Dr Valerie van Mulukom

BA, MPhil, PhD

Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Department of Psychology, Health and Professional Development

Valerie van Mulukom


I am a cognitive psychologist and my research focuses on belief and imagination.

Teaching and supervision

Modules taught


Modules taught:

PSYC5022: Psychological Research Methods and Statistics 2 (module leader)

PSYC6021: The Self and Autobiographical Memory (co-teacher)

PSYC6023: Specialised Research Skills in Psychology (co-teacher)

PSYC7006: Intelligence, Personality and Individual Differences (co-teacher)



My research focuses on belief and imagination, and their interconnection. 

One of my main areas of research is the social and experimental psychology of belief or worldviews, which includes religious and paranormal beliefs, but also conspiracy beliefs and secular worldviews. This research examines (i) how social learning shapes beliefs, (ii) which social identity factors predict beliefs, and (iii) what psychological functions various worldviews have. 

A second major area of research is imagination and awe. In this area, I examine (i) how people become absorbed in imaginary events, (ii) what predicts absorption, and (iii) how we might explain awe and other self-transcendental experiences. This strand also touches on the evolution of imagination, fiction, and creativity, and how we should understand these concepts. 

Current research projects

  • Awe-some spirituality (funded by the John Templeton Foundation): Examining awe as a pathway to spiritual yearning in nonreligious individuals

  • Worldly views worldwide (funded by the British Academy/Leverhulme): The development and testing of the Secular Worldviews Scale

  • Explaining Nordic Atheism (funded by Queen’s University Belfast/John Templeton Foundation): Explaining atheism and religious nonbelief in the Nordic countries using a social learning approach

  • Paranoia or Purpose: A set of studies investigating conspiracy belief and social identity factors (e.g., loss of a powerful social identity), and its links to collective nostalgia and populism

  • Keep It Unreal: A set of studies investigating how we become absorbed in fictional imaginings (incl. intuition), and how this differs between individuals and whether we can train it.  


  1. ‘Awe-some spirituality: A theological and psychological cross-disciplinary exploration of awe as an approach to spiritual yearning of the nonreligious’. John Templeton Foundation, Spiritual Yearning Research Initiative, 2024-2026. Role: PI (£224,915).

  2. ‘Worldly views worldwide: Examining secular worldviews in the Global North and South and the development of a new scale’. British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grants, 2023-2024. Role: PI (£9,870.39).

  3. ‘Explaining Nordic Atheism: How cultural learning mechanisms predict atheism in Nordic cultural contexts’, RFP1 Research Grant, Explaining Atheism, Queen’s University Belfast (subgranting scheme through the John Templeton Foundation, #69128), 2022-2023. Role: PI (£76,167.87). 

  4. ‘Examining conspiracy beliefs through socio-existential motives and group processes’, CTPSR PhD studentship, Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations (Coventry University), 2022-2025. Role: Director of Studies (£70,000).

  5. ‘Spiritual Understanding in a Secular Age: Engaging Art as Religious Ritual’. Art Seeking Understanding grant, Templeton Religion Trust, 2021-2022. PIs: Dr Alexandria Eikelboom & Dr David Newheiser (Australian Catholic University). Role: Research Fellow ($230,267 USD).

  6. ‘Mindfulness Meditation: A Secular Religion for Unbelievers?’ RFP1 Research Grant, Understanding Unbelief, University of Kent, awarded to Masoumeh (Sara) Rahmani, Miguel Farias, and Valerie van Mulukom, 2017-2019. Role: Co-PI (£59,535). 

  7. ‘Secular Worldviews : What secular beliefs do non-believers have, and what psychological functions do they serve?’ RFP2 Early Career Award, Understanding Unbelief, University of Kent (subgranting scheme through the John Templeton Foundation, #60624), 2017-2019. Role: PI (£14,929).

  8. ‘The Imaginative Mind: How imaginative ability supports flexible and creative thinking.’ Coventry University Early Career Researcher Pump-Prime Funding Scheme, 2017-2018. Role: PI (£9,998). 


Centres and institutes


Projects as Principal Investigator, or Lead Academic if project is led by another Institution

  • Worldly views worldwide: Examining secular worldviews in the Global North and South and the development of a new scale (01/11/2023 - 30/06/2024), funded by: British Academy, funding amount received by Brookes: £9,870

Professional information

Memberships of professional bodies

Editorial service

Memberships of professional bodies

  • International Association for the Cognitive and Evolutionary Sciences of Religion (IACESR)

  • International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR)

Press & media

For more information you can visit: www.valerievanmulukom.com