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Decision-Making Processes




Admissions requirements

Institutions of Governance and Development or written permission of convener and instructor. Those without prerequisites should e-mail the instructor with information stating their motivation for taking the course and any previous courses taken that might serve to provide a foundation for this course before course registration ends.


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


Once available, timetables will be published here.

Mode of instruction

This course will involve heavy course participation on the part of the student in order to master the material and critically evaluate it.

This participation will take the form of dialogue, questions, on-the-spot oral examination by the instructor, enthusiastic participation in session activities and course discussion. The Instructor will primarily perform the role of ‘key particpant’ and ‘discussion leader’ interspersed with ‘mini-lectures’ of no more than 20 minutes each, and no more than two per mini-lectures per session.

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


  • 15% Participation assessed continually through participation in seminar and structured activities

  • 15% One well-written reaction paper related to a session’s reading(s) of 1000 words (sessions selected by end of week 1).

  • 15% 2 Written commentary/peer assessments on another student’s reaction paper throughout the block (7.5% each; dates of peer assessment determined at beginning of week 2)

  • 15% 1 group problem-set at midterm (group randomly selected by instructor)

  • 15% final take-home analytical reflection essay

  • 25% A final theoretical argument of ~2000 words applying concepts to analyzing a concrete case due at the end of week 8


There will be a Blackboard site available for this course. Students will be enrolled at least one week before the start of classes.

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


This course is open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Registration is coordinated by the Curriculum Coordinator. Interested non-LUC students should contact


Dr. Brandon Zicha,


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.