June 3, 2014

Research Presentations with Dr. Rod Bassett

The following research was presented by Dr. Rod Bassett as a paper and two poster presentations at the 2014 CAPS (Christian Association for Psychological Studies)  International Conference in Atlanta, GA, April 3-5.   All were co-authored by RWC undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology.

Is It Really More Blessed to Give than to Receive?  A revisiting of Forgiveness and Health

Authors: Rodney L. Bassett, Na Ra Pak, Rachael Schwingel, Alexandra Majors, Meredith Pitre, Andrea Sundlof-Stoller, Carol Bloser

Abstract: Previous work considering the relationships between various types of dispositional forgiveness and well-being found greater physical health was predicted by higher levels of self-forgiveness and seeking forgiveness. But, neither granting forgiveness nor perceptions of being forgiven by God predicted well-being. This project reports a conceptual replication of this previous work.

Participants: Students in a Christian graduate program research class distributed a questionnaire to family members, friends, and close acquaintances (including other graduate students in the same program but not the same research class). In addition, undergraduate students were recruited from a collection of undergraduate psychology classes. For those students who did choose to participate from the undergraduate classes, a small amount of class extra credit was given as a way of thanking them for their participation. In all, 141 surveys were completed and returned. The average age of participants was 26.8 (SD = 14.5) years of age with the range from 17 to 76 years of age. Also, 70.9% (100) of the participants indicated that they were female. Among the undergraduate students (n = 103, 73.6%), 49 (34.8%) were first year students, 19 (13.5%) were sophomores, 15 (10.6%) were juniors, and 20 (14.2%) were seniors. The remaining participants (n = 37, 26.2%) fell into the friends, family, and other graduate student category.


Moral Foundations Theory and the Inclination to Forgive or Seek Forgiveness

Authors: Rodney L. Bassett, Jessica Breault, Kathryn Buettner, Julia Vitale, Sofia Moore, Mandi Hochheimer

Abstract: Forgiveness occurs in the context of a transgression. How people view transgressions should flow from their view of morality. Moral Foundations Theory proposes that across cultures and times people have made moral judgments based upon five dimensions. Haidt and Graham (2007) named these areas (or foundations): Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. This study considered the possibility that differences in moral concerns might alter tendencies toward granting and seeking forgiveness.

Procedures: Students at a Christian college and friends and family of the researchers responded to a questionnaire (N = 138). The average age of the participants was 21.2 years old, 73.2 % of the participants were female, and 16.4% of the participants were friends and family. The questionnaire included the following measures: (a) religious orientation, (b) political liberalism/conservatism, (c) the Moral Foundations Sacredness Scale, (d) a measure religious fundamentalism, (e) measures of dispositional tendencies toward self-forgiveness, granting forgiveness, and seeking forgiveness.

Results: A one-way repeated measures ANOVA indicated there were significant differences between the average values for the different foundations of morality, F(4, 540) = 62.71, p < .001. The foundations of harm and purity were rated the highest while authority was rated the lowest. When predicting the different foundations of morality: (a) there were direct relationships between Christian identity and the ingroup and purity foundations, (b) direct relationships between extrinsic-personal orientation and the harm, ingroup, authority, and purity foundations, (c) extrinsic-social orientation was independent of all the moral foundations, (d) intrinsic orientation was directly related to the fairness, ingroup, authority, and purity foundations, and (e) quest orientation was inversely related to the ingroup and authority foundations. However, dispositional tendencies toward all three types of forgiveness were statistically independent of all the moral foundations.

Discussion: The results of this study suggested that the criteria/foundations for determining the rightness or wrongness of an action did not predict inclinations to forgive. Perhaps, once a behavior is judged wrong what determines the tendency to be involved in forgiveness is not the criteria of rightness or wrongness but, rather, relational factors. A second study is currently being conducted to test this possibility.

Terror Management Theory: Empirical consideration of the good, bad, and ugly

Authors: Bassett, R. L., Clark, N., Dalberth, R., Goetz, C. & Streb, E.

Abstract:  Much of the work with Terror Management Theory has focused on the deleterious effects of mortality salience (MS). However, Vail et al. (2012) have argued that the trajectory of MS (for good or for bad) may hinge on the aspects of worldview or personal belief that are cognitively salient. This project tested the possibility that reading different scripture passages might alter the trajectory of MA. 

Introduction:  Given the self-awareness and capacity for abstract thought that has accompanied the development of the human brain, human beings have the ‘privilege’ of being able to anticipate that they will die. When you juxtapose that awareness with an instinct for self-preservation the result is typically death anxiety. At a conscious level, human beings are likely to deny that death will happen soon (“I come from good genetic stock!”) or respond with strategies to prolong life: “I will finally lose weight,” “I will get serious about exercise,” etc. However, when that anxiety drops out of conscious awareness Terror Management Theory (e. g. TMT, see Burke, Martens, & Faucher, 2010; Pyszczynski, Greenberg, & Solomon, 1999) predicts an array of interesting effects in regards to such things as evaluating moral transgressions, stereotyping, in-group bias, intergroup conflict, and conformity to personal and cultural standards.  

Essentially, this interesting array of effects encompasses nonconscious efforts to defend against death anxiety by literally or symbolically believing that some aspect of self will survive death (Burke, Martens, & Faucher, 2010). Literal survival involves belief in some form of afterlife (e.g., heaven). Symbolic survival involves anchoring your life in things that have lasting value. The implicit assumption behind symbolic survival is the notion that a life well-lived is more than just “smoke and spitting into the wind” (Ecclesiates 4:16, The Message). For most of us, a well-lived life is one that is invested in our belief system and our close relationships. Thus, TMT predicts that mortality salience (MS), at a nonconscious level, will cause individuals to exercise worldview defense by “hunkering down” in terms of what they believe and highlighting relationships with people they care about.

Although the bulk of the TMT literature has, to this point, mainly emphasized how thinking about death can have a deleterious effect upon persons and culture even within this literature there have been inklings that the outcome is not always bad. Vail, Juhl, Arndt, Vess, Routledge, and Rutjens (2012) have more fully developed this notion into a model that captures the bad and the good of thinking about death. As one aspect of this model, these authors essentially argue that the trajectory of mortality salience (for good or for bad) may hinge on the aspects of worldview or personal belief that are cognitively salient. If aspects of a worldview are condemning and judgmental, and those are cognitively salient, then the resulting worldview defense will produce intolerance and anti-social behavior. However, if the aspects of a worldview are caring and prosocial, then worldview defense may well produce tolerance, helping, and compassion.

Results:  Compared PANAS scores using 2 x 2 independent groups ANOVA to confirm equivalent emotions immediately after control and MS primes. There were no significant differences. Manipulation checks for scripture filler tasks: Just World vs. Grace, Mercy, Compassion

Grace, Mercy, Compassion: Good Samaritan > Talent Parable (worked)

Just World: Good Samaritan = Talent Parable (didn’t work)