Aaron Charles Kay

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 the J Rex Fuqua Professor of Management and 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 Psychology and the Society of Personality and Social Psychology, and Dr. Kay's research is widely covered in national and international news and media outlets. Dr. Kay is a past President of the International Society of Justice Research.


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

Ma, A., et al. “Psychological reactance as a function of thought versus behavioral control.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 84, Sept. 2019. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103825. Full Text

Ma, A., et al. “A control-based account of stereotyping.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 84, Sept. 2019. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2019.103819. Full Text

Shepherd, S., et al. “Military veterans are morally typecast as agentic but unfeeling: Implications for veteran employment.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 153, July 2019, pp. 75–88. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2019.06.003. Full Text

Shepherd, S., and A. C. Kay. “‘Jesus, take the wheel’: the appeal of spiritual products in satiating concerns about randomness.” Journal of Marketing Management, vol. 35, no. 5–6, Mar. 2019, pp. 467–90. Scopus, doi:10.1080/0267257X.2018.1556225. Full Text

Kim, J. Y., et al. “Understanding Contemporary Forms of Exploitation: Attributions of Passion Serve to Legitimize the Poor Treatment of Workers.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Jan. 2019. Scopus, doi:10.1037/pspi0000190. Full Text

Kim, Jae Yun, et al. “Lean in messages increase attributions of women's responsibility for gender inequality..” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, vol. 115, no. 6, Dec. 2018, pp. 974–1001. Epmc, doi:10.1037/pspa0000129. Full Text

Fath, S., and A. C. Kay. ““If hierarchical, then corrupt”: Exploring people's tendency to associate hierarchy with corruption in organizations.” Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, vol. 149, Nov. 2018, pp. 145–64. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.obhdp.2018.10.004. Full Text

Friesen, Justin P., et al. “System justification: Experimental evidence, its contextual nature, and implications for social change..” The British Journal of Social Psychology, Sept. 2018. Epmc, doi:10.1111/bjso.12278. Full Text

Proudfoot, D., and A. C. Kay. “How perceptions of one's organization can affect perceptions of the self: Membership in a stable organization can sustain individuals' sense of control.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 76, May 2018, pp. 104–15. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2018.01.004. Full Text

Landau, M. J., et al. “When and why does belief in a controlling God strengthen goal commitment?.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 75, Mar. 2018, pp. 71–82. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2017.11.012. Full Text


Rutjens, B. T., and A. C. Kay. “Compensatory control theory and the psychological importance of perceiving order.” Coping with Lack of Control in a Social World, 2016, pp. 83–96. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315661452. Full Text

Kay, A. C., et al. “Agency and Control.” APA Handbook of Personality and Social Psychology: Attitudes and Social Cognition, edited by J. Bargh and E. Borgida, American Psychological Association, 2014.

Kay, A. C., et al. “The motivated process of making meaning from negative experiences.” The Psychology of Meaning, American Psychological Association, 2014.

Banfield, J. C., et al. “Consequences of system defense motivations for individuals’ willingness to act sustainably.” Encouraging Sustainable Behavior: Psychology and the Environment, 2013, pp. 111–24. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203141182. Full Text

Kay, A. C., and D. L. Sullivan. “Cultural unity and diversity in compensatory control.” Advances in Culture and Psychology, edited by M. Gelfand et al., Oxford University Press, 2013.

Callan, M. J., and A. C. Kay. “Associations Between Law, Competitiveness, and the Pursuit of Self-Interest.” Ideology, Psychology, and Law, 2012. Scopus, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199737512.003.0007. Full Text

Jost, J. T., and A. C. Kay. “System justification as an obstacle to the attainment of social justice.” Social Thinking and Interpersonal Behavior, 2012, pp. 277–96. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203139677. Full Text

Kay, A. C., and R. P. Eibach. “The ideological toolbox: Ideologies as tools of motivated social cognition.” The SAGE Handbook of Social Cognition, 2012, pp. 495–515. Scopus, doi:10.4135/9781446247631.n25. Full Text

Kay, A. C., and R. P. Eibach. “Ideological Processes.” The Handbook of Social Cognition, edited by S. Fiske and N. MaCrae, Oxford University Press, 2012.

Ramona Bobocel, D., et al. Preface. 2011, pp. vii–xiv. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203837658. Full Text


Gaucher, D., et al. The Power of the status quo: Consequences for maintaining and perpetuating inequality. 2011, pp. 151–72. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203837658. Full Text

Ramona Bobocel, D., et al. The psychology of justice and legitimacy: The Ontario symposium. Vol. 11, 2011, pp. 1–350. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9780203837658. Full Text

Thorisdottir, H., et al. On the Social and Psychological Bases of Ideology and System Justification. 2009. Scopus, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195320916.003.001. Full Text