Module PPP-4017:
Nudges and Behaviour Change

Module Facts

Run by School of Psychology

20 Credits or 10 ECTS Credits

Semester 1

Organiser: Prof John Parkinson

Overall aims and purpose

Over the past few decades, psychologists, economists and others in the behavioural sciences have started to find considerable evidence that many of our decisions are made using our "gut instincts" or emotions, rather than the rational cost benefit analysis that economists have traditional proposed. In parallel, other work has shown that our specific choices and behaviours (from what products we choose to buy or whether we choose to invest in a pension scheme) can be influenced by the way in which information is framed, presented or otherwise contextualised. Related work has looked at how we can shape or modify behaviours in both the short term (e.g. get people to take the stairs instead of the lift) or the long term (e.g. get people to make healthier food or lifestyle choices). In this module, we will take a problem-based learning approach and examine these and related phenomena. Students will learn by actively addressing challenges presented in a progressively more complex and challenging way.

Course content

Topics covered in this module will include essential models of behaviour change and contemporary techniques developed to engender and support change. Students will not only develop a detailed theoretical knowledge of this domain, they will also apply their knowledge to address real-world challenges. The module is interactive and will involve traditional lectures, group work and group assignments. Each week will comprise a traditional two-hour lecture developed by the Module Organiser and a weekly seminar. The seminars will adopt a problem-based approach to learning. Before the start of each seminar students will be given background reading to complete. Then based on this reading and the previous lecture students will be expected to tackle a brief and develop a new intervention. The content of the lectures will include:

  • Prospect Theory
  • Anchoring
  • Social Norms
  • Loss Aversion
  • Message Framing
  • Status Quo Bias
  • Paradox of Choice
  • Psychology of Pricing
  • Hyperbolic Discounting
  • Choice Architecture
  • Type 1 & Type 2 Decision Making
  • Heuristics
  • Temporal Dimensions
  • Principle of Reciprocity

Assessment Criteria


Students will have a superficial understanding of behaviour change, although this is likely to be largely based on the lecture material. No credible evidence of synthesising information from a range of different sources and students are likely to struggle to apply academic models and frameworks to an applied context. Answers will have a basic structure although the student’s argument is likely to contain a number of flaws in logic.


Students will have a good understanding of most areas of behaviour change, demonstrating some reading beyond the lecture material. Students will attempt to synthesise information from a range of different sources, although key details may be missed. Students will attempt to analyse academic research, and apply the research in an applied context although the analysis is likely to lack critical insight. Answers will have a clear structure with a reasonably coherent argument throughout.


Students will have an extensive understanding of all areas of behaviour change, demonstrating extensive reading beyond the lecture material, synthesising information from a range of different sources. Students will be able to critically analyse research based on its academic merit and discuss the relevance of this research in an applied context. Answers will be well structured with a compelling and coherent argument throughout..

Learning outcomes

  1. Understand and evaluate theory, techniques and models of behaviour change including when to apply them appropriately.

  2. Consider and appreciate the role of technology in supporting behaviour change.

  3. Understand and apply systematic design processes to create effective change interventions.

  4. Demonstrate the critical ability to design, develop and apply appropriate behaviour change interventions to real-world challenges and scenarios.

Assessment Methods

Type Name Description Weight
Written assignment, including essay Unit 1: Design your own Model of Behaviour Model

A newly founded charity, “Love For All”, has approached you in order to learn more about human behaviour. Their volunteers have a diverse range of experiences, but currently, they do not have any volunteers with a background in psychology. In order to help improve their marketing and fundraising activates, they have asked you to develop a simple yet comprehensive model to help explain human behaviour. You will need to research existing theories and models and collate the relevant theories into one novel model (presented as a figure). In order to explain your model they have also asked you to write a short synopsis explaining what theory(ies) you have used and why you think it is relevant to behaviour change.

WRITTEN PLAN Unit 2: Designing Interventions

You have applied for a job with the Behavioural Insights Team (aka the Nudge Unit). As part of the interview process they have given you two briefs. You have been asked to tackle ONE of the two briefs, and develop a feasible and viable intervention. However as both briefs are rather large they have suggested that you focus on just one aspect of the issue, and to work with a limited population. Try not to fall into the trap of trying to understand/solve the complete issue; just focus on one behavioural aspect that contributes to the issue.

GROUP PRESENTATION Unit 3: Group Interventions

Love For All is now a prospering, thanks in part to your previous work with them. To reward you for your hard work, they have decided to commission you to undertake a second project. Love for All have been tasked by Gwynedd Council and Snowdonia National Park to try and improve the local area.

Rather than asking you to develop a specific intervention, you have complete freedom to tackle a problem facing the local area or businesses in the local area. However, you have a to obey a few restrictions: You have to tackle a problem located in either Gwynedd or the National Park (it doesn’t have to be both) It has to be something already existing that has been badly designed (i.e. poor choice architecture). You will need to present your problem and solution in the form of an academic poster. You must work in a group of five (allocated by the course tutor). You need to consider how you will assess if your intervention is successful or not. Your budget for implementing the intervention & assessing its effectiveness is £15,000. All costs will need to be justified!


It's Nudgement Day! A final test of your knowledge of behaviour change theory and application. You’ll be given an unseen brief set by an organisation and you’ve got 8-hours to propose a solution in the form of a research proposal. During this time you can use any resources you like including: text books, lecture notes and the Internet Your answers will be assessed based on the following criteria:

Response to the topic: Does the proposal address the problems described in the topic? Is there a clear understanding of the background problem? Innovative approach: Does the idea offer an unconventional or creative approach to the problem outlined in the topic? Is the intervention grounded in or supported by psychological theory, which provides a rational basis for expecting success? Does it demonstrate application of a new or pioneering approach? Does the proposal clearly describe how the intervention would be implemented? Does the proposal clearly describe how the intervention will be assessed? A realistic analysis of challenges that are likely to be encountered.


Teaching and Learning Strategy


Each week comprises of a 2-hour lecture and a 2- hour seminar. The lectures provide you with the theoretical content, but the teaching team recognise that lecturing can be very passive and even a little dull. Consequently, the seminars will include a range of exercises and scenarios enabling you to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. In order to help you prepare for the seminar you are expected to complete the background reading.

Private study

As this is a 20 credit module, there is an expectation that students will spend 200 hours of engagement and learning over the course of the Semester. Private study and will form a key aspect of student learning, progression and success in the module. The problem-based nature of the module requires commitment and appropriate effort in order for the most to be gained from the learning experience.


Each week comprises of a 2-hour lecture and a one hour seminar. The lectures provide you with the theoretical content, but the teaching team recognise that lecturing can be very passive and even a little dull. Consequently, the seminars will include a range of exercises and scenarios enabling you to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. In order to help you prepare for the seminar you are expected to complete the background reading.


Transferable skills

  • Literacy - Proficiency in reading and writing through a variety of media
  • Computer Literacy - Proficiency in using a varied range of computer software
  • Self-Management - Able to work unsupervised in an efficient, punctual and structured manner. To examine the outcomes of tasks and events, and judge levels of quality and importance
  • Exploring - Able to investigate, research and consider alternatives
  • Information retrieval - Able to access different and multiple sources of information
  • Inter-personal - Able to question, actively listen, examine given answers and interact sensitevely with others
  • Critical analysis & Problem Solving - Able to deconstruct and analyse problems or complex situations. To find solutions to problems through analyses and exploration of all possibilities using appropriate methods, rescources and creativity.
  • Presentation - Able to clearly present information and explanations to an audience. Through the written or oral mode of communication accurately and concisely.
  • Teamwork - Able to constructively cooperate with others on a common task, and/or be part of a day-to-day working team
  • Mentoring - Able to support, help, guide, inspire and/or coach others
  • Argument - Able to put forward, debate and justify an opinion or a course of action, with an individual or in a wider group setting
  • Self-awareness & Reflectivity - Having an awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, aims and objectives. Able to regularly review, evaluate and reflect upon the performance of yourself and others
  • Leadership - Able to lead and manage, develop action plans and objectives, offer guidance and direction to others, and cope with the related pressures such authority can result in

Subject specific skills

  • Understand the scientific underpinnings of psychology as a discipline.
  • Apply multiple perspectives to psychological issues and integrate ideas and findings across the multiple perspectives in psychology.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in written form.
  • Communicate psychological concepts effectively in oral form.
  • Be computer literate for the purpose of processing and disseminating psychological data and information.
  • Retrieve and organise information effectively.
  • Handle primary source material critically.
  • Engage in effective teamwork for the purpose of collaborating on psychological projects.
  • Be sensitive and react appropriately to contextual and interpersonal psychological factors.
  • Use effectively personal planning and project management skills.
  • Work effectively under pressure (time pressure, limited resources, etc) as independent and pragmatic learners.
  • Problem-solve by clarifying questions, considering alternative solutions, making critical judgements, and evaluating outcomes.
  • Reason scientifically and demonstrate the relationship between theory and evidence.
  • Comprehend and use psychological data effectively, demonstrating a systematic knowledge of the application and limitations of various research paradigms and techniques.
  • Employ evidence-based reasoning and examine practical, theoretical and ethical issues associated with the use of different methodologies, paradigms and methods of analysis in psychology.
  • Be aware of ethical principles and approval procedures.


Resource implications for students

None - although students may choose to buy the core textbook.

Talis Reading list

Reading list

Core Textbook

  • Hardman D. (2009). Judgement and Decision Making: Psychological Perspectives. Chichester, U.K.: BPS Blackwell.
  • Wendel, S. (2013) Designing for behaviour change: Applying psychology and behavioural economics. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.

Recommend Reading

  • Ariely, D. (2008) Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions. London: HarperCollins
  • Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Co.
  • Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking Fast and Slow. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Spotswood F. (eds). (2016). Beyond behaviour change: Key issues, interdisciplinary approaches and future directions. London: Policy Press.
  • Thaler, R. H. (2016). Misbehaving the making of behavioural economics. London: Penguin Books.
  • Thaler, R.H., & Sunstein, C.R. (2008). Nudge: Improving Decision about Health, Wealth, and Happiness. New Haven: Yale University Press

Courses including this module

Compulsory in courses:

Optional in courses: