Dr Natalia Zarzeczna

Department of Psychology
Dr Natalia Zarzeczna



I am interested in the psychology of meaning. I examine how people find meaning through belief systems, such as spirituality, religiosity, or political orientation, and to what extent these belief systems contribute to social misperceptions, such as scepticism towards scientific epistemology and specific science domains (e.g., vaccination). I also study behavioural and physiological responses to meaning violations, perceptions of the science-religion relationship, and I explore the role of spatial cues in the mental representation of meaning. I completed my PhD in Social Cognition at Cardiff University (2019). Before joining the University of Essex in 2024, I was as a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Birmingham (2019-2020) and the University of Amsterdam (2020-2024). I am an Editorial Fellow at American Psychologist. Full list of publications:


  • PhD Cardiff University, (2019)


Other academic

  • Research Associate, University of Amsterdam (15/3/2020 - 31/12/2023)

  • Research Associate, University of Birmingham (17/6/2019 - 14/3/2020)

Research and professional activities

Research interests

Psychology of Meaning, Science Attitudes, Religion, Spirituality, Science-religion Conflict, Science Communication, Threat Compensation

Open to supervise

Teaching and supervision

Current teaching responsibilities

  • Advanced employability skills and career progression (PS492)


Publications (4)

Zarzeczna, N., Preston, JL., samekin, A., Reinhardt, CS., Bolatov, A., Selteyev, U., Topanova, G. and Rutjens, BT., The feeling is not mutual: Religious belief predicts compatibility between science and religion, but scientific belief predicts conflict

Zarzeczna, N., Većkalov, B., Hoffstadt, M. and Rutjens, BT., (2022). Psychological distance to science: Decreasing distance reduces science scepticism

Zarzeczna, N., Bertlich, T., Rutjens, BT., Gerstne, I. and von Hecker, U., (2022). Space as a mental toolbox in the representation of meaning

Zarzeczna, N., Većkalov, B., Gligorić, V. and Rutjens, BT., (2022). Letter to the Editors of Psychological Science: Boosting Understanding is Unlikely to Correct False Beliefs About Most Science Domains: Regarding van Stekelenburg et al. (2021)

Journal articles (15)

van der Lee, R., Ellemers, N., Zarzeczna, N. and Scheepers, D., (2024). Threatened by the immoral, challenged by the incompetent: Cardiovascular responses to intragroup morality vs. competence evaluations. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 27 (1), 62-75

Većkalov, B., Zarzeczna, N., McPhetres, J., van Harreveld, F. and Rutjens, BT., (2024). Psychological Distance to Science as a Predictor of Science Skepticism Across Domains. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 50 (1), 18-37

Zarzeczna, NJ., Hanel, PHP., Rutjens, B., Bono, SA., Chen, Y-H. and Haddock, G., (2023). Scientists, speak up! Source impacts trust in health advice across five countries. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied

Zarzeczna, N., Većkalov, B. and Rutjens, BT., (2023). Spirituality and intentions to engage in Covid‐19 protective behaviours. Social and Personality Psychology Compass. 17 (8)

Proulx, T., Costin, V., Magazin, E., Zarzeczna, N. and Haddock, G., (2023). The Progressive Values Scale: Assessing the Ideological Schism on the Left. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 49 (8), 1248-1272

Hanel, PHP. and Zarzeczna, N., (2023). From multiverse analysis to multiverse operationalisations: 262,143 ways of measuring well-being. Religion, Brain and Behavior. 13 (3), 309-313

Hoogeveen, S., Sarafoglou, A., Hanel, PHP. and et al, (2023). A many-analysts approach to the relation between religiosity and well-being. Religion, Brain & Behavior. 13 (3), 1-47

Zarzeczna, N., Bertlich, T., Većkalov, B. and Rutjens, BT., (2023). Spirituality is associated with Covid-19 vaccination scepticism. Vaccine. 41 (1), 226-235

Rutjens, BT., Zarzeczna, N. and van der Lee, R., (2022). Science rejection in Greece: Spirituality predicts vaccine scepticism and low faith in science in a Greek sample. Public Understanding of Science. 31 (4), 428-436

Sharp, CA., Leicht, C., Rios, K., Zarzeczna, N. and Elsdon-Baker, F., (2022). Religious diversity in science: Stereotypical and counter-stereotypical social identities. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 25 (7), 1836-1860

Leicht, C., Sharp, CA., LaBouff, JP., Zarzeczna, N. and Elsdon-Baker, F., (2022). Content Matters: Perceptions of the Science-Religion Relationship. The International Journal for the Psychology of Religion. 32 (3), 232-255

Bojana, V., Zarzeczna, N., Esther, N., Jonathon, M. and Bastiaan T., R., (2021). A matter of time… consideration of future consequences and temporal distance contribute to the ideology gap in climate change scepticism

Rutjens, BT., van der Linden, S., van der Lee, R. and Zarzeczna, N., (2021). A group processes approach to antiscience beliefs and endorsement of “alternative facts”. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 24 (4), 513-517

Zarzeczna, N., von Hecker, U., Proulx, T. and Haddock, G., (2020). Powerful men on top: Stereotypes interact with metaphors in social categorizations.. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. 46 (1), 36-65

Hanel, PHP., Zarzeczna, N. and Haddock, G., (2019). Sharing the Same Political Ideology Yet Endorsing Different Values: Left- and Right-Wing Political Supporters Are More Heterogeneous Than Moderates. Social Psychological and Personality Science. 10 (7), 874-882



4.726, Colchester Campus

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