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James has been a researcher at King’s College London since 1999. He specialises in understanding how people perceive potential health risks, and how those perceptions affect their behaviour and wellbeing. This work broadly encompasses two areas: why people attribute physical symptoms to possibly hazardous substances, and how best to support people who find themselves suddenly exposed to a health risk following a disaster or major public health incident. James has explored reactions to possible health risks including COVID-19, pandemic influenza, biological and chemical terrorism, the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the polonium 210 incident, the Ebola outbreak, the Salisbury Novichok incident, episodes of major flooding across England, Wi-fi, mobile phone and police radio signals, chemical exposures, wind turbines, surgery, medication side-effects and more.

Research Interests

  • Psychology as applied to health protection 
  • Health communication 
  • Risk perception 
  • Symptom perception 
  • Help seeking behaviour 
  • Emergency preparedness 
  • Vaccination uptake 
  • Adherence to prophylaxis 
  • Idiopathic environmental intolerance 
  • Nocebo effects 

James is always happy to discuss PhD supervision on any of these areas. He has previously supervised doctorates relating to:   

  • vaccination uptake in South Sudan,  
  • symptoms attributed to the childhood flu vaccination,  
  • reducing the nocebo response,  
  • the social psychology of flooding,  
  • how best to communicate about emergency decontamination,  
  • how to encourage people to check themselves for ticks,  
  • if and how to communicate about nuclear terrorism,   
  • behavioural responses to power outage,
  • responses to the COVID-19 pandemic,
  • symptoms attributed to police radios.  

Research Groups

James is the King’s assistant director for the NIHR Health Protection Research Unit in Emergency Preparedness and Response which is a formal partnership between King’s College London and the UK Health Security Agency.

Expertise and Public Engagement

James is a member of several committees which provide advice to Government agencies. These focus on topics including: the provision of support to victims of terrorist attacks; the soil and environmental checks around Grenfell Tower; the risk from new and emerging viruses; the role of behavioural science in improving and protecting public health; and the assessment of risk in relation to major emergencies that might affect the UK in the future. During the COVID-19 pandemic, James was a regular participant in the UK Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies.


James developed and leads a multi-award winning 30-credit MSc module on the psychology of disaster response as part of our MSc in Mental Health Studies. He provides regular projects for the students on this course, gives guest lectures on several other postgraduate courses at King’s and elsewhere, is personal tutor for around 15 students a year, is a member of the PhD subcommittee for the Department of Psychological Medicine, and chairs the assessment sub-board for the MSc in Organisational Psychiatry and Psychology.