Understanding and influencing decisions in business and society

Improving decisions in an (ir)rational world

Why a minor in Understanding and Influencing Decisions in Business and Society at VU?

This minor will allow you to understand and influence human decision making and choice, based on recent insights from behavioral economics and psychology.

Upon completion of this minor, you will be able to understand how people make decisions and how they are influenced by the situation around them. Based on this knowledge, you will learn to develop interventions to influence behavior of others (through nudging and social influence tactics) in order to achieve societal and business goals, such as increasing sustainable behavior, a more healthy lifestyle or sales of the company. Through historical and every day examples of leadership you will learn to improve (your own) leadership skills and the related output of teams and organizations. Furthermore, you will learn to formulate more effective negotiation strategies. Finally, you will discuss the ethical aspects of such influence strategies.

Students from other faculties or universities are eligible, and are encouraged to take part in the minor. The diversity of students from different educational programs, universities and countries is a valuable element in the discussion of human’s irrational behavior. The testimonials below give a good insight into how students experienced the minor.

Alexander Rauf

BSc student Marketing and Communication Management (Aarhus University, Denmark)

Alexander"The minor is providing real-life applicable insights to why we humans behave in the way we do. The broad combination of courses and the multi-disciplinary environment created by students from different fields, gave a deeper than usual understanding of the material, which enabled us students to apply it to real-life situations - something that is often lacking from other courses at university. The minor was a refreshing change, that gave a better understanding of my own and others behaviour in general, as well as specific tools I can apply in my studies on Marketing and Management Communication".

Oussama El Maimouni

BSc student Science, Business & Innovation (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Oussama"What I really enjoyed about this minor is that the stuff we learn during the courses is recognizable as well as immediately applicable in society.

Fabienne Krywuczky

BSc student Psychology (University of Twente, Enschede)

Fabienne“This minor represents a perfect mix of acquiring new skills and applying previous knowledge from my Bachelor in Psychology. I especially like the approach of investigating the problems in our society and looking at the irrational manner in which people think and behave and to reveal and improve those with the help of psychological concepts. Additionally, my fear of not being prepared for this minor due to my lack of courses about business or society was unjustified. Instead, I have broadened my knowledge about these topics without being overstrained. I believe that this minor represents a very insightful additional course package to a Bachelor in Psychology.”

For other testimonials, please see below

Judgment and Decision Making, Period 1 (6.0 EC)

Why do people take the decisions they take?
Most of us like to believe that we are capable of making rational decisions, but how is it then possible that savvy people make ‘foolish’ decisions? 
In fact, whenever we have to take decisions, we often fall short, be it on health, personal finance, public choice, consumer decisions...

This course provides an overview of scientific research on judgment & decision making, where psychology and economics collide and collaborate to understand human behavior. It reveals how and when humans deviate from rational thinking, in systematic and often predictable ways and will provide you with the basic knowledge of theories, concepts and methods that is necessary to understand how decisions are made. The course is inspired by the groundbreaking, nobel-prize winning work of Kahneman and Tversky as well as other seminal work and research programmes of other leading thinkers in the field (and society). We will discuss eye-opening research that documents several well-known biases as well as focus on mental accounting,  loss/gain framing, forecasting, visceral influences, motivated reasoning and (dis)honesty.

Leadership: Mobilizing People, Period 1 (6.0 EC)

Leadership is a subject that has long excited interest among scholars and laypeople alike. The term “leadership” often connotes images of powerful, dynamic individuals who direct corporate empires or shape the course of nations. However, we are confronted with leadership every day: in class, during group assignments, at your job, sport club, student organization, etc. Whether the concern is with a business corporation, a nation, an athletic team, or a team project in class, there seems to be a persistent assumption that the leader has a crucial role in the organization’s or team’s success. This course on leadership, which combines and integrates state of the art leadership theories and research, will help you understand both historical and every day examples of leadership.
Leaders must be able to manage information, diagnose problems, negotiate with others, and make effective decisions, as well as coordinate and motivate the human and social capital of their organizational members. This course aims to prepare you to understand and meet these goals by familiarizing you with leadership theories, and providing you with practical experiences through case studies and experiential activities.

Managing Negotiations: Getting to Yes, Period 2 (6.0 EC)

Negotiation is all around you, whether it concerns international disputes, labor agreement negotiations, or even a discussion at home about who does the grocery shopping. To reconcile this kind of dilemmas successfully, you have to negotiate. Negotiating is a key communication and influence tool in both your professional and personal life. The overall goal of this course is to become a more effective negotiator, which is able to reach a joint outcome that is optimal for all participants. You cannot become an effective negotiator by studying alone; you will need to practice, experiment and experience. Therefore, throughout the course, we combine theoretical knowledge from the lectures with practical exercises (role-play simulations).

The three main parts of the course are:
Part 1: How to negotiate in a rational and strategic way?
Part 2: Which emotional and psychological factors come into play in a negotiation?
Part 3: What are the ethical and cultural aspects of negotiating?

Nudge: Influencing Behavior, Period 2 (6.0 EC)

How can you improve the efficiency of towel re-usage programs in hotels? Which incentives help consumers to eat healthier? How can people be motivated to prefer public transport to car travel? Why do people feel the urge to buy products with a “limited edition’?
These are some of the questions we deal with in the course “Nudging: Influencing behaviour”. As compared to standard economic policies to change people’s behaviour by using incentives or punishment, nudging is a completely new intervention strategy to make people healthier, happier, and wealthier.  It’s the art of influencing people to change habits and make decisions that serve societal and/or commercial goals such as e.g. reducing the number of phone calls to helpdesks, cutting down on energy use, reducing pollution, stimulating healthy behavior, etc.

Designing Interventions in Business and Society, Period 3 (6.0 EC) 

This integrative project course is the capstone course of the minor “Understanding and Influencing Decisions in Business and Society”. We will use the concept of happiness as a guiding principal for the assignments in the course. What is happiness, and how do we make plans and strategies that ultimately lead to an improvement in happiness. After a brief introduction in which you get acquainted with some of the methods for designing interventions, you start working on an intervention that addresses the real-world challenge of improving happiness within organizations. In this project, you will touch upon (1) design, (2) implementation, and (3) testing/evaluation phases by the development of a strategic plan to achieve your goal. As this is an integrative course, your intervention will a multi-disciplinary effort, in which you will combine insights on leadership with those on judgment and decision making, nudges and negotiation skills.
This course is only accessible for students who have followed the preceding 4 courses within this minor.

This minor contains 5 compulsory courses. Instead of the courses Designing Interventions in Business and Society and Managing Negotiations: Getting to Yes you may choose to do an internship. Note that the internship has to be approved by the minor coordinator in advance.

For specific information about the specific course objectives, please visit the study guide.


This minor can be followed by all students in business administration and economics. In addition, advanced bachelor students (third year) from other faculties as well as other universities are welcome to join.

It is especially interesting for:
  • All students in Business Administration and Economics. 
  • All students from other academic bachelor programmes that are interested in decision making and influencing other people’s behavior (e.g. health science, communication science, psychology, social sciences).


VU student: you can register for the courses of the minor via VUnet from 20 July.
Other students: you can register as a secondary course student (bijvak) via register.vu.nl. More information about this procedure can be found on this website in Dutch or in English.

If you have detailed questions about the contents of the programme, please contact: Dr. K.M.T. Millet   kobe.millet@vu.nl

Cristina afb“This minor has given me a chance to see my bachelor in Communication Science with completely different eyes. Each of the five courses in the program helped me have an interdisciplinary understanding of basic concepts on business and psychology and to use them in order to make a change. It’s exciting to see how such a short specialization has helped me build my professional profile!”
Cristina Bonillo Martínez, Bsc student Communication Science (University of Amsterdam) 

Amanda afb“Coming from the Social Science Faculty, I feared that this minor might contain too much economics for me. Fortunately, this was not the case. As there were no calculations or math skills required, I managed to score very high on the exams and genuinely feel like I have learnt a lot. The courses are interesting and the lecturers are very passionate about the topics. For me, the best part of this minor is that every day I recognize things in my daily life that I can now explain with knowledge I gained from this semester. Altogether, the minor was a great contribution to my bachelor!”
Amanda Perotti, BSc student Public Administration and Organisation Science (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) 

Emre afb"I followed this minor because I was very interested in how people make decisions and how you can influence these decisions. I was very surprised how easy it could be to influence certain decisions. Moreover, I improved both my negotiation and leadership skills during this minor as well. I recommend this minor for students who want to learn something that they benefit from in their future career."
Emre Vonk, BSc student Business Administration (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Emma"This minor allows students to connect theories and practice by its use of real life examples all while having great cohesion between the courses which led to engagement and excitement throughout the entire period!"
Emma Bønnelykke Andersen, BSc student Marketing and Communication Management (Aarhus University Denmark)

Dominique "When I started this minor, I was wondering whether I could keep up with the courses since they are so different from my bachelor coursework. Still, I decided to take part in this program and it definitely exceeded my expectations. Even though I was not familiar with the subjects I was able to understand the materials and the lecturers were helpful when needed. This minor is super!"
Dominique van Schagen, BSc student Information Sciences (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) 

“I highly enjoyed the 'Understanding and Influencing Decisions in Business and Society' minor. The minor program allowed me to explore new areas of study which I would normally not have time to pursue, such as psychology and economics. While not strictly business-related, the minor program provided plenty of examples of practical application which allowed me to apply it to my own course of study here at home. I was challenged and really enjoyed it.”
Ben Soofer, BSc student Strategic Communications and Marketing (University of Denver, USA) 

"I learned a lot during the minor Understanding and Influencing Decisions in Business and Society. It was a great addition to my bachelor and I can use the things I learnt during the courses in my daily life! I am very happy that I chose to follow this minor."
Marlou Bommer, BSc student Public administration and Organizational Science (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam)

Samenvatting Understanding and influencing decisions in business and society




1 semester (30 EC)

Aanmelden Voor

1 September


Economie, Recht en Bestuur
Gedrag en Maatschappij


School of Business and Economics