Course description

Behavioral Economics and Sustainability (2019→)

The Anthropocene defines Earth’s most recent geologic time period as being human-influenced, or anthropogenic, based on overwhelming global evidence that atmospheric, geologic, hydrologic, biospheric and other earth system processes are now altered by humans. Social change is needed in order to keep the planet inhabitable for future generations but social structures can ultimately only be changed by humans. In this lecture, we discuss theories of behavioral change, societal change, and barriers to sustainable transformations. Central is a) the understanding of human decision-making and how cognitive biases prevent us from acting in line with our intentions and values and b) the understanding of the emergence of values and norms and how they can change over time.

Students gain an overview of the sustainable development discussion and the contributions that behavioral economics can offer. After completing this course, students should understand the limitations of the homo oeconomicus model, be familiar with key concepts of behavioral economics, and understand major determinants of decision-making and how people can be influenced towards a more sustainable behavior. Students will be able to critically discuss concepts of contemporary empirical methods, to evaluate strengths, limitations, and applicability of different research designs, and to formulate research questions, test hypotheses, and to write their own research proposal.

Course material can be accessed via ILIAS.

Behavioral Development Economics (2016-2018)

Development research is fascinating and can be approached from very different angles. The lecture provides an overview of the central questions and topics in the field of behavioral development economics. The course takes the micro perspective to provide an understanding of the major determinants and consequences of poverty and their impact on individual behavior. Students will become familiar with key concepts used by behavioral economists, and analyze the reasoning of the poor thought the concept of the rational actor, quasi-rational actor and enculturated actor.

This course exposes students to different methodological approaches in development policy design and provides students with the necessary tools to understand empirical and experimental literature in development economics and related fields that use similar methodological toolboxes. Thus, it will provide a summary of recent experimental findings and new developments in the fields of Behavioral Economics and Development Economics. The overarching aim is to train students to take part in the development discussion by discussing different approaches through the lens of behavioral economics.

The course is organized around three substantive methodological themes: the use of laboratory experiments, randomized evaluations, and psychological approaches. To examine how these approaches can help development policy we will cover several topics: Aspiration Failures, Access to Finance, Investments in Human Capital (Health and Education), Corruption, and Discrimination and Conflicts.

Course material can be accessed via ILIAS.