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Dr Manu Savani

Dr Manu Savani
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 am currently examining how behavioural public policy might apply to welfare reforms, focusing 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 have recently been reviewing 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. 

Experiments in political science

I am interested in using survey experiments to better understand voter decision making. In a recent project, I have investigated how voters evaluate candidates accused of sexual harassment (jointly with Dr Sofia Collignon at Royal Holloway University). Our study of US voters in Oct 2020 promises important insights into the role of personal values in voters' decisions (pre-registered here). 

I am also looking at what factors make voters more or less likely to consider online voting (jointly with Prof Justin Fisher).

Welfare policy

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.

My PhD thesis applied Thaler and Shefrin’s (1981) Planner-Doer dual-self model to health behaviours. She 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.