Foundations in Behavioural Science

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Liam Delaney and Dr Christian 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 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the MT.

Additionally, students will engage with a weekly lecture series entitled 'Behavioural Science, Applied Psychology and the Wider World', that examines the application of behavioural science methodologies in a variety of vocational contexts and industries. 

Formative coursework

Students will complete one formative essay to support the development of summative assessments.

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 essay (20%, 1500 words) in the LT.

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2021/22 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 differing needs of students in attendance on campus and those who might be studying online. For example, this may involve changes to the mode of teaching 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 2020/21: 53

Average class size 2020/21: 13

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information