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Dr Julia Pearce is a Reader in Social Psychology and Security Studies. She is also the Associate Dean (Impact & Innovation) in the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy and Director for Students and Culture in the Department of War Studies. Her research uses social psychological theories of health behaviour to examine the impact of risk and crisis communication on risk perception and behaviours, with a focus on extreme events such as terrorism and pandemics. She is particularly interested in understanding the likely reactions, needs and appropriate communication strategies for groups who may be vulnerable during an emergency. The greater part of her research assesses psychological and behavioural responses to low-likelihood, high impact, extreme events such as chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear (CBRN) terrorism and marauding terrorist firearms attacks. This research has (i) challenged assumptions about public panic by providing evidence to suggest that under-response can be as problematic as over-response during a crisis, and (ii) demonstrated the importance of communicating with members of the public before, during and after extreme events.

During her time in the Department of War Studies Dr Pearce has contributed to nine collaborative multi-institution projects, including leading the communication measures work package on the 3-year EU FP7 Security funded PRIME project on the prevention, interdiction and mitigation of lone actor terrorism. She is currently Principal Investigator on an 18-month project examining the impact of public health communications on the experiences and beliefs about Covid-19 vaccinations of minority ethnic groups in the UK that has been funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) as part of UK Research and Innovation’s rapid response to Covid-19. She is also conducting research examining how risk perceptions and behavioural responses to health threats vary amongst different population groups under the auspices of the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit (HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response.

Dr Pearce is a Chartered Psychologist and an Honorary Public Health Academic Consultant at the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA). She holds a number of advisory positions including as Deputy Chair of the Cabinet Office National Risk Assessment Behavioural Science Expert Group.

Research Interests

  • Risk perception
  • Risk and crisis communication
  • Social Identity
  • Terrorism
  • Health Security
  • Community resilience
  • Moral panic



  • 6SSW0008 Disasters and Extreme Events (module convenor)
  • 7SSWM048 The Social Dimensions of Terrorism (module convenor)
  • 7SSWM053 Homegrown Radicalisation and Counter-Radicalisation in Western Europe and North America (guest lecturer)