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Vanessa Hirneis

Social Psychologist and Researcher


Vanessa is a social psychologist and behavioural researcher for the Policy Institute’s Experimental Government Team. Her work focuses on supporting local and national governments in the design and evaluation of evidence-informed and human-centred policy solutions targeted at improving outcomes for marginalised groups. Vanessa is particularly interested in exploring the ways in which behavioural science can help dismantle systems of oppression and how it can contribute to the creation of a more inclusive societal model. Her research interests encompass the psychological consequences of poverty and inequality, intergroup relations, political polarisation, and social cohesion.

Prior to joining the Policy Institute in February 2023, she has worked with the Behavioural Insights Team, Innovation for Poverty Action, and the World Bank’s eMBeD Unit on a variety of policy issues. She also gained substantial experience in Costa Rica’s development and sustainability sectors on topics surrounding land rights and disaster risk reduction in informal settlements.

Vanessa was selected as a 2023 German-American Young Leader and was a fellow of the German National Foundation as well as the Mercator Foundation on International Affairs. She holds an MSc in Psychology of Economic Life from the London School of Economics and Political Science and a BSc in Psychology from Düsseldorf University.