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Risk Savvy

  • Teacher(s):   U.Hoffrage  
  • Course given in: English
  • ECTS Credits: 3 credits
  • Schedule: Spring Semester 2021-2022, 2.0h. course (weekly average)
  •  sessions
  • site web du cours course website
  • Related programmes:
    Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Management

    Bachelor (BSc) in Economic Sciences
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A central concept for Judgment and Decision Making is Risk. This course looks at various facets that this concept invokes. The first part is devoted to the Psychology of Risk and asks descriptive questions: How do people make decisions in real-life situations characterized by risk and/or uncertainty? What are typical and interesting phenomena? What theoretical approaches exist? The second part is centered around Risk Competencies and asks prescriptive questions: How can you make better decisions in risky and/or uncertain situations? How can pitfalls be avoided? Naturally, this second part is mostly applied and covers fields such as management, leadership, medicine, and social psychology. The last unit provides a suggestion on how people can be educated appropriately regarding risk in order to make better decisions.


The content of this seminar and of our discussions is largely determined by the chapters of Gerd Gigerenzer’s book “Risk Savvy” that we will read together during the semester. Its table of content provides the structure of the seminar, and is reflected in the titles of the sessions:

PART I: The Psychology of Risk
1. Are People Stupid?
2. Certainty Is an Illusion
3. Defensive Decision Making
4. Why Do We Fear What's Unlikely to Kill Us?

PART II: Getting Risk Savvy
5. Mind Your Money
6. Leadership and Intuition
7. Fun and Games
8. Getting to the Heart of Romance
9. What doctors Need to Know
10. Health Care: No Decision About Me Without Me
11. Banks, Cows, and Other Dangerous Things

PART III: Start Early
12. Revolutionize School

Each session (except for the first and the last) is centered around one chapter. For a given session, you will have to read the corresponding chapter and comment on it (written assignment). These comments will build the basis for a class discussion (moderated by you - who will be the moderator will rotate across sessions). In addition, there will be a background paper that is related to the target chapter. Who of you will present this background paper will also rotate across sessions. Most likely, the class discussions will be moderated and the background papers will be presented by two students, but this ultimately hinges on the number of students who will attend the seminar (for more details, see the section on evaluations, below).


Gerd Gigerenzer (2014). Risk Savvy: How to make good decisions. New York: Viking/Penguin.

The book is available for purchase (new copy for about 11 SFR), e.g., on,, or To give you some time to purchase the book, copies of the first chapters are available on the moodle. All other articles and book chapters that we will also discuss in this seminar are also available on the moodle.


The first pre-requisite is interest in the topic and willingness to actively follow the class, that is, to prepare each session and to attend the sessions, be it physically in the classroom or remotely on zoom (some exceptions, e.g., if you have health issues or job interviews, will, of course, be tolerated).

Second pre-requisite: Language. Being able to talk and present in English. The reflection essays may be written in English or French, but the presentations, discussion and moderation of discussions will be in English. The book only exists in an English and in a German version (but not in French).

Third, flexibility. At the moment, we do not know whether we will start in the classroom or online-only – this hinges on what our authorities will decide – but we hope we will be able to have this seminar in the classroom. As the course will be highly interactive, we opted against having hybrid sessions, with some of us in the classroom and others online. The zoom link that we created for this course and communicated above – and on the course page on moodle – will only be relevant if we (or a substantial part of us) are not allowed to enter the classroom. In the same vein, sessions will NOT be recorded and watching videos later is not an option. You will hence have to be there, be it in the classroom (if authorities allow for this), or online during live-streaming (only if we will encounter another lockdown, or if you personally cannot come to campus, but the latter has to be discussed with us and approved by us).


First attempt

Without exam (cf. terms)  

The grade is determined by the following components and assignments.

a) Participation in class during the semester (20%)

b) Individual reflection essays (50%):
For a typical session, you will have to read one chapter of the book and provide an input for the discussion during class (about 150-200 words, to be uploaded on the Moodle not later than Monday 12:00 before class). This should NOT be a summary of the chapter, but your own point of view, or a debate on the author’s assertions, or a provocative statement, or related materials that you found elsewhere and that you considered to be useful for a discussion of the chapter content … whatever. Each input will be graded and the average of the best 10 grades will be included in the final grade with a weight of 50%.

c) Group assignments (30%)
- Presentation of scientific articles:
Groups will present a scientific article related to the chapter discussed in a given session.
- Moderation of a discussion during class:
In moderating the session, you have to read the reflections of your classmates, prepare the structure of the session, manage time, encourage participation by your classmates, control the conversation and provide a summary of the session at the end. You can also prepare additional material for the session (find online videos, prepare interactive activities etc.). You will form the groups and choose which session you wish to moderate through the same google document (link at the end of the syllabus).

Groups for the moderation can be the same or different than the ones formed for the article presentation. If the members of a group do not have equal contribution and performance in the presentation of the article and/or the moderation, they might receive different grades for it. Each of you has to participate in one moderation and one article presentation, but these have to be in two different sessions.

Both the article presentation and the discussion moderation should be presented to Ulrich Hoffrage or Konstantinos Armaos beforehand and you will receive feedback on your slides and on your presentation before you give it in front of the class. This coaching aims at boosting your presentation skills and your soft skills.


Without exam (cf. terms)  

If a student fails the class, he/she can retake the components with a grade lower than 4.

a) If a student fails the component of participation, then he/she will have the opportunity to improve the grade by participating in an oral interview during the retake session with the professor and the teaching assistant. In this interview, the student will reflect on the course sessions, discuss points he/she found interesting or problematic and answer questions regarding topics covered during the seminar.

b) Students who fail the second component (reflection essays) will have to rewrite the essays with a non-passing grade.

c) Groups who fail the group assignments will be free to choose to either present a new article or redo the previous one.

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