Behavioural Science for Health in the Time of a Pandemic - Dissertation

This information is for the 2021/22 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Matteo Galizzi


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

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 rigorous 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; patients’ and healthcare professionals’ decisions and behaviours; doctor-patient interaction and shared decision-making; money, time, blood and organ donations; end-of-life decisions; mental health and wellbeing; diet and nutrition; physical exercise; alcohol abuse; tobacco and drug use; medication adherence; compliance; prevention and screening.

The course hosts specialist lectures by 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.

Indicative reading

  • 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-
  • Hanoch Y, Barnes AJ, Rice T (2017). Behavioral Economics and Healthy Behaviors. Routledge.
  • Lades LK, & Delaney L. (2019). Nudge FORGOOD. Behavioural Public Policy, 1-20.
  • Lades L, Laffan K, Daly M., and Delaney L. (2020). Daily emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic. British Journal of Health Psychology.
  • 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).
  • Milkman, K.L., Beshears, J., Choi, J.J., Laibson, D., Madrian, B.C. (2011). Using implementation intentions prompts to enhance influenza vaccination rates. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 10415-10420.
  • Milkman, K.L., et al. (2021). A megastudy of text-based nudges encouraging patients to get vaccinated at an upcoming doctor’s appointment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 118(20) e2101165118.
  • 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.
  • 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.


Dissertation (100%, 10000 words) post-summer term.

You are required to write a 10,000 word dissertation (replacing the essay). You are expected to attend the course teaching on the half-unit that you chose to write your dissertation on.

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: 7

Average class size 2020/21: 4

Controlled access 2020/21: Yes

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

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