SP434      Half Unit
Behavioural Public Policy

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Adam Oliver


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), 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 (Education), 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 (Political Science and Political Economy), MSc in Public Administration and Government (LSE and Peking University), MSc in Public Policy and Administration, MSc in Regulation 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.


All teaching will be in accordance with the LSE Academic Code (https://info.lse.ac.uk/current-students/lse-academic-code) which specifies a "minimum of two hours taught contact time per week when the course is running in the Autumn Term (AT) and/or Winter Term (WT)". Social Policy courses are predominantly taught through a combination of in-person Lectures and In person classes/seminars. Further information will be provided by the Course Convenor in the first lecture of the course.

The course will be delivered in WT

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.

Key facts

Department: Social Policy

Total students 2022/23: 60

Average class size 2022/23: 14

Controlled access 2022/23: Yes

Lecture capture used 2022/23: Yes (LT)

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.