PB452      Half Unit
Behavioural Science for Health in the Time of a Pandemic

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Matteo Galizzi


This course is available on the MSc in Behavioural Science, MSc in Organisational and Social Psychology, MSc in Psychology of Economic Life, MSc in Social and Cultural Psychology and MSc in Social and Public Communication. This course is available as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.


No pre-requisites required.

Course content

Using responses to the recent Covid-19 pandemic as a starting point, the course aims at introducing students to the main state-of-the-art applications of behavioural science to health policy, practice, economics and management. The course is designed to enhance students’ abilities to apply behavioural science tools in a critical and rigerous way to concrete public health challenges related to Covid-19 and other pandemics, as well as to many other health- and healthcare-related areas, such as: infectious diseases; vaccinations; wellbeing and mental health; patients’ and healthcare professionals’ decisions and behaviours; doctor-patient interaction and shared decision-making; money, time, blood and organ donations; end-of-life decisions; diet and nutrition; physical exercise; alcohol abuse; tobacco and drug use; medication adherence; compliance; prevention and screening.

The course utilises a rotating lectureship of PBS faculty members who will apply research-led teaching to address the different perspectives and challenges in this area.


10 hours of lectures and 10 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to work in small groups to produce a presentation in the LT, in which they will propose a design and implementation of a possible behavioural science intervention in health.

Indicative reading

Brodeur A, Clark AE, Flèche S, and Powdthavee N. (2020). COVID-19, Lockdowns and Well-Being: Evidence from Google Trends. IZA Discussion Paper, 13204.

Charness G, Gneezy U (2009) Incentives to exercise. Econometrica, 77(3), 909-931.

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

Fetzer TR, Witte M, Hensel L, Jachimowicz J, Haushofer J, Ivchenko A, Caria S, Reutskaja E, Roth CP, Fiorin S, Gómez M, Kraft-Todd G, Götz FM, and Yoeli E. (2020). Global Behaviors and Perceptions at the Onset of the COVID-19 Pandemic. NBER Discussion Paper, 27082.

Galizzi MM (2014). What is really behavioural in behavioural health policy? And, does it work? Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 36(1), 25-60.

Galizzi MM, Ghislandi S (2020). Bergamo’s response to the coronavirus pandemic. Cambridge. Core blog: https://www.cambridge.org/core/blog/2020/04/18/bergamos-response-to-the-coronavirus-pandemic/

Galizzi MM, Guenther B, Quinlan M, Sanders J (2020). Risk in the time of Covid-19: what do we know and not know? Economics Observatory: https://www.coronavirusandtheeconomy.com/question/risk-time-covid-19-what-do-we-know-and-not-know

Galizzi MM, Wiesen D (2018). Behavioural Experiments in Health Economics. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Economics and Finance. Oxford University Press: https://oxfordre.com/economics/economics/view/10.1093/acrefore/9780190625979.001.0001/acrefore-9780190625979-e-244

Fujiwara D, Dolan P, Lawton R, Behzadnejad F, Lagarde A, Maxwell C, Peytrignet S (2020). The Wellbeing Costs of Covid-19 in the UK. Simetrica-Jacobs Research Report: https://www.jacobs.com/sites/default/files/2020-05/jacobs-wellbeing-costs-of-covid-19-uk.pdf

Hanoch Y, Barnes AJ, Rice T (2017). Behavioral Economics and Healthy Behaviors. Routledge.

Krekel C, Swanke S, De Neve J-E, and Fancourt D. (2020). Are happier people more compliant? Global multi-cohort evidence from three large-scale surveys of adults during Covid-19 lockdowns. Mimeo.

Layard R, Clark AE, De Neve J-E, Krekel C, Fancourt D, Hey N, O’Donnell G. (2020). When to release the lockdown: A wellbeing framework for analysing costs and benefits. CEP Occasional Paper, 49.

Lunn PD, Belton CA, Lavin C, McGowan FP, Timmons S, & Robertson DA (2020). Using Behavioral Science to help fight the Coronavirus. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, 3(1).

Roberto CA, Kawachi I (2016). Behavioral Economics and Public Health. Oxford University Press.

Schwartz JA, Chapman GB (1999). Are more options always better? The attraction effect in physicians' decisions about medications. Medical Decision Making, 19, 315-323.

Tsuchiya A, Dolan P, Shaw R (2003). Measuring people’s preferences regarding ageism in health: some methodological issues and some fresh evidence. Social Science & Medicine, 57, 687-696.

Van Bavel JJ, Baicker K, Boggio PS, Capraro V, Cichocka A, Cikara M, Crockett MJ, Crum AJ, Douglas KM, Druckman JN, Drury J, Dube O, Ellemers N, Finkel EJ, Fowler JH, Gelfand M, Han S, Halsam SA, Jetten J, … & Willer R (2020). Using social and behavioural science to support COVID-19 pandemic response. Nature Human Behaviour, 1-12.

Volpp K, Loewenstein G et al. (2008). Financial incentive-based approaches to weight loss. Journal of the American Medical Association, 300, 2631-2637.


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

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: 11

Average class size 2019/20: 10

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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