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Decision-Making Processes



[BSc] M:PSc, ID

Admission Requirements

None, but Policy Science majors will be prioritized (since this is a required methodology course for the PSc Major).


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. This course aims to build a broad framework to aid students understanding and appreciation for how 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 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

    1. Be able to generate a model 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.
    1. Appreciate the complexity and challenges involved in governing collectives of individuals – and reassess their own critique’s of decision-makers failings.
    1. Develop an abstract analytical model that students may revise through their life observing decision-making situations in their own life and the broader world.

Mode of Instruction

This course will be primarily seminar-based, with occasional short lectures (30 -45 minutes maximum), with student preparation for classroom discussion forming a core component of the class. However, certain concepts may be demonstrated via classroom experiment.




Shepsle, Kenneth. 2010. Analyzing Politics: Rationality Behavior, and Institutions. 2nd Edition. New York: W.W. Norton.

Other reading excerpts will be provided via a course reader.

Contact Information

Dr. Brandon C. Zicha at
Students should feel free to contact instructor with questions about the course.

Weekly Overview

  • Week 1: Introduction to the study of decision-making & Microfoundations

  • Week 2: Understanding individual decision-making: Rational and not-so-rational choices.

  • Week 3: Centralization vs. Decentralization

  • Week 4: Grappling with Collective Decisions

  • Week 5: Solutions to Collective Decision-Making Challenges: Institutions & Delegation

  • Week 6: Delegation Problems

  • Week 7: Policy and Decision-making in time

Preparation for first session

Students will receive reading for the first meeting via blackboard 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.