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Joshua Lord

Research student, School of Psychology

Research summary

Research done in the US has shown that individuals holding competing cultural values (hierarchical vs egalitarian / individualist vs communitarian) tend to form polarised perceptions of the risk posed by various “culturally contentious” issues, such as climate change. The theory to account for this in the literature is called cultural cognition, which states that “persons conform their factual beliefs about the risks and benefits of putatively dangerous activity to their cultural appraisals of these activities”. Though much correlational and experimental work has yielded findings consistent with this theory, a causal relationship between cultural values and risk perceptions is yet to be established. Furthermore, the social psychological mechanisms underpinning the phenomena are not yet fully understood, and the established “cultural cognition scales” used to measure cultural values have been criticised for lacking external validity to non-US cultural contexts. Therefore, the aims of my PhD are:

  • To develop existing cultural cognition scales for better efficacy with UK participants.
  • To investigate the causality of the relationship between cultural values and risk perceptions.
  • To investigate the social psychological processes mediating the relationship; specifically:
    • The influence of identity and group processes on cultural cognition phenomena.
    • The role of value expression as a motivational driver of cultural cognition.

I intend to employ both survey and experimental methods to conduct my research.

It is expected that developing our understanding of cultural cognition phenomena will better equip science communicators to circumvent the psychological barriers currently preventing people of diverse cultural orientations from converging on the best available scientific appraisals of the risk posed by a range of culturally contentious issues.

Teaching summary

I conduct year 1 practical and statistics tutorials and I mark year 1 practical reports.

Research interests

Research topics and related papers

I am interested in the following areas of research:

  • Cultural cognition
  • Motivated reasoning
  • Group processes
  • Self-verification theory
  • Values, attitudes and beliefs


SBP Studentship

Research group

Social & environmental psychology (Understanding Risk subgroup)

Research collaborators

Supervisors: Dr Lorraine Whitmarsh and Professor Wouter Poortinga