The Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) in Bremen is a member of the Leibniz Association, which is supported by the German Federal and State Governments. Through its research, ZMT contributes to developing science-based strategies for sustainable use of tropical coastal systems.

Master thesis project

available in the Systems Ecology and Data Science & Technology groups

Conflict or consensus? Modeling how social contexts shape

preferences and decisions on environmental issues

Opinion Formation – Decision Support – Agent-Based Modeling – Pro-Environmental Behavior


Decisions depend on personal preferences. For example, we may decide to travel by train or by plane depending on the trade-offs we are willing to make between comfort, climate impact, and costs. But preferences are usually influenced by the decisions of our peers and this may potentially drive polarization in the society. Given the importance of individual decision-making, especially for environmental issues, more research is required about how preferences are formed in a social context and how that may result in conflict or consensus about the best action to take in groups of people.

 Stelle Illustration

Agent-based models of societies are a relatively new approach to studying social phenomena like opinion formation. By making certain assumptions about individual actors and their interactions, such models aim to explain emergent properties of collective behavior and provide insights into potential social and psychological mechanisms underlying conflict or consensus patterns.

The master thesis aims to expand existing opinion formation models to include a decision-making perspective. The models developed during the thesis will help to understand how social structures and individual mechanisms can influence the formation of preferences and of beliefs about decision outcomes - and how these impact the decisions on an individual and collective level. Using these insights, we can improve strategies to design more fair and effective decision processes.

While the work is theoretical, we encourage grounding it in a practical application case. Possibilities include climate change adaptation, community-based fisheries management, flood protection, or measures to reduce GHG emissions and a case can be chosen depending on your interests.

The anticipated tasks during the master thesis include literature review, conceptual model development, coding, model analysis, visualization, and writing. To enjoy the work you should be unafraid of equations and programming and have an interdisciplinary interest in topics of quantitative social science, (social or behavioral) psychology, and decision analysis, although we do not expect previous knowledge. Experience with a programming language (e.g., Python, R,...) is required.

We offer you dedicated supervision in a dynamic, international research environment and support to present your work and publish it in a peer-reviewed journal if the results are conclusive. The project can be done in a hybrid way with longer periods of remote work and started as soon as possible.

If this sounds interesting, please send a short email including your study program, research interests, relevant experience, and intended timeframe to Peter Steiglechner, Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!, or Dr. Fridolin Haag, Diese E-Mail-Adresse ist vor Spambots geschützt! Zur Anzeige muss JavaScript eingeschaltet sein!.