Team of Wheaton College Faculty Awarded $190,000 Research Grant

August 8, 2019

A new research grant from the University of Oklahoma’s The Self, Virtue & Public Life will give Wheaton College’s Dr. Kristin Garrett and a team of other Wheaton faculty members the opportunity to investigate how humility and social identity influence the way people navigate political differences.

Dr. Kristin Garrett 380x253As the political climate grew increasingly contentious over the past few years, Wheaton College Assistant Professor of Political Science Dr. Kristin Garrett started mulling over some questions: What would it look like if people applied character traits and actions like humility, gratitude, patience, kindness, civility, and forgiveness to their political interactions? Would it reduce partisan animosity?

Those questions formed the basis of a new research project, “The Mitigating Effects of Humility and Social Identity on Hostility and Stress Across Political Differences,” which was recently awarded a grant from the University of Oklahoma’s The Self, Virtue & Public Life project, an initiative funded by the Templeton Religion Trust. The $190,000 grant will enable Garrett and a team of faculty co-investigators to “investigate how humility develops, translates to public life, and helps citizens navigate political differences,” she said. “The broad purpose of the project is to shed light on strategies to reduce hostility and stress between political opponents in ways that contribute to human flourishing in public life.” 

“I am very grateful for this grant and the opportunity it affords to investigate a timely question that has real-world implications for reducing the partisan division and hostility we see in our current political climate,” Garrett said. “This research will shed light on ways that individuals, churches, schools, and discussion groups can better facilitate interactions between political opponents that are characterized by respect, civility, and kindness.”

Garrett will lead a team of faculty co-investigators, which include Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Bryan McGraw, Associate Professor of Biology Dr. Nathaniel Thom, Professor of Philosophy Dr. W. Jay Wood, Visiting Distinguished Professor of Psychology Dr. Everett Worthington, and Professor of Mathematics Dr. Darcie Delzell.

“Each person on our team contributes a unique perspective and expertise to strengthen our study,” Garrett said. “I’m grateful that Wheaton, as a liberal arts institution, supports interdisciplinary teaching and research. This makes it easy to collaborate across departmental lines on research and equips us to fulfill one of the stipulations of this grant, which is ‘deep integration’ across the humanities and sciences.” 

The grant starts in fall 2019, and the research study will commence in spring 2020.—Emily Bratcher