A stairway to heaven: A terror management theory perspective on morality

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Congratulations to our Summer Session 2017 participant Andrea Yetzer, PhD student in Psychology at Northwestern University. She’s written a chapter for “Atlas of moral psychology,” out now from Guilford Press.
Abstract:
This chapter views moral values, judgment, and behavior from the framework of terror management theory (Solomon, Greenberg, & Pyszczynski, 1991, 2015). Terror management theory posits that as cultural animals, we seek to achieve the behavioral standards set forth by our cultural worldviews, from which we derive both self-worth and meaning, as they ultimately protect us from the anxiety aroused by thoughts of our own eventual death. From a terror management perspective, individuals care about living up to moral values because doing so enables them to view themselves as enduring, significant contributors to a meaningful world who will continue to exist after death–either literally by qualifying for an afterlife, or symbolically by contributing to something greater than themselves that will last forever.
Citation:
Yetzer, A. M., Pyszczynski, T., & Greenberg, J. (2018). A stairway to heaven: A terror management theory perspective on morality. In K. Gray & J. Graham (Eds.), Atlas of moral psychology (pp. 241-251). New York: Guilford Press.

Interview with Andrea Yetzer, Summer Session Participant

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This post is part of a series of interviews with our participants for the “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” 2017 Summer Seminar. Andrea Yetzer is earning her PhD in Psychology at Northwestern University. Valerie Wallace is Associate Director, Communications, for Virtue, Happiness, & the Meaning of Life.

Valerie Wallace: Where are you from?

Andrea Yetzer: I’m originally from Chicago, but currently live in Colorado Springs, CO for my Master’s program.  I’ll actually be moving back to Chicago this fall to start my PhD program at Northwestern.
VW: Tell me about your research.
AY: My research framework stems from working in a terror management theory lab where I have focused on the relationship between morality and psychological equanimity.  Prior to beginning my Master’s program, I worked with veterans in mental health at the Jesse Brown VA in Chicago.  It is there that I came across research on the construct of moral injury—a trauma dimension that occurs from perpetrating, experiencing, or witnessing acts or events that violate deeply held moral values and beliefs; this experience is what drove my passion to research the role of morality in psychological functioning.
Currently, my research focuses on the self-regulatory processes of moral behavior and emotions, and how perseveration on failures to achieve moral behavioral standards may lead to moral injury.  In doing this research, I have become fascinated with the almost ubiquitous role of morality–from religious and secular laws, to self-regulation, and to politics and intergroup relations.  As I transition into my PhD program, my research will now focus on the more positive aspects of morality and how such worldviews can stimulate other-oriented moral emotions and motivate prosocial action.
VW: What are your non-academic interests?
AY: I’m really into a wide variety of music (Chicago house music, soul, Motown, hip-hop, etc.) and I used to frequent the Lyric Opera.  I also love podcasts, going to baseball games (White Sox fan here), and you can be sure that my answer is always a ‘yes’ for karaoke.  Before I entered grad school and fell out of “fighting shape,” I was pretty involved in obstacle course racing (e.g., Spartan Race, Tough Mudder) and team endurance events (GORUCK).
VW: What are you most looking forward to about this summer’s seminar?
AY: What I am most looking forward to about this seminar is gaining knowledge from the moral philosophical framework of virtue and happiness, and how this may inform and/or strengthen my research.  To be honest, I think all the seminars are going to be incredibly insightful and engaging, and I’m looking forward to meeting other scholars working in this area, and creating strong research networks!

Group Photo and Last Day of the Summer Seminar “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence”

“I feel very fortunate to have listened to and engaged with such gifted people from so many places…”

“I’m having a great fascinating time and I’ve heard attendees from all perspectives/traditions express how appreciative they are of getting this opportunity to have a respectful interdisciplinary discussion on these topics.”

We feel the same, and grateful for the comments already coming our way from our fabulous participants.

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From left: Madison Gilbertson, Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Sarah Ann Bixler, Cabrini Pak, Dan McAdams, Andrea Yetzer, Candace Vogler, Jennifer Rothschild, Ellen Dulaney, Anselm Mueller, Samantha Mendez, David McPherson, Joseph Stenberg, Fr. Steve Brock, Andrew Flynn, Jennifer A. Frey, James Dominic Rooney, Jane Klinger, Molly Ogunyemi, Tim Reilly, Craig Iffland, Marta Faria, Elise Murray, Andrew Christy, Alberto Arruda, Sanaz Talaifar, Theresa Smart, Maureen Bielinski, Samuel Baker, Jaime Hovey, Tal Brewer, Anne Jeffrey.

Today’s sessions are Jennifer Frey on Happiness and Candace Vogler on Happiness and Social Life; follow along with our live-tweeting from @UChiVirtue.

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Below is a sampling from yesterday’s sessions with Fr Stephen Brock on Aquinas and the Law and Dan McAdams on Generativity.

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Announcing the Participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence”

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We’re delighted to share the list of participants for our 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, and Self-Transcendence“, who hail from all corners of the globe and will convene at the University of Chicago for a week this June. These young researchers will participate in intensive workshop sessions with our faculty to deepen their own research  through conversations with a network of fellow collaborators in the areas of Philosophy, Psychology, and Theology/Religious Studies.

The accepted participants for the 2017 Summer Seminar, “Virtue, Happiness, & Self-Transcendence” are:

Alberto Arruda, University of Lisbon
Samuel Baker, University of South Alabama
Maureen Bielinski, University of St. Thomas, TX
Sarah Bixler, Princeton Theological Seminary
Andrew Christy, Texas A&M University
Ellen Dulaney, DePaul University
Marta Faria, Pontifical University of the Holy Cross, Rome
Andrew Flynn, University of California – Los Angeles
Madison Gilbertson, Fuller Graduate School of Psychology
Craig Iffland, University of Notre Dame
Anne Jeffrey, University of South Alabama
Jane Klinger, University of Waterloo
David McPherson, Creighton University
Samantha Mendez, University of the Philippines- Diliman
Elise Murray, Tufts University
Omowumi Ogunyemi, Institute of humanities of the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos
Cabrini Pak, The Catholic University of America
Carissa Phillips-Garrett, Rice University
Timothy Reilly, University of Notre Dame
James Dominic Rooney, Saint Louis University
Jennifer Rothschild, University of Florida
Theresa Smart, University of Notre Dame
Joseph Stenberg, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Sanaz Talaifar, University of Texas at Austin
Andrea Yetzer, University of Colorado, Colorado Springs