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Teaching Behavioural Economics

On the agenda for October's EconEdChat were 3 questions:

1) How can we support students applying to study Economics-related University courses?

2) What does effective feedback in Economics look like?

3) How can we teach Behavioural Economics?

This post focusses on the second question. You can read about the first here and the second here.

References and Resources

We discuss the relative merits of covering this topic at different points in the course. One benefit of introducing it earlier in the course that I've since thought about is that it does, at least, allow it to become a recurring theme. Not sure how that would work in practice, though.

Gavin mentions a few experiments he does, eg showing students a line, and asking how long it is. Before the activity starts, you need to first choose a few students to 'play along' and tell them the value you want them to give. Ask these students first and you'll find that subsequent students will give similar answers. If you didn't want to have complicit students, you can anchor students answers in other ways, for example, getting them to write the last 4 digits of their phone number before guessing - those who wrote down a larger 4 digit number may well give a higher estimate.

He also asks students to estimate answers to either 8x7x6x5x4x3x2x1 or 1x2x3x4x5x6x7x8 to show that the students asked the former will often give a bigger estimate.

I sometimes ask half the students to "Imagine that you are about to purchase an item for £150" or "Imagine that you are about to purchase an item for £10". I then ask them to imagine the item they are about to buy is £5 cheaper a 10-minute walk away, and ask them whether it's worth the walk.

I have found these two (completely unofficial) summaries of Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational useful: a shorter one and a longer one. He has done lots of TED talks which you might want to take a look at (he's a really good speaker), but I suspect Andrew is referring to this one.

Andrew talks about this podcast on Behavioural Science and the Pandemic. I mention LSE's public lecture on Behavioural Science in the Context of Great Uncertainty, which you can watch here or download as a podcast. They have also held a more recent event on Behavioural Science in a Post-Covid World, which you can also watch or download as a podcast.

I was wrong about the first chapter of the textbook, it was actually an IB textbook, not a Uni book. The second chapter is available as a sample and it's a really nice overview. I'm not sure where I would put it in a course, but the more I think about it, the more I think it needs to be in there!

This is the AQA teacher resource that is mentioned.

Lots of nice infographics on biases - this one from Visual Capitalist, this one from The Sunday Times and this classic from Business Insider.

This list of research outcomes on nudges is also nice - could be used in lots of different ways.

As far as I can see, the Games Economists Play Website is no longer active, although in my desperate attempt to find it, I did come across this, which looks interesting.

A few days later, Manisha shared how she introduced rationality before she started demand by asking students how rational they thought their decisions were and putting them on a scale.

I think that's everything we referenced, but if we talk about something in the video and it's not clear, let me know and I'll add extra references!

Econ Ed Chat takes place the first Wednesday of the month at 6pm BST. All welcome.


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