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Learn to use principles and methods of behavioural economics to change behaviours, improve welfare and make better products and policies.
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About the course Behavioural Economics in Action
How can we get people to save more money, eat healthy foods, engage in healthy behaviors, and make better choices in general? There has been a lot written about the fact that human beings do not process information and make decisions in an optimal fashion. This course builds on much of the fascinating work in the area of behavioral economics and allows learners to develop a hands-on approach by understanding its methods and more importantly, how it can be harnessed by suitably designing contexts to “nudge” choice.
In three modules, learners will be able to a) explain and interpret the principles underlying decision-making and compare the nudging approach to other methods of behavior change, b) learn how to critique, design and interpret the results of experiments; and c) design nudges and decision-tools to help people make better decisions.
Understanding experimental design and interpretation is central to your ability to use behavioral economics effectively, and will set you apart from people who merely know about the behavioral results. After the first two weeks of learning the basic principles, we will devote two weeks to studying experimental design and analysis, and the final two weeks to understanding processes for designing nudges and for helping people make better decisions.
You will also witness and participate in weekly topical debates on various topics like “does irrationality impact welfare?” or “what strategy is better for improving welfare – nudging or education?” Several leading scholars, policy makers, business people, authors and commentators will briefly join our debate and discussion sections. These guest lecturers include Professor Sendhil Mullainathan (University of Chicago), Professor John Lynch (University of Colorado), Rory Sutherland (Ogilvy Group), Owain Service (formerly Behavioural Insights Team, UK Cabinet Office), Shankar Vedantam (NPR Columnist and Author – The Hidden Brain), Professors Andrew Ching, Avi Goldfarb (University of Toronto), Nina Mazar (BostonU), Itamar Simonson (Stanford) and many others!
This course was originally developed in 2013, and the field has changed over the past 7 years. That said, a) the course provides foundational content that is still very relevant, and b) the material has been updated over the years to capture newer developments. The course will conclude with a summary of the newest developments in the field, and will provide links to resources that learners could access for continued learning. BE101x will be in self-paced format; learners are invited to work through the materials and assessments at their own convenience. The content is based on work done at the University of Toronto’s BEAR centre.
What you’ll learn
- Develop an understanding of the philosophy and the principles underlying the field of behavioral economics
- Understand the differences between choice architecture/nudging and other approaches to behaviour change.
- Understand the key elements of an experiment, differentiate between three basic types of experimental designs, and gain insight into ANOVA and regression techniques for analyzing data.
- Use a prescribed process for designing your own nudges, and identify specific resources and tools you will need to execute a nudging strategy.
- Apply some of the learnings and ideas to policy and business.