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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’m also pleased to announce the 2002 publication of Evil in Mind: The Psychology of Harming Others by Oxford University Press.

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:

  • Burris, C. T. (2020). Poker-faced and godless: Expressive suppression and atheism. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. Advance online publication.
  • Rempel, J. K., Burris, C. T., & Fathi, D. (2019). Hate: Evidence for a motivational conceptualization. Motivation and Emotion, 43, 179-190.
  • Burris, C. T. (2016). Nirvana road: Dissociative experiences predict “Eastern” beliefs about postmortem existence. International Journal for the Psychology of Religion, 26, 348-359.
  • 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., & Edwards, S. (2017). Does facial width-to-height ratio differentiate among male offender types? Journal of Criminal Psychology, 7, 280-286.
  • Burris, C. T., & Leitch, R. (2018). Harmful fun: Pranks and sadistic motivation. Motivation and Emotion, 42, 90-102.
  • 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., & 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., & 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., & 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., 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., & Viscontas, T. (2020). Sins of the flesh: Subliminal disapproval by God or people decreases endorsement of hedonistic sex. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 12, 223-230.
  • 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., 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.
  • Loewen, M. G. H., Burris, C. T., & Nacke, L. E. (2021). Me, myself, and not-I: Self-discrepancy type predicts avatar creation style. Frontiers in Psychology: Human-Media Interaction, 11, 9102.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Rempel, J. K., & Burris, C. T. (2005). Let me count the ways: An integrative theory of love and hate. Personal Relationships, 12, 297-313.
  • 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.

Other Publications:

  • 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.
  • 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., & 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.

Courses Taught:

  • Psychology of Death and Dying
  • Psychology of Evil
  • Psychology of Good
  • Psychology of Men
  • 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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