After spending two weeks in Copenhagen, it’s hard to believe that I’m already nearing the end of my first session. In this blog post, I’ll talk about the course I took this session as well as how it relates to my studies back home.
It feels like my Behavioral Economics class just started, but we are moving into the final phase of the class this upcoming week. For our final projects, we work in groups to conduct a field experiment. My group is conducting an experiment to evaluate the herd-effect on jaywalking in Copenhagen. It is considered a norm in Copenhagen to refrain from jaywalking, so we thought it would be interesting to see what it would take for a Dane to deviate from their norms. In our experiment, we don’t actually jaywalk (that’s a 700DKK fine in Denmark!), but we step into the street and retreat back to the sidewalk. Then we observe if anyone else at the crosswalk was influenced by our behavior.
This experiment just scratches the surface of what we’ve managed to cover in the last two weeks, though. So far, we’ve talked about procrastination, how people evaluate risk, choice overload, trust, how people form their beliefs, and more. These topics are not only taught through lectures—we also have a daily in-class experiment that highlights the topic of that day.
Each experiment gives students the chance to win real money, so we’re incentivized to do our best in these experiments. I managed to win 15DKK in one experiment, but the payout can be up to 100DKK.
Our first six classes were taught by Jimmy Martínez-Correa who immigrated to Denmark from Columbia. In Jimmy’s lectures and research, he focuses on behavior at the individual level. Our other professor, Toke Reinholt Fosgaard, focuses on behavioral economics at the societal level in his lectures and research. It’s a great opportunity to have these different perspectives taught by professors who are actively conducting research in these fields.
The most significant thing I’ve been exposed to in this course is simply the concept of behavioral economics. In my economic studies so far, I have often questioned the use of what I’m learning because so much of economics is rooted in theory. This theory comprises “classical economics”—but behavioral economics directly challenges classical economics. Behavioral economics suggests that people are imperfect and often don’t know what they want and often don’t make optimal choices because of that. It also takes into account emotions, morals, beliefs, and bias in decision-making. In my experience, these factors are responsible for a lot of our decisions, so it is good to see that these factors really are being considered in economics.
Looking forward to the last week of this course, my group will have to conduct our experiment, collect data, and present our findings to the class. We’ll also be taking a field trip to The Happiness Museum! I’ve often heard that Scandinavian countries are the happiest in the world, so I look forward to being able to see why. I’m also curious to see how happiness will tie into the content of our course. What do Scandinavians do that makes them so happy?
The hands-on and experiment-oriented approach to this course has made homework not much of a worry and has left me with ample time to explore Copenhagen. Still, I’ve had to make time to read and to complete some assignments.
So far, the best study spot I’ve found is the Copenhagen Business School (CBS) library. Here, I can read The Voltage Effect by John List, which is a recommended reading in our class. In this book, List discusses how widespread impact can be generated by replicating small ideas at larger scales. The CBS library is right next to the Frederiksberg metro station, so it’s convenient to travel there.
With homework not being as common in Scandinavian countries as it is in the United States, I feel that I’m getting more out of my time in class, and I’m able to absorb what I’ve learned throughout the rest of the day. This approach seems to be common in Danish society in general. For example, in Viking Economics, I’ve learned that all Danes are given 25 vacation days per year and that they work about 360 hours less per year than Americans. Because of this, I’ve seen a lot more adults participating in recreational activities, but that’s something I can talk about more in next week’s blog post.