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Dr Sapphira Thorne

Postdoctoral Research Associate


Generally, my research interests fall into two broad categories. First, I am interested in the role of heteronormativity in the construction of ideals when it comes to love and romantic relationships. Second, I am concerned with improving intergroup attitudes and promoting pro-social behaviour.


After completing my BSc, I continued studying at the University of Surrey, completing my PhD under the supervision of Peter Hegarty and Erica Hepper in 2017. My thesis was entitled “Queer Concepts of Romantic Love: Uncovering a Heteronormative Bias”.

2017-2018: Postdoctoral Research Fellow, City, University of London

2018-present: Postdoctoral Research Associate, Cardiff University

Promoting Pro-Social Values and Behaviours

In my current postdoctoral role at Cardiff University, my research is focused on exploring the effect of priming mental representations of children on pro-social motivation and behaviour. This project is concerned with the question of whether the mere salience of children can alter adults’ motivations towards other people.

Heteronormativity, Love and Romantic Relationships

Heteronormativity is an ideology that heterosexuality is and should be the dominant and taken for granted sexual orientation for all. It can entail (a) assuming that everyone is heterosexual unless otherwise specified, (b) failing to consider that same-sex couples exist, and (c) basing assumptions of normality of relationships on heterosexuality (i.e., beliefs that relationships should hold complementary male/female gender roles). In my PhD research I considered how heteronormativity may construct the meaning of the concept of romantic love. I was particularly interested in whether the activation of the concept romantic love beings to mind a heterosexual couple by default, whether people construct love differently based on whether they are asked to think a same-sex or opposite-sex couple, and how unequal constructions of love influence the rights and privileges that people assign to different types of couples. I am interested in exploring this research further to understand how heteronormativity may also influence the ideals that people have about their own and other people’s relationships.

Metacognition of Concepts

More recently, I have been involved with an interdisciplinary ERC funded project investigating the metacognition of concepts in collaboration with James Hampton (City, University of London) and Nicholas Shea (University of Oxford/Institute of Philosophy). Metacognition has developed an increased interest over the last decade with research exploring how people may monitor and control their cognitive processes (particularly memory). For example, a student studying for an exam may monitor their memory and use this monitoring process to make a judgement about what they should study next. People may make similar judgements about which concepts they know well and what concepts may be best fit for purpose for a specific task. In this project we systematically explored how metacognition can be applied to concepts.


Within the school, I work with Geoffrey Haddock and Colin Foad (Psychology, Cardiff University). Outside of the school, I am involved in collaborations with Greg Maio (Psychology, University of Bath), Lukas Wolf (Psychology, University of Bath), Peter Hegarty (Psychology, University of Surrey), Erica Hepper (Psychology, University of Surrey), James Hampton (Psychology, City, University of London), and Nicholas Shea (Philosophy, University of Oxford/Institute of Philosophy).