NIFK13005U  Biases, Motivations and Persuasion in Decision Making

Volume 2013/2014

Over the last 30 years, psychologists and economists have gained a deeper understanding of what motivates people, how they process information, and what non-economic features of the choice environment influence decisions. This research program has provided insights into how people’s decisions deviate from “optimal” choices as well as the consequences of such deviations.

This course will help you to better understand how humans make judgments and decisions and why they make mistakes. We will review research on human decision making from psychology, political science, organizational behavior and economics. Then, we will study some individual and group decision errors that are particularly important for real world problems and look for easy‐to‐implement solutions (i.e., “nudges”).

The insights acquired in the present course are complements (and not substitute) to the insights learned in the course “Behavioral and Experimental Economics” taught by Toke Fosgaard in bloc 1. Taking both courses is not a requirement.

Learning Outcome

At the end of this course, students are supposed to become “choice architects” able to identify human biases and design environments that both yield better decision making and achieve behavior that is consistent with overall system goals.

- master the key results in various behavioral sciences that describe and model how people really make choices. 
- apply these insights to real situation and propose policy interventions (design institutions, change rules, adopt new framing, etc.).

- identify behavioral regularities and propose "nudges".
- compare effectiveness and efficiency of economic interventions.

- use choice architecture to help nudge people to make better choices.
- evaluate policy and estimate treatment effects.

The exact literature is stated at the course beginning in Absalom.

Some possible references are the following:
- Bazerman, Max H. and Moore, Don. (2009) Judgment in managerial decision making. 7th Edition (J. Wiley and Sons).
- Cialdini, R. (2008). Influence: Science and Practice. 5th ed. Prentice Hall.
- Sunstein, Cass; Thaler, Richard (2008). Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. Yale University Press.

In the classroom, I concentrate on teaching students to think independently and express their own opinions. Through this method, I believe students acquire important life-long skills, such as critical thinking and creative problem-solving, which can be applied to their daily life. I incorporate in my lectures demonstration experiments, videos, daily news, discussions and results from new research.
7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination, 2 hours under invigilation
The grading in this course consists of two parts.
Part 1: A 30 minutes presentation and discussion of the groups' course project.
Part 2: a 2 hours written essay exam in one of the topics covered in the course.

Part 1 counts for 40% of the final grade.
Part 2 counts the remaining 60% of the final grade.
Without aids
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
No external censorship
one internal examiner
If 10 or fewer register for the reexamination the examination form will be oral.
Criteria for exam assesment
Students should achieve the learning outcome
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Lectures
  • 36
  • Preparation
  • 105
  • Project work
  • 60
  • Exam
  • 5
  • Total
  • 206