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University of Exeter Business School

Behavioural Development Economics

Module titleBehavioural Development Economics
Module codeBEEM152
Academic year2023/4
Module staff

Dr Mahreen Mahmud (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks




Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

Behavioural economics applies psychological insights into human behaviour to investigate how people make economic decisions under various conditions of constraint (e.g., time and knowledge) and influence (e.g., social pressure). The module requires basic knowledge of undergraduate microeconomics. It will keep neoclassical theory as a benchmark; while discussing deviations from it in development economics related but not limited to labour economics, firms, and health economics.  It will explore psychological characteristics that affect economic choices and outcomes, with a focus on how they affect poor people's choices in low- and middle- income countries.

Additional information:


  • This module covers economics from an empirical and policy point of view and incorporates many examples from studies on behaviours of people from across low- and middle- income countries


  • All of the resources for this module are available on the ELE (Exeter learning Environment)


  • This module equips students with logical thinking, questioning of core economic assumptions and presentation skills, as well as an insight into the behaviours of people living in poverty. This will be helpful in making students think like economists, a skill valued by employers. In particular, it will help students in securing jobs related to policy making and in development consultancies

 External Engagement

  • You are encouraged to attend the open lectures from visiting speakers in the Business School

Module aims - intentions of the module

The module focuses on microeconomics issues, building on undergraduate microeconomics. We will discuss how microeconomic theories have been adapted to help explain some key behaviours in existing empirical evidence from people making decisions in the real world conditions of scarcity. The module is designed to equip the students with knowledge of key behavioural economics principles, to build their skills to pose and solve questions related to design of effective policies by looking at concrete examples of applications. It will enable the students to question the standard theoretical microeconomic assumptions, a knowledge base that is instrumental to the design of effective anti-poverty policies. The students will expand their learning both through an expansion of theoretical microeconomics knowledge and practical application of this in various context such as in decisions related to health, labour supply, savings, technology adoption, and firms. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Able to explain and analyse the methodological and empirical work in behavioural economics and their application to low- and middle- income countries
  • 2. Able to read and effectively critique academic papers with a view to designing your own experiments and policies

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate knowledge of how human behaviour differs from standard economic assumptions especially for those living in poverty
  • 4. Demonstrate ability to adapt or develop theories to account for empirical evidence

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Demonstrate the capacity for analytical thought and reasoned discussion
  • 6. Demonstrate skills to present effectively and independently

Syllabus plan

Subject to adjustments to accommodate pacing and student interest:

  • Non-standard preferences
    • Time preferences (present bias, discount factor)
    • Risk preferences (risk aversion, loss aversion)
    • Norms and social preferences
  • Non-standard decision making
    • Mental models (aspirations, beliefs, defaults effects)
    • Mental bandwidth (limited attention)
    • Non-cognitive skills
    • Mental health (psychology of poverty)

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Lectures, where key concepts introduced and their applications to the real world are discussed
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4Tutorials, with presentations by students where students work on the skills of establishing the contribution of an academic paper and identifying new questions or gaps
Guided independent study134To be divided between background reading (e.g., 60 hrs), preparing presentation (e.g., 10 hrs), writing the assignment (e.g., 30 hrs) and exam revision (e.g., 34 hrs)

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
In-class tutorial questionsVaried1-6In-class feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Coursework50Tutorial presentation and a written assignment of up to 1000 words1-6Final grade, verbal feedback and via BART
Examination501.5 hours1-5Final grade, exam’s indicative answers and common errors/corrections will be posted on ELE

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
CourseworkAssignment 1-5Referral/deferral period
Examination Examination1-5Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e., a final overall module mark of less than 50%) you will be required to redo the assessment(s) as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 50%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic Reading:

  • Kremer, M., Rao, G., & Schilbach, F. (2019). Behavioral development economics. In Handbook of Behavioral Economics: Applications and Foundations 1 (Vol. 2, pp. 345-458). North-Holland
  • Fehr, E. and Schmidt, K. M. (2006). The economics of fairness, reciprocity and altruism-experimental evidence and new theories. Handbook of the Economics of Giving, Altruism and Reciprocity, 1:615-691
  • World Bank (2015). World Development Report 2015: Mind, Society, and Behavior. World Bank, Washington, D.C
  • Ashraf, N., Camerer, C. F., & Loewenstein, G. (2005). Adam Smith, behavioral economist. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 19(3), 131-145




Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

There is no one textbook for this course. The lectures will also draw on a series of academic journal articles, all of which will be accessible to the students online.

Readings and materials to be linked via the ELE

Web-based and electronic resources:

ELE – College to provide hyperlink to appropriate pages

Indicative learning resources - Other resources


Key words search

Behavioural, Development

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date