PB413      Half Unit
Experimental Design and Methods for the Behavioural Science

This information is for the 2018/19 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Matteo Galizzi

Dr Dario Krpan


This course is available on the MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

Course content

Behavioural science is the scientific study of human behaviour, and it combines research techniques from psychology and economics. The course offers an integrated training in advanced behavioural science methods by introducing students to state-of-the-art techniques that stretch across the spectrum of both disciplines. The course covers the following topics: randomised controlled experiments in behavioural science, causality, selection bias; behavioural science experiments spanning the continuum spectrum from the lab to the field; principles of experimental design; best practices in modern behavioural science experiments; measuring preferences, attitudes, beliefs, willingness-to-pay; behavioural game theory and experimental games of strategic interaction; designing behavioural priming experiments and measures that tap into implicit cognition; state-of-the-art physiological research techniques; tests of hypotheses and sample size calculations for experiments in theory and practice; p-curve; regression analysis of experimental data in theory and practice; understanding the mechanisms behind behavioural effects by employing experimental-causal-chain, measurement-of-mediation, and moderation-of-process designs.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the MT.

The course is delivered in Michaelmas Term over 10 lectures of 1 hour (1 per week, over weeks 1-5, and 7-11) and 10 weekly seminar sessions of 1 hour (1 per week, over weeks 1-5, and 7-11). Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Lectures and Seminars:

Week 1

Lecture 1: Introduction to the Course [MG, DK]. The Beauty of Behavioural Science Experiments: Why Randomization Solves the Selection Bias [MG].

Seminar 1: Building a Simple Behavioural Science Experiment Using Qualtrics [DK].

Week 2

Lecture 2: Behavioural Science Experiments: from the Lab to the Field [MG]. Best Practices in Modern Behavioural Science Experiments [MG, DK].

Seminar 2: Best Experimental Practices in Practice [MG, DK].

Week 3

Lecture 3: Principles of Experimental Design [MG].

Seminar 3: Introduction to z-Tree [MG].

Week 4

Lecture 4: Strategic Decision-Making: Introduction to Behavioural Game Theory [MG].

Seminar 4: Building a Simple Game of Strategic Interaction Using z-Tree [MG].

Week 5

Lecture 5: Behavioural Priming Techniques [DK].

Seminar 5: Designing Behavioural Priming Experiments [DK].

Week 6

No lecture: Reading week

Week 7

Lecture 6: System 1 in Action: Capturing Implicit Cognition [DK].

Seminar 6: Building a Simple Task to Measure Implicit Cognition [DK].

Week 8

Lecture 7: Beyond Economics and Psychology: State-of-the-art Physiological Research Techniques [MG, DK].  

Seminar 7: Physiological Research Techniques in Practice [MG, DK].

Week 9

Lecture 8: Tests of Hypotheses and Sample Size Calculations for Experiments. Useful Rules of Thumb. P-hacking [MG, DK]

Seminar 8: Statistical Tests and Sample Size Calculations for Experiments in Practice Using Stata. P-curve analysis in practice [MG, DK].

Week 10

Lecture 9: Understanding the Mechanisms Behind Behaviour Change: Experimental-Causal-Chain, Measurement-of-Mediation, and Moderation-of-Process Designs [MG, DK]

Seminar 9: Analysis of Experimental Data in a Regression Framework Using Stata [MG, DK]. Experimental-Causal-Chain, Mediation Analysis, and Moderation-of-Process in Stata 1 [MG, DK]

Week 11

Lecture 10: Measuring Preferences, Attitudes, Beliefs, Willingness-to-pay: State-of-the-art Measures [MG]

Seminar 10: Experimental-Causal-Chain, Mediation Analysis, and Moderation-of-Process in Stata 2 [MG, DK].

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 presentation in the LT.

For the formative assignment, you will work in small groups (3-4 students) to produce a presentation in which you will need to propose a design and implementation of a behavioural science experiment entailing the use of (at least) two different software packages introduced in the seminars. The structure of the presentation will be as follows: a) Introduce a viable research question (on a topic of your choice) that will guide your experimentation; b) Describe how you would design and implement behavioural science research to answer the question; and c) Explain which statistical approaches covered in lectures and seminars you would use to analyse the data. For the presentation, you will need to follow the lines of a pre-analysis plan (PAP) which is increasingly common in behavioural science (for an example, see www.psychologicalscience.org/publications/psychological_science/preregistration).

At the end of the presentation, each of you will need to clarify your exact contribution to the group work. This will involve specifying the aspect of the formative assignment that was under your lead. You will be expected to divide the groupwork amongst yourselves in such a way that each of you has a different task and leads the contribution to the whole groupwork in relation to that task. The expected length of the presentation is 15 minutes. The presentation will be delivered in a video format: you will be given a clear step-by-step guide describing how to produce a video presentation (we will go through this guide during a seminar to make sure it is clear to everyone how the video file should be produced). Where needed, we will be able to secure webcams for producing the presentations as well as the space for recording them. You will be expected to submit the formative assignment by the end of Week 7 in the Lent Term.

To assist you throughout the group work process and increase the effectiveness of your teamwork experience, we will provide you with resources that will make the organizational part of the group work easier. The resources will involve a teamwork checklist and guidelines for managing the groupwork process.

Indicative reading

Angrist, J.D., Pischke J-S. (2015). Mastering ‘Metrics: the Path from Cause to Effect. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Camerer, C.F. (2003). Behavioral Game Theory: Experiments in Strategic Interaction. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Dijksterhuis, A., Chartrand, T. L., & Aarts, H. (2007). Effects of Priming and Perception on Social Behavior and Goal Pursuit. In J. A. Bargh, J. A. Bargh (Eds.), Social psychology and the unconscious: The automaticity of higher mental processes (pp. 51-131). New York, NY, US: Psychology Press.)

Förster, J., & Liberman, N. (2007). Knowledge activation. Social psychology: Handbook of basic principles, 2, 201-231.

Gawronski, B., & De Houwer, J. (2014). Implicit measures in social and personality psychology. Handbook of research methods in social and personality psychology, 2, 283-310.

Hayes, A. F. (2013). Introduction to mediation, moderation, and conditional process analysis: A regression-based approach. Guilford Press.

Darlington, R. B., & Hayes, A. F. (2016). Regression analysis and linear models: Concepts, applications, and implementation. Guilford Publications.

Harrison, G.W., List, J.A. (2004). Field experiments. Journal of Economic Literature, XLII, 1009-1055.

Simonsohn, U., Nelson, L. D., & Simmons, J. P. (2014). P-curve: a key to the file-drawer. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), 534-547.

Spencer, S. J., Zanna, M. P., & Fong, G. T. (2005). Establishing a causal chain: why experiments are often more effective than mediational analyses in examining psychological processes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 89, 845-851.


Other (100%) in the ST.

You will be expected to write a 3,000 word report to be submitted at the end of Summer Term. The reports will need to be submitted individually and will require you to report on your own contribution to the groupwork undertaken as part of the formative assignment. More precisely, you will start by giving a brief overview of how your group tackled the three points crucial to the formative task: a) Introduce a viable research question (on a topic of your choice) that will guide your experimentation; b) Describe how you would design and implement behavioural science research to answer the question; and c) Explain which statistical approaches covered in lectures and seminars you would use to analyse the data. Then, you will proceed by providing an in-depth exposition of your own contribution to the groupwork in relation to the task you oversaw. In the report, we will expect you to use in-text scholarly citations and provide a reference list at the end. You will be expected to submit the summative report by the beginning of the Summer Term.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2017/18: Unavailable

Average class size 2017/18: Unavailable

Controlled access 2017/18: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills