Actors, Behaviours and Decision Processes

Sigrid Stagl and Roman Hausmann
University of Vienna, 2020
Level: advanced
Perspectives: Behavioral Economics, Neoclassical Economics, Institutionalist Economics, Complexity Economics, Evolutionary Economics
Topic: Behavior, institutions, methodology, Teaching
Format: Course description/syllabus

 Exploring Economics for Teachers

 Exploring Economics collects course descriptions, syllabi and slides so that lecturers can share resources and innovate their teaching.

Share your Syllabus            Find more Teaching Material


Actors, Behaviours and Decision Processes

This syllabus was originally taught at Vienna University Summer Semester 2020
Instructor: Prof. Dr. Sigrid Stagl |  Roman Hausmann |  Tutor: Nadine Mair

Course Summary

This course fokus on the behaviour of individuals from an pluralist economic and an interdisciplinary bevavioural science approach.

This course focuses on the human element of the economic system. We examine a wide range of behavioural science theories from neo-classical economics, psychology, behavioural economics, sociology, and complexity economics to better understand how humans behave and make decisions that impact the economy, the environment, and society. The course focuses on the wide range of cases where people might make decisions that are inconsistent with standard economic theory and the assumptions of rational decision making. These cases include “irrational” patterns of thinking about money and investments, how expectations shape perception, economic and psychological analyses of dishonesty by honest people, how social and financial incentives work together (or against each other) in labour, and the role of self‐control and emotions (rather than cognition) in decision making. The course presents an interdisciplinary perspective on how to understand, research and change human behaviour. We take a multilevel and multimodal approach to exploring each theory. Throughout the course, students will: 1) Focus on the varying ontological and epistemological perspectives that underlie knowledge generation in the different behavioural sciences. 2) Learn how these theories are applied at the individual and aggregate levels. 3) Tangibly engage with selected research methods, such as economics experiments, games, and surveys. 4) Delve into contemporary sustainability policy issues such as income inequality, climate change, and resource conservation from a behavioural science perspective. This course offers students a framework to help select theories for own research. Further, it helps students think creatively and critically about the application of behavioural sciences to sustainability-focused public policies.

Assignments and Assessment

60% Exams – Four exams, 15% each

  • Neoclassical Economic Theory and Criticisms
  • Behavioural Economics, Experimental Economics
  • Evolutionary, Institutional, Complexity Economics
  • Theory of Planned Behaviour

40% Individual Essay 

Free choice of topic, build on course materials, critical reflections must be included in the paper; word limit: roughly 6 000 words.

Course Overview

Schedule of topics covered and mandatory readings

Session 1 Understanding Human Behaviour Introduction and Overview of Course

  • Jackson, Tim (2017): 23. Beyond Consumer Capitalism - foundations for a sustainable prosperity. In: Victor, Peter A.; Dolter, Brett: Handbook on Growth and Sustainability, Edward Elgar, pp. 522-544
  • London School of Economics, Caroline Webb lecture, ‘How to Have a Good Day’ (listen at least to the first 42 minutes) 

Session 2 Neoclassical Economics Part 1

  • Gowdy, J. M. (2009). Microeconomic Theory Old and New: A Student's Guide, Stanford University Press.

Session 3 Neoclassical Economics Part 2

  • Elsner, W., et al. (2015). Chapter 5 - The Ideal Neoclassical Market and General Equilibrium & Chapter 6 - Critiques of the Neoclassical “Perfect Market” Economy and Alternative Price Theories. The Microeconomics of Complex Economies. San Diego, Academic Press: 97-155.

Session 4 Behavioural Economics Part 1

  • Thaler, Richard H. Misbehaving: The making of behavioral economics. WW Norton & Company, 2015 (ch. 3-13 and 31)

Session 5 Behavioural Economics Part 2 & Experimental Economics

  • Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, fast and slow. Macmillan, 2011. (Chapters 26-31)
  • Binmore, K., 1999. Why experiments in economics. Economic Journal 109: F16‐24.

Session 6 Complexity Economics

  • Elsner, W., et al. (2015). Chapters 4 – Approaching Real-World Interdependence and Complexity: Empirical Phenomena in the Global Economy & 10 – A Universe of Economies: Interdependence and Complexity, System Trajectories, Chaos, and Self-Organization. San Diego, Academic Press: 57-96 & 251-276

Session 7 Evolutionary Economics & Institutional Economics

  • Hodgson, G. M. (2012). From Pleasure Machines to Moral Communities - An Evolutionary Economics without Homo economicus. Chicago and London, The University of Chicago Press.
  • Hodgson, G. M. (2013). "Understanding Organizational Evolution: Toward a Research Agenda using Generalized Darwinism." Organization Studies 34(7): 973-992.

Session 8 Theory of Planned Behaviour Part 1

  • Ajzen, I. (2012). The theory of planned behavior. Handbook of theories of social psychology (Vol. 1). P. A. M. Lange, A. W. Kruglanski and E. T. Higgins. London, Sage: 438-459.

Session 9 Theory of Planned Behaviour Part 2

  • In class lecture / workshop – Hands-on guidance on how to do a TPB analysis

Session 10 Experimental Economics Lab session BYOD

  • Charness, G. and Fehr, E. 2015 'From the lab to the real world', Science 350(6260): 512-513.
  • Charness, G., Gneezy, U. and Kuhn, M. A. 2013 'Experimental methods: Extra-laboratory experiments-extending the reach of experimental economics', Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization 91: 93-100.

Session 11 Capability Approach

Session 12 Practice Theory

  • Yolande Strengers, C. M., Ed. (2015). Social Practices, Intervention and Sustainability: Beyond behaviour change. London, Routledge. Chapters 1-3)
  • Røpke, I. (2009). "Theories of practice - New inspiration for ecological economic studies on consumption." Ecological Economics 68(10): 2490-2497.
  • Lancaster University, Elizabeth Shove, ‘Extraordinary lecture: how the social sciences can help climate change policy’ 

Session 13 Behavioural Foundations of Public Policy

  • Raj Chetty, 2015. "Behavioral Economics and Public Policy: A Pragmatic Perspective," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 105(5), pages 1-33, May.
  • Saugato, D., et. al. (2015). “A Behavioral Approach to Water Conservation: Evidence from a Randomized Evaluation in Costa Rica.” Ideas24.

 Stay tuned!

Subscribe to our newsletter to learn about new debates, conferences and writing workshops.




Das Netzwerk Plurale Ökonomik e.V. wird aufgrund seiner Unabhängigkeit und des Einsatzes für Pluralismus und Vielfalt nicht von finanzstarken Interessensgruppen getragen. Deshalb freuen wir uns sehr über eine einmalige oder dauerhafte Spende.