Emma Thomas

Pathways to Political Engagement and Extremism: Social Interaction, Social Influence

October 29, 2013


The environmental and animal rights contexts are replete with examples where activists use more extreme, potentially illegal or violent, methods to seek redress. How do people come to eschew ‘traditional’ pathways to pursue more extreme, potentially illegal forms of action? How does a sympathetic bystander public view the use of violence and non-violence in social protest? Three studies will consider psychological pathways to political engagement and extremism through the lens of social influence.


Emma Thomas is a Senior Lecturer in Social Psychology and Australian Research Council Fellow in the School of Psychology at Murdoch University. Dr Thomas completed her undergraduate and postgraduate (PhD) degrees in psychology at the Australian National University (ANU). She undertook postdoctoral study at the Centre of Excellence in Policing and Security, ANU, in 2009 before moving to Perth in 2010 to take up a teaching and research position in the School of Psychology at Murdoch University. In 2012 she was awarded a prestigious Australian Research Council Discovery Early Career Fellowship (2012-2015).

Dr Thomas' research focuses broadly on the conditions under which people will mobilize as members of groups to overcome social injustice. She focuses on the role of attitudes, identity, emotion and beliefs in motivating (or undermining) social justice actions; and the psychological processes which underpin (non)violent resistance. Her work on motivating action on global poverty, in particular, has been published in high-ranking international journals, adopted by some NGOs, and will be the subject of her ARC-funded research. She is also a participant in the Young and Well: Cooperative Research Centre and is leading an inter-disciplinary project on the use of messages of hope and support in overcoming trauma and promoting well-being amongst vulnerable groups.