PB452      Half Unit
Behavioural Science for Health and Pandemic Responses

This information is for the 2022/23 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 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.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to work in small groups to produce a presentation in the LT, in which they will discuss a health-related area where principles, measures, and insights of behavioural science have been applied - or where they could be potentially applied in the future.

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, Lau KW, Miraldo M & Hauck K (2022). Bandwagoning, free-riding and heterogeneity in influenza vaccine decisions: an online experiment. Health Economics, 31(4), 614-646.

• 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

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

• Jarke H, Ruggeri K, Graeber J, Tunte MR, Ojinaga-Alfageme O, Verra S, Petrova D, Benzerga A, Zupan Z, & Galizzi MM (2022). Health behavior and decision-making in healthcare. In Psychology and Behavioral Economics: Applications for Public Policy (Kai Ruggeri, Ed.), Routledge, Oxon, UK.

• 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.

• Steinert JI, Sternberg H, Prince H, Fasolo B, Galizzi MM, Buthe T & Veltri GA (2022). COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in eight European countries: prevalence, determinants and heterogeneity. Science Advances.

• 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.

Key facts

Department: Psychological and Behavioural Science

Total students 2021/22: 19

Average class size 2021/22: 9

Controlled access 2021/22: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

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.

Personal development skills

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