Foundations of Behavioural Science

This information is for the 2019/20 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Paul Dolan QUE 3.08


This course is compulsory on the BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.

Students on this programme will automatically be enrolled onto PB100. 

PB100 will offer students an understanding of general processes in behavioural science and their relations to practical policy. The course is therefore suitable for students enrolled in other programmes who wish to enrich their understanding by drawing on detailed understanding of the psychological processes that underpin thought and behaviour. 

There are a very limited number of places available for students from outside the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. Places are therefore allocated on an application basis. This means that selections of PB100 on LSE for You remain provisional until you have received email confirmation from the Department of Psychological and Behavioural Science. To apply for a place, you should send a statement to psychologicalandbehavioural.bsc@lse.ac.uk. The statement should outline your expectations of the course, how it could feed into your wider studies and how it could be helpful for your future research or career plans. In light of this statement, requests may be accepted, declined or students may be involved to book an office hour to be sure that PB100 is aligned with their expectations. You are advised to read the course description before submitting your statement.

Course content

The aim of this course is to provide an understanding of, and ability to critically appraise the fundamental ideas which drive the multidisciplinary field of Behavioural Science in relation to policymaking.

The course gradually moves from the foundational principles of Behavioural Science, to the practical applications based on those principles through three interlinked blocks. The first block introduces dual-processing models of human behaviour to highlight the role of the environment in shaping decisions. This part considers the Dual System approach, heuristics and biases, and the influence of time, risk, and social preferences. The next block delves into the science of happiness by introducing the main accounts of subjective wellbeing, how it is conceptualised and measured and its implications for policy and other contexts. Finally, the course introduces the MINDSPACE framework by teaching how various techniques from Behavioural Economics (incentives, commitments, defaults), Social Psychology (ego, messenger and social norms), and Cognitive Psychology (priming, affect) can be used to shape behaviour. We close by addressing the role of behavioural spillover effects and a discussion on the ethics of nudging.

Throughout the course, evidence from observational studies, laboratory experiments and field experiments will be discussed, with a special emphasis on policy-level interventions.

By the end of the course you should:

• have a broad understanding of the fundamental principles of Behavioural Science, and its relations with foundational principles in Psychology and Economic Theory and policy;

• be able to critically appraise the evidence base, tools and impact of Behavioural Science and its relation to policy interventions;

• be able to explain the approaches that have been developed to change behaviour, based on the MINDSPACE framework;

• be able to apply the core theories of Behavioural Science in policy and practice-based contexts.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the MT. 10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of classes in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 2 short essays (1000 words each) in the MT and LT and 1 presentation in the MT and LT.

Indicative reading

Students will be expected to read essential readings plus additional reading from the primary literature per class. These readings will be provided in the course outline.


Essay (75%, 3500 words) in the LT.
Presentation (25%) in the MT and LT.

Students will be required to give one presentation, during class, in either MT or LT.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2018/19: Unavailable

Average class size 2018/19: Unavailable

Capped 2018/19: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills