MG311      Half Unit
Foundations of Behavioural Decision Science

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Claire Heard


This course is available on the BSc in Management, BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science, International Exchange (1 Term) and International Exchange (Full Year). This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


It is an advantage to have taken an introductory social science course in one of these fields: economics, management, psychology or sociology.

It is important to be comfortable with multi-disciplinary research and group work. 

Course content

This course introduces students to the foundations of Behavioural Decision Science: the science that explains and predicts how humans make decisions (the decision ‘process’) and how well (the decision ‘outcome’).  The course will explore the different stages of the decision making process identifying factors important in understanding our decision making.  Students will be introduced to the concepts of framing, explore the way in which we make judgements, understand the rich and diverse influences of risk, uncertainty and affect (emotions), and investigate strategies for decision making.  Throughout the course, students will be introduced to many cognitive biases and aspects of context which influence how/what judgements and decisions we make.   In the final portion of the course, student will get the opportunity to see examples of how information/choice designers are seeking to help or influence decision makers or teach skills to help the public or professionals to make better decisions themselves.  Many of these concepts and techniques can, and have been applied across personal, professional and policy situations – and the course will provide opportunities to learn about and discuss such applications.   Importantly, across both parts of the course, discussion of core concepts and examples will be woven together with new advances and applications in the field, particularly those within the course leader’s field of expertise.

The course is entirely seminar-based, and will combine within the sessions - traditional lecture-style teaching of concepts with hands-on demonstrations of the concepts in action, and in depth class discussions of the week’s material. Examples used within the sessions will be drawn from across a range of different domains which could include managerial, policy, health, emergency response, law, consumer, and even personal domains.

By the end of this course, students will have an understanding of the key concepts in Behavioural Decision Science, be able to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of human decision making, and be able to recognise and adapt different techniques to improve decision making. The summative will provide an opportunity to show the skills and knowledge you have learnt throughout the course and consists of two parts which are described below.


25 hours of classes in the LT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

1.  Analysing a real decision maker– Group Presentation (Week 10):  Over several weeks (both in and outside class), you will work as a group to analyse a real decision maker that you will select.  For this coursework, the term decision maker can denote an individual decision maker but also applies to a group if it acts as a single unit (e.g. a business, a country’s government).  In Week 10, you will be required to present a summary of this analysis in a timed group presentation.  In this presentation, you will need to report on: 1) who is the decision maker and what was/is the key decision(s) being investigated? 2) What decision making factors/biases are at play and what evidence do you have to support this; and 3) discuss your suggested solution(s) for improving decision making.  After the presentation you will receive feedback as a group. This feedback will help you prepare for the summative assessment.

2. Review of anonymous essays (Week 11): Students will play the role of the “examiner” and using anonymous examples of summative assessments (submitted by students from a previous year) implement the different evaluation criteria which are used in this course. This exercise will help you improve your summative assessment.


Indicative reading

Bazerman, M. (2017) Judgment in Managerial Decision Making. New York: Wiley. 8th edition;

Hastie, R., and Dawes, R.M.  (2001). Rational Choice in an Uncertain World. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks;

Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking Fast and Slow. London: Allen Lane;

Russo, J. E. & Schoemaker, P. J. H. (2002) Winning decisions: How to make the right decision the first time, Piatkus Publ. Limited.


Coursework (100%, 3000 words) in the ST.

Summative (due beginning of ST): The summative assessment will be a ‘Report and Essay’.  It comprises two parts.

Part 1:  An “Analysing a Decision Maker” Report: In the first part (no more than 1000 words), you will be asked to write a report detailing the analysis of a decision maker that you completed during the term. You will need to report on: 1) who is the decision maker and what was/is the key decision(s) being investigated? 2) What decision making factors/biases are at play and what evidence do you have to support this; and 3) discuss your suggested solution(s) for improving decision making.

Part 2:  In-depth Scholarly Essay: In the second part of the report (no more than 2000 words), you will choose a topic from within MG311, which you as a developing scholar has found interesting or important and write your in-depth essay on it.  This essay should be done in a scholarly and rigorous manner making reference to behavioural literature, theories and concepts.

The first part of the report will count for 50% of your mark while 50% will come from the second part.  You will be required to provide full essay-style referencing.

Although the first part of the summative assignment will involve you reporting on the “analysing a decision maker” task conducted with your group, all students will write both parts of the summative essays on their own and will receive an individual mark.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Management

Total students 2019/20: 58

Average class size 2019/20: 20

Capped 2019/20: Yes (90)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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