Principal Investigator

Patty Van Cappellen, PhD.

Patty Van Cappellen, PhD. is an Assistant Research Professor in the Social Science Research Institute and in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience. Dr. Van Cappellen is also the Director of the Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center at Duke University. Dr. Van Cappellen earned her Ph.D. in Social Psychology in 2012 from UCLouvain, Belgium. She then moved to do a postdoc with Barbara Fredrickson on positive psychology and psychophysiology at UNC-Chapel Hill where she became Research Assistant Professor.

Dr. Van Cappellen received the Early Career Award from the International Association for the Psychology of Religion (IAPR) in 2017 and the Margaret Gorman Early Career Award from the American Psychological Association Div. 36 in 2019. She was an Associate Editor of the peer-reviewed journal “Archive for the Psychology of Religion” from 2017 until 2021. See her Researchgate profile.

Curriculum Vitae; Contact Patty Van Cappellen, PhD.

Lab Manager

Amanda Bernal

Amanda is currently a Lab Manager for BABLab. Born and raised in Dallas, Texas, Amanda has relocated to Durham after completing her M.S. in Psychological Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas. Amanda is interested in a wide range of topics such as communication, close relationships, and religion as well as the use of language analysis to understand different psychological processes. In her free time, she enjoys watching Netflix or YouTube, talking to friends and family, and trying out different restaurants.

Curriculum Vitae; Contact Amanda Bernal.



Graduate Student

Natalia Espinosa

Natalia is a first-year graduate student pursuing a PhD in Social Psychology in the Department of Psychology & Neuroscience. Her research uses methods from neuroscience and psychology to examine how culture influences cognition, emotion, and the self. Natalia is interested in investigating how religious influences fit into the cultural constructs of independence and interdependence. In her free time she enjoys watching reality TV with friends, hanging out with her roommate’s cat, and trying new food spots in the triangle area.

Research Assistant

Pranav Athimuthu

Pranav is a senior at Duke University intending to major in Psychology and Political Science with a certificate in Decision Sciences. He is interested in exploring human decision making and behavior in the political, economic, and personal spheres through a psychosocial lens. Currently, he is working on a lab project exploring the relationship between hope and religiosity. Though he is not certain about his plans after graduation, he hopes to eventually pursue a career in academia to fulfill his passion for educating students. In his free time, he enjoys reading up on political theory, writing poetry, and drinking tea.

SPSP 21 Conference Citation:

Athimuthu, P., & Van Cappellen, P. (2021, February). Strength and robustness of the relationship between hope and religiosity in the 2016 general social survey. Poster presented at the Religion and Spirituality Preconference of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology virtual conference.

Research Assistant

Meredith Cohen

Meredith is a junior at Duke University majoring in Psychology and minoring in Chemistry. She is interested in understanding the correlation between religiosity and empathy through the lens of social and cognitive psychology. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and pursue a career as a physician. Outside of the lab, she enjoys reading, exercising, and traveling.

Research Assistant

Dav King

Dav is a sophomore at Duke, undeclared but leaning towards double majoring in Psychology and Statistics (with a concentration in Data Science). He is interested in studying how religion is acquired (both in children from their parents and in adults who convert later in life), the social power that religion can hold and how it spills over into other domains of life, and relationships with religion among people who were raised religious but broke away from it later in life. Though he is quite unsure about his future plans, he intends to eventually earn a PhD and remain in academia, continuing to pursue both research and teaching for years to come.

Research Assistant

Caimiao Liu

Caimiao (Cai) is a junior at Duke studying psychology and sociology, minoring in philosophy. Her research interest generally covers emotion and prosociality, possibly with a cultural or historical/evolutionary lens. After graduation, she plans to attend graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. in social psychology. She enjoys books, movies, traveling, and all kinds of foods.

Research Assistant

Jessica Stevens

Jessica is a Junior at Duke University majoring in Psychology and minoring in German and Environmental Science & Policy.  She is interested in social and developmental psychology, particularly how our belief systems support resilience in hardships in life.  In general, she is interested in the how the world shapes who we are and how we interact with it, especially for young developing minds.  In her free time she enjoys reading, going for walks, and petting dogs.


Barbara Fredrickson, PhD., University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

Kevin Ladd, PhD., Indiana University South Bend

Mark Leary, PhD., Duke University

Dimitris Xygalatas, PhD., University of Connecticut