Department of Psychology


Dr Sarah Knight

  • Qualifications: PhD
  • Role Title: Visiting Research Fellow
  • Address: King Henry Building, King Henry 1st Street, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO1 2DY
  • Telephone: 023 9284
  • Email:
  • Department: Department of Psychology
  • Faculty: Faculty of Science


I graduated from the University of Portsmouth in 1997 with a first class honours degree in Psychology. I then spent ten years in the Psychology department at Portsmouth University working both as a lecturer in various subjects and as a researcher on a range of projects in developmental, forensic, health, and social psychology. In 2003 I was granted a full-time PhD bursary from the Economic Social Research Council (ESRC), and was awarded my PhD in 2006. Supervised by Professor Aldert Vrij (Director of Studies), my thesis comprises six research studies that examine the inter-relationship between attitudes, beliefs and behaviour, entitled: 'The basis and nature of attitudes toward animal use: A psychological approach'. From 2007-2008 I was awarded an ESRC postdoctoral Research Fellowship for a project entitled 'Human rights versus animal wrongs? It all depends....: Explaining disparate attitudes toward animals and how they are used'.

I am now a Principal Social Psychologist for the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl), and am involved in a variety of projects related to the military and homeland security. My expertise on how attitudes, beliefs and emotions relate to behaviour has been applied to support a range of projects that require understanding of radicalisation, violent (and non violent) extremism, and terrorism. For example, research on: understanding violent versus non-violent extremism, and lone versus group terrorism; how, why and when adversary groups choose innovative Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs); the evolution of extremist ideologies and how these might relate to action (e.g. violence); how to construct and communicate deterrent messages to maximise transport security; and influence, persuasion and messaging. In 2012 I received funding via a DSTL Scholarship Award (£70,000) to conduct a three-year research project entitled ‘Understanding Violent versus Non-Violent and Lone Offender Extremism’. I also lead on our research programme that examines transport security from the human perspective.

In 2014 I was awarded Chartered Psychologist status with the British Psychological Society (BPS), and in 2015 I became an Associate Fellow with the BPS. I am currently a Visiting Fellow with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), and remain affiliated with the Centre for the Study of Emotion at the University of Portsmouth as a Visiting Research Fellow. I am on the Board of Editors for several peer reviewed, academic journals, and provide other ad hoc reviews for the ESRC and am a member of DSTL’s Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC). I am also an invited member of an advisory group to an FP7-funded project examining lone offenders where I work closely with academics at the University College London (UCL) and am on the Board of Advisors for the RUSI ‘Countering Lone Actor Terrorism’ (CLAT) project. During 2014-2015 I was an invited speaker at the annual Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism conference held at the University of Cranfield , and at Lone Actor workshops at Chatham House, University College London, and at the University of Leiden in The Hague. I have also lectured on terrorism and extremism in several university departments. Finally, I was also Co-Investigator on on ‘Ming of Harlem’ (£30,000), a film project sponsored by the Wellcome Trust (2012-2015), which premiered at the Tate Modern (London) on 18th February 2015 – see:


2015: ‘Studying extremists, operating alone or as part of a group: Definitional and methodological research problems’. Presented at ‘Definitional Workshop on Lone Actor Terrorism’, Leiden University Campus, hosted by the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague.

2014: ‘Understanding unexpected threats: Malevolent creativity & innovation’.  Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism Annual Symposium, University of Cranfield, UK.

2014: ‘An empirical study of violent versus non violent extremists, operating alone or as part of a group’.  Workshop organised by the FP7 Preventing, Interdicting and Mitigating Extremism (PRIME) project entitled ‘Shaping Applied Research on Lone Actor Terrorism’, University College London, UK.

2014: 'My Family and Other Animals: Empirical and Psychological Approaches to Understanding Human-animal Relationships'. Workshop as part of a two-year Mellon-Sawyer Seminar entitled ‘Animal Magnetism: The Emotional Ecology of Animals and Humans’, Brown University, USA.

2011: ‘Wild Minds: Social Science research examining human-animal relationships’. Visit to review exhibition and paper as part of the ‘Wild Minds: What Animals Think’ project, New York Hall of Science, New York, USA.

'The basis and nature of attitudes toward animal use: A psychological approach'. Wellcome Trust summer school on biomedical ethics, University of Warwick, UK, 2008

Radio interview for 'Thinking Allowed', BBC Radio 4, 2008

Television interview for 'Kill it, Cook it, Eat it', BBC3, 2008

‘The basis and nature of attitudes toward animal use: A psychological approach'. Animals and Society Institute Summer Fellowship Program, North Carolina State University, USA, 2007

'Examining attitudes toward how animals are used: A multi-method approach'. Department of Veterinary Medicine, University of Cambridge, UK, 2005


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