JoAnn Tsang and Sarah Schnitker in collaboration with Robert Emmons and Peter Hill, as a part of the Gratitude to God grant from the John Templeton Foundation, are investigating gratitude to God during the COVID-19 pandemic. They are conducting an experimental study examining how engaging in a gratitude journaling exercise whereby participants are randomly assigned to think about their thanks to God might lead to different outcomes than when participants are randomly assigned to think about thanks to other agents (e.g., their parents, country, people in general). They conducted a first wave of data collection the first week of March, and they conducted a second wave of data collection (albeit with new participants) the first week of April that also included questions related to fear about COVID-19 and the extent to which people are following social distancing practices. In relation to the COVID-19 findings, they are interested in testing if the content of people's thanks toward God or other agents differs now compared to early March (e.g., more focus on basic needs, more/less gratitude overall) and whether being thankful to God might change appraisals of the COVID-19 situation compared to other gratitude conditions (or change intention to follow social distancing).
Sarah Schnitker, PhD, joined the psychology and neuroscience department at Baylor University in fall 2018 as an associate professor. She holds a PhD and an MA in personality and social psychology from the University of California, Davis, and a BA in psychology from Grove City College. Prior to joining the faculty at Baylor University, Schnitker was an associate professor in the Thrive Center for Human Development at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, Calif.. Schnitker studies virtue and character development in adolescents and emerging adults, with a focus on the role of spirituality and religion in virtue formation. She specializes in the study of patience, self-control, gratitude, generosity, and thrift. Schnitker has procured more than $3.5 million in funding as a principle investigator on multiple research grants, and she has published in a variety of scientific journals and edited volumes. Schnitker is a member-at-large for APA’s Div. 36 (Society for the Psychology of Religion and Spirituality), is a consulting editor for the organization’s flagship journal, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, and is the recipient of the Virginia Sexton American Psychological Association’s Div. 36 Mentoring Award.