel

Bachelor student in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Witten/Herdecke University. Read More

Elena Ammali Ball

Bachelor Student in Philosophy, Politics, Economics (B. A.) and Psychology & Psychotherapy (B. Sc.) at Witten/Herdecke University Read More

Both PhD students work in each of the three case studies together, thus pro-actively aiming at disciplinary integration. Lea’s economics PhD project is supervised by Jens and Carsten, the philosopher and the economist, Marie’s neuroscience PhD project is supervised by Martina and Carsten, the neuroscientist and the economist.

Our Results

As soon as we have publishable results from one of our (sub-)projects, you will be able to access them here. We strongly encourage you to return to this site repeatedly to check if we have updated the content here.

Funded by: