Evolutionary Behavioral Economics

It may be time to grant human intuition a little more respect than it has recently been receiving. The evolved mechanisms that undergird our intuitions have been subjected to millions of years of field testing against a very rich and complexly structured environment. With only a few hundred years of normative theorizing under our belts, there may still be aspects of real-world statistical problems that have escaped us.

Have you ever wondered why one cannot resist eating sweets at midnight, why do people fear snakes, or why are our choices heavily influenced by what other people do? Answering these – at first sight silly – questions reveals that what may seem like a ‘bias’ or ‘error, can be actually a feature tricking us into maximizing behavior. The course ‘Evolutionary Behavioral Economics’ uses insights from evolutionary biology and neurosciences to provide a critical perspective on theories of human decision making, which have been in last decades dominated by the heuristics and biases research program.

Advanced Course
Face-to-Face & Online

Opportunies to attend this course


Vojtěch Zíka

Czech Republic

Alejandro Hortal

University of North Carolina at Greensboro
United States of America

Alessandra Cassar

University of San Francisco
United States of America

Lucas Molleman

University of Amsterdam

Course details

Topics covered

Introduction into Evolutionary Behavioral Economics

A Brief History of Life: An Introduction into Evolution

A Brief History of Mankind

How Does the Brain Operates?

Why Were Men Better Hunters and Women Better Moms?

Revisiting the “Error” in Studies of Cognitive Error

Behind and Beyond a Shared Definition of Ecological Rationality

Gender: Competing for the Offspring

Ethnicity: WEIRD People and Cultural Coevolution Models

Developing and Running an Experiment in Lioness Lab

Decision-making and Emotions

Decision-making and Society

EBE & Public Policy: Introduction

Rationality in Economics vs. Rationality in Public Policies

Rationality and Values in Public Policies

Evolutionary Critique of Nudge Theory in Public Policy

Do We Have a Free Will and What Does It Mean For Public Policies?


Each lecture lasts 60 minutes. Morning lectures start at 9:30 and finish at 12:00. Afternoon lectures start at 13:30 and finish 17:30. If not set otherwise, the break after each lecture lasts 30 minutes. All times are in Central European Time (CET).

For students who participate face-to-face, there will be some icebreakers on August 8. Therefore for those who only have an advanced course (no crash course), the summer school starts on August 8.

ECTS requirements

To obtain the ECTS, a student has to get in total at least 60% of all available points which are being awarded for the following activities:

- attend all lectures (20 hrs. of WL / 1 pt. per hour, 20 in total)

- submit 4 homeworks (10 hrs. of WL / 2.5 pts. per homework, 10 in total)

- final exam (30 hrs. of WL / 30 pts.)

- final project (40 hrs. of WL / 40 pts.)


- Cosmides, L., & Tooby, J. (1996). Are humans good intuitive statisticians after all? Rethinking some conclusions from the literature on judgment under uncertainty. Cognition, 58(1), 1-73.

- Dawkins, R. (1988). The Blind Watchmaker. 1986. Harlow Logman.

- Dhami, S. (2016). The foundations of behavioral economic analysis. Oxford University Press.

- Dunbar, R., Barrett, L., & Lycett, J. (2005). Evolutionary psychology: a beginner's guide. Oneworld Publications.

- Harari, Y. N. (2014). Sapiens: A brief history of humankind. Random House. Chicago

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