Peter Steiglechner

Peter Steiglechner

Doctoral Candidate

Working Groups: WG Systems Ecology

Phone: +49 421 23800 - 0

Fax: +49 421 23800 - 30

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Office: Fahrenheitstr. 8
28359 Bremen

Research interests

The most challenging limiting factor in addressing the climate crisis is not our physical-biological understanding of nature, but the behaviour of people and their opinions.
Traditionally, researchers it was mainly the social sciences to ask how social structures, misinformation and heuristics, coupled with cognitive biases, affect a society's opinion patterns. In addition to these social science approaches, natural scientists, like myself, try to shed light on these phenomena from a different perspective. According to the motto `we can only understand something when we can reproduce it", I develop computer models of virtual societies consisting of a number of individuals whose opinions, e.g. on measures against climate change, are shaped by social influence and external information. In doing so, I use the same findings from behavioural psychology that describe how people form opinions based on certain mathematical rules or heuristics under the influence of perceptual biases. By running various simulations of these virtual societies with different assumptions or parameters, I can systematically understand which factors play a (particularly large) role in the emergence of the often surprising and non-trivial patterns, such as polarisation or consensus. This understanding of the socio-cognitive processes in our society is a critical element if we want to effectively manage political crises. Interdisciplinary approaches promise new insights and perspectives in this regard.

My current projects explicitly address the following questions:
- Under what conditions can in-group bias prevent consensus and manifest disagreement? Are there cases in which bias even accelerates consensus?
- How does the interplay of ambiguity in the communication of opinions (noise) and distorted perception of them (bias) affect societal opinion patterns?

Recent publications:

- Moser, D., Steiglechner, P. and Schlueter, A. (2022) ‘Facing global environmental change: The role of culturally embedded cognitive biases’, Environmental Development, 44, p. 100735. Available at:

- Steiglechner, P. and Merico, A. (2022) ‘Spatio-temporal patterns of deforestation, settlement, and land use on easter island prior to European arrivals’, in V. Rull and C. Stevenson (eds) The prehistory of Rapa Nui (Easter Island): Towards an integrative interdisciplinary framework. Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 401–426. Available at: