Seminar: Behavioral Economics in Action

Course content

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 seminar builds on this recent work of Behavioral Economics and allows the student to develop a hands-on approach and use behavioral economics to change people behavior. Emphasis will be on presenting and discussing specific topics in this literature: for instance, applications on health, education, dishonesty, environment, charitable giving, voting, saving and spending.


MSc programme in Economics

The seminar is primarily for students at the MSc of Economics

Learning outcome

In addition to the learning outcome specified in the Master curriculum the student is after completing the seminar expected to be able to:



  • Review the most recent findings of behavioral economics and how to apply them to public policy.



  • Identify the causes of a specific irrational behavior and analyze the consequences of this behavior for the society.



  • Design (or conduct) experiments and policy interventions aiming at ameliorate societal well-being and improve people’s life.

At the seminar the student is trained independently to
- identify and clarify a problem,
- seek and select relevant literatur,
- write a academic paper,
- present and discuss own paper with the other students at the seminar.

The aim of the presentations is, that the student uses the presentation as an opportunity to practice oral skills and to receive feedback. The presentations is not a part of the exam and will not be assessed.

Mandatory activities in the seminar:
- Kick-off meeting
- Finding literatur and defining the project
- Writing process of the seminar paper
- Presentation of own project and paper
- Giving constructive feedback to another student´s paper
- Actively participating in discussions at the presentations and other meetings.

There is no weekly teaching/lecturing and the student cannot expect guidance from the teacher. If the teacher gives a few introduction lectures or gives the opportunity for guidance, this as well as other expectations are clarified at the kickoff meeting.

It is strongly recommended that you think about and search for a topic before the semester begins, as there is only a few weeks from the kick-off meeting to the submission of the project description/ agreement paper.

The seminar project paper must be uploaded in Absalon before the presentations, as the opponents and the other seminar participants have to read and comment on the paper. It is important that you upload a paper that is so finalized as possible due to the fact that the value of feedback and comments at the presentation is strongly associated with the skill level of the seminar paper.

After the presentations, you can with a few corrections improve the seminar paper by including the feedback and comments emerged during the presentations. It is NOT intended that you rewrite or begin the writing of the full project AFTER the presentation has taken place.

Books (some more technical than others):

  • Ariely, D. (2010). The upside of irrationality.
  • Cialdini, R. B. (2006). Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
  • List, J., & Gneezy, U. (2014). The why axis: Hidden motives and the undiscovered economics of everyday life.
  • Dhami, S. (2016). The Foundations of Behavioral Economic Analysis.
  • Kling, J. R., Congdon, W. J., & Mullainathan, S. (2011). Policy and choice: public finance through the lens of behavioral economics.
  • Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, fast and slow.
  • Thaler, R. H., & Sunstein, C. R. (2008). Nudge: Improving decisions about health, wealth, and happiness.
  • Articles/reports:
  • Ly, K., Mazar, N., Zhao, M., Soman, D.; (2013) A Practitioner's Guide to Nudging; Research Report Series, Rotman School of Management.
  • Madrian Brigitte C. (2014) Applying Insights from Behavioral Economics to Policy Design. Annu. Rev. Econ. 2014. 6:30.1–30.26
  • Egan M. (2013) Nudge Database. Stirling Behavioural Science Blog.


Note: More specific papers will be suggested once the students have decided the topic of their seminar paper.

It is recommended to have followed the course "Science of Behavior Change" before or at the same time as the seminar. The seminar "Behavioral Economics in Action" contain topics elaborated on the course "Science of Behavior Change". In particular, students will use the tools of behavioral economics to understand and (ideally) solve societal problems.

The student should have a sound knowledge of Behavioral and Experimental Economics.

The students should also have a basic knowledge of microeconomics, statistics and econometrics (basic courses taught at the BA level of Economics).

BSc in Economics or similar

Schedule of the seminar:

• Kick-off meeting: August 31, 2020, 13:00 - 16:00
• Extra days of introducing teaching: Students can attend my weekly meeting (TRIBE), not compulsory.
• Guidance/open office (elective): Weekly meeting with students, Wednesday 13:00-14:30. Day and time may change but will be communicated.
• Deadline of commitment paper: not later than October 1 at 10 AM
• Deadline of pre-paper upload in Absalon: A week before the presentations
• Presentations/Workshops: November 16 and 17

Every week students can attend a lab meeting where they can listen other students presentations or present themselves.

All information regarding the seminar is communicated through Absalon including venue. So it is very important that you by yourself logon to Absalon and read the information already when you are registered at the seminar.

Feedback by final exam (In addition to the grade)


Each student receives individually oral feedback on the paper and at the presentation from peers and supervisor.

The supervisor gives the students collective oral feedback and individual guidance.

7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Written examination
A seminar paper in English that meets the formal requirements for written papers stated in the curriculum and at KUNet for seminars.
All aids allowed

for the seminar paper.

The teacher defines the aids that must be used for the presentations.


Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment

Students are assessed on the extent to which they master the learning outcome for the seminar and can make use of the knowledge, skills and competencies listed in the learning outcomes in the Curriculum of the Master programme.


To receive the top grade, the student must with no or only a few minor weaknesses be able to demonstrate an excellent performance displaying a high level of command of all aspects of the relevant material.

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Project work
  • 186
  • Seminar
  • 20
  • English
  • 206