The title of the behavioral economics course—“Better Decisions for Life, Love, and Money”—is unabashedly enticing, and Professor Robert Frank admits that his wife teases him about it. “It’s a shameless marketing gimmick that probably helped attract students,” he says—while noting that the name is actually pretty accurate.
Launched as a pilot project in 2018, the course offers life lessons from a team of six professors—a mix of psychologists and economists—who each deliver several lectures.
Their aim? To improve students’ understanding of human behavior, giving them the tools to make better decisions about finances, relationships, and life in general.
Officially known as AEM 2020 / PSYCH 2940, the spring semester class began in 2018 with just 26 students; the professors taught it as volunteers (and continue to do so).
After enthusiasm for the course spread via word of mouth, enrollment jumped to nearly 200 a year later and approached 300 by 2020. During the pandemic, the cap rose to 500 (then the Zoom maximum)—and when in-person teaching resumed in 2022, it moved to its present location in the 700-seat Statler Auditorium.
In addition to Frank, a professor of economics and management, the course is currently taught by Tom Gilovich (psychology), J. Edward Russo (management), Ted O’Donoghue (economics), Suzanne Bliven Shu ’90, MEng ’92 (marketing), and Bill Schulze (applied economics and management).