14.13 | Spring 2020 | Undergraduate, Graduate

Psychology and Economics

Syllabus and Calendar

Course Meeting Times 

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session 

Recitations: 1 session / week, 1 hour / session


As the class is considering deviations from mainstream models of economics, a solid grasp of these models is essential for mastering the material. Therefore, 14.01 Principles of Microeconomics or an equivalent introductory microeconomics course is a prerequisite for this class. 

Reading Materials

There is no textbook for this course. The fairly detailed lecture slides are meant to be self-explanatory, and they are complemented by recitation notes as well as by a set of readings for each class, as specified in the reading list. These readings will feature in lectures, quizzes, exams, and problem sets. If a reading is marked as required, you are responsible for preparing the paper prior to class, which means reading the sections announced in class, usually the abstract, introduction, and selected sections of the paper.

Class Attendance

Given that the class does not follow a textbook, most of the course materials will be based on empirical and theoretical papers from leading academic journals. While the lecture notes are fairly comprehensive, the course material will be difficult to master without attending lectures. To encourage attendance, there will be unannounced short quizzes at the start of approximately four lectures throughout the semester. These quizzes will test basic knowledge of starred readings and materials covered in the previous lecture, and they will count toward your grade for the course (see more below). If you pay attention in lectures and do the specified readings before class, the quizzes will be easy for you.

Scheduling Note

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students were sent home from campus halfway through the Spring 2020 semester.  The first half of the video lectures were taught live on campus, but starting at the midterm review, classes were taught virtually.  

Laptop Policy

Electronic devices may not be used in class except in the “laptop/tablet” seating section of the classroom in which laptops and tablets may be used. In this section, located on one side in the front of the classroom, you may use laptops or tablets for note taking. Cell phones, smart or not, are not allowed to be used in class.


The class is not graded on a curve. It is possible that everyone will do very well, which will make me very happy. However, if you do not put effort into this class, you will likely not do well, i.e. you may receive a C or worse. If we think you are headed for a D or an F, we will try to warn you before the drop date. Your grade in this course will be composed of the components specified below:

  • Exams (70%): There will be two closed-book, closed-notes exams. First, there will be a midterm exam in class (85 minutes), which will count for 30% of your grade. Second, there will be a cumulative end-term exam (180 minutes), which will count for 40% of your grade. If your grade on the final is higher than your grade on the midterm, both grades will be replaced with your grade on the final so that your final counts for 70% of your grade. The date for the final exam will be announced by the MIT Registrar’s Office later in the semester. Please do not schedule your travels before the exam dates are announced!
  • Problem sets (25%): There will be five problem sets over the course of the semester, which will cover materials from lecture, readings, and class discussions. Late problem sets will not be accepted, and there won’t be any exceptions to this policy. To accommodate for unanticipated events, illness, conflicts in your schedule, or other rational or irrational reasons that may prevent you from submitting the problem set on time, we will automatically drop the problem set with your lowest score.
  • Short quizzes (5%): We will give a few in-class quizzes at the start of lecture. These quizzes will be brief, non-technical checkups on your knowledge of what’s going on in the class (readings, lectures, problem sets). The quizzes are meant to help you to keep up with the materials of the course throughout the semester. I may also cold call in class to help overcome your natural shyness and ward off your natural sleepiness. However, given the large class size, there won’t be a class participation grade.

Academic Integrity

In this class, you will be held to the high standard of academic integrity expected of all students at MIT.

  • We will follow MIT’s Academic Integrity Policy (see complete policy at Integrity at MIT).
  • You may work jointly with other groups on problem sets but each of you must submit solutions individually. If you choose to work with other students, we expect that you work jointly on the solutions rather than simply copying solutions from another student. This will help you to learn the material and to prepare for exams.
  • You must work without other students, without books, and without notes on all quizzes and exams.
  • Violating the Academic Integrity policy in any way will result in official Institute sanction.
  • Please review the Academic Integrity Policy and related resources, and contact us if you have any questions related to the academic integrity of this course.


Check. Great, you are still reading! To confirm that you indeed read the syllabus, please send an email with a picture of a bear to Prof. Schilbach with the subject line “14.13 confirmation.” Please send interesting pictures, not just the first one that shows up when googling “bear.”  (Note: This was for enrolled MIT students only, not for OCW learners.) 


Lectures 1–2: Introduction and Overview

Lectures 3–4: Time Preferences (Theory)

Lectures 5–6: Time Preferences (Applications)

Lectures 7–8: Risk Preferences

Lecture 9: Reference-Dependent Preferences

Lectures 10–13: Social Preferences

In-Class Midterm Exam

Lecture 14: Limited Attention

Lectures 15–16: Utility from Beliefs: Learning 

Lecture 17: State-Dependent Preferences, Projection, and Attribution Bias

Lecture 18: Gender, Discrimination, and Identity

Lecture 19: Defaults, Nudges, and Frames

Lecture 20: Malleability and Inaccessibility of Preferences

Lecture 21: Poverty through the Lens of Psychology

Lecture 22: Happiness and Mental Health

Lecture 23: Policy with Behavioral Agents

Lecture 24: Behavioral Economics and COVID-19

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2020
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Videos
Problem Sets with Solutions
Lecture Notes
Exams with Solutions
Instructor Insights