Behavioral Economics Major (Joint Program with Economics)

Behavioral Economics is a major run jointly by the Department of Psychology and the Nicolais School of Business.  Please see appropriate faculty in either department if you have questions about the program.

Use our Major Checklist Behavioral Economics for detailed requirements.

The interdisciplinary major in behavioral economics examines social, emotional, and cognitive influences on economic decisions and behavior by modifying standard economic theory for greater psychological realism. The interdisciplinary approach of behavioral economics allows better understanding of why individuals’ economic decisions are often irrational, inconsistent, and against self-interest.

Behavioral economics is rooted in foundational theories of economics, particularly microeconomics, and the empirical work of social psychology, cognitive psychology, and experimental economics. For example, behavioral economics explores how framing a decision in terms of what may be lost can lead to logically opposite decisions than if the same choices are framed in terms of what may be gained. Behavioral economics acknowledges the human ways that people process information to make economic decisions.

Wagner College students who complete the major in behavioral economics will be uniquely prepared for graduate study focusing on behavioral economics, experimental economics, social psychology, or cognitive psychology. A growing number of graduate programs offer behavioral or experimental economics as a concentration. There also is considerable demand from many think tanks for interns and graduates with understanding of behavioral economics.

Students completing the major at Wagner College will have a strong quantitative background in statistics and calculus, skills reading primary literature, and remarkable experience designing, conducting, and reporting research. Graduating seniors will be able to demonstrate an unusual level of involvement in multiple empirical research projects.

Requirements for a Major in Behavioral Economics (B.A.)
15 units including the following required and elective courses:
Economics requirements: EC 102, EC 302, EC 332, EC 415
Mathematics requirement: MA 121 or higher Mathematics course
Psychology requirements: PS 101, PS 201 (formerly 116), PS 308
Economics electives: select 2 additional courses with guidance of advisor
Experimental Psychology elective: select 1 course in addition to PS 308
Psychology electives: select 2 additional courses with guidance of advisor
Senior Learning Community: EC 400, EC 420

  • Please consult Dr. Amy Eshleman for information regarding research and internship opportunities.
  • Those interested in pursuing graduate school in traditional areas of economics should consider taking EC 101 and EC 301.
  • Students interested in neuro-behavioral economics should consider taking BI 304, BI 306 or PS 442.
  • PS 116 is offered every fall and spring semester. This is an ideal course for sophomores.
  • A laboratory section must be taken as part of any course for which a laboratory section is offered. Lecture and laboratory must be taken concurrently.
  • Students should take psychology and economics courses simultaneously, and should not postpone either discipline.
  • Courses used to calculate the grade point average for the major index include all courses taken in Economics and Psychology as well as one Mathematics course 121 or higher.
  • Students majoring in behavioral economics may not also major or minor in economics or psychology.

  • Dr. Amy Eshleman, Psychology
  • Dr. Mary Rose Leacy, Economics
Students may choose an academic advisor from among the economics or psychology faculty depending on academic interest.

The Economist captures some of the value of behavioral economics
Misbehaving by Richard H. Thaler, one of the founders of behavioral economics
Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, one of the founders of behavioral economics
Nudge by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein
Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely