Wishing the best to Abbie Clapp!

Abbie Clapp, BABLab manager, is off to new adventures as a Data Analyst working for Wilder Research in Saint Paul, MN. Wilder Research partners with community organizations to research a wide variety of topics relevant to improving quality of life for people in the community, including community safety, education, public health, housing & homelessness, etc. Abbie will use her statistical chopsticks to clean and analyze data as well as consult with clients. She will be missed but we are thrilled for her!

BABLab Receives Grant Funding to Investigate the Role of Religion in Promoting Compassion & Empathy!

A big congratulations to Dr. Van Cappellen for receiving this funding from the Templeton Religion Trust! She will serve as the Principal Investigator on this grant ($233,052) entitled “Building the psychology of compassion: Insights from religion” beginning in August 2022 and ending in 2025. See below for a description of the grant!
Grant Abstract:

Compassion, or the capacity to understand, share, and care about someone else’s emotions, is often viewed as a virtue that leads to helping behavior and a harmonious society. Yet, experiencing compassion is not automatic nor easy. This project sets to deepen our understanding of the factors that promote compassion. Specifically, we suggest that religion provides the teachings and the experiences necessary for people to overcome typical hurdles to compassion. Our first aim will be to examine specific religious practices’ associations with the latest measures of compassion, including behavioral measures. We will replicate and extend the limited available evidence and provide a preliminary test of the causal influence of religious practice engagement on compassion. Our second aim will be to explain why religiosity is related to greater compassion by testing whether religion 1) provides normative, affective, and social motivations for compassion, and 2) affects perceptions of the emotional and cognitive costs of compassion. We propose a series of 9 empirical studies, accompanied by direct and conceptual replication efforts. We will produce scientific publications and conference presentations to build robust scientific knowledge with practical interest for the religious communities.

New Publication!: Bodily Feedback: Expansive and Upward Posture Facilitates the Experience of Positive Affect

Van Cappellen, P., Ladd, K. L., Cassidy, S., Edwards, M., & Fredrickson, B. L. (in press). Bodily Feedback: Expansive and Upward Posture Facilitates the Experience of Positive Affect. Cognition and Emotion. https://doi.org/10.1080/02699931.2022.2106945



Most emotion theories recognise the importance of the body in expressing and constructing emotions.



Focusing beyond the face, the present research adds needed empirical data on the effect of static full body postures on positive/negative affect. In Studies 1 (N = 110) and 2 (N = 79), using a bodily feedback paradigm, we manipulated postures to test causal effects on affective and physiological responses to emotionally ambiguous music.



Across both studies among U.S. participants, we find the strongest support for an effect of bodily postures that are expansive and oriented upward on positive affect. In addition, an expansive and upward pose also led to greater cardiac vagal reactivity but these changes in parasympathetic activity were not related to affective changes (Study 2).



In line with embodied theories, these results provide additional support for the role of postural input in constructing affect. Discussion highlights the relevance of these findings for the study of religious practices during which the postures studied are often adopted.

New Publication: Shades of Expansiveness: Postural Expression of Dominance, High-Arousal Positive Affect, and Warmth.

Van Cappellen, P., Edwards, M. E., Shiota, M. N. (in press). Shades of expansiveness: Postural expression of dominance, high-arousal positive affect, and warmth. Emotion. Pre-print.



In addition to the face, bodily posture plays an important role in communicating affective states. Postural expansion – how much space the body takes – has been much studied as expressing and signaling dominance and pride. 



The present research aimed to expand research on the range of affect dimensions and affect-laden personality characteristics that are expressed via expansiveness, investigating specific forms of expansiveness and their interactions with other postural elements (e.g., arm position). Using an innovative expression-production method, Study 1 (N = 146) characterized full-body expressions of dominance, joy, hope, and awe, while Studies 2-3 (Ns = 352, 183) expanded on this by asking participants to rate photos of posed mannequins on a variety of affective dimensions.



Study 1 results indicated joy is communicated most expansively and suggested a signature arm position for most feelings. Studies 2-3 revealed that other postural features interact with expansiveness to signal dominance (arms akimbo, head raised, stability), as distinct from high arousal positive affect (arms high up, head raised), and warmth (arms high up, head raised, instability). 



Together, this research adds needed data on full-body expressions of positive affect states and provides systematic analysis of different affective messages and varieties of postural expansiveness. 

New Publication: A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing? Toward an Understanding of the Religious Dones

Van Tongeren, D. R., DeWall, C. N., & Van Cappellen, P. (in press). A sheep in wolf’s clothing?: Toward an understanding of religious dones. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001269



People often favor their ingroup and derogate members of the outgroup. However, less is known about “religious dones,” who used to identify as religious but no longer do and have more transitional identities. 



Across six studies (N = 5,001; four preregistered), we examined the affiliative tendencies of religious dones and how they are perceived by other religious groups. 



In Study 1, using a Cyberball paradigm, religious dones included atheist targets relative to Christian targets. In Studies 2 and 3, currently religious participants demonstrated an attenuated tendency to demonstrate the conjunction fallacy (i.e., associating people with heinous acts of violence) for religious dones compared to never religious targets. In Study 4, using a behavioral sacrifice paradigm (e.g., reducing compensation to reduce an uncomfortable noise blast to a partner), religious dones favored never religious partners (who did not reciprocate) and did not sacrifice as much for currently religious partners (who sacrificed for them as a member of their ingroup). In Studies 5 and 6, investigating belief and identity, revealed that religious dones hold favorable attitudes toward other dones (and former believers) and the never religious (and never believers), whereas other groups view dones “in the middle.” We also identified mediating mechanisms of trust, ingroup identification, and belief superiority. 



Taken together, these six studies suggest that religious dones are viewed as a sheep in wolf’s clothing, in which they are treated favorably by currently religious individuals but often prefer never religious individuals, even though that warmth is not consistently reciprocated. 

New Publication: Meaning behind the movement: Attributing sacred meaning to fluid and non-fluid arm movements increases self-transcendent positive emotions and buffers the effects of non-fluidity on positive emotions

Freeburg, P. A., Van Cappellen, P., Ratchford, J. L., & Schnitker, S. A. (in press). Meaning
behind the movement: Attributing sacred meaning to fluid and nonfluid arm movements
increases selftranscendent positive emotions and buffers the effects of nonfluidity on positive emotions. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000463 Pre-print.




Sacred meaning is regularly attributed to body movements in a variety of religious and spiritual settings, but studies have yet to disentangle the effects of the sacred meaning attributed to body movements from the effects of body movements themselves.



Participants (n = 422) were randomly assigned to draw six lines that were fluid or nonfluid (as a replication attempt) and to ascribe sacred or nonsacred meaning to the arm movements (as an extension of prior research). The effects of movement fluidity, movement sacredness, and their interaction were examined on affective (positive emotions, selftranscendent positive emotions, affective response to a video about the impact of racism on health) and cognitive (creativity, race conceptions) outcomes.



The present study did not replicate previous findings that fluid movement leads to creativity and flexible race conceptions. Instead, the present study found that attributing sacred meaning to arm movements led to greater experiences of positive and selftranscendent positive emotions (and lower negative emotions) and protected against the deleterious effects of nonfluid movement on positive emotions (in addition to protecting against increases in negative emotions).



We highlight the importance of accounting for the meaning attributed to body movements and suggest embodiment may operate through more affective than cognitive processes. Future research should further investigate the amplifying and buffering effects of sacred meaning attributed to embodied actions within religious and spiritual

New Publication: More than a momentary blip in the universe? Investigating the link between religiousness and perceived meaning in life.

Prinzing, M., Van Cappellen, P., & Fredrickson B.L. (2022). More than a momentary blip in the universe? Investigating the link between religiousness and perceived meaning in life. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. https://doi.org/10.1177/01461672211060136



One longitudinal and four cross-sectional studies (total N = 3,141) tested two candidate explanations for the association between religiousness and perceived meaning in life. Religiousness may foster a sense of significance, importance, or mattering—either to others (social mattering) or in the grand scheme of the universe (cosmic mattering)—which in turn support perceived meaning.



We found that perceived social mattering mediated, but could not fully explain, the link between religiousness and perceived meaning. In contrast, perceived cosmic mattering did fully explain the association.



Overall, results suggest that perceived social and cosmic mattering are each part of the explanation. Yet, perceived cosmic mattering appears to be the stronger mechanism. We discuss how religious faith may be especially suited to support such perceptions, making it a partially unique source of felt meaning.

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.


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.


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 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.


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.