Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow - Management Division

+44 (0)113 34 34518
Staff, Academic, Research Centres, Centre for Decision Research (CDR), Divisions, Management
1.17 Charles Thackrah
Financial, the role of emotions in decision making, probabilistic reasoning


BSc (Hons) Psychology (Queen’s University, Belfast, 2007)

PhD Cognitive Psychology (Queen’s University, Belfast, 2013)

Professional Memberships

European Association of Decision Making

Society for Judgment and Decision Making

International Association of Applied Psychology

International Association for Research in Economic Psychology

Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy


Dr. Simon McNair is currently a Leverhulme Early Career Research Fellow based at the Centre for Decision Research at Leeds University Business School (LUBS). Simon’s academic background is in the psychology of judgement and decision-making, with particular focus on how individual differences in cognitive and emotional characteristics influence peoples' behaviour.

Prior to joining Leeds University Business School in May 2013, Simon completed his PhD thesis at Queen’s University, Belfast. Using field, and lab-based experiments, the thesis studied how people make sense of competing sources of probabilistic evidence in order to judge the likelihood of certain outcomes – known as Bayesian reasoning – a form of reasoning integral in areas such as medical diagnosis, law, and public policy. The results and conclusions of this body of work can be found in publications in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, and Frontiers in Psychology.

Since joining the Centre for Decision Research, Simon’s predominant research focus has been on financial decision making, and also on age-related differences in judgement and decision making. Throughout his research, Simon employs several different research methodologies that combine both qualitative and quantitative approaches, and involve data collection both in the field, and in more typical lab-based situations. In recent years he has worked closely with several organisations to producing research that helped shape policy, practices, and generated new insights, including charitable organisations such as St. Vincent de Paul, and Money Buddies; policy advocates such as the United Leeds Debt Forums; and professional organisations such as leading UK debt management firm Grant Thornton UK LLP, and financial capability specialists Suitable Strategies, as well as global financier AON. In 2016, Simon received the inaugural LUBS Early Career Researcher Impact Award in recognition of his on-going research. He has also appeared in several media outlets discussing his research, including Radio Aire, Made in Leeds TV, and The Yorkshire Post.

Between May 2016 and 2019, Simon will be engaged in three-year early career fellowship awarded to him by the Leverhulme Trust. This project, in direct partnership with Citizen’s Advice Bureau (the UK’s largest independent provider of financial advice) in Leeds, and Bradford, aims to apply theory and insights from the psychology of judgement and decision making to develop new approaches to how financial advice is delivered to those in financial difficulty.

See Simon's linkedin profile here



Both the UK’s Money Advice Service, and the US-based equivalent Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, have recently called for more evidence-based research to help further understand how we might improve peoples’ financial capability. This concept represents the key factors thought necessary in order for people to make informed, well-reasoned financial decisions that will maximise their income, save for retirement, and proactively manage their finances effectively. Simon’s recent, and on-going research is focused on understanding the kinds of individual-level factors that influence financial behaviors and how, and the applied implications these insights have for key areas such as

1)    Debt support and advice – where findings will help support organisations to deliver more effective assistance to those in need.

2)    Financial education – where findings will help identify the core skills (practical and otherwise) that should be taught to children to prepare them for financial life.

3)    Retirement planning – with recent UK developments now giving people greater freedom of access to their pension savings, there is more onus than ever on older adults to be financially capable of sustaining themselves in later years. 

Some key examples of my research in these areas include:

·        Developing More Effective Financial Advice Service Provision in the UK: aforementioned project in partnership Citizens Advice Bureau.  The project is using mixed-methods to develop, test, and evaluate an advice resource that will provide targeted support for those in financial distress with an emphasis on psychological factors such as emotional distress, self-efficacy, and coping skills. (£130, 000, Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, 2016-2019)

·        Mindsets and Money Skills: Learning More about Who has a Money Buddy: an investigation of clients of Leeds-based financial support agency Money Buddies studying the kinds of psychological characteristics clients display. The project identified salient techniques and approaches from psychology to use in buffering the kinds of advice Money Buddies delivers. (£6000, LUBS Research Centre Funding award, 2016).

·        Identifying Discrete Financial Capability Social Groupings: in partnership with Suitable Strategies LTD. The project contributed to the development a survey tool that applies insights from behavioural economics to cluster people according to overarching representative mindsets and behaviours; financial institutions who utilise this tool can identify what kinds of products may be best suited to their clients. (£10,000, Suitable Strategies LTD, 2015).

·        Self-Conscious Emotions in Relation to Severe Debt: in partnership with Grant Thornton UK LLP. The project looked at how self-conscious emotions such as shame, guilt, and regret may affect how people respond in relation to their financial situation, noting particular gender differences in emotions. (£10,000, Grant-Thornton, 2013, with Aidan Feeney – Queen’s University).

Detailed reports on the above work is available on request. 

Some of Simon’s other on-going financial research includes

·        Understanding how consumer vulnerability influence financial product evaluations (with Arvid Hoffman – University of Adelaide)

·        Identifying individual differences associated with financial health (with John Maule, and Rob Ranyard at LUBS)

·        Developing domain-specific financial literacy scales (with Rob Ranyard – LUBS, and Darren Duxbury – Newcastle University Business School

·        Exploring how smartphone payment modes influence financial behaviours (with Rufina Gafeeva – University of Cologne)


·        The psychology of spending and borrowing at Christmas (with Wändi Bruine de Bruin, Barbara Summers, and Rob Ranyard at LUBS) 



Simon has held held teaching responsibilities at all levels of engagement. His teaching responsibilities at LUBS have included delivering lectures as part of first (LUBS1785) and final-year (LUBS3885) undergraduate modules on the psychology of judgement and decision making in management contexts, covering topics such as:

-        Expected Utility Theory

-        Mental accounting

-        Heuristics and biases

-        The effect of emotion, time pressure, and stress on decision making

-        Recognition-primed decision making

-        Motivational biases

Simon also has experience in designing and conducting undergraduate lab classes on multivariate statistics, and career progression and employability skills. He has also been responsible for mentoring undergraduate students over the course of their first year, and has supervised undergraduate students at LUBS engaged in Summer internships.


Published Articles

McNair, S., Summers, B., Bruine de Bruin, W., & Ranyard, R. (2016). Individual-level factors predicting consumer financial behaviour at a time of high pressure. Personality and Individual Differences, 99, 211-216. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2016.05.034.

McNair, S., & Feeney, A. (2015). Whose statistical reasoning is facilitated by a causal structure intervention? Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 22(1). 258-64. doi: 10.3758/s13423-014-0645-y

McNair, S. (2015). Beyond the status-quo: Research on Bayesian reasoning must develop in both theory and method.Frontiers in Psychology (Cognition), 6(97). doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00097

Bruine de Bruin, W., McNair, S., Strough, J., Taylor, A., & Summers, B. (2015). “Thinking about numbers is not my idea of fun”: Need for cognition mediates age differences in numeracy performanceMedical Decision Making, 35(1). 22-26. doi: 10.1177/0272989X14542485

McNair, S., & Feeney, A. (2014). When does information about causal structure improve statistical reasoning? Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 67(4), 625-645.  doi: 10.1080/17470218.2013.821709

McNair, S., & Feeney, A. (2011). Norms in high-level cognition: Trends, Consequences and   Antidotes. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 34(5), 260-261. doi: 10.1037/h0048070.

Publications and Book Chapters in Press

McNair, S., Okan, Y., & Hadjichristidis, K., & Bruine de Bruin, W. Age differences in moral judgment: Older adults are more deontological than younger adults. Journal of Behavioral Decision Making. 

McNair, S., & Crozier, W.R. Assessing psychological dispositions and states that can influence economic behaviour. In R. Ranyard (Ed), Economic Psychology: The Science of Economic Mental Life and Behaviour. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Ranyard, R., McHugh, S., & McNair, S. The psychology of borrowing and over-indebtedness. In R. Ranyard (Ed), Economic Psychology: The Science of Economic Mental Life and Behaviour. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Articles Under Review

Loibl, C., Letkiewicz, J., McNair, S., Summers, B., & Bruine de Bruin, W. Attitudes towards debt. Personality and Individual Differences.

Articles in Preparation

Loibl, C., McNair, S., Summers, B., & Bruine de Bruin, W. Pension Freedom Day in the UK: Liberation or Irresponsibility. International Journal of Consumer Studies.

McNair S., Ranyard, R., Summers, B., & Bruine de Bruin, W. Intention to spend at Christmas: Practical and psychological explanations. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Other Reports

McNair, S., & Summers, B. (2016). Mindsets and Money Buddies: Learning more about who has a Money Buddy. Centre for Decision Research: Leeds University Business School, UK.

McNair, S., Bruine de Bruin, W., Summers, B., & Ranyard, R. (2013). Buy Now - Worry Later: An Exploratory Study into Spending, Borrowing, and Debt at Christmas. Centre for Decision Research: Leeds University Business School, UK.

Feeney, A., & McNair, S. (2012). Self-conscious emotions and the Psychology of Debt. Grant Thornton UK LLP: Belfast, UK.

Media coverage and blog posts

McNair, S. & Gafeeva, R. (2018) Engaging undergraduates with research projects. 29 October 2018. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S.  (2018) Video: Developing advice for people in debt. 21 September 2018.  Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S.  (2017) Video: Developing more effective financial support service provision in the UK. 3 April 2017. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S. & Gafeeva, R.  (2017) Will ‘smartpayment’ technology lead to smarter consumers? Changing how we pay is changing how we spend. 27 January 2017. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S.  (2016) Christmas Cheer Can Be Dear Part 2: The Redux. 12 December 2016. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S. (2016) Research with Impact: Developing More Effective Financial Support Provision. 3 March 2016. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

McNair, S. (2015) Christmas Cheer Can Be Dear… 8 December 2015. Leeds University Business School Research and Innovation Blog.

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