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Behavioural Economic Insights


Important Note

  • All Semester II bachelor and master psychology courses and examinations (2020-2021) will be offered in an on-line format.

  • If it is safe and possible to do so, supplementary course meetings may be planned on-campus. However, attendance at these meetings will not be required to successfully complete Semester II courses.

  • All obligatory work groups and examinations will be offered on-line during Central European Time, which is local time in the Netherlands.

  • Information on the mode of instruction and the assessment method per course will be offered in Brightspace, considering the possibilities that are available at that moment. The information in Brightspace is leading during the Corona crisis, even if this does not match the information in the Prospectus.

Entry requirements

Only open to MSc Psychology (research) students


Behavioural economics extends economic principles by allowing that our decisions are affected by social and psychological influences, as well as a rational calculation of benefits and costs—the assumption being that we are not super-rational beings, but that there are limits to our rational decision making (Baddeley, 2017). Bounded rationality—a term coined by Herbert Simon who was a psychologist and computer scientist as well as Nobel Laureate in Economics—captures the idea that we are limited and bounded by various constraints when we are deciding. Cognitive constraints may limit our ability to choose the best strategies. Limits on, for example, executive functions mean that sometimes we are forced or nudged towards a particular option because we do not have the information or cognitive processing time or power to consider other options. These insights gained more acceptance due to the influential work and best-selling books of two other Nobel Laureates in Economics, Daniel Kahneman (Thinking, fast and slow) and Richard Thaler (Nudge, co-authored with Cass Sunstein).
Behavioural economics brings economics together with insights from a wide range of other disciplines, for example psychology (especially social psychology), sociology, neuroscience, and evolutionary biology. Using a multidisciplinary blend of ideas, behavioural economic insights will enrich students’ understanding of economic and financial decision making. In the course, we will focus on a few key themes, amongst others: heuristics and biases; social influence; nudging and boosting; and scarcity. Moreover, as governments and other policy-makers are embedding these insights more and more into their policy designs, we will focus also on the policy implications and lessons that are (or should be) adopted by public policy-makers by addressing influential policy studies and behavioural interventions based on behavioural economic insights.

Course objectives

During the course, students:
1. Gain specialized knowledge of theories, concepts, methods, and research findings central to the study of social decision making from a behavioural economics perspective.
2. Acquire knowledge and skills to develop and write a scientific proposal for an intervention study based on behavioural economic insights and relevant for public policy.
3. Enhance their scientific thinking and research skills to conduct scientific research both inside and outside the university.


For the timetables of your lectures, work groups and exams, please select your study programme in: Psychology timetables




Students need to enroll for lectures and work group sessions. Master’s course registration


Students are not automatically enrolled for an examination. They can register via uSis from 100 to 10 calendar days before the date. Students who are not registered will not be permitted to take the examination. Registering for exams

Mode of instruction

7 2-hour work group sessions (attendance of all sessions is mandatory).

Assessment method

The final grade is based on:

  • Organization of a discussion meeting (30%; course objectives: 1, 3),

  • 5 short discussion essays (30%; course objectives 1, 3)

  • An intervention proposal (40%; course objective 1, 2, 3).

The Institute of Psychology follows the policy of the Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences to systematically check student papers for plagiarism with the help of software. Disciplinary measures will be taken when fraud is detected. Students are expected to be familiar with and understand the implications of this fraud policy.

Reading list

Selection of scientific articles; examples:
Kahneman, D., & Frederick, S. (2002). Representativeness revisted: Attribute substitution in intuitive judgment. In T. Gilovich, D. Griffin, & D. Kahneman (Eds.), Heuristics and biases (pp. 49–81). New York: Cambridge University Press.
Thaler, R. H. (1999). Mental accounting matters. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making, 12, 241–268.
Shah, A. K., Mullainathan, S., & Sharif, E. (2012). Some consequences of having too little. Science, 338, 682–685. (including supplementary material).
Mani, A., Mullainathan, S., Sharif, E., Zhao, J. (2013). Poverty impedes cognitive function. Science, 341, 976–980. (including supplementary material).
Loewenstein, G., & Chater, N. (2017). Putting nudges in perspective. Behavioural Public Policy, 1, 26–53.

Contact information

Prof. Dr. Wilco van Dijk