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Christopher T. Burris

Christopher T. Burris

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Broadly speaking, my current research spans three areas:

(1) Religion – Recent discoveries include links between: dissociative experiences and the endorsement of "Eastern" post-mortem beliefs; subliminal divine or human disapproval and people's willingness to "okay" various motives for engaging in sexual behaviour; and expressive suppression of emotions and atheism.

(2) The Self – Most of this work has focused on elaborating and testing Amoebic Self Theory (AST), which asserts that a person's sense of self is constructed and maintained via a multidimensional psychological boundary analogous to the enclosing, protective membrane of a one-celled organism. With my colleague John Rempel, the first series of papers focused on the self-protection aspect; we have also explored the self-expansion or "engulfment" aspect, which appears rife with problematic social implications.

(3) Motivation and Emotion – The most notable work in this area centers on a motivational conceptualization of love and hate. I've also looked at how subliminally equating caring with strength can disinhibit masculine men's experience of empathy, and how sensitivity to disrespect combined with ruminative anger can trigger sadistic motivation that manifests in behavioural domains such as pranking.

I also have a book-length manuscript about the psychology of evil that's floating somewhere in the netherworld.

I am grateful and proud to say that many of my publications are the result of academic partnerships with (current and/or former) undergraduate students. Teaching courses on good, evil, religion, and death have often pointed to gaps in the research literature. This, in turn, sparks a drive to test ideas, and the results can then be brought back into the classroom.

Hopefully, the net result of all this is an incrementally better understanding of some of life's "big" issues. That would be swell.

Primary Interests:

  • Aggression, Conflict, Peace
  • Close Relationships
  • Emotion, Mood, Affect
  • Ethics and Morality
  • Helping, Prosocial Behavior
  • Motivation, Goal Setting
  • Personality, Individual Differences
  • Self and Identity

Journal Articles:

  • Rempel, J. K., Burris, C. T., & Fathi, D. (2019). Hate: Evidence for a motivational conceptualization. Motivation and Emotion, 43, 179-190.
  • Burris, C. T., Rempel, J. K., & Viscontas, T. (2019). Sins of the flesh: Subliminal disapproval by God or people decreases endorsement of hedonistic sex. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication.
  • Burris, C. T., & Sani, F. (2014). The immutable likeness of “being”: Experiencing the self as timeless. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 24, 85-103.
  • Rempel, J. K., & Burris, C. T. (2005). Let me count the ways: An integrative theory of love and hate. Personal Relationships, 12, 297-313.
  • Reesor Rempel, S., & Burris, C. T. (2015). Personal values as predictors of donor-focused versus recipient-focused organizational helping philosophies. Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 44, 181-191.
  • Petrican, R., & Burris, C. T. (2014). Transcendent experiences motivate “escape” from the body via intimate partnerships. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 24, 104-123.
  • Burris, C. T., Schrage, K. M., & Rempel, J. K. (2016). No country for girly men: High instrumentality men express empathic concern when caring is “manly.” Motivation and Emotion, 40, 278-289.
  • Burris, C. T., & Sani, F. (2016). Beyond death’s (and conception’s) door: The unsettling limitations of incarnate existence. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26, 113-123.
  • Burris, C. T., Rempel, J. K., Munteanu, A. R., & Therrien, P. A. (2013). More, more, more: The dark side of self-expansion motivation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 39, 578-595.
  • Burris, C. T., & Rempel, J. K. (2004). "It's the end of the world as we know it": Threat and the spatial-symbolic self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 86, 19-42.
  • Burris, C. T., & Rempel, J. K. (2008). Me, myself, and us: Salient self-threats and relational connections. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 95, 944-961.
  • Burris, C. T., & Raif, K. (2015). Make-believe unmakes belief: Childhood play style and adult personality as predictors of religious identity change. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 25, 91-106.
  • Burris, C. T., & Petrican, R. (2011). Hearts strangely warmed (and cooled): Emotional experience in religious and atheistic individuals. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 21, 183-197.
  • Burris, C. T., & Leitch, R. (2018). Harmful fun: Pranks and sadistic motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 42, 90-102.
  • Burris, C. T., & Edwards, S. (2017). Does facial width-to-height ratio differentiate among male offender types? Journal of Criminal Psychology, 7, 280-286.
  • Burris, C. T., & Dow, T. (2015). Lost in the Myst?: Narrative video gaming decreases self-reported propensity for spiritual/religious experience. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 25, 18-28.
  • Burris, C. T. (2016). Nirvana road: Dissociative experiences predict “Eastern” beliefs about postmortem existence. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26, 348-359.

Other Publications:

  • Burris, C. T., & Rempel, J. K. (2012). Good and evil in religion: The interpersonal context. In L. Miller (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality (pp. 123-137). New York: Oxford.
  • Burris, C. T., & Petrican, R. (2014). Religion, negative emotions, and regulation. In V. Saroglou (Ed.), Religion, personality, and social behavior (pp. 96-122). East Sussex, UK: Psychology Press.
  • Burris, C. T., & Leitch, R. (2016). Your pain, my gain: The interpersonal context of sadism. In K. Aumer (Ed.), Psychology of love and hate in intimate relationships. New York: Springer.

Courses Taught:

  • Criminal Profiling
  • Psychology of Death and Dying
  • Psychology of Evil
  • Psychology of Good
  • Psychology of Religious Experience

Christopher T. Burris
Department of Psychology
St. Jerome's University
Waterloo, Ontario N2L 3G3

  • Phone: (519) 884-8111, ext. 28213
  • Fax: (519) 884-5759

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