Experimental Methods in Social Systems

Postgraduate course

Course description

Objectives and Content

The course provides theory of dynamic complexity and other influence factors in dynamic decision making. It introduces methods for the design, implementation, and analysis of laboratory experiments. Previous experiments in the field are replicated. Simulator construction, goal and task structure, experimental design, optimisation to establish benchmarks, statistics for hypothesis testing and internal and external validity of experiments are covered. The students design and carry out their own pilot laboratory experiments with focus on (1) purpose, (2) hypotheses, (3) design, and (4) analysis. The experiments can address both behavioural theories and learning interventions. The grading considers documentation of the vital design steps, analysis, and presentation.

The course serves as a complement to earlier courses in System Dynamics. Through the design and analysis of experiments students get a deeper insight into decision-making. This makes them better modellers. They also develop their inclination to ask questions about and their ability to distinguish significant and insignificant assumptions in models. Students become better at asking critical questions about models and they reduce their bias towards seeking confirming evidence.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, the students will be able to:



  • know how to design, program, carry out, analyse, and report results from laboratory experiments of dynamic systems.
  • know about methods to construct benchmarks.
  • know the most important theories of bounded rationality and in particular theories of misperceptions and learning difficulties in dynamic systems.



  • apply their knowledge and develop their skills by designing, carrying out and reporting on an experiment.
  • Are able to test theories of bounded rationality and in particular theories of misperceptions and learning difficulties in dynamic systems.


  • distinguish different purposes of experiments such as testing theories of decision-making and investigating effectiveness of learning environments.
  • understand and are able to judge the quality of research based on both laboratory and field experiments.

ECTS Credits


Level of Study


Semester of Instruction

Required Previous Knowledge
GEO-SD302, GEO-SD303 or other corresponding background in modelling and decision sciences
Recommended Previous Knowledge
GEO-SD302, GEO-SD 201, or corresponding background in modelling
Credit Reduction due to Course Overlap
Access to the Course
The course is offered as part of the M. Phil programme in System Dynamics, but may also be taken by other students with a background in systems dynamics corresponding to GEO-SD302 and GEO-SD303 (i.e. in modeling and analysis).
Teaching and learning methods
The course consists of live-streamed, recorded, and stored lectures with active participation by students with classroom experiments guided by lecturers and teaching assistants. Course meetings include three lectures and two labs per week over a four-week period and individual advisory sessions in the last two weeks. 
Compulsory Assignments and Attendance
Forms of Assessment

Term paper (report).

The exam assignment will be given in the language of instruction in the course.

The exam answer must be submitted in the same language as the exam assignment.

Grading Scale
Grading A-F
Assessment Semester


Students with valid absence as defined in the UiB regulations § 5-5 can apply for an extended submission deadline to studieveileder.geog@uib.no. The application must be submitted before the deadline for submission has expired. Maximum one week extension.

Reading List
The reading list will be ready before 1 July for the autumn semester and 1 Decemeber for the spring semester. 
Course Evaluation
All courses are evaluated according to UiB's system for quality assurance of education.
Programme Committee
The Programme Committee is responsible for the content, structure and quality of the study programme and courses
Course Administrator
The Department of Geography at the Faculty of Social Sciences has the administrative responsibility for the course and the study programme.