Jennifer Sheehy-Skeffington

Assistant Professor of Social Psychology
London School of Economics and Political Science

I am a social psychologist interested in the mechanisms underlying our human sensitivity to power, status, and group membership: their origins, interactions, and manifestation in societal context.

Twitter: @jsskeffington

In September 2019, I was delighted to take on my first (primary-supervised) PhD student, Ivan Cano-Gomez. You can read about Ivan’s background and research at the webpage for the newly-named Societal Psychology Lab, which now meets biweekly in termtime.

In August 2019, another article of mine was accepted at Current Opinion in Psychology, this time co-authored with Lotte Thomsen at University of Oslo. It is a novel a theoretical proposal for considering the psychological foundations of egalitarianism, weaving together biological and the societal influences, and was written for a special issue on Socio-ecological Psychology, guest edited by Ayse Uskul and Shige Oishi.

I was on maternity leave from February to August 2019, welcoming lovely little Amber, our second child.

In July 2019, our article on the heritability of SDO was accepted for publication in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. This work, co-authored with colleagues at the University of Oslo (first author Thomas Kleppestø) and based on multivariate behavioural genetic analyses of data from the large Norwegian Twin Registry, provides evidence for substantial heritability in both sub-dimensions of SDO, and a genetic grounding of the shared variance between SDO and policy attitudes. You can find it and related papers on my Publications page.

In July 2019, I had an article accepted at Current Opinion in Psychology consisting of a theoretically informed summary of research on the impact of experiences of low socioeconomic status on decision-making. It is set to appear in a special issue on Power, Status, and Hierarchy, guested edited by Gerben van Kleef and Joey Cheng. You can find it and related papers on my Publications page.

I have been presenting and getting feedback on my research on ideology and inequality perceptions (with Nour Kteily, Hannah Waldfogel, Arnold Ho, Oliver Hauser, and Jonathan Mijs), in October 2018 at the PBS Research Seminar Series, in December 2018 at the LSE Behavioural Economics Society, and in August 2019 (just after returning from maternity leave) at the UCL Political Cognition Seminar. While I was on leave, Julia Buzan (incoming LSE MSc student and new collaborator on one tranche of this work) has led the recoding of our commuting data and matching with UK and US Census information, so we hope to analyse and write up results by the end of 2019.

In December 2018 I presented our systematic review of the relationship between poverty and decision-making processes (co-authored with Jessica Rea, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation) at the UCL Psychology Society.

The new PBS Research Seminar Series has launched! Join us at noon on Wednesdays to hear from a range of internal and external speakers. As you’ll see here, the series will cover topics from biochemistry to sociology, showing just how wide-spanning our research interests are at the department.

In October 2018 I travelled to the Society for Experimental Social Psychology (SESP) conference in Seattle, where took part in a symposium with Ashley Whillans (HBS), Lora Bunting (Buffalo) and Serena Chen (Berkeley). I presented new data from my research stream on ideology and perceptions of inequality, proceeding in collaboration with Nour Kteily (Kellogg), Hannah Waldfogel (Kellogg), Jonathan Mijs (LSE), Arnold Ho (Michigan), and Oliver Hauser (Exeter).

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A new volume (edited by Bastiaan Rutjens and Mark Brandt) on how belief systems shape our perception of reality is out today, featuring a chapter by Denise Baron, Nour Kteily and myself on how ideology shapes inequality perceptions. You can download our chapter on my Publications page, and read a press release here.

The LSE PBS Department is hiring! Check out the information for the positions, Assistant Professor of Behavioural Science, Assistant Professor of Psychological and Behavioural Science (quantitative methods & stats), and Professor of Psychological and Behavioural Science, deadline 5th November.

Here's a BBC World News report featuring my thoughts on a recent mass media intervention shown to improve health-seeking behaviours among mothers in Burkina Faso. My comments were also reported in articles on CNN and BBC, and broadcast over BBC World Service Radio.


11th June 2018 was a big day for me as adviser, as Sandra Obradovic, supervised by myself and Caroline Howarth (first supervisor), was successful at her viva examination and awarded PhD with minor revisions.

On 22nd May 2018 we held the third Bridging Theory and Practice Seminar at the LSE PBS Department, which was also a second session for the newly formed Media & Social Norms Collaborator, led by Kavita Abraham-Dowsing. This was a gathering of behavioural scientists and practitioners converging on an interest in what role the media plays in influencing social norms with a view to behaviour change. As one of three academic talks, I connected this theme to my two research streams on intergroup inequality and the psychology of low SES. Some follow-up blogs here.

A video showcasing our brand new BSc in Psychological and Behavioural Science (commencing 2019-20) is now live on the LSE website and YouTube. Unlike other undergraduate programmes, our courses integrates psychology and behavioural science, situating the study of the mind within the broader social sciences and real world social issues, and equipping students with cutting edge methodological skills in which to study it. Check it out here.

On 7th March 2018 I spoke about the impact of poverty on young people at the Anna Freud Centre, as a guest speaker for the UCL Changemakers Student-led seminar series, Contemporary Challenges and Opportunities faced by Today's Youth. It was great to see so much synergy between my research and work ongoing at UCL on psychosocial problems faced by children who have grown up in adverse contexts.

Here is a video recorded by Faculti for their research dissemination platform, on our systematic review of the link between poverty and decision-making processes:

Here is a video recorded by Faculti for their research dissemination platform, concerning our recent work on the link between ideology and inequality perceptions:

I was in Atlanta, Georgia, from 1-3 March 2018, for the 2018 Annual Convention of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Along with Michael Kraus and Paul Piff, I'll be hosting the Pre-Conference on the Psychology of Inequality and Social Class. Looking forward to catching up with old classmates and collaborators!

Two interviews on recent papers of mine are featuring on the Faculti research dissemination website. As the website it subscription only, I'll embed copies of the video here soon. 

Monday 19th February 2018 saw the launch of the LSE Festival: Beveridge 2.0, for which I chaired a panel discussion on Identity and the Welfare State: Evolving Challenges for Sustaining Social Solidarity, featuring social policy expert Prof Peter Dwyer, writer David Goodhart, and social psychologists Prof Xenia Chryssochoou and Celestin Okoroji. Podcast now available here.

On 16th February 2018 it was a pleasure to return to the Wonder Foundation for their Knowing Me Knowing You conference, to provide feedback on policies developed by young people to improve social integration at local, national and European levels. Inspiring work!

On 13th January 2018 I took part in the Money Smart Kids workshop at the Museum of Childhood, along with Helen Pitman (Money Advice Service), Christina You (We Are Futures), Sharan Jaswell (MyBnk), and Heather Kappes (LSE, organiser). I talked about the importance of cognitive skills and how they are affected by our life experiences, while giving kids a chance to try out some brain games...on which they performed much better than most adults do!

On 12th January 2018 I gave a research talk at Said Business School (University of Oxford) to Oxford and Harvard MBA and MPP students as part of the Harvard Kennedy-Business School Immersive Field Course on Behavioral Insights.

On 1st December 2017 I delivered a keynote lecture at the 10th Annual Irish Policy, Economics, & Psychology Conference in University College Dublin, entitled, "Decision-making up against the wall: How socioeconomic status shapes basic psychological processes", during which I tried to convey the importance of psychological mechanisms to behavioural economics.

In December 2017 my research was featured in an article for BBC Futures on Educationism, the Hidden Bias we Often Ignore, by Melissa Hogenboom.

On Saturday 4th November I spoke on a panel at the 'Who Belongs?' conference hosted by the Wonder Foundation with young people from across London and Europe.

On Thursday 9th November I discussed my research as part of a Research Dialogue session at the LSE Department of Media & Communications, alongside sociologist Dr Rudy Leyva. The keywords for the day were 'neoliberal cognition'.

5th-8th July 2017 saw the 18th General Meeting of the European Association of Social Psychology in lovely Granada, where I presented in a symposium on The Socioecological Perspective in Social Psychology: Current Directions and Future Prospects, along with Ayse Uskul, Huadong Yang, and Tim Wildschut. 

I was on maternity leave from December 2016 to June 2017, welcoming an adorable baby Daniyal, our first!