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2022/2023  KAN-CPOLO1906U  Behavioural Economics and Public Policy

English Title
Behavioural Economics and Public Policy

Course information

Language English
Course ECTS 7.5 ECTS
Type Mandatory (also offered as elective)
Level Full Degree Master
Duration One Quarter
Start time of the course Fourth Quarter
Timetable Course schedule will be posted at calendar.cbs.dk
Study board
Study Board for BSc/MSc i International Business and Politics, MSc
Course coordinator
  • Zoltan Fazekas - Department of International Economics, Goverment and Business (EGB)
Main academic disciplines
  • Political Science
  • Economics
Teaching methods
  • Face-to-face teaching
Last updated on 24-06-2022

Relevant links

Learning objectives
  • Identify, analyse and evaluate key psychological theories and observations pertaining economic and political decision making.
  • Relate different concepts of rationality and biases to preference formation.
  • Assess the role of different methods suitable for identifying biases, heuristics, and individual choice motivations.
  • Identify and evaluate policy interventions resting on different insights drawn from behavioural economics.
  • Construct and extend coherent arguments building on behavioural insights with implications for policy design.
Prerequisites for registering for the exam (activities during the teaching period)
Number of compulsory activities which must be approved (see section 13 of the Programme Regulations): 1
Compulsory home assignments
The mandatory assignment is a 3 page written product on given topic also to be presented in class. Topics will be assigned in class. Approved/not approved will be granted based on the written product. The mandatory assignment must be passed for the student to participate in the final exam. Feedback on the assignment will be offered in class (see below for more details).

If the mandatory assignment is failed or there has been documented illness a second assignment will be offered before the ordinary exam takes place. This assignment will be an individual 3 page 72-hour take home assignment on an assigned topic.

Please note that to submit the retake mandatory assignments it is a precondition that the student has made a valid attempt in the set activities, unless it can be documented that the lack of submission/participation was caused by illness or similar circumstances.

More information on prerequisites for participating in the exam: compulsory activities can be found in the MSc IBP Programme Regulations §13.1-5.
Behavioural Economics and Public Policy:
Exam ECTS 7,5
Examination form Home assignment - written product
Individual or group exam Individual exam
Size of written product Max. 10 pages
Assignment type Written assignment
Duration 7 days to prepare
Grading scale 7-point grading scale
Examiner(s) One internal examiner
Exam period Summer
Make-up exam/re-exam
Same examination form as the ordinary exam
A new exam assignment must be answered. This applies to all students (failed, ill, or otherwise)
Course content, structure and pedagogical approach

This course focuses on understanding economic behaviour through the psychology of decision-making and how this framework informs public policy. We start by reviewing classic economic theories of rational behavior and identify the limitations of their behavioral predictions. We then introduce various individual cognitive limitations, heuristics, social influences, and non-monetary incentives as explanations for the previously indentified limitations. Through these steps we will try to better understand individual motivations across many different economic decisions, from consumer behaviour to social and political interactions. Next, we will discuss how these behavioural insights could or should inform public policy especially through the use of nudges and what methodological and ethical concerns arise when the aim is to influence individual behaviour. 

Description of the teaching methods
Lectures with discussion; case and literature based classes with ample discussion/Q&A, reading and writing workshops.
Feedback during the teaching period
Feedback and detailed comments will be provided in written format for all mandatory assignments. In addition, (anonymous) peer feedback will be communicated following the in-class presentations.

We will dedicate two sessions (one for reading and one for writing) to the preparation for the final assignment, where in-class feedback will be offered to all participants based on their workshop activities and materials produced.

In addition, during lectures and seminar classes we will have time for questions and feedback. Furthermore, all students are encouraged to take full advantage of staff office hours to discuss course content and course related topics.
Student workload
Lectures and seminars 32 hours
Preparation time (readings for lectures, seminars, mandatory task) 150 hours
Exam preparation 40 hours
Expected literature

Sample reading materials:


Thaler, R. H. (2018). From Cashews to Nudges: The Evolution of Behavioral Economics. American Economic Review, 108(6), 1265–1287


Kamenica, E. (2012). Behavioral Economics and Psychology of Incentives. Annual Review of Economics, 4(1), 427–452


Weibel, A., Rost, K., & Osterloh, M. (2010). Pay for Performance in the Public Sector: Benefits and (Hidden) Costs. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 20(2), 387–412


DellaVigna, S., & Linos, E. (2020). RCTs to Scale: Comprehensive Evidence from Two Nudge Units (tech. rep.). Working Paper, UC Berkeley


John, P., & Blume, T. (2018). How Best to Nudge Taxpayers? The Impact of Message Simplification and Sescriptive Social Norms on Payment Rates in a Central London Local Authority. Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, 1(1)

Last updated on 24-06-2022