Foundations in Behavioural Science

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Liam Delaney and Dr Chris Krekel


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

Course content

This course aims to introduce students to the main concepts and tools of behavioural science, drawing on the most recent evidence from economics, psychology, and neuroscience to explain what motivates action and human behaviour. To achieve this aim, the course will focus on a variety of topics integral to the discipline, such as: 1) what is behavioural science?; 2) choices under risk and uncertainty; 3) intertemporal decisions and social and moral preferences; 4) biases, heuristics, and rules of thumb; 5) the role of emotions in decision-making; 6) norms in decision-making; 7) dual-process models of behaviour; 8) the power of nudges; 9) compensating behaviours; and 10) ethical considerations.


  • 10 x 1 hour lectures covering the core topics in behavioural science in MT
  • 10 x 1.5 hour seminars which allow for an in-depth discussion and analysis of lecture content in MT
  • 5 x 2 hour faculty discussions on cutting-edge issues in behavioural science in MT

Formative coursework

Students' will complete one opinion piece (op-ed) of 1,500 words on a topic covered in PB405, to be submitted in MT.

Indicative reading


Ariely, D. (2010). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions. New York: HarperCollins.

Dolan, P. (2014). Happiness by Design: Finding Pleasure and Purpose in Everyday Life. London: Penguin.

Kahneman, D. (2012). Thinking, Fast and Slow. London: Penguin.

Thaler, R.H., and Sunstein, C.R. (2009). Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness. London: Penguin.

Journal Articles

Bhargava, S., and Loewenstein, G. (2015). Behavioral Economics and Public Policy 102: Beyond Nudging. American Economic Review, 105, 396-401.

Daly, M., Harmon, C. P., and Delaney, L. (2010). Psychological and Biological Foundations of Time Preference. Journal of the European Economic Association, 7(2-3), 659-669.

DellaVigna, S. (2009). Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field. Journal of Economic Literature, 47(2), 315-72.

Delaney, L., and Doyle, O. (2012). Socioeconomic differences in early childhood time preferences. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(1), 237-247.

Dolan P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., Metcalfe, R., and Vlaev, I. (2012). Influencing behaviour: the mindspace way. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33(1), 264-277.

Dolan, P., and Galizzi, M.M. (2015). Like ripples on a pond: Behavioral spillovers and their implications for research and policy. Journal of Economic Psychology, 47, 1-16.

Loewenstein, G., Weber, E.U., Hsee, C.K., and Welch, N. (2001). Risk as feelings. Psychological Bulletin, 127, 267-286.

Thaler, R.H., and Sunstein, C.R. (2003). Libertarian Paternalism. American Economic Review, 93(2), 175-179.

Tversky A., and Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131.

Weber, E.U., and Johnson, E.J. (2009). Mindful Judgment and Decision Making. Annual Review of Psychology, 60, 53-85.


Essay (80%, 4000 words) and other (20%) in the LT.

Students' will two PB405 summative assignments: one essay of 4,000 words and one opinion piece (op-ed) of 1,500 words. Both to be submitted in 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: 42

Average class size 2019/20: 20

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information