Professor Greg Maio - BSc York, MA PhD Western Ontario


Research group:
Social & environmental psychology
+44(0)29 2087 6260
Tower Building, Park Place

Research summary

I am interested in social values (e.g., equality, freedom, helpfulness), attitudes, and emotional processes. I am especially interested in examining psychological connections between values, attitudes, and behaviour. I am a Research Affiliate of the Sustainable Places Research Institute at Cardiff University interested in (research topic related to sustainable place-making).

Teaching summary

I am currently teaching introductory psychology (social component), introductory social psychology, and attitudes and attitude change. I have taught undergraduate and postgraduate statistics, social psychological theory, and personality.

Selected publications (2014 onwards)


Online publications

Full list of publications


Research topics and related papers

Numerous psychological theories ascribe vital roles to social values, but define them vaguely. Examples of prominent social values include equality, freedom, and helpfulness; they are abstract ideals that people consider to be important guiding principles in their lives. The abstract nature of values gives them an amazing ability to make diverse situations look similar, which can help us decide how to react to the tremendous variety of situations we encounter. But this abstract nature makes their actual psychological functioning very complex. Research in my lab has found that these complexities can be tackled by conceptualizing values as mental representations that operate at three levels: a system level, (abstract) value level, and an instantiation level (Maio, 2010).

At the level of the value system, values reflect motivational tensions described within Schwartz’s (1992) circular model of values. According to this model, people experience tension between values that promote personal well-being (e.g., achievement, power) and values that focus on the welfare of others (e.g., helpfulness, forgiveness) ; people also experience tension between values that that promote conservation of the status quo (e.g., national security, tradition) and values that pursue intellectual and emotional interests in novel directions (e.g., creativity, freedom). Our research has highlighted important implications of this model for understanding the accessibility of values from memory, judgments of political rhetoric, feelings of ambivalence toward others, value change, and effects of value priming on behaviour.

For example, one experiment tested whether these value tensions affect curiosity (Maio, Pakizeh, Gebauer, & Cheung, 2009. Participants were asked to study tables of words, some of which were self-direction-promoting values, stimulation-seeking values, or mere objects of clothing (as a control task). Participants then responded to 48 quiz questions about various topics, including history, movies, sports, music, science, geography, celebrities, politics, literature, myths, and legend. After each response, participants indicated whether they knew the answer and whether they would like to receive further information about the answer. Analyses indicated that participants who had previously thought briefly about self-direction values exhibited greater curiosity than participants who had thought about security values, who exhibited less curiosity than participants in the control group. This effect supports the hypothesis that an underlying motivational conflict between self-direction and security values affects curiosity-driven behavior, and it is congruent with results from many similar experiments examining different values and actions (Maio et al., 2009).

At the level of single abstract values, values are more strongly connected to feelings than to past behavior or beliefs, and the type of emotion depends on the values’ roles as ideal versus ought self-guides. Another way of putting this is that values function as truisms (Maio & Olson, 1998): they are so widely shared that people never feel a need to defend them. As a result, we rarely bother to form arguments supporting them. Instead, we build a strong emotional attachment to values, and the exact emotions connected to a particular value depend on whether we regard a value as something we would ideally follow or as something we ought to follow. This feature of values at an abstract level may help to explain why people often fail to perform actions that promote their values when situations press against values. This is one question that Dr. Katy Tapper, Dr. Geoff Haddock, and I are exploring in a current ESRC-funded project looking at people’s struggle to live healthily (Lifestyle change: Values and volition).

At the level of value instantiations, the way in which people have previously thought about instantiating values in specific, concrete situations affects their subsequent perceptual readiness to detect and apply the value. For example, in a series of experiments, participants who were asked to think about concrete examples of the importance of equality subsequently exhibited less discrimination against people from another (arbitrarily designated) group than participants who had merely thought about equality at an abstract level or who had thought about atypical (but equally valid) examples of the importance of equality (Maio, Hahn, Frost, and Cheung, 2009). The prior instantiations did not cause equality to change in importance, but they did affect the process of applying the abstract value.

All three levels of value representation are important for addressing key puzzles in the role of values in social psychological processes, but they also reveal pernicious difficulties that would emerge if we try to improve mutual understanding by finding common or shared values between people. This task may seem impossible because of the emotional tensions between values, the reliance on strong emotions, and the diverse ways of instantiating them. Yet, this goal remains an important project. Indeed, the United Nations claims this goal as one of its founding aims: “The United Nations must provide a framework of shared values and understanding . . .” (Kofi Anan’s Speech to the United Nations General Assembly, New York, September 24, 2001).

One potential long-term solution to this problem may emerge if start gaining a lot more knowledge about one value-laden interest that humans have had in common throughout our evolution: the protection of children. Societies wouldn’t survive if they didn’t love their children, make sacrifices for them, and evolve a set of moral principles that can help to keep children safe until adulthood. But this does not mean that attitudes toward children are uniformly positive or that they immediately provide a foundation for developing common values. The situation is more complicated than this.

For example, in a recent report, the United Nations singled out the UK for failing to address legal and social shortcomings in the treatment of children (UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, September, 2008). Perhaps this is not a coincidence, given that children are institutionally segregated from adults and have little voice in decision processes. Indeed, we have obtained evidence that people’s attitudes toward children are ambivalent, particularly when implicit measures of attitude are utilized (Economic and Social Research Council Project: The detection of ambivalence toward children using implicit measures). (These measures tend to detect spontaneous evaluations before people can cognitively censor them.) We are currently pursuing several interesting questions about the role of children in adult social cognition – questions that may eventually help to discover social values priorities that bridge gaps between diverse groups.


Economic and Social Research Council (2009-2012). Lifestyle change: Values and volition.

Research collaborators

Geoff Haddock (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Dimitrios Xenias (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Tony Manstead (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Russell Spears (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Ulrike Hahn (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Ulrich von Hecker
(Psychology, Cardiff University)

Netta Weinstein (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Lorraine Whitmarsh
(Psychology, Cardiff University)
Adam Corner (Psychology, Cardiff University)
Elspeth Webb (Medicine, Cardiff University)
Katy Tapper (Human Sciences, City University London)
Katy Greenland (Social Sciences, Cardiff University)

Ulrike Hahn (Psychology, Birckbeck University of London)
Johan Karremans (Psychology, Radboud University Nijmegen)
Prof. Frank D. Fincham (Psychology, Florida State University)
Dr. Kathy Carnelley (Psychology, Southampton University)
Geoff Thomas (Psychology, Aston University)
Nicolas Souchon (Paris 10, laboratoire CeRSM)

Russell Spears (Psychology, University of Groningen)

Postgraduate research interests

I am interested in social values (e.g., freedom, equality, helpfulness), attitudes, and emotional processes. My two biggest interests at the moment are projects examining psychological connections between values and behaviour and adult mental representations of children.

If you are interested in applying for a PhD, or for further information regarding my postgraduate research, please contact me directly (contact details available on the 'Overview' page), or submit a formal application here.

Current students

Paul Hanel
Carey Wallace
George Zacharopolous
Gabriel Lins Coelho
Katia Vione

Previous students

Dr Colin Foad (Cardiff University)
Dr Lukas Wolf (Cardiff University)
Dr Eleni Lemonaki
Dr Alex Nolan
Dr Mark Bernard (Birmingham University)
Dr Karin Buschenfeld (Community Mental Health Team for Older People in South Gloucestershire)
Dr Wing-yee Cheung (School of Psychology, University of Southampton)
Dr Maria Doria (Medicine, Health Policy and Practice, University of East Anglia)
Dr John-Mark Frost
(Office for National Statistics)
Dr Jochen Gebauer (Psychology, University of Southampton)
Dr Michelle Luke
(School of Management, University of Southampton)
Dr Ali Pakizeh
(Vice Chancellor for Education Affairs and Higher Education, Persian Gulf University)
Dr Kerry Rees
(Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire)

Undergraduate education

1991: Honours BSc, York University

Postgraduate education

1993: MA, Western University
1997: PhD, Western University

Awards/external committees

2014-2016: Member of ESRC Grant Awards Panel
2015: Society for Personality and Social Psychology (SPSP) Study of Attitudes and Social Influence Awards Panel.
2015: Chair of a sui generis ESRC Research Centre Award Panel
2015: ESRC member of Open Research Area Awards Panel
2014-2016: Associate Editor for Frontiers in Personality and Social Psychology
2013: Fellow of Society for Personality and Social Psychology.
2012-2013: Member of ESRC Future Research Leaders Commissioning Panel
2011-2012: Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).  Advisory Committee for Behavioral Sciences and Education, TOP Grants
2011-2012: Society for Personality and Social Psychology. Chair of Committee for Media Achievement and Media Prize Awards
2010-2011: European Association for Experimental Social Psychology. Program Sub-Chair for General Meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.
2010-2014: University College London. External Examiner for MSc in Social Cognition
2010: Expert Reviewer for Change4Life: One Year On
2008-2009: Member of Expert Reviewer Group for the Change4Life Marketing Programme, Department of Health
2006-2008: Senior Associate Editor, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
2006-2008: Editorial Board for the Group Process and Intergroup Relations
2006-2007: Psychology Expert for the Foresight Tacking Obesities Project, Department of Trade and Innovation
2005: Associate Editor, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
2002-2005: Editorial Board for the Group Process and Intergroup Relations
2002-2004: Editorial Board for the European Journal of Social Psychology
2000-2002: Editorial Board for the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin
2001: British Psychological Society Spearman Medal
1999-2005: Editorial Board for the British Journal of Social Psychology
1997: Canadian Governor-General’s Gold Medal, University of Western Ontario
1993-1997: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Fellowship
1996: American Psychological Association Student Travel Award
1996: American Psychological Association Dissertation Research Award
1995-1996: University of Western Ontario Graduate Tuition Scholarship
1993-1994: University of Western Ontario Doctoral Studies Scholarship
1991-1992: Ontario Graduate Scholarships
1991: York University Departmental Essay Prize
1991: University of Western Ontario Graduate Studies Scholarship
1990: Natural Science and Engineering Research Council Summer Research Fellowship
1987-1991: York University Full-Tuition Scholarships


2006: Elected to Fellowship of the Society of Experimental Social Psychology
2004 - Present: Professor, Psychology, Cardiff University
2000-2004: Reader, Psychology, Cardiff University
2000: Senior Lecturer, Psychology, Cardiff University
1997-1999: Lecturer, Psychology, Cardiff University
1996: Course Instructor, Part-time and Continuing Education, University of Western Ontario
1991-1995: Teaching Assistant, Psychology, University of Western Ontario
1990: Research Assistant, Biology, York University
1988: Research Assistant, Psychology, York University

Professional Affiliations

American Psychological Society
Centre for Research on the Self and Identity (International Associate)
European Association of Social Psychology
International Society of Self and Identity
Society of Experimental Social Psychology
Society for Personality and Social Psychology
Social Psychology Network