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On Thanksgiving: How Gratitude to God is Demonstrated, with Consequences for the Grateful Person and Witnesses
Principal Investigator: Patty Van Cappellen, Ph.D., Duke University
Co-Investigator: Sara Algoe, Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
The expression of gratitude to God (GTG) is present in virtually all religious practices. However, despite the recent rapid growth in scientific knowledge of gratitude, we still know little about the expressions and functions of GTG. In particular, the study of GTG compared to interpersonal gratitude (IG) poses an interesting set of scientific questions made all the more important by the pervasiveness of GTG in human experience. Building on the PI’s expertise in affective processes in religious cognition and the Co-I’s find-remind-and-bindtheory of gratitude (Algoe, 2012) and evidence on the functional value of public expressions of IG (Algoe, Dwyer, Younge, & Oveis, 2019), we propose to address three specific aims that will work together to elucidate the basic distinctions between GTG and IG, deeper understanding of expressions of GTG, and the functions of GTG.
Specifically, like prior research on IG, it is critical to take a systematic approach to understand the personal and social (public) functions of GTG, which may be similar to IG but may also bear unique features. A key starting point is to characterize demonstrations of GTG, using this foundation to begin to test personally-relevant functions and social reactions to these expressions. Collectively the proposed studies are designed to provide a generative foundation for future research on GTG. Simultaneously, they speak to the broader literature in affective, relationship, and behavior maintenance science.
Aim 1: Characterizing how people demonstrate GTG.
Aim 2: Illuminating factors that predict negative vs. positive reactions to GTG demonstrations.
Aim 3: Collecting preliminary evidence on two personally-relevant functional outcomes of GTG demonstrations: relationship with God strength and spiritual quest.
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Van Cappellen, P. (in press). The emotion of joy: A commentary on Johnson. Journal of Positive Psychology.
In this contribution, I push for a deeper understanding of the emotion of joy as compared to happiness and to other discrete positive emotions, by specifying its appraisals and functions. I suggest that joy connects us to our core identity, values, and priorities. It is the emotion that makes life worth living in the moment. I further discuss the distinction between an objective versus subjective account of instances of joy, a distinction I find important to bear in mind when dealing with morally problematic cases of joy. Finally, I discuss points of connection between the psychologies of joy and religion and suggest multiple lines of future research.
Dr. Patty Van Cappellen received the Margaret Gorman Early Career award from the American Psychological Association Div. 36 and gave an address entitled:
“Religion/spirituality: From the mind to the body.”
I will present a summary of my own research that showcases the importance of studying religion as a practice in addition to a system of beliefs. First, I’ll discuss the fact that religious and spiritual practices (e.g., attending a place of worship, praying, meditating) are associated with the experience of meaningful positive emotions. To explain this association, I’ll specifically focus on embodied processes showing that the very body postures adopted in worship and prayer are associated with distinct religious experiences. I’ll then turn my attention to the implications of experiencing positive emotions in religious practice describing research on well-being and spirituality. Finally, I’ll briefly describe an ongoing investigation on the psychological and biological factors that amplify the positive emotions experienced in spiritual practices with attendant consequences for sustained adherence to these practices. Together, I aim to argue for the importance of moving the study of religion beyond the mind and for taking seriously the role that positive emotions play when experienced during religious and spiritual practices.
Do Contemplative Moments Matter? Effects of Informal Meditation on Emotions and Perceived Social Integration.
Fredrickson, B. L., Arizmendi, C., Van Cappellen, P., Firestine, A. M., Brantley, M. M., Kim, S. L., . . . Salzberg, S. (2019). Do Contemplative Moments Matter? Effects of Informal Meditation on Emotions and Perceived Social Integration. Mindfulness. doi:10.1007/s12671-019-01154-2
In this study we showed that informal meditation practice (both mindfulness and loving-kindness) increases daily positive emotions and perceptions of social integration over time (independently of the effects of a formal meditation practice). Think about it as you go about your day! “Informal mindfulness meditation (MM) may entail a simple shift of awareness toward one’s breath, whereas informal loving–kindness meditation (LKM) may entail a passing, yet heartfelt wish for another person’s well-being.”
See full paper here: https://rdcu.be/bCufA
Paweł Łowicki is joining the Belief, Affect & Behavior Lab for the semester! He is a visiting graduate student from the University of Warsaw in Poland. He is currently doing research related to the psychology of religion, empathy and mentalizing abilities. See more about him on our People page.
BABLab will have the following presentations at the 2019 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Convention in Portland, OR.
Please join us at the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality preconference on Thursday, February 7th. Two of our presentations will cover current research related to our ongoing Embodiment of Worship grant funded by the John Templeton Foundation.
Embodying the Religious Experience: Full body representations of religion related feelings and prayer orientations.
Authors: Megan Edwards & Patty Van Cappellen, PhD
Are Postures Adopted During Church Service Related to Worship Experience?
Authors: Stephanie Cassidy & Patty Van Cappellen, PhD
Also! Poster Presentation from a visiting graduate student from the University of Warsaw, Poland
Religious belief and social cognition: The role of empathy and self-reported mind-reading skills
Authors: Pawel Lowicki & Marcin Zajenkowski
Congratulations to Patty Van Cappellen, PhD. for receiving the
Margaret Gorman Early Career Award
Recipients of this award have shown innovative research in the psychology of religion, marked by scholarly excellence, and has implications for theory, practice or further research. Dr. Van Capellen received her Ph.D. in Psychology at the Université catholique de Louvain in 2012. Her research in religion and spirituality has encompassed the topics of emotions, health, biology, embodiment, antisocial behaviors, as well as qualitative research with the Hebrew Bible. You can read more about her research on the psychology of religion and spirituality here.
Two presentations were given at this year's International Association of the Cognitive Science of Religion conference in Boston, MA.
The panel - Embodiment of Religion in Mind and Experience - was lead by Dimitris Xygalatas, PhD. and showcased two presentations related to our current research on the Embodiment of Worship:
"The Physicality of Religious Experiences: Relationships Between Body Postures and Feelings" Presenter: Megan Edwards Co-authors: Patty Van Cappellen, PhD & Stephanie Cassidy
"Influence of Religious Postures on Emotions, Humility and Image of God: Preliminary Findings" Presenter: Stephanie Cassidy Co-authors: Patty Van Cappellen, PhD, Kevin Ladd, PhD & Megan Edwards