Odette Wegwarth

Senior Research Scientist, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

Center for Adaptive Behavior and Kognition


Odette Wegwarth was Head Research Scientist at the Harding Center for Risk Literacy until August 2015. Her dissertation examined how clinicians and patients decide on pharmacodiagnostic testing in cancer treatment. Her current research focuses on the statistical formats that foster and limit the understanding of risk information in medical domains. Insights from her research have been incorporated into physicians' continuing education and the development of patient brochures.
Since 2015 she is the FORECEE project lead scientist for the Harding Center and since 2017 a Senior Research Scientist at the Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin

  • since 2017: Senior Research Scientist, Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Berlin (Germany)
  • 2015-2016: CEO Stiftung Gesundheitswissen, Berlin
  • 2015: Habilitation at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
  • 2014-2015: Head Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Berlin (Germany)
  • 2011-2013: Senior Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Berlin (Germany)
  • 2008-2011: Research Scientist at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Harding Center for Risk Literacy, Berlin (Germany)
  • 2007-2008: Postdoctoral Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Human Development, Center for Adaptive Behavior and Cognition, Berlin (Germany)
  • 2007: PhD in Cognitive Psychology, Humboldt University Berlin
  • 2003: Master in Psychology, University Potsdam


Selected publications

Wegwarth, O. , Kurzenhäuser-Carstens, S., & Gigerenzer, G. (2014). Overcoming the knowledge-behavior gap: The effect of evidence-based HPV vaccination leaflets on understanding, intention, and actual vaccination decision.  Vaccine, 32, 1388-1393. doi:10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.12.038 Full text

Wegwarth, O. (2013). Statistical illiteracy in residents: What they do not learn today will hurt their patients tomorrow. Journal of Graduate Medical Education, June 2013,340–341.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2013). Overdiagnosis and overtreatment: Evaluation of what physicians tell patients about screening harms. JAMA Internal Medicine, 173, 2086-2087. Full text

Multmeier, J., Gaissmaier, W., & Wegwarth, O. (in press). Collective statistical illiteracy in health. In B. L. Anderson & J. Schulkin (Eds.), Numerical Reasoning in Judgments and Decision Making About Health. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Wegwarth, O. (2013). Krebsfrüherkennung und Risikokommunikation. Therapeutische Umschau, 70, 245-250. doi:10.1024/0040-5930/a000396

Gigerenzer, G. & Wegwarth, O. (2013). Five year survival rates can mislead. British Medical Journal, 2013;346:f548.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2013). Trust-your-doctor: A simple heuristic in need of a proper social environment. In: Hertwig, R., Hoffrage, U., & the ABC Research Group (Eds.). Simple heuristics in a social world. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wegwarth, O., & Gigerenzer, G. (2013). Mangelnde Statistikkompetenz bei Ärzten. In G. Gigerenzer & J. A. Muir Gray (Eds.), Bessere Ärzte, bessere Patienten, bessere Medizin: Aufbruch in ein transparentes Gesundheitswesen (Strüngmann Forum Reports) (pp. 137-151). Berlin: Medizinisch Wissenschaftliche Verlagsgesellschaft.

Wegwarth, O., Schwartz, L. M., Woloshin, S., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2012). Do physicians understand cancer screening statistics? A national survey of primary care physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine 156:340-349.

Gaissmaier, W., Wegwarth, O., Skopec, D., Müller, A.S., Broschinski, S., & Politi, M. (2012). Numbers can be worth a thousand pictures: Individual differences in understanding graphical and numerical representations of health-related information.Health Psychology, 31, 286-296. doi:10.1037/a0024850

Wegwarth, O. (2012). 5-Jahres-Überlebensrate: Wie steht es um Ihr Statistik-Know-How? [5-year-survival: Do you get it right?]. UroForum, 4,  30–31.

Durand, M.-A., Wegwarth, O., Boivin, J., & Elwyn, G. (2012). Design and usability of heuristic-based deliberation tools for women facing amniocentesis. Health Expectations, 15, 32-48. doi:10.1111/j.1369-7625.2010.00651.x

Wegwarth, O., Day, R. W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Decisions on pharmacogenomic tests in the USA and Germany. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 17, 228-235. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2753.2010.01426.x

Wegwarth, O., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Deceiving numbers: Survival rates and their impact on doctors' risk communication. Medical Decision Making, 31, 386-394. doi:10.1177/0272989X10391469

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Unnötige Ängste vermeiden [How to avoid unnecessary fear]. Deutsche Aerzteblatt [Journal of German Medical Association],108 (17), A943–944.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Sterblichkeitsraten als valides Maß [Mortality rates as valid measure]. Deutsche Aerzteblatt [Journal of German Medical Association], 108 (14), A760–762.

Neuner-Jehle, S., Senn, O., Wegwarth, O., Rosemann, T., & Steurer, J. (2011). How do family physicians communicate about cardiovascular risk? Frequencies and determinants of different communication formats. BMC Family Practice, 12:15. DOI:10.1186/1471-2296-12-15.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Nutzen und Risiken richtig verstehen [How to get the benefit and the risk right]. Deutsche Aerzteblatt [Journal of German Medical Association], 108 (11), A568–570.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Risiken und Unsicherheiten richtig verstehen lernen [Learn how to understand risk and uncertainty]. Deutsche Aerzteblatt [Journal of German Medical Association], 108 (9), A448–451.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). Statistical illiteracy in doctors. In: G. Gigerenzer & J.A.M. Gray (Eds.) Better doctors, better patients, better decisions: Envisioning healthcare in 2020. Struengmann Forum Report. Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 137–51.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2011). “There is nothing to worry about”: Gynecologists’ counseling on mammography. Patient Education and Counseling. 84, 251–56. DOI:10.1016/j.pec.2010.07.025.

Miron-Shatz, T., Mühlhauser, I., Bower, B., Diefenbach, M., Goldacre, B., Smith, R.S.W., Spiegelhalter, D., & Wegwarth, O. (2011). Barriers to health information and building solutions. In: G. Gigerenzer & J.A.M. Gray (Eds.) Better doctors, better patients, better decisions: Envisioning healthcare in 2020. Struengmann Forum Report. Cambridge: MIT Press, p. 191–212.

Gigerenzer, G., Wegwarth, O. & Feufel, M. (2010). Misleading communication of risk. BMJ, 341 (7777), 791-792. doi:10.1136/bmj.c4830.

Keller, N., Cokely, E.T., Katsikopoulos, K., & Wegwarth, O. (2010). Naturalistic heuristics for decision making: An integration of two research programs. Journal of Cognitive Engineering and Decision, 4 (3), 256–274. DOI: 10.1518/155534310X12844000801168.

Wegwarth, O., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2009). Smart strategies for doctors and doctors in training: Heuristics in Medicine. Medical Education, 43(8), 721–728. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2009.03417.x.

Wegwarth, O. (2009). Entscheidende Beeinflussung: Die Default-Heuristik im Gesundheitswesen (The critical impact: the default heuristic in health care). Care Management, 3, 10–11. 

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2009). „Zu Risiken und Nebenwirkungen...:" Wie informiert sind Ärzte und Patienten?. („On risks and side effects...:" How informed are doctors and patients?). In N. Klusen, A. Fließgarten, & T. Nebling (Eds.),Beiträge zum Gesundheitsmanagement-Informiert und selbstbestimmt: Der mündige Bürger als mündiger Patient. Baden Baden: Nomos Verlag.

Gigerenzer, G. & Wegwarth, O. (2008). Risikoabschätzung in der Medizin am Beispiel der Krebsfrüherkennung. (Medical risk assessment - Using the example of cancer screening). Zeitschrift für Evidenz, Fortbildung und Qualität, 102, 513–519. doi:10.1016/j.zefq.2008.09.008. 

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2008). Die Bewertung von Risiken in der Medizin. (Assessing risks in medicine). In S. Meier, M. Stellpflug, & A. Tadayon (Eds.),Handbuch Medizinrecht. Heidelberg: Verlagsgruppe Hüthig Jehle Rehm GmbH.

Wegwarth, O., & Gigerenzer, G. (2008). A preference does not equate with understanding [Invited commentary on "Patients prefer pictures to numbers to express cardiovascular benefit from treatment" by F. Goodyear-Smith et al., Annals of Family Medicine, 6, 213–217]. Annals of Family Medicine.

Neuner-Jehle, S., Wegwarth, O., & Steurer, J. (2008). Sagt ein Bild mehr als tausend Worte? - Risikokommunikation in der ärztlichen Praxis. (Is a picture worth a thousand words? – Risk communication in medical practice). Praxis, 97, 1717–23.

Wegwarth, O. & Gigerenzer, G. (2007). Vom Risiko, Risiken zu kommunizieren. (The risk of communicating risk). Therapeutische Umschau, 64 (12), 687–692.

Wegwarth, O. (2007). Deciding the fast and frugal way on the application of pharmacodiagnostic tests in cancer care? - A comparative study of oncologists', pathologists', and cancer patients' decision making in Germany and the USA. Humboldt University: Dissertation.