Human decisions: the key to society We live in a highly complex, interdependent world, and the number of decisions we need to make is exploding. Due to increasing knowledge and scientific progress, we also have more and more information at our disposal to make these decisions. At the same time, we face growing uncertainties like financial crises, climate change, migration and international terrorism on the one hand, and more individual freedom and autonomy on the other.
Under these circumstances it is increasingly difficult – yet also increasingly important – to understand how to make smart individual and strategic decisions. Such decisions form the cornerstone of the proper functioning of institutions, organisations and markets, on which our very wellbeing depends. To understand what good decisions are and how we can make them, this programme gives you a thorough understanding of the cognitive and social aspects of human decision-making.
Economics and psychology: the best of both worlds Offered jointly by the School of Business and Economics (SBE) and the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN), Human Decision Science combines the best of two worlds. It takes the rigour and clarity of economic and game-theoretic decision analysis, and combines it with the human factors of bounded rationality, biases and emotions from psychology. This programme thus goes beyond the traditional, monodisciplinary approach in understanding human decisions. It is a genuinely interdisciplinary programme that combines economics and psychology in all their different facets, from the neuropsychological basis of decision making to multinational institutions like the European Union.
Human Decision Science is a one-year, full-time programme taught entirely in English. Graduates will receive a Master of Science in Human Decision Science.
Decisions are an unavoidable fact of life. Human Decision Science trains you to analyse decision situations and apply the right tools in making strategic decisions.
As an example: imagine that a former city government has approved financing for a large infrastructure project that is of national interest but environmentally costly. In return for approving the project, the city government received compensation from the national government. Now, a new government has been elected and is confronted with a civic movement that wants to block the infrastructure project. If the new government gives in to the demands of the movement it will not only have to pay back the already spent compensation payments, but also lose its reputation nationwide. On the other hand, if it does not halt the project it will lose local support and perhaps the next elections.
Is there a way out of this dilemma? What procedures could help to reach a compromise between the different parties? Is a compromise possible at all? Should local or national interests be given more weight? These are the sorts of questions that you address in Human Decision Science.
What will you learn? In this programme, you take courses at both the School of Business and Economics (SBE) and the Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience (FPN), and your thesis is co-supervised by a staff member from each. While the first term consists of mandatory courses, the second term allows you to choose a specialisation from various application areas of human decision science. These specialisations include but are not limited to:
- Behavioural Economics - Organisational Behaviour - Consumer Behaviour - Public Economics - Sustainable Development - Conflict Resolution - Medical Decision Making - Financial Decision Making.
During the programme, you learn:
- to analyse decision situations using the appropriate theoretical and empirical strategies - to address the design of institutions, procedures and protocols, such that you and the parties involved can make good decisions - the tools needed to improve the decision-making processes in your chosen field of application, in line with your interests and career goals.
Your thesis research might explore one or more themes from the application areas or the compulsory courses. You can conduct this research externally and/or abroad; to this end we collaborate with other institutes from Maastricht University and with the University of Milan.
This programme will give you a head start wherever human decisions are important, laying the groundwork for a career in senior and executive positions. You will be best equipped to work in interdisciplinary teams dealing with strategic issues (policy, company strategy, marketing strategy, etc.) and conflicts of all kinds between different decision makers. Armed with the theoretical knowledge from the first part of the programme, in the second part you lay the foundation for your future, choosing courses that suit your interests and researching topics that fit with your career plans. Your career prospects could include:
- government institutions (policymaking and implementation) - NGOs and non-profit organisations (agenda setting, campaigning) - human resource departments (incentive schemes, performance assessment, conflict resolution) - healthcare and health insurance companies (medical decision making) - marketing (customer relations, consumer behaviour) - consulting, management coaching - academic research.