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Courses

RUBEN associates teach a number of courses through the University of Cape Town’s School of Economics that relate to behavioural and experimental economics.

Undergraduate Courses

Cooperation and competition (ECO2007S)

This is an introductory course in game theory, the framework for analysing strategic interaction. Game theory is (among other things), the basic technology for understanding most phenomena in microeconomics and some phenomena in macroeconomics, along with many processes in political science, law, evolutionary biology, and the science of animal behaviour (ethology). In this course we study the basic structure of the theory.

Postgraduate Courses

Experiments in economics (ECO4029S)

This course is an introduction to the methodology of experimental economics and its application to specific topics such as decision making under risk and over time, the provision of public goods, and bargaining. We primarily focus on laboratory experiments but we also cover field experiments, and briefly discuss randomised evaluations and natural experiments. The course starts with a consideration of the scope and role of experiments in economics. It then explores some basic principles of experimental design such as the role of randomisation and control in experimentation, the use of incentives, and the interplay of theory, experimental design, and statistics. Thereafter we focus on specific examples of experiments from both decision theory and game theory.

Views in institutional and behavioural economics (ECO5064S)

Neoclassical economics assumes that individuals are fully rational and self-interested, and that the interaction of such agents is all that is needed to explain economic outcomes. Recent developments in behavioural and institutional economics challenge these two assumptions and suggest refinements to economic theory that promise to be more relevant to real world applications. This course is about these challenges and applications.

A host of anomalies to subjective expected utility theory have been uncovered by experimental economics, experimental psychology, and other empirical studies. The first major objective of this course (sections 2 and 3) is to expose students to a critical reading of this literature.

The assumption that economic outcomes can be explained solely in terms of individuals with utility functions interacting in anonymous markets has been challenged on many grounds. Markets do not function without a supportive structure of institutions – defined property rights, contract enforcement mechanisms, and sufficient levels of trust. The second major area of focus of the course (sections 4 and 5) will be on the behavioural foundations that underpin these institutions.

The third and final objective of the course is to understand the interplay between psychology and poverty. Many of the conditions that worsen decision-making might actually be caused by poverty. If the poor have to live day to day, trying to make ends meet, this in itself, is taxing and a preoccupation with these concerns leaves fewer mental resources for other decisions or concerns. In this final section of the course we look at some innovative new work that investigates the relationship between cognitive control (or what is otherwise known as executive function) and poverty. The course closes with reflections on what all this means for public policy.

Microeconomics II (ECO6007F)

In this course, we focus on three key areas that are typically under-emphasised in standard Walrasian economics, namely uncertainty, asymmetric information, and strategic interactions. Topics covered include: decision theory and human behaviour; strategic interaction: game theory and principal-agent models; moral hazard and adverse selection.

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