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Maintained by Scott Plous, Wesleyan University

Christopher T. Burris

Christopher T. Burris

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Broadly speaking, my research spans four areas:

(1) Religion – I received the "Early Research Contribution Award" by Division 36 (Psychology of Religion) of the APA in 1997. Recent explorations include: (a) differences in inner experiential worlds of atheists and religious individuals; (b) the link between an expansive spiritual orientation and (possibly hard-wired) tendencies to anthropomorphize inanimate objects; (c) the effects of virtual gaming on spiritual/religious proclivities; and (d) predictors and consequences of experiencing the self as timeless.

(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; more recently, we have begun to explore the self-expansion or "engulfment" aspect, which appears rife with problematic social implications.

(3) Sexuality – Topics have included: (a) shame as a trigger of sexual compulsivity; (b) motivated concealment of sexual predilections; (c) the impact of evaluative threat on sexual interests; and (d) the link between men’s openness to fatherhood and their arousal in response to specific configurations of female secondary sex characteristics.

(4) Motivation and Emotion – The most notable work in this area centers on a motivational conceptualization of love and hate: Empirical tests of ideas derived from this conceptualization are currently being subjected to the peer-review gauntlet.

I am proud to say that many of my recent publications are the result of academic partnerships with (current and/or former) undergraduate students. Teaching courses on evil, religion, and “dark side” of sexuality have often pointed to gaps in the research literature. This, in turn, creates the motivation to test ideas, and the results can then be brought back into the classroom.

Hopefully, the net result is an incrementally better understanding of some of life's "big" issues.

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:

  • 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., & 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.
  • Petrican, R., Burris, C. T., & Moscovitch, M. (2015). Shame, sexual compulsivity, and the eroticization of flirtatious others: An experimental study. Journal of Sex Research, 52, 98-109.
  • 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., & Schrage, K. M. (2014). Anxiety, social threat, and the diversion of sexual interests. Sexual Addiction & Compulsivity, 21, 187-202.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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., & Munteanu, A. R. (2012). Preferred female body proportions among childfree men. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41, 1431-1437.
  • Burris, C. T., & Munteanu, A. (2015). Greater arousal in response to expansive female pubic hair is linked to more positive reactions to female sterility among heterosexual men. Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality 24, 63-68.
  • Burris, C. T. (in press). Nirvana road: Dissociative experiences predict “Eastern” beliefs about postmortem existence. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion.
  • 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.

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
  • Dark Side of Sexuality
  • Psychology of Death and Dying
  • Psychology of Evil
  • 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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