Course Syllabus

The Basics

  • Applied Behavioral Economics for Information Systems (Info 232) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3:30 p.m. in 210 South Hall. Your instructors, Steve Weber (stevew@ischool) and Galen Panger (galen@ischool) are available for office hours by appointment. Just send one of us a note when you'd like to meet.
  • Download the course reading packet from the "Files" link to your left. Please purchase or borrow Thinking, Fast and Slow because we are excerpting heavily from it in Week 3. You should be able to find films on this syllabus available widely for streaming, rent or purchase. Team up and watch them in groups!
  • Each week, please review the core readings, and then read one or two cases of interest to you. If you're stumped on which cases to choose, just read the first two. You do not have to read all of the cases. We've selected readings and cases that are meant to be interesting, useful and occasionally provocative—they're not a broad review of the literature, but rather are meant to highlight key concepts and opportunities for application.
  • There is a group assignment each week, two individual experiential assignments, and one final group presentation. You'll get full points on an assignment if it's been completed on time; however, your final grade will be based on an overall assessment of your individual effort and engagement in the class. More details about assignments.
  • Please be mindful of your Internet use during class. We won't nag—this is grad school!—but if you need an incentive to stay off of Facebook, ESPN and email in class, think about the people sitting next to you and behind you. Scrolling and clicking through web pages is often very visually distracting for others. 
  • Jam to the course playlist on Spotify. If you feel stressed out, try starting a daily meditation practice with the Calm app.



Week 0 — Opening Thoughts & Course Overview
Dates Th 8/27
Some opening thoughts
Week 1 — Introduction
Dates T 9/1, Th 9/3
Song Girlfriend Is Better (Talking Heads)
Core readings
  • Milton Friedman, “The Methodology of Positive Economics,” Essays in Positive Economics, 1953 (pages 154-159). (6 pages)
  • Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman, "Judgment Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases," Science, 1974. (8 pages)
  • Matthew Rabin, "A Perspective on Psychology and Economics," UC Berkeley Department of Economics Working Paper, 2002. (29 pages)
  • George Akerlof, "Behavioral Macroeconomics and Macroeconomic Behavior," Nobel Prize Lecture, 2001. (24 pages)
Week 2 — A Short Philosophical Interlude
Dates T 9/8, Th 9/10
Song Shock the Monkey (Peter Gabriel)
Core readings
  • Edward Glaeser, "Paternalism and Psychology," NBER Working Paper, 2005. (21 pages)
  • Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein, "Libertarian Paternalism," American Economic Review, 2003. (5 pages)
  • Stanley Milgram, "Behavioral Study of Obedience," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1963. (8 pages)
  • Fed Up, Atlas Films, 2014. (Video, 95 minutes, available on Netflix and other services)
Week 3 — Thinking, Feeling & Constraints
Dates T 9/15, Th 9/17
Song Everything Counts (Depeche Mode)Wild Horses (Rolling Stones)
Core readings
  • Antonio Damasio, “This Time With Feeling,”, 2009. (Video, 1 hour)
  • Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow, 2011. Chapters 1-5 and pages 82-85, 97-104, and 109-118. (74 pages)
  • Barbara Fredrickson, “The Role of Positive Emotions in Positive Psychology: The Broaden and Build Theory of Positive Emotions,” American Psychologist, 2001. (10 pages)
  • Jef Raskin, The Humane Interface, 2000. Chapter 2. (24 pages)
Week 4 — Choice Architecture
Dates T 9/22, Th 9/24
Song It's Raining Men (The Weather Girls)
Core readings
  • Simona Botti and Sheena Iyengar, "The Dark Side of Choice: When Choice Impairs Social Welfare," Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 2006. (12 pages)
  • Marianne Bertrand, Sendhil Mullainathan, and Eldar Shafir, "Behavioral Economics and Marketing in Aid of Decision-Making Among the Poor," Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, 2006. (14 pages)
  • Eric Johnson and Daniel Goldstein, "Do Defaults Save Lives?," Science, 2003. (2 pages)
  • Daniel Mochon, “Single-Option Aversion,” Journal of Consumer Research, 2013. (11 pages)
Note Assignment 1 — Retail Observation is due Thursday, 9/24 by noon.
Week 5 — Risk Behavior & Choice Under Pressure
Dates T 9/29, Th 10/1
Song Should I Stay Or Should I Go? (The Clash)Under Pressure (Queen and David Bowie)
Core readings
  • Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, "Prospect Theory: An Analysis of Decision Under Risk," Econometrica, 1979. (27 pages)
  • Richard Neustadt and Ernest May, Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision Makers, 1986 (pages 1-16). (16 pages)
  • David Tuckett, "Addressing the Psychology of Financial Markets," Economics: The Open Access, Open Assessment E-Journal, 2009. (20 pages)
  • George Loewenstein et al, "Risk as Feelings," Psychological Bulletin, 2001. (15 pages)
  • Terry Robinson and Kent Berridge, "Addiction," Annual Review of Psychology, 2003. (22 pages)
Watch one
  • Too Big to Fail: The Inside Story of How Wall Street and Washington Fought to Save the Financial System—and Themselves, HBO, 2011. (Video, 98 minutes, available on HBO, Amazon Prime and other video services)
  • Thirteen Days, Beacon Pictures, 2000. (Video, 145 minutes, available on iTunes)
Week 6 — Happiness in Experience, Memory & Choice
Dates T 10/6, Th 10/8
Song If It Makes You Happy (Sheryl Crow)
Core readings
  • Daniel Kahneman, “The riddle of experience vs. memory,” TED, 2010. (Video, 20 minutes)
  • Daniel Kahneman and Alan Krueger, "Developments in the Measurement of Subjective Well-Being," Journal of Economic Perspectives, 2006. (20 pages)
  • Daniel Kahneman and Robert Sugden, "Experienced Utility as a Standard of Policy Evaluation," Environmental and Resource Economics, 2005. (17 pages)
Week 7 — The Pursuit of Happiness
Dates T 10/13, Th 10/15
Song (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
Core readings
  • Daniel Kahneman, et al, "Would You Be Happier if You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion," Science, 2006. (3 pages)
  • Richard Layard, Andrew Clark and Claudia Senik, “The Causes of Happiness and Misery,” Chapter 3 in UN World Happiness Report, 2012. (21 pages)
  • William Compton and Edward Hoffman, “Leisure, Flow, Mindfulness and Peak Performance,” Chapter 4 in Positive Psychology: The Science of Happiness and Flourishing, 2012. (20 pages)
  • June Gruber, et al., “A Dark Side of Happiness? How, When, and Why Happiness Is Not Always Good,” Perspectives on Psychological Science, 2011. (8 pages)
Week 8 — Intertemporal Choice
Dates T 10/20, Th 10/22
Song The Waiting (Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers)
Core readings
  • Thomas Schelling, "The Intimate Contest for Self-Command," The Public Interest, 1980. (25 pages)
  • Samuel McClure et al, "Separate Neural Systems Value Immediate and Delayed Monetary Rewards," Science, 2004. (4 pages)
  • Dan Ariely and Klaus Wertenbroch, "Procrastination, Deadlines, and Performance: Self-Control by Pre-Commitment," INSEAD Working Paper, 2001. (12 pages)
  • Ted O’Donoghue and Matthew Rabin, “Doing It Now or Later,” American Economic Review, 1999. (17 pages)
  • Daniel Read and Barbara van Leeuwen, “Predicting Hunger: The Effects of Appetite and Delay on Choice,” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 1998. (15 pages)
Note Assignment 2 — Behavioral Self-Observation is due Thursday, 10/22 by noon.
Week 9 — Confidence, Competition & Competence
Dates T 10/27, Th 10/29
Song You’re So Vain (Carly Simon)
Core readings
  • Muriel Niederle and Lise Vesterlund, "Do Women Shy Away from Competition? Do Men Compete Too Much?", Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2007. (34 pages)
  • Kelly See et al., “The detrimental effects of power on confidence, advice taking, and accuracy,” Journal of Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 2011. (12 pages)
  • Justin Kruger and David Dunning, "Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments," Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1999. (12 pages)
  • Daniel Kahneman and Gary Klein, "Conditions for Intuitive Expertise: A Failure to Disagree," American Psychologist, 2009. (11 pages)
  • Catherine Good et al., “Improving adolescents’ standardized test performance: An intervention to reduce the effects of stereotype threat,” Applied Developmental Psychology, 2003. (15 pages)
Week 10 — Fairness
Dates T 11/3, Th 11/5
Song The Payback (James Brown)
Core readings
  • Daniel Kahneman, Jack Knetsch, and Richard Thaler, "Fairness as a Constraint on Profit Seeking: Entitlements in the Market," American Economic Review, 1986. (13 pages)
  • Alexander Cappelen et al, "The Pluralism of Fairness Ideals: An Experimental Approach," American Economic Review, 2007. (9 pages)
  • Armin Falk, "Gift Exchange in the Field," Econometrica, 2007. (12 pages)
Week 11 — Catch Up
Dates T 11/10, Th 11/12
  • There are no new readings and no assignments this week.
  • Please use the time to meet with your final project group (send the final group members to Galen by noon on Tuesday, 11/10). 
  • Steve and Galen will be holding office hours to meet with final project groups on Tuesday and Thursday to talk about your ideas. Please email one of us to schedule a time.
  • Galen has offered to hold an optional review session during class time on Tuesday. If 10 people email him with interest, he'll host it!
Week 12 — Ambivalence
Dates T 11/17, Th 11/19
Song Mixed Emotions (The Rolling Stones)
Core readings
  • Neil Smelser, "The Rational and The Ambivalent in the Social Sciences," American Sociological Review, 1998. (13 pages)
  • Jennifer Hochschild, “Ambivalence,” Chapter 8 in What’s Fair? American Beliefs about Distributive Justice, 1981. For background, read pages 20-26, 46-52 and 80-83. Note that first and last names starting with letters A-L are used for wealthy interviewees, M-Z for poor. (40 pages)
  • Frenk van Harreveld et al., “Ambivalence and decisional conflict as a cause of psychological discomfort: Feeling tense before jumping off the fence,” Journal of Experimental and Social Psychology, 2009. (6 pages)
Week 13 — Manipulation
Dates T 11/24, No Class Th 11/26 – Happy Thanksgiving
Song Steve says: Under My Thumb (Rolling Stones), Galen says: Control (Janet Jackson)
Core readings
  • Cass Sunstein, “Fifty Shades of Manipulation,” Journal of Behavioral Marketing, Forthcoming. (31 pages)
  • Galen Panger, “Why the Facebook Experiment is Lousy Social Science,” Medium, 2014. See also: Susan Fiske and Robert Hauser, “Protecting human research participants in the age of big data,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2014. (2 pages)
  • Ted Kaptchuk et al., “Placebos without Deception: A Randomized Controlled Trial in Irritable Bowel Syndrome,” PLoS ONE, 2010. (6 pages)
  • Jason Purnell et al., “Behavioral Economics: ‘Nudging’ Underserved Populations to be Screened for Cancer,” Preventing Chronic Disease, 2015. (4 pages)
  • Steven Stanton et al., “Effects of Induced Mood on Economic Choices,” Judgement and Decision Making, 2014. (8 pages)
  • Timothy Wilson and Daniel Gilbert, “Affective Forecasting: Knowing What to Want,” Current Directions in Psychological Science, 2005. (4 pages)
  • Tanjim Hossain and John List, “The Behavioralist Visits the Factory: Increasing Productivity Using Simple Framing Manipulations,” NBER Working Paper, 2009. (21 pages)
Week 14 — Closing Thoughts & Final Presentations I
Dates T 12/1, Th 12/3
Week RRR — Final Presentations II
Dates T 12/8, No Class Th 12/10
Week Finals — No Class, Have a Great Holiday

Course Summary:

Date Details