Following are summaries of research in progress for research supported by the Templeton Young Scholars Grants Program.
Jack Bauer: Voluntary Life Transitions and the Intentional Development of Meaning and Happiness
This study examines people's intentions to cultivate more meaningful and happier lives by making major life changes, either in careers or religions. The study collects narrative and non-narrative data from participants a few months before and one year after making the change. The study also includes a control group of people not making such changes. The first round of data collection is about 1/2 complete. The study aims to determine the predictors (both intentional and unintentional) of personality development. Preliminary analyses suggest differences between the transition and control groups, notably that people making transitions are more likely to believe that growth in adulthood is possible and to have growth-oriented goals. Personality traits cohere with goal orientations (e.g., trait openness and growth goals). The key tests will be whether particular patterns of personality characteristics and narrative intentions for growth lead to particular kinds of personality development a year later.
Julie Bower: Thriving and Immune Function
University of California, Los Angeles
The goal of this project is to provide a biological characterization of women who have "thrived" or found positive meaning following a breast cancer diagnosis. Many women report positive changes in self-concept, interpersonal relationships, and priorities and goals following cancer, and there is intriguing preliminary evidence that these changes may be linked to improvements in physical health. This study focuses on hormonal and immunological characteristics of "thrivers" to delineate the biological mechanisms for these health effects. Study participants will provide saliva samples over several days for assessment of diurnal cortisol rhythm. In addition, blood samples will be taken and analyzed for anabolic (growth promoting) hormones and for proinflammatory cytokines. In the first month of funding, the research methods have been finalized and approved by the Human Subjects Protection Committee at UCLA. Potential subjects have also been identified from several ongoing studies of breast cancer survivors.
Adam Cohen: Religious Beliefs and Well-Being in Older Jews and Christians
The protective effects of religion on well-being in older adults could be profound. These effects could be due to a number of sources, including belief in the afterlife and reduced social concerns about death and dying. Both of these could reduce fear of death. Less fear of death could result in increased well-being. In a questionnaire study of North Carolina Jews and Christians, I am investigating the effects of religion on well-being. I am hypothesizing that religious beliefs will play a bigger role in the well-being of Protestants than of Jews in old age because my previous research has shown that religious beliefs are more linked to well-being for Christians than for Jews. However, social support should result in increased well-being for older Jews as well as Christians.
Sharon Danoff-Burg: Benefit Finding and Expressive Writing in Patients with Rheumatic Disease: Gain Without Pain?
University at Albany, SUNY
This study will contribute to a burgeoning body of research suggesting that positive responses to health-related adversity, such as finding benefit in the experience, are associated with enhanced psychological and physical outcomes. Specifically, the study will be the first to examine experimentally-induced benefit finding in patients with rheumatic disease, and the first to test expressive writing in patients with lupus. Participants will be randomly assigned to a written benefit finding intervention, standard expressive writing, or a written control task. Compared to the control task, benefit finding and expressive writing are expected to result in similar improvement in physical functioning and reduced medical visits; in addition, benefit finding is hypothesized to result in enhanced psychological functioning. Results will advance our understanding of whether individuals must confront painful thoughts and feelings in order to reap the benefits of expressive writing.
Lisa M. Diamond and Jonathan Butner: Coregulation of Positive Affect in Couples: Associations with FutureWell-Being and Relationship Quality
University of Utah
This research investigates whether entrainment of romantic couples' day-to-day positive affect predicts individual well-being and relationship quality over a 1-year period. The research involves a follow-up study of couples that are currently participating in a daily diary study of positive and negative affect. We will analyze these data with a new statistical technique that models the degree of "coupling" between periodic cycles and the degree to which one cycle "leads" the other. By applying this new technique and assessing couples one year later, our research will (1) illustrate basic differences between patterns of day-to-day variability in positive and negative affect that potentially explain their independent effects on psychological functioning, (2) elucidate the understudied interpersonal context of positive affect regulation by examining entrainment rather than level of positive affect, (3) clarify the mechanisms through which positive affect promotes well-being by examining whether positive affect coregulation predicts future psychological outcomes.
Elissa Epel: Positive Psychological Factors and Parasympathetic Activity during Chronic Stress
University of California, San Francisco
There has been little research examining positive psychological factors and counter-regulatory or "anti-stress" physiological processes that may promote recovery from stress and a state of enhanced health, such as vagal tone which regulates heart rate. To test whether chronic stress was related to lower vagal tone and if positive psychological characteristics promote quicker recovery from stress, caregivers and controls were exposed to a laboratory stressor. Preliminary results on 20 subjects show that caregivers and controls were similar at baseline, but caregivers showed an exaggerated heart rate response to laboratory challenge F(1,19) = 4.6, p < .05. Positive psychological factors appeared to buffer reactivity. High scores on stress-related growth were related to significantly lower baseline heart rate and quicker recovery from stress. Optimism and positive affect showed similar trends. Final analyses on N = 80 will examine vagal tone as well as heart rate, blood pressure, and neuroendocrine response.
Eli Finkel: Self-Control and Accommodation in Marital Interaction
Carnegie Mellon University
This research investigates how individuals maintain healthy relationships. Maintaining a healthy and satisfying romantic is indispensable to living life well. Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) have suggested that the emerging field of Positive Psychology explores satisfaction, happiness, the capacity for love, interpersonal skill, and forgiveness. This research addresses all of these topics by exploring both dispositional self-control and ego depletion as predictors of one's willingness, following potentially destructive partner behavior, to engage in pro-relationship responding. Married couples have been videotaped and assessed for their dispositional self-control and their ego strength, as they engaged in a conflict discussion with the spouse.
Shelly L. Gable: Capitalizing on Positive Events: Flourishing Individuals and Flourishing Relationships
University of California, Los Angeles
Data collection and analyses have been completed on Study 1; a daily experience study of 99 people. The results showed that on days people shared the occurrence of a positive event with someone (i.e., capitalized), they had higher well-being than on days they did not share the event. These results controlled for positivity of the event itself, the most stressful event of the day, and the number of positive and negative events of the day. In addition, people were more likely to recall positive events that they shared with other than those they did not, one week later. Data collection has also been completed on Study 2, a video taped interaction study of 80 dating couples. Behavioral coding (verbal and nonverbal) is underway. Initial analyses of self-report measures indicate that perceived partner responsiveness to positive event disclosures predicts relationships outcomes (e.g., satisfaction, trust) above and beyond responsiveness to disclosure of stressors.
Matthew J. Hertenstein: The Communication of Positive Emotions via Tactile Stimulation
Researchers have provided evidence to indicate that touch plays a key role in several important phenomena including attachment, cognitive development, and relationship formation. This research will investigate the capacities of the tactile modality to communicate several positive emotions, including joy, gratitude, and love. This research has the potential to (a) broaden our understanding of emotional expression, (b) demonstrate that positive emotions are distinct and differentiated, and (c) illuminate how touch might lead to well being. Two studies will be conducted; in each, two people will interact and the dependent variables of interest will be the physical dimensions of the touch that are used to communicate each emotion and subjects' accuracy in decoding the emotions. Study one will include dyads that are strangers and the second will investigate touch between friends. These two studies will help illuminate the full expressive repertoire of the human being.
Yuen J. Huo: Forging Positive Cultural Relations
University of California, Los Angeles
My proposal focused on the issue of how identification with inclusive social categories affects an authority's ability to resolve conflicts, encourage cooperation, and maintain social cohesion. The first step in this research is to develop an experimental paradigm to test the causal relations between the salience of group identities and responses to authorities specified by the group-value model. In a completed first experiment, we evaluated the conditions under which individuals will cooperate with an outgroup authority. We found that the most cooperative individuals are those who received a message that emphasizes both their shared identity with the outgroup authority as well as their subgroup identity. In a follow-up study, we are attempting to identify the mechanisms that underlie the dual identity effect. So far, the results are promising and suggest that that psychological mechanisms do exist to allow us to "celebrate diversity" while forging positive cultural relations.
Deborah Laible: Mother-Child Discourse Surrounding A Storybook and the Child's Past Behavior: Links to Attachment, Temperament, and Sociomoral Development
Southern Methodist University
Two research projects were conducted as a result of the funding from the Young Scholars Grant. Both projects were designed to address similar questions. First, the projects examined factors that related to the quality and emotional content of discourse in several contexts (e.g., during a storybook reading or during a past events conversation). Second, both projects also examined how differences in the quality and emotional content of mother-child discourse related to aspects of preschool children's sociomoral development. Findings suggested that both child temperament and attachment security were related to the quality of the mother-child discourse. Secure dyads and dyads composed of children high in effortful control were more elaborative and discussed emotions more frequently than insecure dyads or dyads composed of children low in effortful control. In addition, differences in the quality of mother-child discourse predicted aspects of sociomoral development. Elaborative discourse and discourse about emotions predicted aspects of young children's early conscience development.
Jacqueline Mattis: Religion, Optimism, and Prosocial Involvement among Urban-Residing African Americans
New York University
The goal of this study was to examine the relationship between religiosity, optimism and pro-sociality among urban-residing African American adults. Data collection for this project is complete, and I have been actively engaged in both analyzing the data and preparing manuscripts related to those data. One study, entitled "Who will volunteer? Religiosity, everyday racism and social participation among African American men" has been accepted for publication by the Journal of Adult Development. One manuscript, "Religiosity, optimism and pessimism among African Americans" is currently under review by the Journal of Black Psychology. Importantly, the findings of this study were presented at the 2001 meeting of the American Psychological Association's national conference in Chicago, Illinois. Finally, two manuscripts are in preparation. One study is entitled "What would I know about mercy? Religiosity, forgiveness, optimism, and pessimism among African Americans." The other is entitled "Religion, optimism and altruism among urban-residing African American men and women."
Daniel Messinger: Does Smiling in the Face of Adversity Predict Optimal Outcomes?
University of Miami
This research examines whether infants who are able to smile in the face of momentary adversity will adapt more competently to frustration in the second year of life. Specifically, is early smiling that is used to elicit interaction from an unresponsive partner associated with later pro-social behaviors? Infants who engage in more positive smiling at six months during play with their mothers are expected to smile more positively to elicit interaction when their mothers adopt a still-face in response to an experimenter's cue. Infants who show more positive smiling when their infants suddenly become impassive are expected to show fewer externalizing problems and more pro-social behaviors at 18 months of age. The proposal aims to add an understanding of the normative development of positive emotions to themes of optimal development and growth that characterize positive psychology more broadly.
Jeannine Morrone-Strupinsky: Functional Neuroimaging of Distinct Positive Emotions
University of Arizona
The goal of this project is to elucidate the neuroanatomical networks underlying distinct positive emotions that map onto the major components of extraversion using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The timeline of the study is as follows: 1) A second pilot study of slides from the International Affective Picture System was completed in September to determine the final set of slides to include in the neuroimaging paradigm. 2) A validation study of the MRI scanner was completed in October, which verified the optimal scanning parameters. 3) The research assistant was trained in how to collect skin conductance data. 4) A sample of university students (N = 300) participated in a questionnaire study in order to obtain a diverse subject pool along the dimension of extraversion. 5) Potential participants are currently being recruited and screened for the neuroimaging phase of the study. 6) Scanning will begin in January and be completed by April of 2003. Data analysis will then commence.
Judith Tedlie Moskowitz: Positive Coping and Adaptive Hormonal Responses
University of California, San Francisco
Positive coping and positive emotion play a key role in the maintenance of well-being under conditions of chronic stress and a healthy hormonal profile in response to stress consists of having high levels of restorative (anabolic) hormones, accompanied by relatively lower levels of destructive (catabolic) stress hormones like cortisol. This study brings together these two areas by testing whether positive emotional responses and positive coping strategies are associated with healthy hormonal profiles, which, in the long run, may serve to protect physical health. This study assesses 80 women to measure whether their coping and positive emotion as reported in narratives recounting a recent stressful event are related to their on-line stress reactivity in the lab. Data collection will be completed by May 2003.
Shige Oishi: Understanding and Misunderstanding Across Cultures: Documenting the Benefits of Cross-Cultural Interactions
University of Minnesota
Since January 2002, I have acquired the IRB approval on the project, purchased 30 hand-held computers, and programmed a survey on each computer. I have not yet started the data collection on the palm pilot part of the study. However, I have conducted a pilot study using a weekly diary method. In this study, participants went to a designated website every week for 16 weeks, and reported an event in which they felt understood by others, and another event in which they felt misunderstood by others. After describing each event, they were asked to indicate the reason why they felt understood or misunderstood during the event. Consistent with the predictions, European Americans' feeling understood or misunderstood was strongly influenced by whether the other person perceived or misperceived their personality. By contrast, Asians' feeling understood or misunderstood was strongly influenced by whether the other person understood their cultural backgrounds.
Americus Reed, II and Karl F. Aquino: Moral Identity and De-Escalatory Responses to Perceived Wrongdoing: A Longitudinal Study of Adolescents
University of Pennsylvania
In a longitudinal study of adolescents, we examine the theoretical premise that moral identity (Aquino & Reed, 2002; Reed & Aquino, 2003) is a potent precursor to self-regulatory coping responses that diffuse negative affectivity and suppress rumination processes in the aftermath of adolescent mistreatment. Moral identity may act as a psychological "buffer" and through the evaluative implications of a moral self; allow the person to facilitate quick and effective "dial down" of post-provocation hostility possibly by focusing on positive aspects of the situation, explaining the aggressor's behavior in terms of external attributions, or cognitively re-construing the adverse event. We examine how and when moral identity triggers these self-regulatory control mechanisms which divert aggression away from the target stressor and facilitate a willingness to execute coping strategies such as forgiveness and reconciliation. We also examine effective ways to nurture the development of an adolescent's moral identity through formal and informal interventions.
Suzanne C. Segerstrom: Writing and Health
University of Kentucky
This project assesses the effect of different kinds of cognitive processing on repetitive thought, that is, frequent or prolonged thoughts that individuals have about themselves and their world. Cognitive processing was manipulated using instructions to write about these thoughts in particular ways for 20 minutes on 3 separate days. Data collection was completed during the most recent funding period. Data processing and analysis have begun and will proceed during the coming months. Processing of psychophysiological data and writing samples has begun, and immunological analysis of blood samples will take place after the first of the year. Analyses will examine the effects of the manipulation on (1) the thoughts themselves (e.g., their intrusiveness), (2) affect during the thoughts, and (3) health as assessed by psychophysiology (e.g., heart rate), immune function, and self-reported health.
Ken Sheldon: Factors Influencing Sustainable Increases in Happiness
University of Missouri, Columbia
I used my Young Scholar grant monies to conduct 4 data collections. Three of these tested and supported our model of sustainable increases in happiness, and I am now writing an empirical article presenting the data, titled "Sustainable increases in happiness: Change your actions, not your circumstances." A fourth explored several possible interventions to boost people's happiness levels. Some of the latter data were promising, and I am now designing two follow-up studies to further develop the approach.
Margaret Shih: Multiple Racial Identities: Gaining Strength from Hardships
University of Michigan
Multiracial individuals struggle tremendously in society, contending with issues such as social recognition, family disapproval and community acceptance (Root, 1992). As a result, the literature paints a grim picture of adjustment outcomes for multiracial individuals. However, little empirical evidence exists to support these predictions. To explain the lack of evidence, I propose that the challenges multiracial individuals bear create a heightened awareness of race as a social construction. By emphasizing the validity of race as a dimension along which to categorize people, multiracial individuals undermine the validity of the racial stereotypes protecting them from the harmful effects of racial stigmatization. I will conduct four studies to test this theory. I expect to find that multiracial individuals are more cognizant of race as a social construction and, thus, are less likely to use race in their interpersonal judgments. Moreover, I expect that the de-emphasis of race protects individuals from racial identity threats.
Stacey Sinclair: Social Tuning of Automatic Gender and Ethnic Attitudes: The Role of Interpersonal Connection
University of Virginia
It is well known that the desire to foster and maintain interpersonal connection is a fundamental human strength. We proposed that that the desire for interpersonal connection may also serve to increase social justice. Specifically, we proposed that attempts to develop interpersonal connection with someone who has egalitarian views could help people increase individual commitment to equality and justice, even at a non-conscious level. The first experiment is complete and yielded the expected results. Participants exhibited more positive automatic racial attitudes toward Blacks when they are motivated to connect with an experimenter who had egalitarian versus neutral racial attitudes. We expect to run the second experiment during spring semester.
Michele M. Tugade: Positive Emotional Granularity and Resilience: Representing Emotions with Precision Facilitates Emotion Regulation
Psychological resilience is the ability to overcome stress and even thrive in the face of adversity (e.g., J. Block & Block, 1980; Masten, Best, Garmezy, 1990). While much of the existing literature focuses on the predictors of resilience and their outcomes, very little attention has been given to the underlying mechanisms that contribute to this capacity to fare well despite stress. Positive emotional granularity is the tendency to discriminate between positive emotions (e.g., joy, interest, contentment), rather than representing feelings in terms of more global states (i.e., pleasantness). Recent research demonstrates that positive emotions can be differentiated from one another (Shiota & Keltner, 2002) and that distinct positive emotions serve to broaden and build personal resources in different ways (Fredrickson, 1998; 2001). This research examines whether people actually make these distinctions when they represent their on-line emotional experience in the context of their daily lives, and the consequences that this has for emotion regulation and resilience. A multi-method approach is employed, including experience-sampling procedures to track momentary experiences of emotion and coping, as well as laboratory tasks to test theoretically derived predictions about emotion regulation.
Leaf Van Boven: The Social Value of Experiential Versus Material Investments
University of Colorado
I examined whether, compared to material possessions, life experiences are associated with more favorable impressions of people and might better foster successful social relationships. I found that there is a negative stereotype of materialistic people who invest most of their disposable resources in material possessions, and a more positive stereotype of experiential people who invest most of their disposable income in life experiences (Study 1). These stereotypes led people to form more favorable impressions of strangers who invested in life experiences than of strangers who invested in material possessions (Study 2). Finally, participants who were asked to have a conversation with another each other about experiential purchases were more likely to say that they liked each other more, that they enjoyed talking to each other more, and were more interested in pursuing a friendship with the other discussant compared to participants who discussed material purchases (Study 3).