Dr Martha Newson is a Future Leaders Fellow at the School of Anthropology and Conservation, with generous research funding from the UKRI. She has mentorship from Dr Sarah Johns in the School and plans to develop the field of Applied Cognitive Anthropology during her award. Though working with modern human populations, Martha’s research is strongly informed by evolutionary theory. Her highly inter-disciplinary research draws from anthropology, psychology, evolutionary theory and criminology, so she has connections across academic disciplines. 

Dr Newson has worked with a range of challenging populations, from fundamentalist Indonesian Muslims to London’s ravers. She has particular experience working with football fans, including surveys and interviews with hardcore Brazilian, Indonesian and Australian fans (ultras) and collecting hormonal samples from fans at live World Cup events. 

She read Human Sciences at the University of Sussex (BSc Hons., 2011) then taught English in Vietnam and Spain. For her postgraduate studies, Martha read Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology (MSc, 2013) and Anthropology (DPhil, 2017) at the University of Oxford. She continued at Oxford in a postdoctoral position, at the Centre for the Study of Social Cohesion (CSSC), investigating the cognitive causes and behavioural consequences of extreme group bonds (2017-2020). She continues to hold a Research Associate position at CSSC. 

Research interests

  • Extreme group bonding, i.e. identity fusion, investigated with an evolutionary lens.
  • Self-sacrifice, violence and peaceful or philanthropic behaviours.
  • Reducing reoffending rates, such as Dr Newson's work at the University of Oxford in partnership with the Twinning Project and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service.
  • Football fandom (global focus, but with expertise in the UK, Brazil, Australia and Indonesia).
  • Modern human subcultures.
  • Gender roles and differences in tight-knit communities.
  • Inter-disciplinary methods, spanning anthropology, psychology, evolutionary theory and criminology.


Dr Newson is available to provide consultancy and commentary on issues related to group psychology, conflict and cooperation. This concerns human behaviour and evolutionary psychology in general terms, and with regard to football fandom specifically. Previous consultancy clients include Guinness, the Premier League, Manchester City and Eaton Energy, among others. 

Martha has contributed to Discovery’s Why We Hate, produced by Steven Spielberg, as well as numerous BBC and Sky TV features in the UK, such as BBC News and Sky News, alongside a number of radio shows including Radio 4’s World at One and PM programmes. Her research has also featured in The Telegraph, The Independent, International Business Times, The Daily Mail, The Sun, Haaratz, Der Speigel and many other outlets.

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