Human Behavior and the Economic Way of Thinking
will focus on decision-making in everyday life, the
economic implications of current events, interesting bits of behavioral research we discover as the course
progresses, and the consequences of economic choices for both decisionmakers and other parties. Although
most of the activities addressed in this course will be viewed through the lens of economic reasoning,
interpretations of behavior drawn from other disciplines (e.g., history, philosophy, sociology, psychology,
anthropology) will also be emphasized.
Topic 1. A Brief Taxonomy of the Behavioral Sciences
Most taxonomies (classification systems), including this one, are unavoidably messy. Virtually all disciplines
overlap somewhat in some ways. Examples include the shared use of the scientific method and mathematics, or
reliance on certain
Behavioral sciences have a somewhat different focus than most non-behavioral disciplines – e.g., the
arts, languages, or the physical and social sciences. Behavioral sciences reflect attempts to study behavior
systematically: How do people behave? Why do they behave as they do? What are the consequences of their
Some disciplines (e.g., physics) seem to deal, at most, tangentially with behavior. To what extent do disciplines
other than psychology, sociology, anthropology, and economics address human behavior? [E.g., history,
literature, demography, linguistics, geography, political science, art, or biology.] What commonalities, if any,
distinguish behavioral disciplines from other areas of study?
is the study of similarities and differences in the socio-cultural and biological behaviors of
human populations in all periods and in all parts of the world.
is the study of how individuals and societies allocate their limited resources in attempts to satisfy
their unlimited wants.