PB454E      Half Unit
Policy Appraisal and Ethics

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Ganga Shreedhar and Prof Liam Delaney


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

This course is one of two options.

Course content

Aims and course content

This course aims to introduce students to the main concepts and tools of policy appraisal and yield insight into key moral and political values that are essential for policy-makers when they draw on behavioural science. The course covers the following topics:

1) The architecture of Cost-benefit analysis for market and non-market goods;

2) Elicitation of monetary values through revealed and stated preference methods, and adjustments for time discounting, risk and uncertainty;

3) Welfare analysis of policy interventions: efficiency, equity and asymmetric paternalism;

4) Evaluating welfare beyond monetary choices: the subjective well-being approach to valuation;

5) Moral problems associated with libertarian paternalism or Nudge, and how this approach compares to other policy mechanisms, such as regulation, taxation and subsidies, and social advertisement.

The course offers practical examples and applications to key policy sectors, such as technology, health, infrastructure and the environment.

Learning outcomes

• Students will be able to articulate the key principles and analytical tools for the appraisal of projects, policies, programmes and regulations applied to key domains (e.g. health and environment), along with their underlying ethical frameworks.

• Students will be able to critically assess the core appraisal methods, the underlying theories and their assumptions, and discuss the evidence that supports or casts doubt on those methods and theories, and their relative strengths and weaknesses.

• Students will be able to perform statistical analysis to evaluate policy outcomes and critically appraise the quality of the evidence generated through these techniques.

• Students will be able to critically appraise the underlying ethical framework and moral problems associated with libertarian paternalism, its links to other policy mechanisms (like regulation, taxation, and social advertisement).



15 hours of lectures and 7 hours of seminars in the LT.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the ST.

The formative assessment will be an outline proposal to undertake a policy appraisal in an area of your choice.

Indicative reading

Sunstein, Cass R. (2018). The cost-benefit revolution. MIT Press. USA.

HM Treasury (2018) The Green Book: Appraisal and policy evaluation in central government. London, UK.

Bishop, R.C. et al. (2017). "Pulling a value on injuries to natural assets: The BP oil spill. Science, 356 (6335): 253-254.

Diamond P.A. and Hausman J.A. (1994) “Contingent valuation: Is some number better than no number?” Journal of Economic Perspectives, 8: 45-64.

Dolan P. & Kahneman D. (2008) "Interpretations of utility and their implications for the valuation of health". Economic Journal, 118, 215-234.

Dolan, P. & Metcalfe, R. (2012) "Measuring subjective wellbeing: recommendations on measures for use by national governments". Journal of social policy, 41 (2), pp. 409-427.

Gruber, J.H., and Mullainathan S. (2005), “Do Cigarette Taxes Make Smokers Happier?”, B.E. Journal of Economic Analysis and Policy: Advances 5 (1): 1-43.

Hausman, D., & McPherson, M. (2006). Economic Analysis, Moral Philosophy and Public Policy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

List, J.A., Berrens, R.P,  Bohara, A.K and Kerkvliet, J. (2004) "Examining the Role of Social Isolation on Stated Preferences." American Economic Review, 94 (3): 741-752.

Lades, L.K. and Delaney, L. (2020). Nudge FORGOOD . Behavioural Public Policy. 1-20.

Sunstein, C. R. (2015). The ethics of nudging. Yale Journal on Regulation, 32(2), 413-450.


Coursework (100%, 4000 words) in the ST.

The summative assessment will be a detailed proposal (which can be based on the formative). 

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: Unavailable

Average class size 2019/20: Unavailable

Controlled access 2019/20: No

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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