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Dr Manu Savani
Senior Lecturer in Behavioural Public Policy

Marie Jahoda 203

Research area(s)

Behavioural public policy

Field and survey experiments, and mixed methods RCTs

Welfare policy and politics

Research Interests

Behavioural public policy

I am interested in investigating how behavioural economics can support positive policy outcomes. 

I have published research on nudges for health behaviour change on obesity (read about my field experiments here and here). I am currently investigating how nudges might affect vaccination decisions, funded by a British Academy Grant on Covid-19 recovery. Our report is published here.

I have reviewed what we know about the public's preferences for nudges compared to harder policy instruments. Does the Covid-19 pandemic prompt a rethink of the conventional wisdom that people prefer softer, freedom-preserving policy measures over harder, restrictive measures? Read a summary of our findings. 

My PhD thesis applied Thaler and Shefrin’s (1981) Planner-Doer dual-self model to health behaviours. I designed and implemented two mixed methods field experiments that evaluated the impact of commitment devices on health behavior around obesity, working in partnership with Camden Council and the private sector. The research tested new ways to measure concepts such as sophistication and myopia, critically assessed the planner-doer model using quantitative and qualitative data, and raised new policy recommendations for how commitment strategies can be designed into public health programmes. My thesis was awarded the 'Best Dissertation' prize by UCL Dept of Political Science.

Experiments in political science

I am interested in using survey experiments to better understand voter decision making. I am investigating how voters evaluate candidates accused of sexual harassment (with Dr Sofia Collignon at Royal Holloway University). Our study of US voters promises important insights into the role of personal values in voters' decisions (pre-registered here). 

I am also looking at what factors make British voters more or less likely to consider online voting (with Prof Justin Fisher, pre-registered here, forthcoming, British Journal of Politics and International Relations).

Welfare policy

I am interested in how behavioural public policy might apply to welfare reforms, with a focus on financial capability and decision making. I am interested in how the design of the flagship welfare programme Universal Credit interacts with the realities of budgeting and financial decisions in low-income contexts.

I am also exploring the ways in which 'austerity' might affect knife crime outcomes (jointly with Ben Jeffreys), through a mixed-methods study of London's experiences.

Research grants and projects

Project details

British Academy Grant (2021-22) "COVID-19 Recovery: Building Future Pandemic Preparedness and Understanding Citizen Engagement in the USA and UK", co-Investigator

British Council (2021-22) "Sustainable School Meals UK-Brazil Research Workshop", co-Investigator

Brunel Research Development Fund (2020, 2021), Principal Investigator and co-Principal Investigator