Minor Neuroeconomics: How the Brain Decides

Broadening minor
Minor code


In this course, we discuss the history of neuroeconomics and provide a crash-course on the anatomy of the brain, as well as an introduction to neuroscience methods. Subsequently, we will investigate the balance between rationality and emotions, and provide a brief introduction into decision-theory form both a psychologist and an economist perspective. Then, students will be presented with the main theories and neuroscientific findings accounting for how the brain makes (optimal) economic choices. We will focus on the neural mechanisms of the computation of value and preference, and how the brain deals with risk and potential losses. In addition, we will focus on social aspects of decision-making: how group-membership and social interactions shape individuals’ decision-making. Finally, the practical applications of brain research in the fields of economics, marketing, business, and other aspects of society will be discussed.

Neuroeconomics can provide social scientists and future managers with a deeper understanding of how they make their own decisions, and how others decide. How is a “good” or “fair” decision evaluated by the brain? What does our brain perceive as valuable? How do we learn the value of features of our environment? Is it possible to predict the purchasing intentions of a consumer? Are we hard-wired to be risk-averse or risk-taking?

Learning objectives

The minor focuses on the interdisciplinary field of neuroeconomics - a new general theory of human behaviour building on psychology, economics and neuroscience. The goal of this minor is to understand the processes that underly decision-making by revealing the neurobiological mechanisms by which these decisions are made. The course focuses on neural mechanisms of choice; neural representation of subjective values; neurobiology of human (ir)rationality; affective mechanisms of decision making; social decision making; and applications of this knowledge in areas such as marketing and management. Students will be provided with the most recent evidence from brain-imaging studies, and you will be introduced to the explanatory models behind them.

Special aspects

The course introduces an interdisciplinary perspective on economic choice behaviour. We are looking for students who want to understand decision making from a biological perspective; eager to learn more about how neuroscience can teach us about consumer and managerial behaviour. The course is particularly relevant for students from business administration, economics, psychology and the social sciences in general. However, all students that are interested in the neurobiological underpinning of choice behaviour are encouraged to participate. There are no requirements of specific background knowledge, but a good command of the English language (both spoken and written) is recommended.

Overview content

Module 1: “How the Brain Works”
1. Introduction
2. Anatomy
3. Neuroscience Methods

Module 2: “Perspectives on Decision-Making”
4. Decision-Making: The Economist Approach
5. Decision-Making: The Psychologist Approach

Module 3: “How the Brain Decides”
6. Value & Reward
7. Risk, Costs & Losses
8. Decision-making & Choice
9. Cooperation & Fairness
10. Trust & Empathy

Module 4: “The Brain in Society”
11. Consumer Neuroscience
12. Neuromarketing
13. Individual Differences in Choice
14. Moral Decision-Making

Teaching methods

  • Lectures
  • Seminars and presentations of selected papers (team assignment)
  •  During a final class “Symposium” each team presents a research proposal of a Neuroeconomics topic (team assignment)

Teaching materials

  • Selected chapters from Ward (3rd edition). The Student’s Guide to Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Selected chapters from Kahneman (2011) Thinking, Fast and Slow
  • Selected chapters from other books & selected journal articles


Method of examination

  • Presentation of Class Paper + Questions
  • Two written exams (Modules 1, 2 and Modules 3 & 4)
  • Research proposal with final presentation at the end of the course

The research proposal and the presentations are group assignments.

Composition final grade

  • Presentation of Class Paper + Questions – 20% of final mark
  • Two written test (Modules 1, 2 and Modules 3 & 4) – together 50% of final mark
  • Research proposal with final presentation at the end of the course – 30% of final mark

The research proposal and the presentations are group assignments.

  • The grade for the two assignments and the grade for the written test all need to be ≥5.5.
  • When the grade of the assignments is not sufficient, an addendum can be submitted in order to enhance the grade. In addition, there is a re-sit of the written test.
  • The overall grade needs to be ≥5.5 to pass the minor.

There will be feedback on the two assignments. The graded test will be made available to the students for review.

Contact information

Dr. Maarten Boksem
010 – 4081471                                     
room: T10-09

Faculty websites
Erasmus Centre for Neuroeconomics

Broadening minor
Minor code
Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University
Study points (ECTS)
Instruction language
Campus Woudestein, Rotterdam


Please read the application procedure for more information.