A team of researchers from Western’s Network for Economic and Social Trends (NEST) has received a Grand Challenges for Human Flourishing award from the Templeton World Charity Foundation.
Jordan Mansell, a postdoctoral researcher in political science, received the funding for a project focusing on emotional regulation and out-group prejudice. He hopes the findings will help develop more effective anti-prejudice programs.
Mansell is collaborating with NEST director Victoria Esses and political science professor Mathieu Turgeon, as well as researchers from six other universities. The group is partnering with the Mosaic Institute, a “think-and-do tank” committed to dismantling prejudice, advancing pluralism and reducing conflict.
The awards were created to support research that pushes the boundaries of scientific knowledge to help people flourish, attracting applicants worldwide.
“We are honoured to be part of this effort to investigate innovations in human flourishing,” Mansell said. “We have pulled together a project team of excellent scholars across North America to pool our skills and expertise in our partnership with Mosaic Institute to evaluate and devise anti-prejudice programs.”
With a goal of reducing psychological barriers to equity and inclusion, the group is studying how the regulation and appraisal of emotions connects to prejudice and attitudes toward others.
While emotions influence empathy or pro-sociality, they may also bias perceptions of trustworthiness or community membership based on cues such as skin colour, Mansell said.
“Scholars have demonstrated a strong and reliable correlation between prejudice and individuals’ tendencies to experience environmental inputs as negative. Our project explores whether the suppression of negative emotions contributes to the expression of prejudicial attitudes.”
Mansell also hopes to investigate whether training individuals to reappraise their emotions constructively instead of suppressing them will reduce their sensitivity to negative emotions and consequently their levels of prejudice.
Beyond the research itself, Mansell’s team will join the other award recipients in shaping Templeton’s thought leadership initiatives by participating in webinars, contributing to articles and using other opportunities to share their findings.
More than 500 teams of scientists from over 350 academic institutions across the world answered the Foundation’s call for ideas about happiness, meaning and purpose, spiritual well-being and striving in adversity. The 11 recipients span more than 40 researchers at over two dozen institutions who received a total of more than $1 million to explore these ideas and further science that advances human flourishing.
“Human flourishing is an enormous, uncharted field for scientific inquiry,” said Templeton Foundation president Andrew Serazin. “We are incredibly pleased with the high calibre and scientific ambition of the ideas submitted. Successful ideas were those which had global relevance and comprised deep interdisciplinary teams.”