HUM-281 / 2 credits

Teacher: Hoffrage Heinz-Ulrich Volker

Language: English

Remark: Une seule inscription à un cours SHS+MGT autorisée. En cas d'inscriptions multiples elles seront toutes supprimées sans notification


This course is devoted to the psychology of risk (How do people make decisions in real-life situations characterized by risk and/or uncertainty?) and to risk competencies (How to make better decisions in such situations?) It covers fields such as management, leadership, medicine, and finance.



risk, uncertainty, risk literacy, risk communication, absolute vs. relative risk

Learning Prerequisites

Required courses


Recommended courses


Important concepts to start the course

Basic knowledge about statistics would be helpful, but not absolutely necessary.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the student must be able to:

  • Elaborate on the distinction between risk and uncertainty
  • Give an example of how people can make irrational decisions in situations characterized by risk
  • Give an example of how people can make irrational decisions in situations characterized by uncertainty
  • Explain why people often misunderstand risks and fall prey to some fallacies in risk perception
  • Apply Signal Detection Theory to medical testing
  • Interpret (medical) test results
  • Give an example of how risk communication can be used to help or hinder people to understand risks
  • Contrast information and misinformation in the field of risk communication
  • Illustrate how negative error culture may lead people to defensive (and often destructive) decisions
  • Discuss the role of risk in various applied fields

Transversal skills

  • Chair a meeting to achieve a particular agenda, maximising participation.
  • Demonstrate the capacity for critical thinking
  • Access and evaluate appropriate sources of information.

Teaching methods

Seminar. 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 students - who will be the moderator will rotate across sessions). Some of the sessions may include presentations by the course instructor or the teaching assistant.


Expected student activities


Students will have to read one chapter per week and write a 200-250 word reflection essay (no summary; rather points of critique, how would you challenge the author, possible extensions, links, examples, counter-examples, what issues do you want to have discussed in the session, ). These essays will, at the end of the course, be grouped together, treated as your final exam, and graded.


Students will be divided into equally-sized groups so that each student will be in exactly one group and responsible (hopefully with others of the same group; group size hinges on attendance) for one the sessions 2-13. The group of students in charge of a given session will have to read all reflection essays, identify the most interesting ideas / topics, prepare and moderate the discussion during the session.

Assessment methods

85% INDIVIDUAL PROJECT: reflection essays = final exam

15% GROUP PROJECT: session moderation


Office hours Yes
Assistants Yes
Forum Yes


Virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI)



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, an e-book version exists as well). 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 discuss in this seminar are available on moodle.

Ressources en bibliothèque


Moodle Link


Prerequisite for


In the programs

  • Semester: Spring
  • Number of places: 80
  • Exam form: During the semester (summer session)
  • Subject examined: Risk Savvy
  • Lecture: 2 Hour(s) per week x 14 weeks

Reference week

15-16 BS270   

Tuesday, 15h - 17h: Lecture BS270

Related courses

Results from