Undergraduate Module Descriptor

POL2097: Behavioural Public Policy and the Nudge Agenda

This module descriptor refers to the 2016/7 academic year.

Module Aims

The main objective of the module is to provide you with a critical understanding of how research and theoretical insights from the fields of behavioural economics and social psychology are being used to develop policy interventions in the contemporary era. In particular, the module discusses the apparently ‘boundedly rational’ nature of much human behaviour and the implications of this for governments seeking to develop policy tools or shape the ‘choice architecture’ to influence citizens, or indeed bureaucrats.


The module will use up-to-date case studies of methods and techniques that are being employed by contemporary governments in OECD countries, which will provide a useful grounding for those wishing to pursue a career in government. The methods and techniques discussed however have a range of applications in the private and non-profit sectors and so the research insights introduced in this module will also have value for those wishing to pursue careers in these other sectors.


While the course has practical policy relevance, you will be encouraged to take a critical, questioning approach and the course will also cover ethical and legitimacy questions surrounding behavioural public policy and its specific applications.  You will engage in philosophical debates concerning ‘libertarian paternalism’ and explore research on the public’s view of the acceptability of Nudges.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

This module's assessment will evaluate your achievement of the ILOs listed here – you will see reference to these ILO numbers in the details of the assessment for this module.

On successfully completing the programme you will be able to:
Module-Specific Skills1. Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of how behavioural economic and social psychological insights are being used by government to secure policy outcomes
2. Demonstrate awareness of key heuristics employed in human decision-making
3. Articulate and critically evaluate a range of theoretical perspectives concerning the role of the State in influencing citizen behaviour
Discipline-Specific Skills4. Synthesise and extract arguments from academic literature and apply these to real policy problems
5. Propose viable methodologies for assessing the effects of policy interventions
Personal and Key Skills6. Present arguments in a cogent way to a non-specialist audience
7. Work effectively as part of a team to deliver a defined project