PB454E      Half Unit
Policy Appraisal and Ethics

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Paul Dolan


This course is available on the Executive MSc in Behavioural Science. This course is not available as an outside option.

This course is one of two options.

Course content

This course aims to introduce students to the main concepts and tools of policy appraisal and yield insight into key moral and political values that are essential for policy-makers when they draw on behavioural science. The course covers the following topics: 1) Architecture of Cost-benefit analysis for market and non-market goods; 2) Elicitation of monetary values through revealed and stated preference methods, and adjustments for time discounting, risk and uncertainty; 3) Welfare analysis of policy interventions: efficiency, equity and asymmetric paternalism; 4) Evaluating welfare beyond monetary choices: the subjective well-being approach to valuation; 5) Moral problems associated with libertarian paternalism or Nudge, and how this approach compares to other policy mechanisms, such as regulation, taxation and subsidies, and social advertisement. The course offers practical examples and applications to key policy sectors, such as health and the environment. 


14 hours of lectures and 8 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the LT.

Indicative reading

HM Treasury (2011) The Green Book: Appraisal and policy evaluation in central government. London, UK.

Bishop, R.C. et al. (2017). "Pulling a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill. Science, 356 (6335): 253-254. 

Diamond P.A. and Hausman J.A. (1994) “Contingent valuation: Is some number better than no number?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8: 45-64.

Dolan P. & Kahneman D. (2008) "Interpretations of utility and their implications for the valuation of health". Economic Journal, 118, 215-234.

Dolan, P. & Metcalfe, R. (2012) "Measuring subjective wellbeing: recommendations on measures for use by national governments". Journal of social policy, 41 (2), pp. 409-427.

Gruber, J.H., and Mullainathan S. (2005), “Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier?”, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Advances 5 (1): 1-43.

Hausman, D., & McPherson, M. (2006). Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

List, J.A., Berrens, R.P,  Bohara, A.K and Kerkvliet, J. (2004) "Examining the Role of Social Isolation on Stated Preferences." American Economic Review, 94 (3): 741-752.

Sunstein, C.R. (2015) "Nudges, Agency, and Abstraction: A Reply to Critics". Review of Philosphy and Psychology, 6 (3): 511-529.

Sunstein, C. R. (2015). The ethics of nudging. Yale Journal on Regulation, 32(2), 413-450.



Coursework (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Controlled access 2018/19: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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