Aaron Charles Kay

Professor of Business Adminstration

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Stanford University 2005

  • B.S., McGill University (Canada) 1999


Aaron C. Kay (PhD 2005, Stanford University) is an Associate Professor of Management and Associate Professor of Psychology & Neuroscience at Duke University. His research focuses on the relation between motivation, implicit social cognition, and social issues. He has a particular interest in how basic motivations and needs manifest as specific social and societal beliefs. These include (but are not limited to) the causes and consequences of stereotyping and system justification, religious belief, political ideology, and the attitudes people hold towards their organizations and institutions.

For this research, Aaron Kay has been awarded the Janet T. Spence Award for Transformative Early Career Contributions from the American Psychological Society, the SAGE Young Scholar Award from the Foundation of Personality and Social Psychology (2010), the Early Career Contribution Award from the International Society of Justice Researchers (2010), the Early Researchers Award from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (2009), and Dissertation Awards from the Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (2006) and the Society of Experimental Social Psychology (runner-up; 2006). He has been named a Fellow of the American Psychological Society as well as the Society of Experimental Social Social Psychology, and Dr. Kay's research is widely covered in national and international news and media outlets.Dr. Kay is currently serving as the President of the International Society of Justice Research and as an Associate Editor for the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.


System justification, religious beliefs, political ideology, attitudes, implicit social cognition, motivation

Kay, AC, and Brandt, MJ. "Ideology and intergroup inequality: emerging directions and trends." Current Opinion in Psychology 11 (October 2016): 110-114. Full Text

Rahinel, R, Amaral, NB, Clarkson, JJ, and Kay, AC. "On incidental catalysts of elaboration: Reminders of environmental structure promote effortful thought." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 64 (May 2016): 1-7. Full Text

Proudfoot, D, Kay, AC, and Mann, H. "Motivated employee blindness: The impact of labor market instability on judgment of organizational inefficiencies." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 130 (September 2015): 108-122. Full Text

Czopp, AM, Kay, AC, and Cheryan, S. "Positive Stereotypes Are Pervasive and Powerful." Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science 10.4 (July 2015): 451-463. Full Text

Tullett, AM, Kay, AC, and Inzlicht, M. "Randomness increases self-reported anxiety and neurophysiological correlates of performance monitoring." Social cognitive and affective neuroscience 10.5 (May 2015): 628-635. Full Text

Landau, MJ, Kay, AC, and Whitson, JA. "Compensatory control and the appeal of a structured world." Psychological bulletin 141.3 (May 2015): 694-722. Full Text

Friesen, JP, Campbell, TH, and Kay, AC. "The psychological advantage of unfalsifiability: the appeal of untestable religious and political ideologies." Journal of personality and social psychology 108.3 (March 2015): 515-529. Full Text

van der Toorn, J, Feinberg, M, Jost, JT, Kay, AC, Tyler, TR, Willer, R, and Wilmuth, C. "A Sense of Powerlessness Fosters System Justification: Implications for the Legitimation of Authority, Hierarchy, and Government." Political Psychology 36.1 (February 2015): 93-110. Full Text


Kay, AC, Landau, MJ, and Sullivan, DL. "Agency and Control." APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition. Ed. J Bargh and E Borgida. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association, 2014.

Kay, AC, Anderson, JE, and Fitzsimons, GM. "The motivated process of making meaning from negative experiences." The Psychology of Meaning. Washington DC: American Psychological Association, 2014.

Banfield, JC, Shepherd, S, and Kay, AC. "Consequences of system defense motivations for individuals’ willingness to act sustainably." Encouraging Sustainable Behavior: Psychology and the Environment. January 1, 2013. 111-124. Full Text

Kay, AC, and Sullivan, DL. "Cultural unity and diversity in compensatory control." Advances in Culture and Psychology. Ed. M Gelfand, C Yue, and Y Hong. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.

Callan, MJ, and Kay, AC. "Associations Between Law, Competitiveness, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest." Ideology, Psychology, and Law. May 24, 2012. Full Text

Jost, JT, and Kay, AC. "System justification as an obstacle to the attainment of social justice." Social Thinking and Interpersonal Behavior. January 1, 2012. 277-296. Full Text

Kay, AC, and Eibach, RP. "Ideological Processes." The Handbook of Social Cognition. Ed. S Fiske and N MaCrae. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.

Ramona Bobocel, D, Kay, AC, Zanna, MP, and Olson, JM. "Preface." January 1, 2011. vii-xiv. Full Text

Kay, AC, Banfield, J, and Laurin, K. "Ideology and power." The Social Psychology of Power. Ed. T Vescio and A Guinote. New York: Guilford Press, 2010.

Kay, AC, Gaucher, D, and Laurin, K. "The power of the status quo: Consequences for maintaining and perpetuating inequality." The Psychology of Justice and Legitimacy: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 11). Ed. R Bobocel, M Kay, P Zanna, and JM Olson. Philadelphia: Psychology Press, 2010. 109-118.


Ramona Bobocel, D, Kay, AC, Zanna, MP, and Olson, JM. The psychology of justice and legitimacy: The Ontario symposium. January 1, 2011. Full Text