Dr. Sanae Okamoto


Research group(s):
5. Innovation and Entrepreneurship for Sustainability Transitions

Dr. Sanae Okamoto is a behavioural scientist with background in Psychology, Neuroscience, and Behavioural Economics. She has a solid academic and industrial experience in applying behavioural sciences to better understand human behaviour and utilize behavioural and psychological insights towards diverse objectives such as circular economy and climate resilience. She also provides workshops and seminars for practitioners in public and private sectors.

She is currently working on multiple projects: for circular economy such as SYSCHEMIQ project as part of the Horizon Green Deal programme, corporate social/environmental responsibility, environmental psychology and consumer behaviour; for climate resilience and mental health impact of climate change and climate induced natural disasters (research management team member of UNU-Climate Reslience Initiative, co-leads of workpackage 'Community and Individual Responses and Preparedness).

Her early research career focused on social dynamics in primates at Kyoto University and Nagoya University, Japan; the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Germany; University of Louisiana at Lafayette, USA; and the field sites in Republic of Guinea and Republic of Liberia.

She received her MA in Psychology from Graduate School of Environmental Studies, Nagoya University, Japan and her PhD in Psychology from Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University. 

In the last years, she worked as an Assistant Professor of Behavioural Economics and Neuroeconomics at the School of Business and Economics, Maastricht University. Before officially joining at MERIT in the early 2021, she shifted her professional focus into more practice to address societal challenges (e.g., University Industry Innovation Network, Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences, Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation, also at several private companies) and contributed to a number of consultancy projects in business development; program management; university-industry liaison; online platform development, etc. 

Other engagements

Consumer behaviour and environmental psychology: Together with a number of international collaborators (Switzerlands, NL, UK, India), she has been investigating how design or product information improve consumer behaviour, and to identify behavioural spillovers that can be utlized for developing effective behavioural interventions.

Triple-helix relations: As a member of advisory board at University Industry Innovation Network, she contributes to triple-helix engagement and facilitates collaboration between European and non-Western university-industry relations. She also provides executive courses on behavioural change within HEI organizations through the nudge approach. Currently, she is working on a meta-analytical study on university-industry collaboration case studies by unsupervised machine learning techniques to identify university business development strategies.

Entrepreneurship education: As a program coordinator for the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, she led a global survey of good practices at higher education institutions and governemnt agencies with a special focus on advanced programs of entrepreneurial education and innovation ecosystem in Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, UK, Finland, USA, Australia.

Selected publications:

Okamoto, S., Sluismans, R. (2021). The COP26: Psychological game behind a successful negotiation. The Conversation UK.

Lopes, C. A., Okamoto, S. (2020). Stopping the coronavirus: What does the evidence say are the best measures? The Conversation UK.

Leticia, R.O., Okamoto, S., Goebel, R., Riedl, A. (2018). Positive and negative reciprocity: Two sides of the same coin? Proceedings at Society for Neuroscience.

Gross, J., Méder, Z., Okamoto-Barth, S., Riedl, A. (2016). Building the Leviathan – Voluntary centralisation of punishment power sustains cooperation in humans. Scientific Reports 6, 20767. 

Gross, J., Wolebert, E., Zimmermann, J., Okamoto-Barth, S., Riedl, A., Goebel, R. (2014). Value signals in the prefrontal cortex predict individual preferences across reward categories. Journal of Neuroscience, 34 (22) 7580-7586; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5082-13.2014.

Op-ed media outlets:

Nagabhatla, N., Okamoto, S., & Bhandari, S. (2021). The new normal of Climate Grief: Why mental must feature in adaptation and resilience planning. UNU-MERIT, UNU-CRIS, UNU-IIGH

Okamoto, S. (2020). Trust is a vital commodity in a pandemic how one Dutch coalition is matchmaking solutions online. UNU-MERIT blog series.

Okamoto, S. (2019). What does the future hold for our universities from talent engines to tech literacy? UNU-MERIT blog series.

Ramani, S. & Okamoto, S. (2018). A global nudge for sustainable development – GLOBELICS.

Recent book chapters:

Holden, N., Okamoto, S. Nobrega, C., Venkataramani R., and Virgolino J. (In Press). ‘Governance insights from Japan for building disaster resilient communities’ in chapter ‘Governance challenges of SDG 11: Case studies from India, Brazil and Japan’ in SDG11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. Eds. Ramani S. and Hettiarachchi, H., Rutledge/Tailor & Francis

Okamoto, S. & Inoue, F. (2019). Global survey of Best practices at higher education institutions – Diversification and quality assurance of vocational education. Annual reports for Japan Society for Promotion of Science 17K01146.

Okamoto-Barth, S. (2018). Triadic gaze in primates. In J. Vonk and T. K. Shackelford (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer Nature: New York.