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Decision-Making Processes


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Students should have taken Institutions of Governance and Development, or have second-year status and be highly motivated. Naturally, requesting previous permission of the instructor can nullify these requirements in special cases.


The core of social organization is the process of ‘decision-making’ by individuals and communities. In a very real sense, decision-making processes are the glue of civilization itself. Understanding decision-making processes is arguably the core concern for those interested in solving global, national, community, social, and individual problems. Without decision-making processes capable of integrating our knowledge from the humanities, science, and social sciences, that knowledge cannot be used to make a better world.

This course aims to build a broad framework to aid students' understanding and appreciation for how cognitive scientists, management scientists, political scientists and public policy researchers evaluate and analyze decision-making.

This course covers a great deal of ground by building a structure beginning with an overview of models of individual decision-making, moving to models of collective decision-making involving generalized communities of individuals, before moving to larger and more complex decision-making environments such as that of public policy making itself.

The course focuses on general and often mathematical models – or abstractions about how things work – of (in)decision-making and encourages looking for ways to apply these models to understand multiple environments and situations beyond those that they designed to. In essence, the course aims to build connections across disciplines by promoting a decision-making process perspective that focuses on understanding how individual traits, institutions and rules, lead to collective outcomes.

In contemporary societies, policy-making involves public, private, and international interactions operating in an increasingly complex environment – so having a generalizable understanding of the processes, promise, and limits of collective organization is of critical importance for beginning to solve the global challenges that seem hitherto plaguing individuals and societies now and in the future.

Course Objectives

Upon successful completion of this course, students will:

  • Understand institutional models of decision-making processes in a diversity of cases – aiding understanding and prediction. Emphasis will be put on generalizing the approaches to decision-making for application outside of the context for which they were traditionally developed – including applications to international organizations, nations, corporations, social clubs, and even groups of friends trying to choose a place to eat.

  • Apply abstract analytical modelling and reasoning techniques to a concrete cases or issues in decision-making explicitly relevant to a global challenge.

  • Demonstrate an appreciation and understanding of the nature of the complexity and challenges involved in governing collectives of individuals – and reassess their own critiques of decision-makers failings.

  • Develop their own institutional model of how collective decision-making works and why it matters so that they may revise it throughout further courses and life and with experience from the broader world.

  • Improve written and verbal analytical discussion skills.

  • Present an analytical theoretical argument that gives rise to testable assumptions about a case of relevance to governance and human prosperity.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2022-2023 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

Specific instructors will conduct the course in different ways – balancing lectured/recorded material and seminar based discussion. Please inquire with the instructor in whose course you plan on enrolling. Generally, participation in class discussion will play a large role in the course.

Students are highly recommended to form discussion groups outside of class to review and discuss the readings.

Assessment Method

  • Participation, 15%

  • Problem sets, 30% (10% each)

  • Webpost for discussion, 15%

  • Synthetic Review Essay, 15%

  • Final Theory Paper, 25%

Reading list

Students should acquire:

  • Shepsle, Kenneth A. 2010. Analyzing Politics. 2nd edition. New York: Norton

  • Munger, Michael C. and Kevin M. Munger. 2015. Choosing in Groups. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Brandon Zicha,


There will be readings distributed by the first week of class. Students will also receive a reading list suggesting sources that will help you familiarize yourself with certain basic economic principles that will help with but not be required to understand elements early in the course.

Students will receive reading for the first meeting via Brightspace after enrolling. Please e-mail the instructor If you have not heard from the instructor as the first session approaches so that he may personally send them to you.