Foundations of Behavioural Science

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Jet Sanders CON.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 BSc in Pscyhological and Behavioural Science 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 200 word statement to pbs.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 invited to book an office hour to be sure that PB100 is aligned with their expectations. Applications are considered on a rolling basis, so you are advised to apply early.

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.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and classes totalling a minimum of 40 hours across Michaelmas Term and Lent Term. There is a reading week in Week 6 of Michaelmas Term and Week 6 of Lent Term. In response to the current situation, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of live online classes and pre-recorded short online videos. You will receive the same amount of teaching whether you are on campus or online.

Formative coursework

During the course students will complete three sets of formative assessment

  • Short essay (1000 words) in Michaelmas Term
  • Short essay (1000 words) in Lent Term
  • 1 presentation in Michaelmas Term

Indicative reading

  • Dolan, P. (2015). Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. London: Penguin.
  • Dolan, P. (2019) Happy Every After: Escaping the myth of a perfect life London: Penguin.
  • Halpern, D. (2015). Inside the Nudge Unit: How small changes can make a big difference. London: W H Allen.
  • Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan.
  • Sunstein, C. R., & Thaler, R. (2009). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. London: Penguin.

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) and presentation (25%) in the LT.

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: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2019/20: 40

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Capped 2019/20: Yes (42)

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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