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 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

Fath, S, and Kay, AC. "“If hierarchical, then corrupt”: Exploring people's tendency to associate hierarchy with corruption in organizations." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 149 (November 1, 2018): 145-164. Full Text

Friesen, JP, Laurin, K, Shepherd, S, Gaucher, D, and Kay, AC. "System justification: Experimental evidence, its contextual nature, and implications for social change." The British Journal of Social Psychology (September 19, 2018). Full Text

Landau, MJ, Khenfer, J, Keefer, LA, Swanson, TJ, and Kay, AC. "When and why does belief in a controlling God strengthen goal commitment?." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 75 (March 2018): 71-82. Full Text

Tang, S, King, M, and Kay, AC. "Fate as a motivated (and de-motivating) belief: Evidence for a link from task importance to belief in fate to effort." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 144 (January 2018): 74-84. Full Text

Khenfer, J, Laurin, K, Tafani, E, Roux, E, and Kay, AC. "Interventionist external agents make specific advice less demotivating." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 73 (November 2017): 189-196. Full Text

Fath, S, Proudfoot, D, and Kay, AC. "Effective to a fault: Organizational structure predicts attitudes toward minority organizations." Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 73 (November 2017): 290-297. Full Text

Shepherd, S, Eibach, RP, and Kay, AC. "“One Nation Under God”: The System-Justifying Function of Symbolically Aligning God and Government." Political Psychology 38.5 (October 2017): 703-720. Full Text

Ma, A, Landau, MJ, Narayanan, J, and Kay, AC. "Thought-control difficulty motivates structure seeking." Journal of experimental psychology. General 146.8 (August 2017): 1067-1072. Full Text

Ma, A, and Kay, AC. "Compensatory control and ambiguity intolerance." Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes 140 (May 2017): 46-61. Full Text


Rutjens, BT, and Kay, AC. "Compensatory control theory and the psychological importance of perceiving order." Coping with Lack of Control in a Social World. November 3, 2016. 83-96. 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. "The ideological toolbox: Ideologies as tools of motivated social cognition." The SAGE Handbook of Social Cognition. January 1, 2012. 495-515. 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


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