Behavioural Finance

The details
Essex Business School
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Monday 15 January 2024
Friday 22 March 2024
23 June 2023


Requisites for this module
BE311 or BE313



Key module for


Module description

In this module it will be shown how allowing for common human traits such as overconfidence, fear of regret, pride, loss aversion, anchoring, framing, mental accounting, representativeness, etc., and limits to arbitrage enables a better understanding of financial markets and the trading strategies of investors.

Module aims

The aims of this are to:

  • Provide a plausible alternative to the neoclassical financial model that underlies the efficient market hypothesis.

  • Identify key cognitive biases and heuristics that influence investment behaviour and asset prices.

  • Present some latest research relating to both the theoretical developments in the field of behavioural finance along with the related empirical evidence.

  • Build a bridge between academic research and investment practice.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Appreciate how prospect theory builds on and departs from expected utility theory.

  2. Understand the role of heuristics and biases in influencing asset pricing and investment behaviour.

  3. Understand the theoretical and empirical evidence for a variety of investment strategies based on the assumption of less than fully efficient markets.

Skills for your professional life (Transferable Skills)

The module will help you with the following transferable skills:

  1. Good appreciation of the workings of financial markets when investors are less than 100% rational e.g. they are subject to loss aversion.

  2. Ability to interpret empirical research results.

  3. Understanding of recent developments in finance such as Fintech and equity crowdfunding.

Module information

For many years the Efficient Market Hypothesis (EMH) had been assumed to be valid within academic circles. Despite this, many practitioners choose active investment strategies that are premised on markets being inefficient; to take two examples, momentum investors buy stocks that have recently increased in value while value investors seek to buy grossly under-valued stocks.

In addition, there is increasing evidence of the existence of a wide variety of anomalies that represent an empirical challenge to the EMH. These include: stock market bubbles and crashes; abnormal returns to non-risk factors; delayed reaction to financial news such as earnings announcements; overreaction and eventual corrections; and the apparent profitability of momentum and value strategies.

During the past two decades a new paradigm has developed within finance. Behavioural finance rejects two crucial assumptions of mainstream finance: these are the assumptions of homogeneous, ultra-rational (utility maximising) agents and unlimited arbitrage. Drawing from cognitive psychology, behavioural finance examines ways in which common cognitive biases and heuristics together with and limits to arbitrage influence trading and stock prices.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour lecture per week.
  • One seminar per week.

Problem sets will be given in advance for you to attempt before the class.


The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   In Class Test     
Exam  Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 120 minutes during Summer (Main Period) 
Exam  Reassessment Main exam: In-Person, Open Book, 120 minutes during September (Reassessment Period) 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
30% 70%


Coursework Exam
0% 100%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Jerry Coakley, email:
Dr Vivek Nawosah and Prof Jerry Coakley



External examiner

Dr Hf Guo
University of Durham
Assistant Professor in Finance
Available via Moodle
Of 33 hours, 29 (87.9%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
4 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


Further information
Essex Business School

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