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Duke University

A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior

Duke University via Coursera

This course may be unavailable.


This course will draw heavily on my own research, and pulls largely from my three books: Predictably Irrational (2008), The Upside of Irrationality (2010), and The Honest Truth About Dishonesty (2012). We will examine topics such as our “irrational” patterns of thinking about money and investments, how expectations shape perception, economic and psychological analyses of dishonesty by honest people, how social and financial incentives work together (or against each other) in labor, how self-control comes into play with decision making, and how emotion (rather than cognition) can have a large impact on economic decisions. This highly interdisciplinary course will be relevant to all human beings.

The goals of this class:
  1. Introduce you to the range of cases where people (consumers, investors, managers, friends, significant others, and even you) might make decisions that are inconsistent with standard economic theory and the assumptions of rational decision making. This is the lens of behavioral economics.
  2. Help you think creatively about the applications of behavioral economics to the development of new products, technologies and public policy, and to understand how business and social policy strategies could be modified with a deeper understanding of the effects these principles have on all of us.


There are two tracks that you can take to receive a Statement of Accomplishment for this course. For each track, you will need to earn a grade of 85% or above, but your path toward that grade will be different under each track.

50% Lecture Quizzes
50% Final Exam

 20% Reading Quizzes
 20% Lecture Quizzes
 30% Final Exam
 15% "Solve a Problem" Writing Assignment
 15% "Design an Experiment" Writing Assignment

Taught by

Dan Ariely


4.9 rating, based on 553 Class Central reviews

Start your review of A Beginner's Guide to Irrational Behavior

  • I loved this course, the various topics selected for discussion were interesting and Prof Ariely has a very humorous way of keeping the audience engaged and interested. There is also a distinction track for those interested to take part in more activities such as the writing exercise and reading assignments, and also a normal track for those who just wish to follow the course. Highly recommended!
  • Anonymous
    Unfortunately, this course was removed permanently from Coursera. I don't know the reason, but it is not on the list anymore.

    I hope it will be repeated, but I doubt... :(
  • I am a student interested in the field of humanities and took this course during my free time and I have to say it was one of the most rewarding experiences. The course is well-structured and planned- no hiccups on that front. All the course materia…
  • Anonymous
    It was an Excellent course both from the perspective of content and presentation. The course will reveal flaws in basic human intuitions and will likely change the way You view the world. Thus it should be interesting for a broad audience. Addition…
  • Anonymous
    didn't expect an online course to change the way I think, but this course was that good. The video lectures are engaging, because Ariely is a dynamic speaker who's clearly passionate about behavioral economics and then on top of that silly cartoons,…
  • Anonymous
    I got BA in Economics and MBA. Therefore, I was familiar with economics before taking this class. However, behavioral economics is new to me. And the name of the course attracted me, so I read about it and decided to take it. I was very excited to s…
  • Anonymous
    I love this course. I learned a lot of new and amazing things in the course. The video lectures were of great quality. I found it very easy to follow the video lectures. The professor made them amazingly simple and easy to understand even for a person who is not good at English like me. But it was very hard for me when it came to reading. There were a lot of required reading materials and they were too academic for me. :) The writing assignment was evaluated by 3 peers and was worth 1/3 of the final grade. That seemed to be a problem for some students as they suffered from unfair grading. But that could be changed in the future as students have made many suggestions to improve it.
  • Olena Bosenok
    This course is the most entertaining of all coursera courses I've taken. The lectures are brilliant -- full of jokes, animation, and funny examples. My favorite one is Eve's (Adam&Eve) problem with self-control. " Q.: Would you sacrifice e…
  • Anonymous
    This was my first MOOC. I found Dan Ariely to be a very persuasive and engaging speaker and a great introduction to behavioral economics. I found the course guidelines on workload understated the workload. I was aiming for the Statement of Completio…
  • Anonymous
    behavioural psychology has always been a subject of my interest but this was for the first time I have pursued it to this level of depth. This course if one of the bestest courses I have ever ever taken. I am not only in love with this subject but I…
  • Anonymous
    Very well-organized course. I enjoyed it very much.
  • B Mohan Kumar
    A brilliant course. More needed from the same. Prof
  • Anonymous
    hat is more important for human being than understanding causes of his own actions as well as others? This class hopefully make you aware of probable reasons of someone irrational behavior and you'll be less stressed about it. The quality is extrao…
  • Anonymous
    Great course, great 1st experience with an online course. Recommended for anyone interested in the material. Accessible to high school level students and beyond. Prof did a good job of presenting the material, providing extras, and giving opportun…
  • Bart
    I read one of his books a while ago and was a little bit put off by the tone in which he preached his knowledge. This course is even worse for me. I am questioning his research from a statistical perspective, but my main gripe is more of a subjectiv…
  • Anonymous
    The course was magnificent , the teacher very very good , and also the staff . Compared to other courses is superior because it provides a lot of material on the subject and makes greater use of films, drawings , diagrams and excellent slides . Many…
  • Anonymous
    The standard certificate is super-easy to get in terms of time and difficulty: you need to watch less than 1h of videos and answer 15 easy questions per week (you can repeat the quizzes up to 15 times!) and an easy final exam of 2 parts of 30 questi…
  • Anonymous
    I took this course in Spring 2013 and was disappointed that I didn't score highly enough to earn a certificate then. (I was just a point or two away from it!) I was determined to get the certificate the next time it was offered, which was this sprin…
  • Anonymous
    :-) my vote: **** of ***** positive: teacher: very congenial presentation: very professional, entertaining, rich in content; nice design content: interesting , fascinating, descriptive examples a little negative: office-ours: sometime too long…
  • Anonymous
    I had already read the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely.. so i knew this would be an interesting course. This also meant that i knew about many of the topics beforehand. The course is different in how friendly everything was, of course Dan…

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