New Publication by Former BABLab Research Assistant!

Based on her honors thesis with advisor Dr. Van Cappellen during her undergraduate years at Duke University, Gwyn Reece has published her first paper!

Reece, G. A., Van Tongeren, D. R., & Van Cappellen, P. (In press). Eternal outgroups: Afterlife beliefs predict prejudice. Personality and Individual Differences, 214.


Both religious and nonreligious people hold beliefs about what happens after death. The eternal criteria embedded in afterlife beliefs – for example, what happens for the morally good versus the morally bad — may implicate intergroup attitudes and behavior in the present.


The set of 4 studies aimed to investigate whether and how afterlife beliefs have direct implications for real-life intergroup prejudice.


In Study 1, religious afterlife beliefs were associated with more prejudice towards nonreligious people. In extension, Study 2 used nationally representative archival data and found that among religious people, specific beliefs in hell and heaven mediated the association between religiosity and prejudice towards atheists. In Study 3, religious afterlife beliefs continued to be associated with prejudice towards value-threatening outgroup members, even when controlling for religiosity. This was shown in a specific context in Study 4: Christians with exclusionary views of heaven expressed more prejudice towards atheists than those with inclusionary views.


Together, these studies show that both religious and secular afterlife beliefs relate to prejudice towards value-incongruent outgroup members, consistent with the group exclusionary hypothesis. Specific religious afterlife beliefs, such as hell or heaven, explain some of the association between religiosity and prejudice against ideologically dissimilar groups.

Recruiting for TWO positions!

More info and application here:

I am hiring for two full time lab manager-type positions at Duke University to work on grant-funded projects in the psychology of religion as well as to assist with managing the Duke Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center that I direct. The position is perfect for someone wanting to apply for grad school in the next couple of years. The lab manager will be involved in every part of the research process and have the opportunity to participate in conferences. My current projects revolve around religion and empathy, intergroup prejudice, and the psychology of hope.

For best consideration, apply by May 26. Start date between August 1st and September 1st.

Current and former BABLab members off to grad school!

This year was full of good grad school news for current and former BABLab members! All start in Fall 2023 and I look forward to a fun BABLab reunion next year at SPSP! I am very proud of these women whose talents will only shine further in grad school.

Amanda Bernal who is currently Lab Manager will (sadly!) leave the lab to go to the University of Arizona Social Psychology PhD Program under the supervision of Matthias Mehl. She is interested in researching the different relationships a person can have (romantic, familial, abstract (like with one’s God), and how language use can relate to the way people think, feel, and behave. She is also interested in examining these topics using novel methods (like the use of electronically activated recorders and ecological momentary assessments).

Abbie Clapp who was BABLab manager until recently will be doing a joint PhD in Social Psychology and Gender & Women’s Studies at UW Madison in Dr. Sara Chadwick’s lab. She will be working on research topics related to sexuality and objectification from a feminist psychology perspective primarily using mixed methods.

Maria Naclerio who did her graduation with distinction with me at Duke (even got an award and publication out of it!) will go UCLA’s Social Psychology Ph.D. program to work with Dr. Naomi Eisenberger.

Kerry O’Brien who was my lab manager is going to the Basic & Applied Social Psychology Program at the CUNY Graduate Center and working with Dr. Catherine Good.

Job alert! Stay tuned!

I will soon be hiring for 2 full-time positions at Duke University! These positions will be ideal for someone who just graduated from undergrad, would like to go to grad school in psych, but wants a bit more research experience before applying. I hope to have these positions officially posted soon, for a Summer start date (interested candidates can email me and I’ll send the link to apply when it’s available).

Here is the unofficial job description:

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. 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 hope, empathy and intergroup prejudice/prosociality. For more information on the lab, the PI’s research, and the specific project on empathy, see:

In addition, the lab manager will also be involved in facilitating research at the Duke Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center (IBRC), which Dr. Van Cappellen directs. The IBRC is a large interdisciplinary research facility serving faculty and students in social and behavioral sciences. The IBRC provides the infrastructure (laboratory space), equipment (laptop, software, cameras), support (training, research assistant program), participant access (community participants pool), and limited funding to facilitate social and behavioral research. You can find more information here:

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 September 1st, 2023. *it is expected for the candidate to move to NC and be in person, in an office on Duke campus.*

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

– Assisting in writing manuscripts

– Assisting with media outreach

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

– Support research activities of the IBRC including registering new lab users, approving studies and resource requests, and scheduling lab rooms.

– Maintain a database of community members and students who wish to participate in paid research at the IBRC.

– Manage funds for payment of participants.

Preferred Qualifications: Ideal candidate will have a strong undergraduate background in psychology with previous research experience, including SPSS or R and scientific writing. Experience with the following is desirable, but not required: Excel, Qualtrics, CloudResearch or Prolific, 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.

New publication!

New publication stemming from our grant-funded project on the scientific study of gratitude to god!

Van Cappellen, P., Clapp, A., & Algoe, S. (in press). God of the good gaps: Prevalence, eliciting situations, and demonstrations of gratitude to god as compared to interpersonal gratitude. Journal of Positive Psychology.


Gratitude for another person’s actions has received exponential attention from the scientific community for its many benefits. Yet, this research is virtually silent on one key target of gratitude god despite billions of people believing in a personal, intervening, and benevolent god. In a large multimethod study, we sampled U.S. Hindus, Muslims, Jews, and Christians (N=1270). First, we document the prevalence of spontaneous mentions of god as the target of a gratitude expression following a personal success. Only 16% of our religious participants did mention god but priming god increased this number to 29%. Second, we documented a wider array of eliciting situations of gratitude to god (GTG) compared to gratitude to another person (GTO) and particularly for broad good things in life that don’t have a clear agent. Finally, we documented ways that GTG vs. GTO is demonstrated, suggesting that GTG sustains religious practice and builds morality.

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.



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.