From September 2013 the Stirling Management School, University of Stirling will offer an MSc in Behavioural Science. (see link for details of course and how to apply for scholarships available).
Behavioural science is a rapidly growing area for policy and business with fascinating insights into human behaviour and wide-ranging practical implications.
This exciting new programme teaches the core theory and methods of behavioural science and behavioural economics and how these can be applied to important business and policy-relevant issues.
This MSc is aimed at students with a very strong intrinsic motivation to study the link between economics, psychology, business and policy. The MSc is taught by dedicated staff from the Behavioural Science Centre who have extensive experience in integrating insights from economics and psychology to address key societal challenges.
The MSc offers students the opportunity to gain advanced training in behavioural theory, to learn a comprehensive suite of behavioural methods, and to understand how this ‘toolkit’ can be applied to understand and inform the decisions made by stakeholders, workers and consumers.
Behavioural science and behavioural economics seek to answer key questions about how people behave and what influences the decisions they make, for example:
What determines whether people are impulsive, take risks, or cooperate?
What factors influence behavioural change?
What influence do different cultures and societies have on human behaviour?
Behavioural science uses the knowledge derived from the study of such questions to develop solutions to crucial economic, political, commercial and social challenges, for example:
How can we increase the efficient use of energy?
How can pension savings rates be increased?
How can randomized controlled trials be used to test and evaluate public policy?
How do we ensure consumers find value and make purchases they are satisfied with?
How can compliance with laws and regulations be increased?
Details of modules below:
Behavioural Science for Economics and Business- This module aims to provide a general knowledge of each of the core subfields of psychology (educational, social and personality, health, clinical and counselling, industrial and organisational, biological, developmental, cognitive, environmental, and evolutionary psychologies). It will help students to understand how each subfield of psychology is relevant to economics, business and management; to understand how each subfield of psychology underpins scholarship and practice in behavioural economics and to be able to apply knowledge of each subfield to practical problems in business and management.
Behavioural Economics I: Concepts and Theories – This module demonstrates how key insights from psychology can be applied to economics in order to address public policy and business issues. It will introduce students to the main concepts in behavioural economics and their relevance to a wide range of business and policy settings. It aims to provide students with an overview of the key areas of intersection between economics and psychology; enabling students to develop a detailed understanding of the key concepts of behavioural economics (e.g. overview of economics; utility; choice under uncertainty; judgment, biases and heuristics; affective forecasting; identity, compliance, social influences); and to introduce students to core areas of economics and psychology such as judgment, rational choice, intertemporal decision making and emotion-based decision-making.
Behavioural Economics II: Business & Policy Applications – The module aims to provide a clear outline of the ways in which behavioural assumptions are central to public policy as well as important aspects of finance and business. This course builds on two previous courses which provide a comprehensive overview of the key policy-relevant concepts of behavioural science (Behavioural Science for Economics and Business, Behavioural Economics I: Concepts and Theory). The general purpose of this course is to generate an understanding of how behavioural principles can be used to inform the creation of successful policies in government and business. To do this, we will specify the ways in which behavioural assumptions must be made in policy and business domains and then outline how behavioural science can inform these assumptions. We will draw from applied research examining the impact of: (i) social norms in policy formation and political expression, (ii) behavioural science in the justice system, (ii) behavioural factors in savings and financial decisions and in the employer-employee relationship, (iv) the psychological levers of behaviour change particularly in the area of health, and (v) a rapidly growing literature outlining how behavioural insights can inform the design of the decision context across numerous domain. Students will be introduced to taxonomies of behavioural principles. These will form a ‘behavioural toolkit’ that can be applied to policy formation and business decisions in many ways.
The Person in Context - Traditionally much of psychology has focused on the person irrespective of the context in which they live, through, for example, research on the general cross-situational impact of having a certain personality trait. In contrast, many areas within economic and business have looked at the impact of given situation, and in doing so have neglected the possibility that certain identifiable types of people will react differently to such situation in predictable ways. To fully understand how the individual acts in socioeconomic situations (or equally how socioeconomic situations impact on the individual) it is necessary to adopt a perspective of the individual interacting with their environment. This module covers this novel approach, epitomizing behavioural economics (on which Masters programme it is located) as it inherently sits at the interface between psychology ("the person") and economics, business, and management ("the context"). It aims to help students understand the concept personality; to understand the concept of well-being; to understand how personality interacts with socioeconomic situations to influence well-being; to understand how research in personality and well-being is relevant to economic and business settings, and to be able to apply such knowledge to solving diverse problems in different occupational settings; to be able to confidently use psychometric (personality measurement) techniques in both research and applied settings and to confidently be able to present research (as at a conference)
In the Spring Semester you will take the following modules:
Experiments for Decision Making in Business and Policy – The goal for the module is that students will emerge with a knowledge-base and a skill set that they can use to predict and “nudge” human behaviour. The module will begin by introducing students to the standard economic rational actor model of human judgment and decision making. Each week we will explore a seminal experiment that enriches that theory. Students will read journal articles that describe experiments in which the business and policy applications of the novel idea are tested and they will learn how to design and run their own experiments.
Advanced Behavioural Research Methods - This module provides a detailed grounding in key measurement and analysis methods of relevance to M-level students in psychology. It will address issues such as the limits of self-report and the use of naturalistic assessment and biosocial surveys. The use of subjective and psychometric scales and behavioural and biological measures are becoming increasingly common in business and economics and offer a key point of intersection between behavioural science and these disciplines. Such measures can be used in many different designs, including studies that seek to explain an important variable measured by self-report (such as health or well-being) or studies that seek to use self-reported variables as explanatory variables. This module outlines a number of key features that need to be taken into account when using self-reported, subjective measures, behavioural or biological data in business and economic applications. It aims to provide students with an understanding of survey design and the principles for sound construction of self-report survey measures; to develop an awareness of limitations in the use of subjective measures as dependent variables in standard regression designs; to build an understanding of the self-reported and subjective measures that can be incorporated in economic and policy studies as explanatory variables explaining outcomes such as health and education and to provide a background in biosocial surveys, behavioural assessment, and assessment of experience in daily life.
Behavioural Science Seminar Series and Journal Club – This module provides exposure to frontier thinking and leading-edge research in behavioural science as well as its application in policy and business domains. The seminar series includes speakers from economics, psychology, management, public health, and policy areas. All speakers are applying behavioural approaches to provide a deeper understanding of human decision-making and behaviour and developing practical ways that new thinking and behavioural science can be used to produce societal benefits and business change. The journal club provides students with the opportunity to deeply probe the interesting questions that arise from behavioural science research. These include debates surrounding freedom of choice and soft paternalism, how the public and private sector have utilized behavioural insights and these interact, the role of experiments in public policy, the need for replication and evidence synthesis in behavioural science, and how robust findings from behavioural science can be adopted and the barriers to implementation addressed and ideally overcome.
Advanced Statistics for Psychology / Economics Elective – Advanced Statistics: The teaching is aimed at introducing the packages available to psychologists, at advanced methods such as multivariate statistics and at the rationale of using statistical methods.