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An introduction to the UCF Behavioural Economics course

14 December 2020
In the current term second year UCF students can take the Behavioural Economics course, taught by Dr. Niels Faber, assistant professor in Sustainable Entrepreneurship. As this is quite a new course within UCF Niels wrote a short item to explain more about the content of the classes:

Criticism on the standard economic model has grown stronger over the past decades. It is seemingly outdated and unable to provide sufficient solutions to pollution, loss of biodiversity, or climate change, nor is it able to tackle social inequalities or exclusion. The current pandemic and its effects on society and economies, also lay bare its fragility and lack of resilience. But how can a system that has been applied for over 200 years give so few footholds to deal with today’s societal challenges? What fundamental issues may lie underneath?

The Behavioural Economics course focuses on the flawed way the standard economic model has incorporated human behaviour and decision-making and how this blends reality and fantasy. At its core, Homo Economicus is all-knowing and suggests human decision-making to follow a logical reasoning as if prescribed by Star Trek’s Dr. Spock: rational, objective, and emotionally detached. The contrast with reality is striking. There, emotions drive human decisions, which as a result are biased and flawed. Limited cognitive capacities also allow for just a speck of relevant information to be used. Despite shortcomings, humans are seemingly capable of making decisions, but nothing similar to what the standard economic model assumes.

The Behavioural Economics course, sets out to explore decision-making from a social and cognitive perspective and discover the implications this has for the standard economic model. In Behavioural Economics, students chiefly craft their own learning process when engaging with Behavioural Economics themes. Each week, a theme is addressed in one lecture and one workshop. Theoretical backgrounds are offered in weekly (guest) lectures, accompanied by selected readings. Using insights from lectures and readings, students depart for a deeper exploration of the theme. For each weekly theme, they develop a series of learning products, including lecture, experiment or game, case-study, and in-depth reflection, which they (virtually) disseminate during weekly workshops. At the end of the course, students may show their understanding of one or more of the themes and how this translates to practice in their individual policy brief.

Last modified:14 December 2020 1.17 p.m.

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