The University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NZ, T +44 (0)1227 764000
Dr Robbie Sutton
Reader in Psychology
I am interested in the human need for justice. In particular, I research beliefs in the justice or otherwise of situations, social systems, and the world as a whole. These beliefs serve important psychological functions, especially hedonic (promoting health and happiness), motivational (encouraging people to pursue their goals, and to follow and in some circumstances break moral rules), and epistemic (making life seem simple and orderly). I am also very interested in the social functions of these beliefs (e.g., in promoting social cohesion).
On the flipside, I am interested in what happens when the human need for justice is threatened or thwarted - as when individuals live in fear of crime and disorder, experience unjust outcomes, and witness violations of social rules.
I am also interested in how people communicate about justice and injustice. For example, one strand of my research shows how the stereotype that men are less fearful of crime than women appears to perpetuate itself by causing men to deny and downplay their fears. I am also interested in justice and the appearance of justice as a "fundamental collusion". In order for collectives to run smoothly, individuals within those collectives need to convince each other, and not just themselves, that the social system is basically just.
More generally, I am interested in the social psychology of human communication, including how people manipulate subtle features of their language in order to achieve social goals, how they examine other people's language to learn about them, and how they formulate and respond to criticism.
Finally, I am interested in applications of these principles to the psychology of climate change.
Sutton, R. M., Douglas, K. M. Wilkin, K., Elder, T. J., Cole, J. M., & Stathi, S. (2008). Justice for whom, exactly? Beliefs in justice for the self and various others. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 528-541.
Sutton, R. M., Elder, T. J., & Douglas, K. M. (2006). Reactions to internal and external criticism of outgroups: Social convention in the intergroup sensitivity effect. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 32, 563-575.
Douglas, K. M., & Sutton, R. M. (2003). Effects of communication goals and expectancies on language abstraction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 682-696.
Sutton, R. M., & McClure, J. L. (2001). Covariational influences on goal-based explanation: An integrative model. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 80, 222-236.