School of Psychology

Experience Excellence Studying People

Professor Karen Douglas

Professor of Social Psychology

Dr Karen Douglas on twitter

Karen Douglas


Selected publications


Also view these in the Kent Academic Repository

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen (2013) Social Psychology. Palgrave MacMillan, 832 pp. ISBN 9780230218031.


    Jolley, Daniel and Douglas, Karen (2014) The effects of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories on vaccination intentions. PLoS ONE, 9 (2). pp. e89177. ISSN 1932-6203.


    The current studies investigated the potential impact of anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs, and exposure to anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, on vaccination intentions. In Study 1, British parents completed a questionnaire measuring beliefs in anti-vaccine conspiracy theories and the likelihood that they would have a fictitious child vaccinated. Results revealed a significant negative relationship between anti-vaccine conspiracy beliefs and vaccination intentions. This effect was mediated by the perceived dangers of vaccines, and feelings of powerlessness, disillusionment and mistrust in authorities. In Study 2, participants were exposed to information that either supported or refuted anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, or a control condition. Results revealed that participants who had been exposed to material supporting anti-vaccine conspiracy theories showed less intention to vaccinate than those in the anti-conspiracy condition or controls. This effect was mediated by the same variables as in Study 1. These findings point to the potentially detrimental consequences of anti-vaccine conspiracy theories, and highlight their potential role in shaping health-related behaviors. This is an open access article and a copy can be obtained from the URL:

    Jolley, Daniel and Douglas, Karen (2014) The social consequences of conspiracism: Exposure to conspiracy theories decreases the intention to engage in politics and to reduce one’s carbon footprint. British Journal of Psychology, 105 (1). pp. 35-56. ISSN 0007-1269.


    The current studies explored the social consequences of exposure to conspiracy theories. In Study 1, participants were exposed to a range of conspiracy theories concerning government involvement in significant events such as the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Results revealed that exposure to information supporting conspiracy theories reduced participants' intentions to engage in politics, relative to participants who were given information refuting conspiracy theories. This effect was mediated by feelings of political powerlessness. In Study 2, participants were exposed to conspiracy theories concerning the issue of climate change. Results revealed that exposure to information supporting the conspiracy theories reduced participants' intentions to reduce their carbon footprint, relative to participants who were given refuting information, or those in a control condition. This effect was mediated by powerlessness with respect to climate change, uncertainty, and disillusionment. Exposure to climate change conspiracy theories also influenced political intentions, an effect mediated by political powerlessness. The current findings suggest that conspiracy theories may have potentially significant social consequences, and highlight the need for further research on the social psychology of conspiracism.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2014) “A Giant Leap for Mankind”, but What About Women? Journal of Language and Social Psychology. ISSN 0261-927X.


    Sexist language excludes, trivializes or diminishes either gender. Despite efforts by many professional bodies to encourage the use of nonsexist alternatives, sexist language use persists across many languages. Further, research has shown that men are less supportive of nonsexist language alternatives than women, and that this effect is mediated by attitudes toward women. We propose that broader ideologies related to the perceived legitimacy of dominance hierarchies and existing social systems also explain this gender gap. British undergraduate participants completed measures of attitudes toward women, gender-specific system justification, and social dominance orientation. They also completed an inventory of attitudes toward sexist language. There was a strong gender difference in attitudes toward sexist language that was significantly mediated by gender-specific system justification and social dominance orientation. The relationship between gender and attitudes toward sexist language therefore appears to be driven by broader ideologies that serve to keep women “in their place”.


    In two experimental studies (conducted in Britain and Italy), participants read about a politician answering to leadership- versus morality-related allegations using either downward counterfactuals (“things could have been worse, if…”) or upward counterfactuals (“things could have been better, if…”). Downward messages increased the perception of the politician’s leadership, while both downward and upward messages increased morality perception. Political sophistication moderated the effect of message direction, with downward messages increasing perceived morality in low sophisticates and upward messages increasing perceived morality in high sophisticates. In the latter group, the acknowledgement of a responsibility-taking intent mediated morality judgment. Results were consistent across different countries, highlighting previously unexplored effects of communication on the perception of the “Big Two” dimensions.

    Wood, Michael J. and Douglas, Karen (2013) “What about building 7?” A social psychological study of online discussion of 9/11 conspiracy theories. Frontiers in Psychology, 4 (N/A). pp. 409. ISSN 1664-1078.


    Recent research into the psychology of conspiracy belief has highlighted the importance of belief systems in the acceptance or rejection of conspiracy theories. We examined a large sample of conspiracist (pro-conspiracy-theory) and conventionalist (anti-conspiracy-theory) comments on news websites in order to investigate the relative importance of promoting alternative explanations vs. rejecting conventional explanations for events. In accordance with our hypotheses, we found that conspiracist commenters were more likely to argue against the opposing interpretation and less likely to argue in favor of their own interpretation, while the opposite was true of conventionalist commenters. However, conspiracist comments were more likely to explicitly put forward an account than conventionalist comments were. In addition, conspiracists were more likely to express mistrust and made more positive and fewer negative references to other conspiracy theories. The data also indicate that conspiracists were largely unwilling to apply the “conspiracy theory” label to their own beliefs and objected when others did so, lending support to the long-held suggestion that conspiracy belief carries a social stigma. Finally, conventionalist arguments tended to have a more hostile tone. These tendencies in persuasive communication can be understood as a reflection of an underlying conspiracist worldview in which the details of individual conspiracy theories are less important than a generalized rejection of official explanations. This is an open access article and a copy can be obtained from the URL:

    Wood, Michael J. and Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2012) Dead and alive: Belief in contradictory conspiracy theories. Social Psychology and Personality Science, 3. pp. 767-773. ISSN 1948-5506.


    Conspiracy theories can form a monological belief system: a self-sustaining worldview comprised of a network of mutually supportive beliefs. The present research shows that even endorsement of mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively correlated. In Study 1 (n = 137), the more participants believed that Princess Diana faked her own death, the more they believed that she was murdered. In Study 2 (n = 102), the more participants believed that Osama Bin Laden was already dead when U.S. special forces raided his compound in Pakistan, the more they believed he is still alive. Hierarchical regression models showed that mutually incompatible conspiracy theories are positively associated because both are associated with the view that the authorities are engaged in a cover-up (Study 2). The monological nature of conspiracy belief appears to be driven not by conspiracy theories directly supporting one another, but by broader beliefs supporting conspiracy theories in general.

    Skipper, Yvonne and Douglas, Karen (2012) Is no praise good praise? Effects of positive feedback on children’s and university students’ responses to subsequent failures. British Journal of Educational Psychology, 82 (2). pp. 327-339. ISSN 0007-0998.


    Background: According to Dweck and colleagues (e.g., Kamins & Dweck, 1999; Mueller & Dweck, 1986), praise can be delivered using person (“you are clever”) or process terms (“you worked hard”). Research suggests that giving people process praise after success can help them deal better with subsequent failures because it attributes outcomes to effort rather than fixed ability. However, research has thus far inadequately addressed how these types of praise compare to receiving no evaluative feedback. Aim: The aim of the present research was to examine the effects of person and process praise compared to a control group where only objective outcome feedback was given. Samples: In Study 1, 145 British school children aged 9-11 years took part. In Study 2, participants were 114 British university students. Method: In both studies, participants read three scenarios and were asked to imagine themselves as the main character. In each scenario, they succeeded in an educational task and received either person, process or no praise. Participants then read two scenarios where they failed at a task. Following each scenario participants evaluated their performance, affect and persistence. Results: After one failure, participants who received person praise reacted most negatively on all dependent measures. However, those in the process condition did not differ significantly from those in the control group. Conclusions: These findings suggest that process feedback may not be inherently positive; instead person feedback seems particularly detrimental.

    Jeffries, Carla H. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Sutton, Robbie M. et al. (2012) The David and Goliath principle: Cultural, ideological and attitudinal underpinnings of the normative protection of low status groups from criticism. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38 (8). pp. 1053-1065. ISSN 0146-1672.


    Two studies documented the “David and Goliath” rule – the tendency for people to perceive criticism of “David” groups (groups with low power and status) as less normatively permissible than criticism of “Goliath” groups (groups with high power and status). We confirmed the existence of the David and Goliath rule across five national samples (Study 1). However the rule was endorsed more strongly in Western than in Chinese cultures, an effect mediated by cultural differences in power distance. Study 2 identified the psychological underpinnings of this rule in an Australian sample. Lower social dominance orientation (SDO) was associated with greater endorsement of the rule, an effect mediated through the differential attribution of stereotypes. Specifically, those low in SDO were more likely to attribute traits of warmth and incompetence to David versus Goliath groups, a pattern of stereotypes that was related to the protection of David groups from criticism.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2011) Does it take one to know one? Endorsement of conspiracy theories is influenced by personal willingness to conspire. British Journal of Social Psychology, 50 (3). pp. 544-552. ISSN 0144-6665.


    We advance a new account of why people endorse conspiracy theories, arguing that individuals use the social-cognitive tool of projection when making social judgments about others. In two studies, we found that individuals were more likely to endorse conspiracy theories if they thought they would be willing, personally, to participate in the alleged conspiracies. Study 1 established an association between conspiracy beliefs and personal willingness to conspire, that fully mediated a relationship between Machiavellianism and conspiracy beliefs. In Study 2, participants primed with their own morality were less inclined than controls to endorse conspiracy theories – a finding fully mediated by personal willingness to conspire. These results suggest that some people think “they conspired” because they think “I would conspire”.

    Murphy, Amy O. and Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen et al. (2011) Ambivalent sexism and the “do”s and “don’t”s of pregnancy: Examining attitudes toward proscriptions and the women who flout them. Personality and Individual Differences, 51 (7). pp. 812-816. ISSN 0191-8869.


    Pregnant women are subjected to popular and official advice to restrict their behaviour in ways that may not always be warranted by medical evidence. The present paper investigates the role of sexism in the proscriptive stance toward pregnancy. Consistent with expectations, both hostile and benevolent sexism were associated with endorsement of proscriptive rules such as “pregnant women should not take strenuous exercise” (Study 1, n =148). Also as predicted, hostile but not benevolent sexism was associated with punitive attitudes to pregnant women who flout proscriptions (Study 2, n = 124). In tandem with recent findings, the present results show that hostile as well as benevolent sexism is associated with proscriptive attitudes surrounding pregnancy.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen and McClellan, L.M. (2011) Benevolent sexism, perceived health risks, and the inclination to restrict pregnant women’s freedoms. Sex Roles, 65 (7). pp. 596-605. ISSN 0360-0025.


    The present study investigated the role of sexist ideology in perceptions of health risks during pregnancy and willingness to intervene on pregnant women’s behavior. Initially, 160 female psychology undergraduates at a university in the South East of England completed the Ambivalent Sexism Inventory (Glick & Fiske, 1996). Two months later, in an apparently unrelated study, they rated the safety of 45 behaviours during pregnancy (e.g., drinking alcohol, exercising, drinking tap water, and oral sex), and indicated their willingness to restrict pregnant women’s choices (e.g., by refusing to serve soft cheese or alcohol). As predicted, benevolent (but not hostile) sexism was related to willingness to restrict pregnant women’s choices. This effect was partially mediated by the perceived danger attributed to behaviours.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2011) Constructive or cruel? Positive or patronizing? Reactions to expressions of positive and negative stereotypes of the mentally ill. British Journal of Psychology, 102. pp. 97-107. ISSN 0007-1269.


    Previous research has shown that people respond with greater sensitivity to negative stereotypical comments about a group that are made from someone outside the group in question than from someone who belongs to the group. In this paper, we investigated if the same effect occurs in response to comments made about stigmatized groups. Specifically, we examined how people react to comments made about the mentally ill. The conditions under which people accept or reject stereotypes of the mentally ill may shed light on the conditions necessary for effective anti-discrimination campaigns. In the current study, participants responded to positive or negative stereotypes of the mentally ill voiced by either someone who has, or has not, suffered from a mental illness. Participants were more sensitive, agreed less, and evaluated the speaker less favourably when comments came from the out-group rather than the in-group source. The effects were strongest for negative comments, however contrary to previous research participants also responded less favourably to positive comments from the out-group source. These reactions were mediated by the perceived constructiveness of the speaker's motives. Implications for the effectiveness of anti-discrimination campaigns are discussed.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. and Stathi, Sofia (2010) Why I am less persuaded than you: People's intuitive understanding of the psychology of persuasion. Social Influence, 5 (2). pp. 133-148.


    People generally assume that others are more influenced than the self (the third person perception or TPP). To further understand this perception we investigated people’s intuitive understanding of how persuasion works. Participants rated themselves or others on traits reflecting risk and immunity from persuasion (e.g., weak- and strong-mindedness) and need for cognition (NFC). They then rated how much they or others would be influenced by some advertisements. Results showed that participants associated perceived low NFC and high levels of weak-mindedness with influence. Perceived self–other differences in these variables mediated the TPP. Also, perceived NFC explained the role of self-enhancement in the TPP. People’s intuitive understanding of persuasion therefore resembles the elaboration likelihood model on the role it grants to NFC.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2010) By their words ye shall know them: Language abstraction and the likeability of describers. European Journal of Social Psychology, 40 (2). pp. 366-374. ISSN 0046-2772.


    According to the linguistic category model (LCM), behaviour can be described at concrete (e.g. ‘Kath hit Kim’) and abstract (e.g. ‘Kath is aggressive’) levels. Variations in these levels convey information about the person being described and the relationship between that person and the describer. In the current research, we examined the power of language abstraction to create impressions of describers themselves. Results show that describers are seen as less likeable when they use abstract (vs. concrete) language to describe the negative actions of others. Conversely, impressions of describers are more favourable when they opt for abstract descriptions of others' positive behaviours. This effect is partially mediated by the attribution of a communicative agenda to describers. By virtue of these attributional implications, language abstraction is an impression formation device that can impact on the reputation of describers.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. and Wilkin, K. (2008) Could you mind your language? An investigation of communicators’ ability to inhibit linguistic bias. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 27 (2). pp. 123-139. ISSN 0261-927X.


    Three experiments that examine communicators' ability to inhibit linguistic bias are reported. Research has shown that communicators use more abstract language ( e. g., "Jamie is affectionate" vs. "Jamie kisses Rose") to describe more expected behavior. Recent research has shown that this bias may be overwhelmed by goals to put a "spin" on actions or to manipulate audiences' impressions of actors. Similarly, the present experiments show that people who wish to communicate without bias may often be able to do so. Inhibition occurred when participants selected descriptions from a list of alternatives and when they freely described both expected and unexpected behaviors. However, inhibition failed when participants were asked to freely describe either expected or unexpected behaviors alone.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen (2008) Celebrating two decades of linguistic bias research: An introduction. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 27 (2). pp. 105-109. ISSN 0261-927X.


    The authors introduce a special issue of the Journal of Language and Social Psychology on linguistic bias, celebrating two decades of research since G. R. Semin and K. Fiedler (1988) first published the linguistic category model (LCM). The LCM has been highly cited and generative and provides a parsimonious framework for investigations of the role of language in social-psychological phenomena. Indeed, the articles in this issue are notable for addressing a wide range of such phenomena, underscoring both the success of the LCM so far and its further potential.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2008) The hidden impact of conspiracy theories: Perceived and actual impact of theories surrounding the death of Princess Diana. Journal of Social Psychology, 148 (2). pp. 210-221. ISSN 0022-4545.


    The authors examined the perceived and actual impact of exposure to conspiracy theories surrounding the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. One group of undergraduate students rated their agreement and their classmates' perceived agreement with several statements about Diana's death. A second group of students from the same undergraduate population read material containing popular conspiracy theories about Diana's death before rating their own and others' agreement with the same statements and perceived retrospective attitudes (i.e., what they thought their own and others' attitudes were before reading the material). Results revealed that whereas participants in the second group accurately estimated others' attitude changes, they underestimated the extent to which their own attitudes were influenced.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen and Wilkin, Katie J. et al. (2008) Justice for whom, exactly? Beliefs in justice for the self and various others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34 (4). pp. 528-541. ISSN 0146-1672.


    The present studies examine why people think the world is more just to themselves than to others generally. Beliefs in justice for the self were uniquely associated with psychological adjustment, consistent with the theoretical motive to believe in justice for the self ( Studies 1 and 2). However, this "justice motive" did not appear to affect the relative strength of justice beliefs. Instead, self-other differences in justice beliefs appeared to reflect objective assessments of the justice received by various demographics. Undergraduates believed the world to be more just to themselves than to others but not their undergraduate peers specifically ( Study 1). Participants of both genders believed the world to be more just to men, and to themselves, than to women ( Study 2). Women did not exempt themselves individually from injustice but believed, similar to men, that undergraduate women receive as much justice as men ( Study 3).

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2006) When what you say about others says something about you: Language abstraction and inferences about describers' attitudes and goals. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 42 (4). pp. 500-508. ISSN 0022-1031.


    According to the linguistic category model (Semin & Fiedler, 1988, 1991), a person's behavior can be described at varying levels of abstraction from concrete (e.g., "Lisa slaps Ann") to abstract (e.g., "Lisa is aggressive"). Research has shown that language abstraction conveys information about the person whose behavior is described (Wigboldus, Semin, & Spears, 2000). However to date, little research has examined the information that language abstraction may convey about describers themselves. In this paper, we report three experiments demonstrating that describers who use relatively abstract language to describe others' behaviors are perceived to have biased attitudes and motives compared with those describers who use more concrete language

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Elder, Tracey J. and Douglas, Karen (2006) Reactions to internal and external criticism of outgroups: Social convention in the intergroup sensitivity effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32 (5). pp. 563-575. ISSN 0146-1672.


    Recent research has documented the intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE) whereby people respond more favorably to internal versus external criticism of their group. The present studies examine the reactions of bystanders who do not belong to the criticized group and whose reactions are therefore more likely to be informed by social conventions than by defensiveness. Studies I and 2 presented British participants with criticisms of Australians, manipulating their ostensible source. These British bystanders exhibited the ISE, responding more favorably to the speaker and comments when the critic was Australian rather than non-Australian. These responses were driven by the perceived motives of speakers rather than their level of experience with the group (Study 2). Study 3 provides direct evidence that internal criticism is more conventionally acceptable than is external criticism.

    Elder, Tracey J. and Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2006) Perceptions of Social Influence When Messages Favour 'Us' Versus 'Them': A Closer Look at the Social Distance Effect. European Journal of Social Psychology, 36 (3). pp. 353-365. ISSN 0046-2772.


    The third-person effect (TPE) is the tendency for individuals to assume that persuasive communications have a stronger effect on other people than on themselves. In turn the social distance effect (SDE) is the tendency for this TPE to increase with the psychological distance between self and comparator. Two experiments showed that the SDE is moderated by whether the message favours the ingroup or the outgroup, holding all other content constant. In Study 1, male and female participants read a message arguing that either women were better drivers than men or vice versa, and then indicated how much they thought themselves, ingroup members, outgroup members and society would be influenced. The results indicate that for the pro-outgroup message the SDE was found. However, for the pro-ingroup message the SDE was reversed with ingroup members perceived as more influenced than all other targets, including the self. Study 2 replicated this finding using minimal groups, which eliminated the effects of prior stereotypes about male and female drivers. Across both studies the self was perceived as relatively invulnerable to influence regardless of message bias.

    Douglas, Karen and McGarty, Craig and Bliuc, A.M. et al. (2005) Understanding cyberhate: Social competition and social creativity in on-line White-supremacist groups. Social Science Computer Review, 23 (1). pp. 68-76. ISSN 0894-4393.


    This study investigated the self-enhancement strategies used by online White supremacist groups. In accordance with social identity theory, we proposed that White supremacist groups, in perceiving themselves as members of a high-status, impermeable group under threat from out-groups, should advocate more social conflict than social creativity strategies. We also expected levels of advocated violence to be lower than levels of social conflict and social creativity due to legal constraints on content. As expected, an analysis of 43 White supremacist web sites revealed that levels of social creativity and social conflict were significantly greater than were levels of advocated violence. However, contrary to predictions, the web sites exhibited social creativity to a greater extent than they exhibited social conflict. The difference between social creativity and social competition strategies was not moderated by identifiability. Results are discussed with reference to legal impediments to overt hostility in online groups and the purpose of socially creative communication

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen (2005) Justice for all, or just for me? More support for self-other differences in just world beliefs. Personality and Individual Differences, 9 (3). pp. 637-645. ISSN 0191-8869.


    Recent research shows that the belief that the world is fair to the self (BJW-self) is associated with indices of psychological health, whereas the belief that the world is fair to others (BJW-others) is associated with harsh social attitudes (Begue and Bastounis, 2003). However research has not ruled out the possibility that third factors are responsible for these patterns of correlation. In the present research, 233 psychology undergraduates completed measures of BJW-self, BJW-others, attitudes to the poor, life satisfaction, locus of control, self esteem, and socially desirable responding. Results showed that BJW-self is uniquely related to psychological health, BJW-others is uniquely related to harsh attitudes to the poor, and that these relationships are not attributable to the influence of third causes. Results provide strong support for the distinction between perceived justice for the self and for others, and suggest that perceptions of justice are indeed the "active ingredient" responsible for their ability to predict psychological and social outcomes. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Elder, Tracey J. and Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen (2005) Keeping it to ourselves: Effects of audience size and composition on reactions to criticisms of the ingroup. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations, 8 (3). pp. 231-244. ISSN 1368-4302.


    Criticism is an important aspect of communication within and between groups, but reactions to criticism of groups have been little studied. Past research has shown that criticism elicits greater sensitivity when made by an outgroup member, compared to an ingroup member. Two experiments were conducted to examine how this intergroup sensitivity effect (ISE) is affected by the context of the criticism. Experiment I showed that the ISE occurs in a private context, but disappears when it is clear that the criticism is made to a large public audience. Experiment 2 investigated intragroup criticism and manipulated both audience size and audience composition. Results showed that ingroup, criticism elicited greater sensitivity and less favorable evaluations of the speaker when made to an outgroup rather than an ingroup audience. The results highlight strategic considerations and tacit protocols governing the criticism of groups.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2004) Right about others, wrong about ourselves? Actual and perceived self-other differences in resistance to persuasion. British Journal of Social Psychology, 43 (4). pp. 585-603. ISSN 0144-6665.


    The third-person effect (TPE) is the tendency for people to perceive the media as more influential on others than on themselves. This study introduced a new methodological paradigm for measuring the TPE and examined whether the effect stems from an overestimation of the persuasibility of others, an underestimation of the persuasibility of the self, both, or neither. In three studies, we compared ratings of (a) current self attitudes (both baseline and post-persuasion), (b) current others' attitudes (both baseline and post-persuasion), (c) retrospective self attitudes, and (d) retrospective others' attitudes. We also measured traditional third-person perception ratings of perceived influence. Rather than overestimating others' attitude change, we found evidence that people underestimated the extent to which their own attitudes had, or would have, changed.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. (2003) Effects of communication goals and expectancies on language abstraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (4). pp. 692-696. ISSN 0022-3514.


    Language abstraction is an important aspect of the description of behavioral events (G.R. Semin & K. Fiedler, 1988) that is typically viewed as a medium by which describers transmit beliefs without conscious awareness or control. Complementary to this view, the authors propose that language abstraction may also be influenced by explicit communication goals such as aggrandizement or derogation, allowing describers to express beliefs that they do not themselves possess. Five studies are reported that support this proposal, showing that explicit communication goals have strong effects on language abstraction that are independent of effects of describers' beliefs or expectancies. Language abstraction is therefore both a medium for the transmission of existing beliefs and a tool by which communicators can create new beliefs

    Douglas, Karen and McGarty, Craig (2002) Internet Identifiability and Beyond: A Model of the Effects of Identifiability on Communicative Behavior. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research and Practice, 6 (1). pp. 17-26. ISSN 1089-2699.


    K.M. Douglas and C. McGarty (in press) demonstrated that being identifiable to an ingroup audience in a computer-mediated communication (CMC) setting leads people to describe anonymous outgroup targets in more abstract, or stereotypical ways. Based on these findings, and on the social identity model of deindividuation effects (SIDE: S.D. Reicher, R. Spears, & T. Postmes, 1995), we aimed to test a model of the effects of identifiability on communicative behavior, in and beyond CMC. Participants in three studies, one CMC and two pen/paper, were asked to write responses to controversial messages. In all three studies, communicators who were identifiable to an ingroup audience used more stereotypical language to describe anonymous outgroup targets. Although Study 1 suggested that this increase in stereotypical language use may be strategic, Studies 2 and 3 suggested instead that it may result from more subtle, or implicit communicative processes. These results are discussed in relation to the revised SIDE model and a final model is proposed.

    Douglas, Karen and McGarty, Craig (2001) Identifiability and self-presentation: Computer-mediated communication and intergroup interaction. British Journal of Social Psychology, 40 (Part 3). pp. 399-416. ISSN 0144-6665.


    This research investigated the intergroup properties of hostile 'flaming' behaviour in computer-mediated communication and how flaming language is affected by Internet identifiability, or identifiability by name and e-mail address/geographical location as is common to Internet communication. According to the Social Identity Model of Deindividuation Effects (SIDE; e.g. Reicher, Spears: & Postmes, 1995) there may be strategic reasons for identifiable groups members to act in a more group-normative manner in the presence of an audience, to gain acceptance from the in-group, to avoid punishment from the out-group, or to assert their identity to the out-group. For these reasons, it was predicted that communicators would produce more stereo type-consistent (group-normative) descriptions of out-group members' behaviours when their descriptions were identifiable to an audience. In one archival and three experimental studies, it was found that identifiability to an in-group audience was associated with higher levels of stereotype-consistent language when communicators described anonymous out-group targets. These results extend SIDE and suggest the importance of an in-group audience for the expression of stereotypical views.

Book Sections

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen (2014) Examining the monological nature of conspiracy theories. In: van Prooijen, Jan Willem and van Lange, Paul A. M. Power, politics, and paranoia: Why people are suspicious of their leaders. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107035805. (in press)


    (Summary prepared for this repository). This chapter critically examines the often made claim that endorsement of conspiracy theories is characteristic of a "monological" world view (Goertzel, 1994) - in which claims about the causes of an event are not weighed against specific evidence about the event itself so much as abstract, mutually supportive beliefs about the pattern of previous events. Although beliefs in various conspiracy theories are robustly correlated, so that people who believe in one conspiracy theory are likely to believe in several others, this does not in itself demonstrate that conspiracy beliefs are rooted in, or symptomatic of, a monological worldview. There is little evidence to suggest the mindsets of adherents of conspiracy theories are generally more monological - in fact, some research suggests that 'conspiracy theorists' are more open, rather than more closed, to new ideas. Further, some conspiracy theories contradict, rather than reinforce, other conspiracy theories, suggesting that they do not comprise a closed ecosystem of mutually supportive ideas. The authors outline other accounts of why beliefs in various conspiracy theories tend to cluster together. For example, these beliefs are associated with similar personality variables, beliefs about the self, and beliefs about the world. Also explaining their correlation, they may be best viewed not as separate psychological variables but as facets of an underlying variable. The authors conclude that further research is needed to test some of the interesting predictions that may be derived from the monological worldview position. In the meantime, to portray conspiracy belief as a symptom of a monological world view is not yet warranted empirically, and may be unfairly derogatory.

    Douglas, Karen and Skipper, Yvonne (2012) Language and feedback. In: Sutton, Robbie M. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Douglas, Karen Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism and advice. Language as Social Action, 11. Peter Lang Publishers. ISBN 9781433105128.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Douglas, Karen (2012) Feedback: Defining and surveying the field. In: Sutton, Robbie M. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Douglas, Karen Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism and advice. Language as Social Action, 11. Peter Lang Publishers. ISBN 9781433105128.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Douglas, Karen (2012) Feedback for theory, research and practice. In: Sutton, Robbie M. and Hornsey, Matthew J. and Douglas, Karen Feedback: The communication of praise, criticism and advice. Language as Social Action, 11. Peter Lang Publishers. ISBN 9781433105128.

    Douglas, Karen (2012) Keep your friends close and your enemies closer: Influencing social dynamics via Facebook. In: Fogg, B.J. The Psychology of Facebook. Stanford University. (unpublished)

    Douglas, Karen (2010) Deindividuation. In: Jackson, Ronald L. Encyclopedia of Identity. Sage. ISBN 9781412951531.

    McGarty, Craig and Lala, Girish and Douglas, Karen (2010) Opinion-based groups: (racist) talk and (collective) action on the Internet. In: Birchmeier, Zachary and Deitz-Uhler, Beth and Stasser, Gerold Strategic uses of social technology: An interactive perspective of social psychology. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521899260.

    Douglas, Karen (2010) Rumor. In: Hogg, Michael A. and Levine, John M. Encyclopedia of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Sage, pp. 719-722. ISBN 9781412942089.

    Douglas, Karen (2010) Fads and fashions. In: Hogg, Michael A. and Levine, John M. Encyclopedia of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Sage, pp. 269-272. ISBN 9781412942089.

    Douglas, Karen (2010) Deindividuation. In: Hogg, Michael A. and Levine, John M. Encyclopedia of Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. Sage, pp. 190-195. ISBN 9781412942089.

    Douglas, Karen (2008) Antisocial communication on electronic mail and Internet. In: Konijn, Elly A. and Tanis, Martin and Utz, Sonja et al. Mediated interpersonal communication. Routledge/Taylor & Francis, London. ISBN 0805863044.

    Douglas, Karen (2007) The effects of communicative context, goals and expectancies on language abstraction. In: Kashima, Yoshihisa and Fiedler, Klaus and Freytag, Peter Stereotype dynamics: Language-based approaches to stereotype formation, maintenance, and transformation. Lawrence Erlbaum, New York, pp. 123-148. ISBN 9780805856774.

    Douglas, Karen and Sutton, Robbie M. and McGarty, Craig (2007) Strategic language use in interpersonal and intergroup communication. In: Kashima, Yoshihisa and Fiedler, Klaus and Freytag, Peter Stereotype dynamics: Language-based Approaches to the Formation, Maintenance, and Transformation. Laurence Erlbaum, pp. 189-212. ISBN 9780805856774(hdbk),9780805856781(pbk).

    Wigboldus, Daniel and Douglas, Karen (2007) Language, Stereotypes, and Intergroup Relations. In: Fiedler, Klaus Social communication. Frontiers of Social Psychology. Psychology Press Ltd, United Kingdom. ISBN 9781841694283.

    Sutton, Robbie M. and Douglas, Karen and Elder, Tracey J. et al. (2007) Social identity and social convention in responses to criticisms of groups. In: Kashima, Yoshihisa and Fiedler, Klaus and Freytag, Peter Stereotype Dynamics: Language-based Approaches to the Formation, Maintenance, and Transformation of Stereotypes. Laurence Erlbaum, New York, pp. 339-366. ISBN 9780805856774.

    Douglas, Karen (2007) Psychology, discrimination and hate groups online. In: Joinson, Adam and McKenna, Katelyn and Reips, Ulf-Dietrich et al. Oxford handbook of Internet Psychology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 155-164. ISBN 978-0198568001.

    Douglas, Karen and McGarty, Craig (2000) Another SIDE of CMC: Identifiability and strategic behaviour. In: Postmes, Tom and Spears, Russell and Lea, M. et al. SIDE issues centre stage: Recent developments of deindividuation in groups. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, pp. 107-115.

    McGarty, Craig and Taylor, N. and Douglas, Karen (2000) Between commitment and compliance: Obligation and the strategic dimension of SIDE. In: Postmes, Tom and Spears, Russell and Lea, M. et al. SIDE issues centre stage: Recent developments of deindividuation in groups. Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, Amsterdam, pp. 143-150.

Edited Books
Total publications in KAR: 55 [See all in KAR]



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Last Updated: 29/01/2015