New publications!

Lots of announcements to make!

First, we published two papers providing needed empirical data on Christian prayer postures and how they connect to emotions and the religious experience more generally.

Van Cappellen, P., & Edwards, M. (in press). Emotion expression in context: Full body postures of Christian prayer orientations compared to secular emotions. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Pre-print

Van Cappellen, P., Cassidy, S., & Zhang, R. (in press). Religion as an embodied practice: Organizing the various forms and documenting the meanings of Christian prayer postures. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Pre-print

Second, we are super proud to announce Maria Naclerio’s first publication! Maria did her senior thesis with us when she was an undergrad at Duke. She even earned the 2019-2020 Jerome S. Bruner Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Research for this research! Preprint to come, check out our list of publications.

Naclerio, M., & Van Cappellen, P. (in press). Awe, group cohesion, and religious self-sacrifice. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.

Third, stay tuned for a new book chapter summarizing the latest research, including research from our lab, on positive emotions and religion/spirituality. Happy to send a private copy if you email me.

Van Cappellen, P., Zhang, R. & Fredrickson, B. L. (forthcoming 2022). The scientific study of positive emotions and religion/spirituality. To appear in W. Davis, E. Worthington, & S. Schnitker (Ed.), Handbook of positive psychology, religion, and spirituality. Springer.

We are hiring!

*update: it looks like the position does not show up anymore on the duke careers website, please email me directly your application and when duke HR reopens the position online, I will ask you to submit your documents there as well.*

The Belief, Affect, and Behavior Lab (BABLab), directed by Dr. Patty Van Cappellen at Duke University seeks a full-time lab manager/data technician for a 12-month funded position (possibility to extend contingent on funding). The lab manager/data technician will work closely with the PI to perform the research activities of grant-funded projects in the psychology of religion and emotions working on topics related to gratitude, embodiment of emotions, and intergroup prejudice/prosociality. For more information on the lab, the PI’s research, and the specific project, see: https://sites.duke.edu/bablab/.

This position is ideal for individuals who wish to go to grad school in the near future. I am looking for someone who is passionate about research and has interest in the lab’s topic. I give the opportunity to my staff to present at conferences and to become co-authors on journal manuscripts. We will do a lot of research together as a team and you will be involved from start to finish on most projects! Start date can be arranged with me and is expected to be around August 1st, 2021. *it is expected for the candidate to move to NC and be in person, in an office on Duke campus. I am anticipating in person data collection to resume in the Fall and interactions with RAs to be in person as well*

Work Performed:

– Assisting in designing and running a series of experiments with human subjects related to multiple grant-funded projects

– Maintaining IRB records

– Managing and training a team of undergraduate research assistants

– Cleaning and analyzing data (including psychophysiology data)

– Assisting in writing manuscripts

– Assisting with media outreach

– Assisting in general administrative activities as requested including planning lab meetings

Preferred Qualifications:

Ideal candidate will have a strong undergraduate background in psychology with previous research experience, including SPSS and scientific writing. Experience with the following is desirable, but not required: Excel, Qualtrics, MTurk, Psychophysiology data collection software and equipment such as Mindware or Biopac. Seeking candidate with excellent time-management skills, attention to detail, interpersonal, communication, and writing skills, extremely efficient in email correspondence, ability to work independently, and ability to juggle multiple varied tasks.

It is the expectation that all staff members will demonstrate exceptional workplace behaviors in the execution of their specific position responsibilities. These behaviors are customer focus, collaboration, creative problem solving, continuous learning, and a commitment to diversity.

Application Process:

All applicants must apply through the Duke Human Resources system at http://www.hr.duke.edu/jobs/

Requisition number is 51039463.

Please submit a cover letter describing relevant past research experience and interests (especially regarding stats, coding of participants’ open ended responses, RA traning, psychophysiology), a writing sample (it can be your honor’s thesis or a research paper you wrote), a CV, email and phone numbers for three professional references and your relationship to them. If you have any issues uploading some of these documents through Duke HR, please send them to me by email (patty.vancappellen@duke.edu).

Education: Work requires a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the specific position.

Duke is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer committed to providing employment opportunity without regard to an individual’s age, color, disability, gender, gender expression, gender identity, genetic information, national origin, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status.

Duke aspires to create a community built on collaboration, innovation, creativity, and belonging. Our collective success depends on the robust exchange of ideas—an exchange that is best when the rich diversity of our perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences flourishes. To achieve this exchange, it is essential that all members of the community feel secure and welcome, that the contributions of all individuals are respected, and that all voices are heard. All members of our community have a responsibility to uphold these values.

Essential Physical Job Functions: Certain jobs at Duke University and Duke University Health System may include essentialjob functions that require specific physical and/or mental abilities. Additional information and provision for requests for reasonable accommodation will be provided by each hiring department.

 

New Publication: Same-day, Cross-day, and Upward Spiral Relations Between Positive Affect and Positive Health Behaviours

Fredrickson, B. L., Arizmendi, C., & Van Cappellen, P.

Read the paper here.

Objective

This project investigated same-day and lagged (i.e., from one day to the next) associations between daily positive affect and three distinct positive health behaviours: physical activity, fruit and vegetable intake, and meditation. Cross-day analyses also examined the role of positive affect felt during the targeted health behaviours.

Design

Secondary data analyses used a 9-week daily diary study in which midlife adults (N = 217) were randomized to learn one of two contemplative practices (i.e., mindfulness meditation or loving-kindness meditation) while reporting nightly on their emotions and health behaviours.

Results

Results of same-day analyses revealed positive associations, both between-person and within-person, for the three positive health behaviours with daily positive affect. Results of lagged analyses revealed that positive affect experienced during fruit and vegetable intake on a given day predicted next-day fruit and vegetable intake, and that fruit and vegetable intake on a given day predicted next-day positive affect.

Conclusion

The observed same-day relations between daily positive affect and engagement in positive health behaviours illuminate one path through which positive affect may contribute to health. The observed cross-day relations reveal a need for interdisciplinary research on mechanisms through which fruit and vegetable intake may shape next-day positive affect.

BABLab at SPSP 21!

In February of this year, two of our Research Assistants and our Lab Manager had the opportunity to present their research at the Religion and Spirituality Preconference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology Conference! Although the conference was virtual this year due to COVID-19, our lab members were thrilled to be able to disseminate their work among other enthusiastic social psychologists. Read more about the poster presenters & presentations below:

Strength and Robustness of the Relationship Between Hope and Religiosity in the 2016 General Social Survey

Pranav Athimuthu & Patty Van Cappellen

Prior studies on hope and religion involve restrictive samples and do not control for confounding variables. To fill this gap, we examined data from a sample of Americans in the GSS (N = 1,426). Results show a small correlation between religiosity and hope that remains significant when controlling for other variables. Thus, we recommend expanding the current narrow conceptualization of hope.

 

To God All the Glory: Prevalence of and Ways to Express Gratitude to God

Kerry O’Brien, Patty Van Cappellen, & Sara Algoe

Gratitude to God (GTG) is a common feeling but understudied compared to interpersonal gratitude. This study adds needed data on the prevalence and content of GTG expressions when reflecting on a personal success. Participants write about a personal success, express gratitude, and answer questions on gratitude attribution. Lastly, they describe the various ways they show GTG in everyday life.

 

Confess While Raising My Hands? Comfort in Various Prayer Postures Across Prayer Themes and Emotions

Gwyn Reece & Patty Van Cappellen

This study(N = 84 U.S. Christians) investigates self-reported comfort praying in six postures varying on body’s orientation (upward vs. downward) and use of space (expansive vs. constrictive) when praying in general, about specific common themes (e.g., humility, thanksgiving) and when feeling certain positive and negative emotions. Findings show that prayer postures are meaningfully associated with the topics of the prayer and the emotions felt while praying.

New publication: Understanding Engagement in and Affective Experiences During Physical Activity: The Role of Meditation Interventions

Objective: Meditation interventions promote an array of well-being outcomes. Yet, the way in which these interventions promote beneficial outcomes is less clear. Here, we expanded on prior work by examining the influence of mindfulness and loving-kindness meditation on a key health behavior: physical activity. Methods: To test our hypotheses, we drew upon two randomized intervention studies. In Study 1, 171 adults (73.0% female) received 6 weeks of training in either mindfulness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, or were assigned to a control condition. In Study 2, 124 adults (60.0% female) were assigned to a 6-week mindfulness or loving-kindness meditation group. Results: Study 1 demonstrated that individuals who received mindfulness training reported sustained levels of physical activity across the intervention period (Pre: M = 4.09, SD = 2.07; Post M = 3.68, SD = 2.00; p = .054), while those in the control (Pre: M = 3.98, SD = 2.25; Post M = 3.01, SD = 2.07; p < .001) and loving-kindness (Pre: M = 4.11, SD = 2.26; Post M = 3.45, SD = 1.96; p < .001) conditions reported lower levels. Study 2 demonstrated those who received mindfulness training experienced increases in positive emotions during physical activity from pre to post-intervention (Pre: M = 6.06, SD = 2.51; Post: M = 6.54, SD = 2.43, p = .001), whereas those trained in loving-kindness meditation experienced decreases in positive emotions during physical activity (Pre: M = 6.45, SD = 2.35; Post: M = 6.09, SD = 2.46, p = .040). Conclusions: These results suggest mindfulness training (but not loving-kindness training) promotes sustained physical activity, and one plausible reason why this occurs is enhanced positive emotion during physical activity.

Don, B., P., Van Cappellen, P., & Fredrickson, B. L. (in press). Understanding engagement in and affective experiences during physical activity: The role of meditation interventions. Psychosomatic Medicine. 

Prejudice toward Christians and Atheists Among Members of Nonreligious Groups: Attitudes, Behaviors, and Mechanisms

Patty Van Cappellen and Jordan P. LaBouff

Much research demonstrates that people high in religiosity tend to be prejudiced against value- threatening groups. Therefore, some researchers have suggested that people who are not religious may be less prejudiced. Are nonreligious people characterized by general tolerance? If not, what are the bases of their prejudices? This research investigated prejudice toward Christians and atheists among people who identify as nonreligious (atheist, agnostic, and spiritual-but-not-religious), documented this prejudice in the form of exclusion behaviors (Study 1) and self-report of affect and social distance (Studies 2–3), and explored potential mechanisms of nonreligious prejudice toward Christians: individual differences in belief style and biases against Christians (Studies 2–3). Results showed the nonreligious are not generally tolerant and that differences among these groups in belief superiority, feelings of distrust, and fear of contamination by unpalatable ideas all explained differences in prejudice toward Christians. These findings help provide a more comprehensive picture of religious intergroup prejudice.

Van Cappellen, P. & LaBouff, J. (in press). Prejudice toward Christians and Atheists among members of nonreligious groups: Attitudes, behaviors, and mechanisms. Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. PDF

Upward Spirals of Positive Emotions and Religious Behaviors

Patty Van Cappellen, Megan E. Edwards, & Barbara L. Fredrickson

Positive emotions feel good and build psychological, social, and biological resources (Broaden-and-Build Theory, Fredrickson, 1998, 2013). People who identify as religious or spiritual value them and report feeling them frequently. They are also prevalent in religious and spiritual practices, such as prayer, meditation, and collective worship. We review the literature on the reciprocal relationship between positive emotions and religion/spirituality and identify individual differences predicting greater positive emotions derived from engaging in religious practices. We suggest that beyond building religious/spiritual people’s well-being, positive emotions play a role in sustaining otherwise costly religious behaviors. We integrate our review in the proposed Upward Spiral Theory of Sustained Religious Practice.

Van Cappellen, P., Edwards, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (in press). Upward spirals of positive emotions and religious behaviors. Current Opinion in PsychologyPDF 

New 2-year grant funded project on gratitude to God

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.