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 behavior in the context of organizations (employees, managers, teams) and their interactions with the world outside (markets and consumers, but also business partners and competitors). To achieve this goal, we rely on recent insights from behavioral economics and psychology.

Upon completion of this minor, you will be able to understand how decisions and behavior are influenced by the physical and social environments and the decision making strategies that are used. Based on this knowledge, you have the ability to develop strategies to influence (e.g., through "nudging") the behavior of others in order to achieve business and societal goals, such as increasing sales or reducing environmental pollution. You will also be capable of analyzing the behavior of others (e.g., employees) in order to improve cooperation and output of teams and organizations, as well as formulating negotiation strategies to achieve optimal results in terms of outcomes (distributive negotiations) and relationships among parties involved (integrative negotiations). You might also reflect on the ethical aspects of such influence strategies.

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, all of it involves negotiation. Therefore, the overall theme of this minor program, is to become an effective decision maker, and this is impossible without learning negotiation skills. The activities in this course consists of three different parts. Throughout the course, we combine theoretical knowledge from the lectures with practical exercises. The three parts of the course are listed below.

Part 1: Conflict and Conflict Resolution. What exactly is conflict? Are there different types of conflict? What is the role of conflict?
Part 2: Negotiation Skills. Is it difficult to become an effective negotiator? Can distributive and integrative negotiation strategies be useful in the workplace?
Part 3: Negotiation and Workplace Diversity. Do emotions play a role in negotiations? Topics in this part will include communication skills for interacting with different cultures, nationalities, gender, sexuality, religions, disabilities and other types of differences in the workplace.

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 15 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

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