Skip to main content
Unit of study_

OLET1644: How we make decisions

Intensive September, 2021 [Block mode] - Remote

We like to believe that decision making involves simply weighing up the pros and cons of the different options before selecting the best one, so when people fail to do this (as they often do) they are viewed as irrational. However this viewpoint has been shown to be inaccurate even for important decisions. This unit will provide an introduction to how short-cuts, biases and emotion are integral to human decision making. These factors are often systematic, so we are expectedly irrational. You will first learn to recognise the common heuristics (short-cuts) and biases that have been identified by evaluating existing research and through demonstrations. From this foundation you will explore decision making more deeply and develop an understanding of the broader frameworks for comprehending it. You will then focus on the implication this has for improving your own decision making and how we can better present information and options to improve other people's decision making. From a public policy point of view these insights can be used to help nudge people towards beneficial choices, though advertisers also capitalise on these biases to influence human behaviour.

Unit details and rules

Unit code OLET1644
Academic unit Psychology Academic Operations
Credit points 2
Assumed knowledge


Available to study abroad and exchange students


Teaching staff

Coordinator Bruce Burns,
Type Description Weight Due Length
Tutorial quiz Mastery quizzes
A mastery quiz at the end of each online Modules 5-12.
10% Multiple weeks Eight quizzes of three questions each
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO5 LO4 LO3
Tutorial quiz Online quizzes
On-line quizzes at end of each of Modules 1-4
25% Multiple weeks Four quizzes with five questions each
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO4 LO3
In-semester test (Record+) Type B in-semester exam hurdle task Final exam for OLET1644
See Assessment summary
40% Week 08
Due date: 15 Oct 2021 at 11:00
30 minutes
Outcomes assessed: LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5
Assignment Written assignment
Written assignment with details to be provided
25% Week 08
Due date: 12 Oct 2021 at 23:59

Closing date: 09 Nov 2021
Up to 750 words
Outcomes assessed: LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4 LO5 LO6
hurdle task = hurdle task ?
Type B in-semester exam = Type B in-semester exam ?

Assessment summary

Below are brief assessment details. Further information will be found on the unit’s Canvas site when they are  available.

  • Written Assignment: The questions for this will be provided by the time the face-to-face modules start. Note that:
    • Assignments that exceed the word limit by more than 10% will be penalized.
    • Assignments must address the questions asked
    • Assignments must be written wholly by you
  • On-line quizzes: These are at the end of each of the first four modules, which constitute the zero credit point unit OLEO1643. You need to obtain at least 60% on each quiz in order to proceed to the next module, but they can be done multiple times. Your cumulative score from these quizzes will be 25% of your final mark. 
  • Mastery quizzes: These are at end of Modules 5-12. You need to obtain at least 60% on each quiz in order to proceed to the next module. Your cumulative score from these quizzes will be 10% of your final mark.
  • Final exam: The final exam will consist of multiple choice items, but a replacement exam may vary in format to the original exam and be a mixture of multiple choice and short-answer questions. The final exam is a compulsory assessment (i.e., a hurdle requirement), but there is no minimum performance required. The hurdle is that you attempt the final exam.

Assessment criteria

Result name

Mark range


High distinction

85 - 100

At HD level, a student demonstrates a flair for the subject as well as a detailed and comprehensive understanding of the unit material. A ‘High Distinction’ reflects exceptional achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates the ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding to produce original solutions for novel or highly complex problems and/or comprehensive critical discussions of theoretical concepts


75 - 84

At DI level, a student demonstrates an aptitude for the subject and a well-developed understanding of the unit material. A ‘Distinction’ reflects excellent achievement and is awarded to a student who demonstrates an ability to apply their subject knowledge and understanding of the subject to produce good solutions for challenging problems and/or a reasonably well-developed critical analysis of theoretical concepts.


65 - 74

At CR level, a student demonstrates a good command and knowledge of the unit material. A ‘Credit’ reflects solid achievement and is awarded to a student who has a broad general understanding of the unit material and can solve routine problems and/or identify and superficially discuss theoretical concepts.






50 - 64



At PS level, a student demonstrates proficiency in the unit material. A ‘Pass’ reflects satisfactory achievement and is awarded to a student who has threshold knowledge.


0 - 49

When you don’t meet the learning outcomes of the unit to a satisfactory standard.

For more information see guide to grades.

Late submission

In accordance with University policy, these penalties apply when written work is submitted after 11:59pm on the due date:

  • Deduction of 5% of the maximum mark for each calendar day after the due date.
  • After ten calendar days late, a mark of zero will be awarded.

Academic integrity

The Current Student website  provides information on academic integrity and the resources available to all students. The University expects students and staff to act ethically and honestly and will treat all allegations of academic integrity breaches seriously.  

We use similarity detection software to detect potential instances of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breach. If such matches indicate evidence of plagiarism or other forms of academic integrity breaches, your teacher is required to report your work for further investigation.

You may only use artificial intelligence and writing assistance tools in assessment tasks if you are permitted to by your unit coordinator, and if you do use them, you must also acknowledge this in your work, either in a footnote or an acknowledgement section.

Studiosity is permitted for postgraduate units unless otherwise indicated by the unit coordinator. The use of this service must be acknowledged in your submission.

Simple extensions

If you encounter a problem submitting your work on time, you may be able to apply for an extension of five calendar days through a simple extension.  The application process will be different depending on the type of assessment and extensions cannot be granted for some assessment types like exams.

Special consideration

If exceptional circumstances mean you can’t complete an assessment, you need consideration for a longer period of time, or if you have essential commitments which impact your performance in an assessment, you may be eligible for special consideration or special arrangements.

Special consideration applications will not be affected by a simple extension application.

Using AI responsibly

Co-created with students, AI in Education includes lots of helpful examples of how students use generative AI tools to support their learning. It explains how generative AI works, the different tools available and how to use them responsibly and productively.

WK Topic Learning activity Learning outcomes
Ongoing Module 1. Thinking about decision making Online class (1.5 hr) LO1 LO2
Module 2. Heuristics: Availability, anchoring and representativeness Online class (1.5 hr) LO2 LO3
Module 3. Biases: Loss aversion and confirmation bias Online class (1.5 hr) LO2 LO3
Module 4. What this means: Implications for your own decision and business Online class (1.5 hr) LO5
Module 5. Behavioral economics Online class (1.5 hr) LO2 LO3 LO4
Module 6. Neuroscience: The brain, emotions, and decision making Online class (1.5 hr) LO4
Module 7. Thinking: One system or two? Online class (1.5 hr) LO4
Module 8. Decision making and time Online class (1.5 hr) LO2 LO3
Module 9. Prediction, and Happiness Online class (1.5 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Module 10. Trusting data Online class (1.5 hr) LO2 LO3 LO5
Module 11. Improving decision making Online class (1.5 hr) LO5
Module 12. Improving our own decision making Online class (1.5 hr) LO5
Week 03 Tutorial 1. On biases and heuristics (During the week starting Monday 6/9/21) Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3
Week 04 Tutorial 2. Other approaches to decision making (During the week starting Monday 13/9/21) Tutorial (1 hr) LO1 LO2 LO3 LO4
Week 05 Tutorial 3. Applying what we know about decision making (During the week starting 20/9/21) Tutorial (1 hr) LO5

Attendance and class requirements

For this unit, no assessmment has a minimum mark that if not achieved will result in an automatic fail of the unit. If your weighted marks for all assessment tasks add up to 50% or more, you will pass the unit, as long as any hurdle requirements are met.

Attendance is recorded at all tutorials and it is highly recommended you attend all timetabled activities. You will increase your risk of failing this unit if you do not attend more than 80% of timetabled activities.

Study commitment

Typically, there is a minimum expectation of 1.5-2 hours of student effort per week per credit point for units of study offered over a full semester. For a 2 credit point unit, this equates to roughly 40-50 hours of student effort in total.

Required readings

There will be reading for each module and they will be listed as part of the module descriptions. All readings will be available from the library.

Learning outcomes are what students know, understand and are able to do on completion of a unit of study. They are aligned with the University's graduate qualities and are assessed as part of the curriculum.

At the completion of this unit, you should be able to:

  • LO1. reflect upon your own decision making.
  • LO2. describe and identify the major heuristics and biases that affect people's decision making
  • LO3. understand the implications these heuristics and biases have for how to present information to people making decisions
  • LO4. describe and explain the frameworks researchers have used to try to understand these heuristics and biases.
  • LO5. apply critical thinking to understanding how to improve the decision making of ourselves and others
  • LO6. be able to communicate competently about decision making and the implications of the evidence regarding heuristic and biases.

Graduate qualities

The graduate qualities are the qualities and skills that all University of Sydney graduates must demonstrate on successful completion of an award course. As a future Sydney graduate, the set of qualities have been designed to equip you for the contemporary world.

GQ1 Depth of disciplinary expertise

Deep disciplinary expertise is the ability to integrate and rigorously apply knowledge, understanding and skills of a recognised discipline defined by scholarly activity, as well as familiarity with evolving practice of the discipline.

GQ2 Critical thinking and problem solving

Critical thinking and problem solving are the questioning of ideas, evidence and assumptions in order to propose and evaluate hypotheses or alternative arguments before formulating a conclusion or a solution to an identified problem.

GQ3 Oral and written communication

Effective communication, in both oral and written form, is the clear exchange of meaning in a manner that is appropriate to audience and context.

GQ4 Information and digital literacy

Information and digital literacy is the ability to locate, interpret, evaluate, manage, adapt, integrate, create and convey information using appropriate resources, tools and strategies.

GQ5 Inventiveness

Generating novel ideas and solutions.

GQ6 Cultural competence

Cultural Competence is the ability to actively, ethically, respectfully, and successfully engage across and between cultures. In the Australian context, this includes and celebrates Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures, knowledge systems, and a mature understanding of contemporary issues.

GQ7 Interdisciplinary effectiveness

Interdisciplinary effectiveness is the integration and synthesis of multiple viewpoints and practices, working effectively across disciplinary boundaries.

GQ8 Integrated professional, ethical, and personal identity

An integrated professional, ethical and personal identity is understanding the interaction between one’s personal and professional selves in an ethical context.

GQ9 Influence

Engaging others in a process, idea or vision.

Outcome map

Learning outcomes Graduate qualities

This section outlines changes made to this unit following staff and student reviews.

Based on the feedback collected on module components we have revised the content of the modules.
  • If you have an enquiry about this unit of study and you cannot find the answer to your question in this document, please contact the Psychology Education Support team:
  • You are strongly advised to log on to the course’s Canvas site as soon as possible. This contains more information and is also where you will complete and submit assessments. The Canvas portal is:
  • Check your University email on a regular basis, or forward your University email to an address you do check regularly. All electronic University communication will be sent to your University email address. Always use your University email when contacting staff in this course. Find a login for your email, Canvas, Sydney Student (Enrolment) and Timetable and much more here:
  • Data collection. Note that your participation in this unit of study permits us to use your learning analytics to improve your experience of learning.

Work, health and safety

We are governed by the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 and Codes of Practice. Penalties for non-compliance have increased. Everyone has a responsibility for health and safety at work. The University’s Work Health and Safety policy explains the responsibilities and expectations of workers and others, and the procedures for managing WHS risks associated with University activities.


The University reserves the right to amend units of study or no longer offer certain units, including where there are low enrolment numbers.

To help you understand common terms that we use at the University, we offer an online glossary.