Netherlands, Amsterdam

Irrationality and Nudging: Understanding and Influencing People’s Decision-Making

when 2 July 2016 - 16 July 2016
duration 2 weeks
credits 4 ECTS
fee EUR 1000

We may like to think we are rational beings, but research in psychology and behavioural economics shows that we make irrational decisions in all areas of life. This course reveals how and when humans deviate from rational thinking, in systematic and often predictable ways, and shows how that predictability can actually be used to improve decision-making. Governments in the US, the UK, and elsewhere are taking behavioural influence seriously, as are marketers. They have discovered that “nudging” – subtle efforts to modify behaviour – can be highly effective in encouraging “better” choices. But is that ethical? And can these strategies be abused?

The ground-breaking insights discussed in this course are real eye-openers: material you can directly relate to and apply in your life. Exploring this fascinating topic in one of Europe's most vibrant and cultural cities makes the material all the more relevant. Excursions include an outing to central Amsterdam to observe and identify actual irrational behaviour and nudging practices as discussed in class for theoretical interpretation in a final presentation.

Course leader

Dr. Kobe Millet

Target group

Any student interested in understanding irrational human behaviour and nudging practices designed to subtly alter human behaviour.

Course aim

You will recognize “irrational” mechanisms in everyday decisions (financial, health and consumer choices, etc.).
You will understand irrational human behaviour and how it can be harnessed by designing nudges to help people make better decisions and improve their welfare.
You will be able to reflect critically on the theoretical and practical value of the concepts and theories discussed.
You will be able to apply what you have learned to real-life settings and translate academic research into relevant practical situations.
You will gain an interest in knowing more about how we make everyday decisions.
You will be able to discuss the ethical aspects of using subtle, subconscious nudges.

Credits info

Contact hours: 45

Fee info

EUR 1000: The tuition fee includes an airport pick-up service, welcome goodiebag, orientation programme, on-site support, 24/7 emergency assistance, and a transcript of records after completion of the course.

An early bird discount of €100 is available for students who apply before 1 March, and students from VU Amsterdam as well as from exchange partner universities will receive a €250 discount. You apply for the discount simply by indicating that you are currently a student at VU Amsterdam or at a partner university in the online application.

All courses include excursions. We will also organize trips and excursions as part of our social programme, which is a great way to get to know your fellow students and learn more about Amsterdam and the Netherlands. The social programme is not included in the tuition fee.

Furnished accommodation is available. Various housing options will be offered, starting at €425 for two weeks.


The Amsterdam Summer School offers ten scholarships that cover the full tuition fee of one course. The deadline to apply for a scholarship is 31 March. Information about how to apply for the scholarship will be posted on the Summer School Website.