SP434      Half Unit
Behavioural Public Policy

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Adam Oliver OLD.2.33


This course is available on the MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Columbia), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Hertie), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and NUS), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Sciences Po), MPA Dual Degree (LSE and Tokyo), MPA in International Development, MPA in Public Policy and Management, MPA in Public and Economic Policy, MPA in Public and Social Policy, MPA in Social Impact, MSc in Environmental Economics and Climate Change, MSc in International Social and Public Policy, MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Development), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (LSE and Fudan), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Migration), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Non-Governmental Organisations), MSc in International Social and Public Policy (Research), MSc in Political Science and Political Economy, MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Public Policy and Administration, MSc in Regulation, MSc in Social Research Methods and Master of Public Administration. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit.

All Social Policy Courses are ‘Controlled Access’. Please see the link below for further details on the allocation process.


Course content

The application of behavioural economics and behavioural science to public policy issues has been, and continues to be, a major theme in the policy discource internationally. This course offers students a thorough grounding in the theory and findings that define behavioural economics, from the major violations of standard rational choice theory to prospect theory and the theories of human motivation. The course goes on to consider the conceptual policy frameworks that have been informed by behavioural economics, with examples - so-called nudge, shove and budge policies - illustrated so as to highlight how these frameworks are appliedin practice. Students will also be exposed to the different behavioural-informed schools of thought that have prescribed divergent paths for public sector governance.


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

Formative coursework

All students will be required to present work in progress on their summative assignments during seminar class time. In addition, students will be required to present to the course convener a one page plan for their summative assessment, on which they will receive feedback.

Indicative reading

  • J. Le Grand (2006) Motivation, Agency and Public Policy: of Knights and Knaves, Pawns and Queens. Revised paperback edition. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • J. Le Grand (2007) The Other Invisible Hand; Delivering Public Services through Choice and Competition. Oxford: Princeton University Press
  • R. Thaler and C. Sunstein (2008) Nudge: Improving Decision about Health, Wealth and Happiness New Haven: Yale University Press
  • Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational : the hidden forces that shape our decisions. London, HarperCollins.
  • Kahneman, D. (2011)  Thinking, Fast and Slow   London,  Allen Lane
  • P. Dolan et al (2010) Mindspace: Influencing Behaviour through Public Policy. London: Cabinet Office and the Institute for Government.


Project (100%).

The summative assessment is a project write-up of 3,000 words, where students design their own behavioural public policies.

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: Social Policy

Total students 2019/20: 86

Average class size 2019/20: 14

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information