Behavioral, Experimental and Neuroeconomics

Behavioral, Experimental, and Neuroeconomics study the effects of social, cognitive, emotional and neural factors on economic decisions by individuals, firms and institutions. These fields draw on methods and insights from other scientific disciplines – such as psychology, neuroscience, information technology and sociology – and use them to improve and extend economic research and theory. These fields have produced some of the most significant advances in economics over the past several decades, leading to fundamental changes in the assumptions underlying economic theory and in how economic research shapes policy and the design of organizations.

Research projects

Exemplary project: The Currency of Reciprocity - Gift-Exchange in the Workplace (M. Maréchal)

What determines whether reciprocity can be used to motivate workers in employment relations? This research involves conducting controlled field experiments to measure the extent to which monetary and non-monetary gifts affect workers’ performance. The research builds on previous research showing that small gifts can have a profound impact on the neural and pharmacological foundation of decision making. The research results demonstrate that non-monetary gifts by employers have a much stronger motivational impact than monetary gifts of equivalent value. The experiment also finds that when workers are offered the choice, they prefer receiving money, but reciprocate as if they received a non-monetary gift. This result is consistent with the common saying, “it’s the thought that counts.” The research further underlines this point by also showing that monetary gifts can effectively trigger reciprocity if the employer invests more time and effort into the gift’s presentation.

Connections to courses

Behavioral, Experimental, and Neuroeconomics integrate insights, methods, and models from various disciplines to study the effects of social, cognitive, emotional, and neural factors on economic decision making. It addresses therefore students who are interested in a truly interdisciplinary research approach based on observation of human behavior and the testing of basic theoretical assumptions.

The empirical insights in this area have become more and more important for the economy, politics and for society in general. For students who focus on this area, there are a wide range of excellent employment opportunities with private firms, public organizations, and NGOs interested in applying insights from behavioral, experimental, and neuroeconomic research to their operations. Examples include consulting firms, political institutions in advanced and developing countries, public entities such as hospitals and schooling systems, media businesses, and investment banks.

The skills and knowledge in this area are highly relevant for the program’s specializations in Economics, Business Administration, Banking and Finance, and Management and Economics and overlap with the core courses at the Bachelor’s and Master’s levels. The specific courses that focus on Behavioral, Experimental, and Neuroeconomics are mainly taught in the courses offered by the Department of Economics. The Department also offers a full-fledged Doctoral Program in Neuroeconomics as a graduate degree.

The following list provides examples of courses particularly related to Behavioral, Experimental, and Neuroeconomics.

List of courses

More detailed information on each module can be found by copying the 8-digit code into the search field of the University’s course catalogue.

Course catalogue

Bachelor's level

Introduction to Personnel and Organizational Economics BOEC0267
Introductory Econometrics BOEC0004
Introduction to Neuroeconomics and Social Neuroscience BOEC0120
Business Ethics and Social Science BOEC0308

Master's level

Principles of Neuroeconomics MOEC0336 
Behavioral Game Theory MOEC0362
Research Seminar in Experimental Economics MOEC0010
Organizational Economics MOEC0054
Empirical Methods, Part 2 (Experimental Economics) MOEC0205

Doctoral level

Experimental Project Design DOEC0472
Topics in Experimental and Behavioral Economics DOEC0437
Decision Neuroscience DOEC0133
Experimental and Behavioral Economics Seminar DOEC0473
Neuroeconomics Seminar (Foundations of Human Social Behavior) DOEC0490
PhD Reading Course in Experimental Economics DOEC0452

Faculty members involved

The following Faculty members research and/or teach in Behavioral, Experimental, and Neuroeconomics.