Fields of Undergraduate Studies in Social and Decision Sciences
Three undergraduate majors are offered: Behavioral Economics, Policy, and Organizations (BEPO), Decision Science, and Policy and Management. All are Bachelors of Science degrees.
Behavioral Economics, Policy, and Organizations (BEPO)
The interdisciplinary field of Behavioral Economics integrates perspectives from Economics and Psychology to understand and predict human behavior in economic contexts. There has been an explosion of interest from government agencies to incorporate the insights from behavioral economics into the design of public policy and in an executive order, President Obama urged government agencies to recruit behavioral economists. All types of organizations are increasingly relying on behavioral economics to improve their organizational effectiveness and profitability.
The Department of Social and Decision Sciences’ (SDS) exceptional faculty in Behavioral Economics is at the forefront of research and teaching in this field and regularly consult with government and business on topics such as the impact of predatory lending practices on public welfare, how to design institutional practices to reduce the biases of stock traders, the design of interventions to motivate employees, how the government can increase participation in social service programs, interventions to increase patients’ compliance with medication, and how businesses can reduce inequality in the workplace. Faculty bring this expertise and experience into the classroom to train students how to solve problems important to government and organizations.
Students in BEPO—the first and only major of its kind—will be uniquely trained in the integration of Economics and Psychology and will have a solid grounding in quantitative methods The core includes courses in economics, psychology, behavioral economics, and quantitative methods. SDS offers the largest selection of behavioral economics courses anywhere in the world. Applied projects in courses will teach students how to collect original data, design field and laboratory experiments, analyze data, and develop interventions to improve economic outcomes and decisions. Students will be well equipped to enter a wide range of professions and graduate degree programs.
- Mathematics: 21-120 (Differential and Integral Calculus)
- Quantitative Methods: 36-201 (Statistical Reasoning and Practice), 36-202 (Statistical Methods), 88-251 (Empirical Research Methods), 88-252 (Causal Inference in the Field)
- Economics: 73-100* (Principles of Economics), 73-160 (Foundations of Microeconomics)
- Psychology: 88-120 (Reason, Passion, and Cognition), 88-302 (Behavioral Decision Making)
- Behavioral Economics: 88-360 (Behavioral Economics), 88-367 (Behavioral Economics in Wild)
- Electives (4 courses): at least 1 course in Economics, Psychology, and Behavioral Economics
- Project Course: 88-453 (Capstone in Behavioral Economics)
* If 88-220 has already been taken this can serve as a substitute for 73-100
The interdisciplinary field of Decision Science seeks to understand and improve the judgment and decision making of individuals, groups, and organizations. Qualified graduates can continue to PhD programs in Decision Science or related fields (e.g., psychology, business), pursue professional degrees (e.g., MBA, MD, JD, MPH), or take professional positions in business, government, consulting, or the non-profit sector. Students work with faculty and the Academic Advisor to tailor their education to their personal needs and interest.
Carnegie Mellon is one of the leading centers for the study of Decision Science - and offers the only undergraduate major that integrates analytical and behavioral approaches to decision making. Our faculty are involved in applying Decision Science in a wide variety of areas, allowing them to share practical experiences with students. These applications include medical decision making (e.g., conveying the costs and benefits of treatment options), legal decision making (e.g., reducing the effects of hindsight bias on attributions of responsibility for accidents), risk management (e.g., assessing and communicating the risks of climate change), marketing (e.g., understanding the effects of inter-temporal choice on purchasing decisions), and business (e.g., identifying unrecognized conflicts of interest).
Decision Science is grounded in theories and methods drawn from psychology, economics, philosophy, statistics, and management science. Courses in the major cover the three aspects of decision science: (a) normative analysis, creating formal models of choice; (b) descriptive research, studying how cognitive, emotional, social, and institutional factors affect judgment and choice, and (c) prescriptive interventions, seeking to improve judgment and decision making. In addition to gaining a broad education in the principles of judgment and decision making, Decision Science majors gain broadly applicable skills in research design and analysis. They also have the chance to think about and discuss decision making in many different areas.
The core courses present fundamental theories and results from the study of decision making, along with their application to real-world problems. They introduce students to methods for collecting and analyzing behavioral data. For example, students learn to conduct surveys (e.g., uncovering consumer or managerial preferences), design experiments (e.g., evaluating theories, comparing ways of presenting information), and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions.
The elective courses provide students with additional knowledge in areas of decision making that meet their personal, intellectual, and career goals. These courses are organized into six clusters: biological and behavioral aspects of decision making, managerial and organizational aspects, philosophical and ethical perspectives, economic and statistical methods, public policy, and research methods. Students can concentrate in one area or spread their studies across them. In addition to coursework, the department offers research opportunities for interested and qualified students. Participating in research helps students to extend their mastery of decision science, discover whether a research career is right for them, and get to know faculty and graduate students better.
Policy & Management
The Policy and Management major prepares students for key decision-making and management roles in government, non-profit organizations, and business. The major emphasizes analytic approaches to decision making and practical management skills necessary for graduates to excel in both the public and private sectors. The multidisciplinary curriculum merges frontier knowledge on both the ideals of decision making, policy, and organization, as well as the realities of individual and organizational behavior that must be confronted if high-quality outcomes are going to be attained.
The major is comprised of four clusters of courses. The Analytic Methods requirement consists of four courses that provide theoretical training and practical experience in problem solving and decision making. These courses provide systematic methods for dealing with the complexities that make decisions difficult, ranging from incorporating issues of risk and uncertainty in decision making to dealing with choices that have mutually conflicting objectives. For example, a business or government agency may need to decide on a policy for mitigating the uncertain impacts of air pollution while simultaneously trying to minimize the costs of such a policy on manufacturing. A firm might want to consider the uncertain reductions in security dangers from alternative policies to protect against terrorism. In this requirement, students will gain an appreciation of the economic analysis of complex decisions, as well as the trade-off between economic and political-based decision making.
The Organizational Context requirement is a course that emphasizes the analysis of how people organize and coordinate their behavior to perform complex tasks that are beyond the capability of any single individual. The course uses a multidisciplinary approach to analyze the potential shortcomings of large organizations, such as inertia, group-think, coordination failure, and bureaucratic infighting.
The Research Methods requirement is comprised of two courses focused on key methods for collecting and analyzing data that are needed to make informed decisions. Students learn to use interviews, surveys, experiments, and econometric methods to enhance their ability to test existing, and design new, policies.
Finally, the Electives requirement consists of five courses chosen by the student, in coordination with the Academic Advisor, to add depth and breadth to the major. These courses are chosen from five categories that emphasize different aspects of decision making and management: (1) policy making, (2) management, (3) technology and information, (4) international policy, and (5) political science and law. The selected courses may be from one category or from any combination of categories.
The Policy and Management major provides an excellent combination of theoretical and practical skills for students who intend to seek managerial positions. Because of its strong analytic orientation, it is also an excellent major for those who intend to go on to professional school programs in law, business, or public policy. It is also an appropriate choice for students pursuing graduate degrees in economics, political science, or decision science. One such graduate option is the accelerated masters program offered by the H. J. Heinz III School of Public Policy and Management, in which a student earns both a B.S. in Policy and Management and a M.S. in Public Policy and Management in five years.