Decision Behavior: Theory and Evidence (3-4 units)
Winter Quarter 2006-2007, Stanford University
Instructor:  Todd Davies
Meeting Time: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:15-2:30 PM (first meeting on January 9)
Location:  200-107 (History Corner, first floor)
Instructor's Office: 460-040C (Margaret Jacks Hall, lower level)
Phone: x3-4091; Fax: x3-5666
Email: davies at
Office Hours: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays 10:30- 11:55 AM
Course website: (homepage is this syllabus)

Updated March 8, 2007

Course Description:

This course will provide an introduction to the study of judgment and decision making, relating theory and evidence from disciplines such as psychology, economics, statistics, neuroscience, and philosophy.  We will trace the development and critique of "homo economicus" as a model of human behavior, and more recent theories based on empirical findings.  Students should be comfortable with formal reasoning.  On the theory side, some background in probability, logic, set theory, and/or game theory would be helpful, but each topic will be developed as much as possible from first principles.  On the empirical side, a previous course in psychology such as Psychology 55 or 70 would be helpful for thinking about experimental tests of hypotheses about human decision making.

Format and Requirements:

The course will consist of informal, interactive lectures, based on notes that will be handed out and posted on this page.  Students will be required to complete 3 problem sets (handed out one week or more in advance of their due dates) and a project, which will be presented in preliminary form in class during Dead Week and then turned in as a final paper.  More information about the project will be given out within the first two weeks of class.

This is the first time this particular course has been taught.  Students will see course materials as they are developed.  Therefore, the emphasis during class sessions will be on further explaining and filling in gaps in the draft notes, rather than on polished lectures.  At this early stage in its development, the course is likely to be best suited to a small class of students with a high degree of interest in the material.

Grading Basis:

1. Three problem sets (60%)
2. Project (presentation and final paper) (40%)

Topics (will probably not get through all of these):

Rationality   notes [.pdf]   slides [.pdf]
Belief   notes [.pdf]   slides [.pdf]
Preference   notes [.pdf]
Confidence   notes [.pdf]
Estimation   notes [.pdf]
Induction   notes [.pdf]
Action   notes [.pdf]   slides [.pdf]

Schedule: (tentative)

Jan. 23 Problem set 1 handed out                                                          
Jan. 30 Problem set 1 handed in
Feb. 1  Problem set 1 handed back
Feb. 13  Problem set 2 handed out
Feb. 22 Problem set 2 handed in
Feb. 27 Problem set 2 handed back
Mar. 8 Problem set 3 handed out
Mar. 15 Student presentations
Mar. 19, 6:30 pm Final paper due in 460-040C
Mar. 23, 11:59 pm Problem set 3 due

Supplementary Readings:

There is no textbook for the course, other than the notes that will be handed out before each lecture.  Each lecture's notes will provide a list of references specific to that topic.  The texts below may be useful supplements to the course in general and will be placed on reserve in Green Library:

Jonathan Baron (2000). Thinking and Deciding. Third edition. Cambridge University Press.

Reid Hastie and Robin Dawes (2001). Rational Choice in an Uncertain World. Second edition. Sage Publications.