Professor Karen Douglas is a Professor of Social Psychology, and Director of Graduate Studies (Taught) in the School of Psychology.

Research interests

Karen's research focus is on beliefs in conspiracy theories. Why are conspiracy theories so popular? Who believes them? Why do people believe them? What are some of the consequences of conspiracy theories and can such theories be harmful? She is also interested in the social psychology of human communication, including the influence of technology on social interaction, and the psychology of sexist language.

Key publications

  • Douglas, K.M., Uscinski, J., Sutton, R.M., Cichocka, A., Nefes, T., Ang, J., & Deravi, F. (2019). Understanding conspiracy theories. Advances in Political Psychology, 40 (S1), 3-35. (https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/pops.12568
  • Douglas, K.M., & Sutton, R.M. (2018). Why conspiracy theories matter: A social psychological analysis. European Review of Social Psychology, 29, 256-298. 
  • Douglas, K., Sutton, R., & Cichocka, A. (2017). The psychology of conspiracy theories. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 538-542. (https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0963721417718261)
  • Jolley, D., Douglas, K.M., & Sutton, R.M. (2018). Blaming a few bad apples to save a threatened barrel: The system-justifying function of conspiracy theories. Political Psychology, 39, 465-478.

Conspiracy theory research database
This is a database of the current academic literature on conspiracy theories, and literature on other closely-related topics. Production was supported by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (ESRC Award: ES/N009614/1). We intend to keep it up to date and re-post every three months. If you have any updates you would like to include, or notice any sources missing, please complete this form.

Media coverage

Coverage of Karen's research includes the following:

Karen is available for media interviews via the University's press office (pressoffice@kent.ac.uk) or 01227 823985.


Current research students

  • Irem Eker (2nd supervisor): TBA
  • Ricky Green (1st supervisor)
  • Kenzo Nera: TBA
    (co-supervised with Olivier Klein at the Université libre de Bruxelles)

Past research students

  • Dr Clara De Inocencio Laporta: Toward a comprehensive theory of career callings  
  • Dr Varoth Chotipitayasunondh: Understanding phubbing: the truth on phone snubbing behaviour
  • Dr Daniel Jolley: Social psychological consequences of conspiracy theories
  • Dr Michael Wood: Understanding beliefs in conspiracy theories
  • Dr Yvonne Skipper: The effects of different forms of praise and criticism on reactions to success and failure
  • Dr Jennifer Cole: How impressions of persons are shaped by their descriptions of others. (Co-supervisor with Robbie Sutton)
  • Dr Tracey Elder: The effects of context on perceptions of and reactions to, group criticism.


Grants and awards

2019R. Sutton, K. Dhont, Z. Bergstrom & K. Douglas 
Leverhulme Trust
Moral memory bias about the sentience of animals
2016K. Douglas, R. Sutton, A. Cichocka, J. Ang and F. Deravi
Understanding conspiracy theories
2014F. Deravi, J. Ang and K. Douglas
Roke Manor Research Ltd.
Personality and social networking activity
2014R. Sutton and K. Douglas
Centre for Defence Enterprise
Multiple social identities
Centre for Defence Enterprise
Influence and critical thinking
2012J. Ang, F. Deravi and K. Douglas
Centre for Defence Enterprise 
Cognitive and behavioural concepts of cyber activities
2012J. Ang, F. Deravi and K. Douglas
Centre for Defence Enterprise 
Social influence and social networking activity
2010K. Douglas 
European Social Cognition Network
Intercultural communication - expert meeting
EUR 9,000
July 2008-July 2009R. Sutton and K. Douglas
Economic and Social Research Council 
Making a difference? Understanding the impacts of group criticism. Grant awarded under bilateral 'Linkage International Social Sciences Collaboration' between the ARC and ESRC
May 2008-May 2009R. Sutton & K. Douglas
Australian Research Council 
Negotiating the minefield: Social conventions surrounding group criticism and their role in explaining defensiveness. Grant awarded under bilateral Linkage International Social Sciences Collaboration" between the ARC and ESRC, PI M. Hornsey (University of Queensland)
AU $72,129
May 2008-Dec 2008Social Sciences Faculty Grant£734
Feb 2007-Jan 2008K. Douglas and R. Sutton
Economic and Social Research Council
Understanding and altering perceptions of personal ‘invulnerability’ to persuasive advertising
May 2006K. Douglas
Social Sciences Faculty Grant
March 2006K. Douglas
British Academy Conference Grant
January 2006R. Sutton and K. Douglas
University of Kent Promising Researcher Grant
Sept 2005-Sept 2006R. Sutton and K. Douglas
Economic and Social Research Council
'Us' versus 'Them': Reactions to speakers' use of language regarding groups
Sept 2004-Sept 2005K. Douglas and R. Sutton
Economic and Social Research Council
Inhibiting the expression of linguistic biases and stereotypes
Jan 2004-June 2004K. Douglas and R. Sutton
British Academy 
Bias and stereotyping in language
April 2003K. Douglas
British Academy Conference Grant

Other service

  • Associate editor for Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2019-present)
  • Co-editor for a special issue of the European Journal of Social Psychology (2018)
  • External examiner (undergraduate) for Lancaster University (2016-present)
  • Co-editor for the British Journal of Social Psychology (2014-2017)
  • External examiner (postgraduate) for Nottingham Trent University (2014-2018)
  • External examiner (undergraduate) for the University of Surrey (2014-2016)
  • Associate Editor for the British Journal of Social Psychology (2012-2013)
  • Undergraduate external examiner at the University of Strathclyde (2010-2012)
  • Member of University Senate (2009-2012)
  • Associate Editor for the European Journal of Social Psychology (2009-2011)
  • Associate Editor for Social Psychology (2008-2011)
  • Co-editor for a special issue of the Journal of Language and Social Psychology (2008)
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