Duke PreCollege Programs

Geraniums in foreground of campus building

Irrational Behavior in Financial Decision-Making

Online Course for Grades 9-12

Why is it that smart people make foolish spending decisions? Why are we inclined to sell winning investments too early, but hold losers too long; why do we purchase extended product warranties that we don’t need; why do we  have  such  difficulty  staying  within  our  budgets?  The  field  of  Behavioral Finance takes lessons from psychology to explain when, and why, we make irrational investment, saving, and spending decisions.

Are you a high school student who would like to become a better investor, by learning to predict, and thus avoid, the settings in which  you  personally  are  most  at  risk  of  making  poor  financial  choices? Would you also like to learn some tools and skills that can help you to identify financial irrationality on a market-wide scale? If so, this is the course for you.

In this four-week course, Professor Emma Rasiel, Eads Distinguished Professor of the Practice and Associate Chair of the Economics department at Duke University, has adapted material from her popular undergraduate Behavioral Finance class for a high school audience. Topics include:

  • Availability (the more we hear about something, the more we believe it)
  • Framing (how easily we can be influenced to change our minds)
  • The Endowment Effect (once we own something, we don’t want to give it up)
  • Confirmation Bias (why we only look for news that supports our point of view)

You will spend 2 hours per week in live Zoom sessions with Professor Rasiel, and 2 hours per        week on asynchronous study materials, including individual & group  activities  and  games  to  reinforce the lessons learned. You will also be able to ask questions and seek  guidance  on  discussion boards that will be closely monitored by Professor Rasiel and her experienced teaching assistants.

After completing this course, you will be able to recognize circumstances  under  which  you  (or  others) often make “irrational” decisions with respect to financial saving and spending choices. You   will have an understanding of both the origin and nature of the heuristics (“rules of thumb”) that drive these decisions, and some tools with which to overcome the innate desire to make a less-than-   optimal choice. You will also learn to recognize the environments in which large groups, or even entire markets, are inclined towards mass irrational decision-making.

ELIGIBILITY: Grades 9-12 (2020-2021 academic year); no prior knowledge of economics or finance required

DELIVERY: Online; 40 spots available in each session

DATES: Two sessions available:

September 29 – October 22 or October 27 – November 19

Live sessions: Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST

Asynchronous study: approximately two hours per week, self-paced

For complete admissions procedures, requirements, and policies, please see this website.

FEE: $2,000