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Behavioural Economic Insights


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 hereby is that we are not super-rational beings, but that there are limits and constraints to our rational decision making. This idea of bounded rationality—a term coined by Nobel Laureate Herbert Simon—gained more acceptance with practitioners and policy makers with 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).

In the course, we read and discuss classic and recent scientific articles on behavioural economic insights and interventions based on these insights. A few key themes addressed in these readings are heuristics and biases, social influence, nudging and boosting, and scarcity. Moreover, during the course the obtained insights are applied in at least two ways. First, by making a knowledge clip on a relevant behavioral insights topic and that is aimed at a wide audience. Second, by designing a behavioural intervention that addresses a societal relevant issue, and presenting the intervention to relevant stakeholders.

Course objectives

At the end of the course, the student can:
1. Demonstrate specialised knowledge and understanding of theories, concepts, methods, and research findings central to the study of social decision making from a behavioural economics perspective.
2. Organise a seminar on a specific research topic, and moderate a structured group discussion on the relevant scientific literature.
3. Make a knowledge clip aimed at a general audience on a relevant behavioural inisghts topic.
4. Analyse a societal issue to design an appropriate behavioural intervention, including a methodological approach for evaluating the effectiveness of the intervention.
5. Write a concise and well-structured intervention proposal that is aimed at practitioners and policy makers.


For the timetable of this course please refer to MyTimetable



Students must register themselves for all course components (lectures, tutorials and practicals) they wish to follow. You can register up to 5 days prior to the start of the course.


You must register for each exam in My Studymap at least 10 days before the exam date. You cannot take an exam without a valid registration in My Studymap. Carefully read all information about the procedures and deadlines for registering for courses and exams.

Exchange students and external guest students will be informed by the education administration about the current registration procedure.

Mode of instruction

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

Assessment method

The final grade is based on:
Organising a discussion seminar (pass/fail; course objectives 1,2)
Developing and presenting a knowledge clip (30%; course objectives 1, 3).
Writing an intervention proposal (70%; course objective 1, 4, 5).

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. All students are required to take and pass the Scientific Integrity Test with a score of 100% in order to learn about the practice of integrity in scientific writing. Students are given access to the quiz via a module on Brightspace. 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:

  • Hallsworth, M., & Kirkman, E. (2020). Behavioral insights (pp. 1-70). Cambridge, MA: The MIT 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.

  • Dolan, P., Hallsworth, M., Halpern, D., King, D., Metcalfe, R. D., Vlaev, I (2012). Influencing behaviour: The mindspace way. Journal of Economic Psychology, 33, 264–277.

Contact information

Prof. dr. Wilco van Dijk

Dr. Marret Noordewier