About the course
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;
c) design nudges and decision-tools to help people make better decisions.
Understanding experimental design and interpretation is central to your ability to truly use behavioral economics and will set you apart from people who merely know about the behavioral research. After the first two weeks 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?” If you’ve been fascinated with the buzz surrounding behavioral economics but are not sure how to actually use it, this course is for you.
Several leading scholars, policy makers, business people, authors and commentators will briefly join the debate and discussion sections. These guest lecturers include Professor Sendhil Mullainathan (Harvard University), Professor John Lynch (University of Colorado), Rory Sutherland (Ogilvy Group), Owain Service (Behavioural Insights Team, UK Cabinet Office), Shankar Vedantam (NPR Columnist and Author – The Hidden Brain), Professors Andrew Ching, Avi Goldfarb, Nina Mazar, and Claire Tsai, Min Zhao (University of Toronto) and many others!
What you will learn
By the end of this course you will be able to:
- 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 behavior 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.
About the instructor
Dilip Soman does research on interesting human behaviors and their applications to consumer welfare, policy and financial literacy. He is also interested in research on poverty, global health, education and development in the global south. In his past life, he has degrees in engineering and management, worked in sales and advertising, consulted for several organizations, and taught at Colorado, Hong Kong and now in Toronto. When not working, he spends time on photography, reading, taking weekends seriously and agonizing over successive Indian cricket teams.
Duration: 6 weeks, 4-5 hours per week
Instructor: Dilip Soman
Institution: University of Toronto