Kies de Nederlandse taal
Course module: 202000519
Behavioral Public Administration
Course info
Course module202000519
Credits (ECTS)15
Course typeStudy Unit
Language of instructionEnglish
Contact personC. Fischer
S. Couwenberg
C. Fischer
Contactperson for the course
C. Fischer
dr. A.J.J. Meershoek
dr. M. Rosema
Academic year2021
Starting block
Application procedureYou apply via OSIRIS Student
Registration using OSIRISYes
  1. Students have a basic understanding of how behavioral perspectives inform public administration research. Students understand basic behavioral theories and can link them to key public administration topics. Students are able to transfer this knowledge to real-life decision making. Students have a basic understanding of experimental methods in public administration research.
  2. In the context of neighbourhood safety and community-policing, students are familiar with the ways in social media influence public order, social control and societal reactions to disorder, among these civic activism, policing and surveillance by government, able to describe and apply the main theories concerned and are able to identify the factors that influence societal and administrative reactions to disorder and moral panic.
  3. Students have a basic understanding of causal inference and the experimental approach to data collection and analysis. They know how to design different types of experiments (field, survey, lab) and to analyse different types of experimental data. Students have a basic understanding of reproducibility, replication and open data and code.
  4. Students are able to identify a research question that needs to be answered by experimental research. They are able to develop a theoretical model that needs to be tested by experimental research. They are able to design an experiment and to run it in the field. Students are able to analyze experimental data and to present their results. They are able to reflect on the limitations of their chosen design
Political-administrative systems exhibit specific forms of administrative behavior (Simon, 1945). Such behavior builds on (series of) decisions made by individual actors, for example individual civil servants, professionals, and citizens as target group of administrative behavior. Public policies make all kinds of assumptions about human behavior. To understand which parameters are affecting how public policies are implemented and which consequences these influences might have, public administration scholars must understand how individuals behave in the contexts of political-administrative systems and public policies. For instance, we need to understand the underlying individual motivations which conditions shape fraudulent or honest tax declaration behavior. We need to ask under which conditions are monetary sanctions, positive incentives, or nudges a good strategy to enhance co-production for instance in waste recycling or public safety. It is also of high interest to know which individual behavioral foundations affect whether anti-discrimination laws actually lead to a more representative bureaucratic workforce. In all of these cases we ask what is the individual motivation that shapes citizens’ and public servants’ behavior and how does it affect the aggregate outcome on the policy or administrative level.
This module equips students with a fundamental understanding of how the individual micro-foundations of citizens’ and public servants’ behavior affect public administration processes and it provides students with tools to discover these relationships. The module comprises four integrated parts (comprising 15 ECTS), including lectures, tutorials and project work groups.
First, in Component A key behavioral concepts and theories are provided that help to understand the general micro-foundations of citizens’ and public servants’ behavior especially but not limited to times of technological change. Because administrative behavior is characterized by decision making under uncertainty (which triggers bounded rational behavior like risk aversion), by normative demands towards public servants (e.g. impartiality, pro-sociality) and a specific organizational environment (e.g. rule adherence, hierarchy) public administrative behavior can deviate from the intended outcomes. The module introduces how experimental research helps to understand the drivers of individual behavior in specific public administration contexts.
Second, in Component B the module provides detailed insights in the determinants of public order and social safety to provide in-depth knowledge and understanding of a specific domain of behavioral public administration. In the context of neighborhood safety and community-policing, students will become acquainted with the ways cities transform and their impact on public order and social safety, and with the influence of technology on public behavior, social control and societal reactions to disorder (among these civic activism, policing and surveillance by government). They will be enabled to describe and apply some relevant theories and to identify the factors that influence societal and administrative reactions to disorder and protests.
Third, this module explores, how individual human behavior is influenced by external factors, changes and can on its trigger change. Individual as well as organizational behavior is driven by decisions and these decisions are affected by different triggers – be it the satisfaction of central motives, the expectation of a reward or punishment or the weighing of costs and benefits. We can analyze such triggers and determinants as treatments in experimental settings – with the advantage of getting closer to causal relationships than other research designs do. These advantages, but also disadvantages and concrete design elements are the core topic of the method course in this module: experimental research methods (Component C). In the project component (Component D), experimental designs will be applied in a research project, in which students focus on behavior in public safety relevant scenarios (based on theoretical knowledge from Component A and B.
Assumed previous knowledge
- Basic knowledge of how public organizations and their employees work, the functioning of the public sector. If you did not learn before about the public sector, read: Michiel S. de Vries: "Understanding Public Administration" (Palgrave, 2016). The digital version of the book can be found here:

- Basic knowledge about inferential statistics
Module 8B
Participating study
Bachelor Management, Society and Technology
Required materials
James, Oliver; Jilke, Sebastian; Van Ryzin, Gregg (2017): Experiments in Public Management Research. Challenges and Contributions. Cambridge University Press.
Richard Sennett, Building and dwelling, Ethics for the city. Penguin 2019, ISBN 9780141022116
Other reading materials will be announced in Canvas (e.g. journal articles)
Renita Coleman (2018): Designing experiments for the social sciences: How to plan, create, and execute research using experiments, ISBN 9781506377315 (ebook), ISBN 9781506377322 (paperback)
Recommended materials
Instructional modes
Presence dutyYes

Presence dutyYes

Presence dutyYes

Project supervised
Presence dutyYes

Project unsupervised
Presence dutyYes

Introduction to Behavioral Public Administration

Citizenship and Disorder

Experimental Research Methods

Project: Conducting Experimental Research

Kies de Nederlandse taal