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Photo of Dr Catarina Thomson

Dr Catarina Thomson

MPsych PhD

Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations.


01392 725595

My background is in clinical psychology and international relations. My approach to security studies incorporates political psychology and domestic factors to understand the strategic behaviour of state and non-state actors in times of international conflict. My recent work compares the foreign policy attitudes of security elites and the general public in the UK and across Europe, incorporating quantitative methods with qualitative interviews.


In 2014 I was awarded an ESRC Future Research Leaders early career grant (£176,030.67) to pursue a project titled ‘Constraints on the Design of Security Policy: Insights from Audience Costs Theory and Security and Defence Elites in the United Kingdom’. In this three-year multi-methods project I examine how security policy is developed in the United Kingdom, and conducted the first-ever UK Security Survey which captures security preferences of UK security elites and members of the UK public.


I am also participating in the Volkswagen-Stiftung grant titled, ‘Fighting Together, Moving Apart? European Common Defence and Shared Security in an Age of Brexit and Trump’ (977,200 EUR) 2018-2021. We are fielding multi-wave surveys on national samples in Germany, France, and the UK, as well as a broader pan-European survey. We are also conducting semi-structured elite interviews in France, Germany, the UK as well as with elites from the EU, NATO and other European countries. Project homepage:


I am a research affiliate at START (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) at the University of Maryland, where I am participating in the U.S. Department of Defense's Minerva-funded project, ‘Escalation Management in the Gray Zone: Understanding Decision Calculus and Conceptual Underpinnings’. I have received an ESRC Impact Accelaration grant for the related project, 'Managing Escalation in Unconventional Conflicts: Operationalizing Tools for Defence Sectors in the United States and other NATO Member States'. Project homepage:

I am unreasonably proud to be the University of Exeter’s 2019 Winner of the ‘Whose Lecture is it Anyway’ Comedy Improv trophy!

Research supervision

I am happy to consider supervision on projects related to my areas of expertise and interest, particularly employing quantitative and experimental methods. Of particular interest would be dissertations pertaining to coercive foreign policies and political psychology.


I was born in Chile when Pinochet was still in power. My undergraduate studies and M.A. are in clinical psychology. I worked in the Dr. Jose Horwitz Barak Psychiatric Institute as well as in private practice, specializing in the treatment of adolescents and adults with depressive and anxiety disorders. I also spent some time in 2003 working as a social psychologist in a centre for young offenders in the outskirts of Santiago (Centre for Observation and Diagnosis ‘Tiempo Joven’).


In 2007 I accepted a scholarship to pursue a PhD in Political Science at Texas A&M University. My dissertation was funded by the National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant (SES-1123291), as well as by a Texas A&M University Dissertation Fellowship. After graduating in 2012, I arrived at the University of Exeter in 2013 as a founding member of the University’s Strategy and Security Institute.

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