PSYCHOLOGIST RECEIVES PROFESSION'S LARGEST MONETARY PRIZE
FOR RESEARCH ON HOW MORAL EMOTIONS MOTIVATES PEOPLE TO DO PRO-SOCIAL
June 1, 2001 --
A University of Virginia researcher received psychology's
largest monetary prize May 29 for research on how people are motivated
to do pro-social deeds by witnessing "saintly" behavior
in others. Jonathan Haidt, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychology
at the University of Virginia, was the unanimous choice for the
John Templeton Positive Psychology Prize first place award of $100,000.
American Psychological Association (APA), with underwriting support
from the John Templeton Foundation (JTF), created the awards program.
Now in its second year, the prizes are intended to encourage first-rate
mid-career scientists to devote their best efforts to positive psychology
topics, such as optimism, moral identity, self-control, goal-focused
living, thrift, courage and future-mindedness.
Haidt's research focuses on an emotion he calls "elevation,"
which is the human reaction to witnessing human moral beauty. This
emotion is the opposite of moral disgust. His research suggests
that elevation is triggered by manifestations of humanity's higher
or better nature, which generally causes a warm or glowing feeling
in the chest and motivates people to do pro-social deeds themselves.
Dr. Haidt's main research goal is to map out the details and uses
of elevation to discover the range of events that trigger it, the
conditions that maximizes its impact and the age at which children
begin to feel it. "I hope to design projects that attempt to
use elevation as a kind of 'moral reset button,' that is, a sudden,
powerful emotional experience, shared with others, that makes people
re-orient their goals and feelings in a more pro-social direction,"
said Dr. Haidt.
other researchers also received Templeton Positive Psychology Prizes
during a ceremony in Philadelphia. Laura King, Ph.D., associate
professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University, received
the second place prize of $50,000 for her research on how our daily
goals can have a positive affect on our thoughts, mood, behavior
and well-being. Dr. King's research also examines how people create
good lives within sometimes unexpected circumstances, such as parenting
a child with Down Syndrome, experiencing a divorce, or finding oneself
to be infertile. Her work focuses on the stories people tell about
their life circumstances, and how those stories relate to the experience
of meaning and happiness.
E. McCullough, Ph.D., won the third place prize of $30,000. He is
an associate professor of psychology at Southern Methodist University.
Dr. McCullough's research focuses on forgiveness, gratitude and
religion/spirituality and how they can improve health, happiness
or good interpersonal relationships.
And the fourth place prize of $20,000 was won by Gustavo Carlo,
Ph.D., associate professor and Gallup Research fellow at the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln for his research on individual, parenting and
cultural influences of positive social and moral behaviors in children
and adolescents. Dr. Carlo's future research plans include conducting
a longitudinal study of prosocial development in ethnic minority
children and also researching how prosocial behaviors lead to positive
self-concept development in adolescents. The Templeton Positive
Psychology Prize is open to researchers in all the social sciences,
not just psychology. The first place award of $100,000 is divided
as a prize of $30,000, to be used any way the recipient chooses,
and a grant of $70,000 to support research in the positive psychology
field. The second place award of $50,000 includes a prize of $15,000
and a grant of $35,000; the third place award of $30,000 includes
a prize of $10,000 and a grant of $20,000; and the fourth place
award of $20,000 includes a prize of $7,500 and a grant of $12,500.
The American Psychological Association (APA), in Washington,
DC, is the largest scientific and professional organization representing
psychology in the United States and is the worlds largest
association of psychologists. APAs membership includes more
than 155,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and
students. Through its divisions in 53 subfields of psychology and
affiliations with 59 state, territorial and Canadian provincial
associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a
profession and as a means of promoting human welfare.