Lisa-Maria is a member of the Cambridge Centre for Science and Policy network as part of the Policy Fellowships Programme, which is dedicated to helping senior policymakers in harnessing the effective use of evidence and expertise to inform government decision-making.
Through her doctoral research, Lisa-Maria aims to understand how political psychology and behavioural economics can inform the development of interventions helping senior political elites to take decisive climate action.
Prior to undertaking her PhD, she joined the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication where her research focused on the communication of evidence and uncertainty in a variety of domains from policy interventions to healthcare and the legal sector. Her study as first author showed the influence of political elites on COVID-19 risk perception and hoax beliefs in the US, and is published in the Royal Society Open Science Journal.
She was previously research assistant at the London School of Economics Behavioural Research Lab, where she worked on interventions to recalibrate risk perception and reduce biases. As a behavioural consultant at Innovia Tech, she worked to develop interventions improving safety, patients’ risk perception and adherence behaviour to medication.
Lisa-Maria completed an MSc Cognitive and Decision Science and a BSc in Arts and Sciences at UCL. She explored decision-making processes at complementary cognitive, behavioural, and political scales with an interdisciplinary combination of data analysis, experimental methods, and computer programming.
Her research interests also include social and political decision-making, social conflicts and cooperation, voting behaviour, and immunising citizens against misinformation.
PhD project overview
“Parliament is not an ordinary organisation, because on a day-to-day level it has the power to profoundly affect the lives of millions of people, and so behaviour within it may be disproportionately important.”
Kwiatkowski, R. (2001) Politicians and power.” In: The psychology of politicians [Internet]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp.39–58
“My PhD research aims to examine the factors that influence Members of Parliament in taking decisive climate action.
“In the context of climate change, the beliefs and decisions of Members of Parliament have the potential to tip the scales among collective actors. The possible significant impact of Members of Parliament lies in their ability to shape emission reduction through the implementation of green policies, legislative changes, agenda-setting, and the influential effect of political elite cues on the public.
“I argue that coupling individual behavioural change with proactive top-down actions within government leadership is crucial to scale up and enhance the effectiveness of behavioural interventions. The existing structural research looking at high-level political and economic responses, often invokes notions of impersonal omnipotent systems, global agreements, and abstract international power relations, leaving out of the picture the individual political leaders responsible for these wider-scale dynamics.
“Employing a metaphorical lens glimpsing through the walls of structural-level institutions to focus on the politician behind policy decisions, could offer a promising avenue for sustainability behavioural research. Moreover, this lens could provide a more nuanced perspective transcending the confines of a dualistic I-frame versus S-frame approach, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of the intricate interplay between individual agency and structural influences. My research therefore addresses these aforementioned gaps in the literature by empirically examining the factors that influence senior political elites in taking decisive climate action, using a combination of qualitative and quantitative data.
“The first part of my thesis is focused on developing a conceptual model of the relationship between MPs’ second-order beliefs and climate action, and understanding key barriers and facilitators to senior decision-makers’ preparedness to take climate action.
“Specifically, I am conducting a series of semi-structured interviews with former Members of Parliament to examine the types of evidence, including opinion polls, that significantly influence policy choices within parliament, as well as Members of Parliament’s perceptions of climate policies.
“The subsequent phase of my doctoral research involves conducting several online experiments with a sample of Members of Parliament across Conservative, Liberal Democrats, and Labour parties in the UK, aiming to test the effectiveness of various interventions on climate policy support. A multitude of factors are posited to be constraining politicians from taking stronger and more rapid climate action, many of which appear particularly difficult to address (eg distributed agency across rigid bureaucratic layers, competing policy priorities in the context of the cost-of-living crisis). While many of these barriers to climate action are very difficult to alter, my research focuses on targeting specific barriers over which leverage is promising, informed by behavioural insights.”
A bit more about me
My favourite place in Cambridge
“My favourite place in Cambridge is the Botanic Garden, especially getting lost in the peaceful glasshouse.”
My favourite spot for lunch breaks
“My favourite spot for lunch breaks is The Tiffin Truck near Downing College, which offers the perfect warming food for these cold English days.”
My book recommendation
“My book recommendation is ‘Empire of the Ants’ by Bernard Werber, a wonderful combination of science fiction, and philosophical reflection, exploring ideas of ecology, advanced technology, and the intricate connections between all living organisms. This book is particularly relevant to the current climate crisis we are facing.”