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Joe Stubbersfield

Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Winchester

Dr Joe Stubbersfield is a senior lecturer in Psychology at the University of Winchester, UK. His research draws on cultural evolution, social learning, and cognitive anthropology, and focuses on how cognitive biases influence both the content and propagation of information, in particular misinformation, conspiracy theories, urban legends and other contemporary folklore.

He holds a BSc in Psychology from the University of Manchester, an MSc in Evolutionary Psychology from the University of Liverpool, and a joint Psychology and Anthropology PhD from the University of Durham. He has held previous posts at the University of St Andrews, the University of Durham and Heriot-Watt University before joining the University of Winchester in 2021.

He is the current editor of the Cultural Evolution Collection for Humanities & Social Sciences Communications and a lead designer of a free, online learning module on the Cultural Evolution of Narratives for the Cultural Evolution Society.


  • 2021–present
    Lecturer, Winchester University
  • 2019–2021
    Assistant Professor, Heriot-Watt University
  • 2016–2018
    Postdoctoral research associate, Durham University
  • 2014–2016
    Postdoctoral research fellow, St. Andrews University


  • 2014 
    Durham University, PhD
  • 2010 
    Liverpool University, Msc Evolutionary Psychology
  • 2008 
    Manchester University, BSc (Hons) Psychology


  • 2022
    Belief correlations with parental vaccine hesitancy: Results from a national survey. , American Anthropologist, 124(2), 291-306.
  • 2021
    The HCT Index: a typology and index of health conspiracy theories with examples of use, Wellcome Open Research, 6, 196.
  • 2019
    Social transmission favours the ‘morally good’ over the ‘merely arousing’, Palgrave Communications 5 (1), 1-11
  • 2018
    Faking the news: intentional guided variation reflects cognitive biases in transmission chains without recall., Cultural science journal. 10 (1), 54-65
  • 2018
    An experimental investigation into the transmission of antivax attitudes using a fictional health controversy, Social Science & Medicine 215, 23-27
  • 2017
    Cognitive evolution and the transmission of popular narratives: A literature review and application to urban legends, Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture 1 (1), 121-136
  • 2017
    Chicken tumours and a fishy revenge: evidence for emotional content bias in the cumulative recall of urban legends, Journal of Cognition and Culture 17 (1-2), 12-26
  • 2015
    Serial killers, spiders and cybersex: social and survival information bias in the transmission of urban legends, British journal of psychology 106 (2), 288-307
  • 2013
    Expect the Unexpected? Testing for minimally counterintuitive (MCI) bias in the transmission of contemporary legends a computational phylogenetic approach, Social Science Computer Review, 31(1), 90-102