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OAFP 4725 - Behavioural Public Policy

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Spring 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

Humans are complicated. We are irrational, emotional beings who are influenced by our environment and feelings much more than individuals and policy makers would like to think. As a result individuals make decisions that are not always in their best interest, and that systematically depart form the predictions of standard rational actor economic models. For example, people take out loans that they cannot afford, smoke though they know it is harmful, buy things they hardly need, and save too little. Behavioural economics breaks down the human decision-making process, helping us understand what factors people consider when making decisions and how they arrive at the choices they make. Behavioural economics considers emotions, world views, and habits – among other factors – to understand what impacts individuals and how that affects their decisions. This course will explore the relationship between behavioural economics and public policy. It will review the major themes of behavioural economics, drawing upon recent developments from experimental economics, motivational and behavioural studies in psychology, and the “nudge” agenda. These insights will then be applied to a range of policy-relevant sectors, including health care, revenue collection, energy use, social welfare programs, the political process, education, and international development.


FLEISCHER, Lara (Analyste politique junior)

Course validation

Grading will take place through class participation (15%) and a final project (85%), in which a policy problem of the choice of the student is identified and behaviourally informed policy solutions are discussed and explored. The final project will consist of a paper and a presentation.

Required reading

  • R. Thaler and C. Sunstein (2008) Nudge: Improving Decision about Health, Wealth and Happiness New
  • Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably irrational : the hidden forces that shape our decisions. London, HarperCollins
  • Kahneman, D. (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow London, Allen Lane
  • P. Dolan et al (2010) Mindspace: Influencing Behaviour through Public Policy. London: Cabinet Office and the Institute for Government
  • William J. Congdon, Jeffrey R. Kling and Sendhil Mullainathan. 2011. Policy and Choice: Public Finance through the Lens of Behavioral Economics, Brookings Institution Press