Travis Proulx

Travis Proulx
Cardiff University | CU · School of Psychology

Doctor of Psychology

About

56
Publications
35,357
Reads
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3,408
Citations
Introduction
I am a social cognition researcher who studies existential psychology, cognitive consistency and psychophysiological reactions to meaning violations.
Additional affiliations
April 2016 - present
Cardiff University
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
January 2011 - March 2016
Tilburg University
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
January 2010 - December 2010
Simon Fraser University
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
Education
January 2006 - November 2008
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Field of study
  • Developmental Psychology
January 2004 - December 2005
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Field of study
  • Developmental Psychology
September 2001 - December 2003
University of British Columbia - Vancouver
Field of study
  • Interdisciplinary Studies

Publications

Publications (56)
Article
Humans maintain a negativity bias, whereby they perceive threatening stimuli to be more salient than rewarding or neutral stimuli. Across 6 within-subject experimental comparisons, we tested the hypothesis that humans maintain an even stronger expectancy bias, preferentially processing stimuli that violate mental representations of expected associa...
Article
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ion , andthe subsequent iteration of the MMM incorporatedthis compensatory effort into our descriptive taxon-omy (Proulx & Heine, 2010). In later empirical work,we demonstrated that unrelated meaning violations,such as absurd art and mortality threats, increased astate need for simple structure (Proulx, Heine, & Vohs,2010)—as had previously been de...
Article
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Cognitive dissonance theory shares much in common with other perspectives that address anomalies, uncertainty, and general expectancy violations. This has led some theorists to argue that these theories represent overlapping psychological processes. If responding to dissonance and uncertainty occurs through a common psychological process, one shoul...
Article
It has been repeatedly shown that, when people have experiences that are inconsistent with their expectations, they engage in a variety of compensatory efforts. Although there have been many superficially different accounts for these behaviors, a potentially unifying inconsistency compensation perspective is currently coalescing. Following from a c...
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Progressivism has increasingly challenged traditional liberalism as the dominant influence within left-wing ideology. Across four studies, we developed a measure-the Progressive Values Scale (PVS)-that characterizes distinctly progressive values within the left-wing. In Study 1, left-wing participants evaluated divisive issues, with four scale fact...
Article
More than 40 years ago, Paul Meehl (1978) published a seminal critique of the state of theorizing in psychological science. According to Meehl, the quality of theories had diminished in the preceding decades, resulting in statistical methods standing in for theoretical rigor. In this introduction to the special issue Theory in Psychological Science...
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According to violation–compensation models of cognitive conflict, experiences that violate expected associations evoke a common, biologically based syndrome of aversive arousal, which in turn motivates compensation efforts to relieve this arousal. However, while substantial research shows that people indeed respond with increased arousal to expecta...
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Background: and Objectives: This research examined whether life meaning promotes resilience to stressor-related psychological distress and repetitive negative thinking. Design and Methods: Three studies (total N = 273) used cross-sectional (Study 1) and prospective (Studies 2 and 3) designs to assess the relation between life meaning and response t...
Article
We examined whether people can simultaneously apply 2 cognitive strategies in social categorizations. Specifically, we tested whether stereotypes concerning social power of gender categories interact with metaphoric power-space links. Based on the conceptual blending perspective suggesting that semantically consistent concepts acquire each other's...
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People with strong (vs. moderate) political attitudes have been shown to exhibit less phasic reactivity to perceptual anomalies, presumably to prevent their committed meaning systems from being challenged by novel experiences. Several researchers have proposed that (but not tested whether) firmly committed individuals also engage in more attentiona...
Article
Scientific theories explain phenomena using simplifying assumptions—for instance, that the speed of light does not depend on the direction in which the light is moving, or that the shape of a pea plant’s seeds depends on a small number of alleles randomly obtained from its parents. These simplifying assumptions often take the form of statistical nu...
Preprint
Scientific theories explain phenomena using simplifying assumptions: for instance, that the speed of light does not depend on the direction in which the light is moving, or that the height of a pea plant depends on a small number of alleles randomly obtained from its parents. The ability to support these simplifying assumptions with statistical evi...
Article
Social scientists study social categories. In recent years, an account has emerged of one particular social category, an atavistic portrayal of a cohort whose genes were selected for in a primitive stage of human history, whose behaviors are shaped by a heightened sensitivity to negative experiences, and who are characterized by relatively lower in...
Article
Previous research has shown that people are risk-seeking in the face of losses. We propose that this risk-seeking orientation is a palliative approach response to deal with a discrepancy between people's desire to avoid losses versus the possibility of loss. An expectancy violation (which induces behavioral approach responses) would therefore stren...
Chapter
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We propose that people are genetic essentialists—that is, they tend to think of genetic attributions as being immutable, of a specific etiology, natural, and dividing people into homogenous and discrete groups. Although there are rare conditions where genes operate in these kinds of deterministic ways, people overgeneralize from these to the far mo...
Article
Building on psychological research linking essentialist beliefs about human differences with prejudice, we test whether lay belief in the biological basis of political ideology is associated with political intolerance and social avoidance. In two studies of American adults (Study 1: N = 288, Study 2: N = 164), we find that belief in the biological...
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One possible consequence of ideological homogeneity is the misinterpretation of data collected with otherwise solid methods. To help identify these issues outside of politically relevant research, we name and give broad descriptions to three questionable interpretive practices described by Duarte et al. and introduce three additional questionable t...
Article
Theorists of differing eras and perspectives have converged on three general conceits regarding personality: (1) self-reported traits and goals and narratives are often explanations for behaviour; (2) these explanations accumulate over time; and (3) the application of one explanation or another generally depends on the identity problem raised in a...
Chapter
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The social psychological literature on threat and defense is fragmented. Groups of researchers have focused on distinct threats, such as mortality, uncertainty, uncontrollability, or meaninglessness, and have developed separate theoretical frameworks for explaining the observed reactions. In the current chapter, we attempt to integrate old and new...
Chapter
Full-text available
The social psychological literature on threat and defense is fragmented. Groups of researchers have focused on distinct threats, such as mortality, uncertainty, uncontrollability, or meaninglessness, and have developed separate theoretical frameworks for explaining the observed reactions. In the current chapter, we attempt to integrate old and new...
Article
Full-text available
People maintain systems of beliefs that provide them with a sense of belongingness, control, identity, and meaning, more generally. Recent research shows that when these beliefs are threatened a syndrome of negatively valenced arousal is evoked that motivates people to seek comfort in their ideologies or other personally valued beliefs. In this pap...
Article
According to the meaning maintenance model, people may respond to meaning violations by affirming unrelated beliefs to which they are committed. While this affirmation generally moves in the direction of social inequality, meaning violations that are not personally threatening—but that nevertheless evoke uncertainty—should evoke a heightened prefer...
Article
Two experiments show that writing chronological autobiographical narratives increases political conservatism, defined as an ideology of resistance to social change. When writing chronological autobiographical narratives, we hypothesized that people would re-experience the events of their life in a way that portrays the current situation as the resu...
Article
Existentialist theorists – most notably, Kierkegaard – laid out the blueprint for our current understanding of meaning. These theorists shared a common understanding of how meaning frameworks are acquired, along with the ways that people commonly respond to violations of these meaning frameworks. Our own perspective, the meaning maintenance model,...
Article
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Social psychologists commonly demonstrate the following effect: threaten people's beliefs or goals, and they will engage in a typical array of compensation behaviors. Often, these behaviors involve the affirmation of alternative beliefs or goals, which may or may not be relevant to the commitments that were threatened. Just as often, an aversive st...
Article
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Across eras and literatures, multiple theories have converged on a broad psychological phenomenon: the common compensation behaviors that follow from violations of our committed understandings. The meaning maintenance model (MMM) offers an integrated account of these behaviors, as well as the overlapping perspectives that address specific aspects o...
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Some people are routinely described as "cool," but it is unknown whether this descriptor conveys trait-like information beyond mere likability or popularity. This is the first systematic quantitative investigation of coolness from a trait perspective. Three studies of North Americans (N = 918) converged to identify personality markers for coolness....
Article
The meaning maintenance model (MMM) maintains that violations of expectations can elicit compensatory behavior. When anomalies are encountered, people may compensate either by affirming an intact schema or by abstracting new, meaningful connections. Past research has shown that implicitly perceived events can be threatening, and can cause changes t...
Article
Much existential philosophical theorizing and experimental psychological research is consistent with the notion that people experience arousal when committed beliefs are violated, and this prompts them to affirm other committed beliefs. People depend on meaning frameworks to make sense of their experiences, and when these expected associations are...
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The meaning maintenance model asserts that following a meaning threat, people will affirm any meaning frameworks that are available. Three experiments tested (a) whether people affirm alternative meaning frameworks after reading absurdist literature, (b) what role expectations play in determining whether absurdities are threatening, and (c) whether...
Article
Introduction Somewhere very near the top of psychology's list of most vexing and least settled matters are the nagging questions of how and when young persons come to anything like a “mature” account (or folk conception) of the nature and limitations of human knowing. That is, we (where “we” refers to all of us salaried professionals actually paid...
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This research details the changing ways in which young people of different ages differently warrant the conviction that, notwithstanding evidence of good and bad behaviours, selves can be understood as unified across the various roles and contexts that they occupy. Canadian adolescents and young adults were asked to explain the apparent disunity of...
Article
In the current studies, we tested the prediction that learning of novel patterns of association would be enhanced in response to unrelated meaning threats. This prediction derives from the meaning-maintenance model, which hypothesizes that meaning-maintenance efforts may recruit patterns of association unrelated to the original meaning threat. Comp...
Article
Religious and non-religious individuals differ in theircore beliefs. The religious endorse a supernatural, divinely inspired view of the world, while the non-religious hold largely secular worldviews. As a result they may respond differently to existential threats. Three studies confirmed this prediction. After a mortality salience (MS) or control...
Article
The meaning-maintenance model posits that threats to schemas lead people to affirm unrelated schemas. In two studies testing this hypothesis, participants who were presented with a perceptual anomaly (viz., the experimenter was switched without participants consciously noticing) demonstrated greater affirmation of moral beliefs compared with partic...
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Article
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The Meaning Maintenance Model (MMM; Heine, Proulx, & Vohs, 200637. Heine , S. J. , Proulx , T. and Vohs , K. D. 2006 . The Meaning Maintenance Model: On the coherence of social motivation . Personality and Social Psychological Review , 10 ( 2 ) : 88 – 111 . [CrossRef], [PubMed], [Web of Science ®]View all references) proposes that human beings inna...
Article
Abstract This paper presents evidence concerning the changing ways in which young people of different cultures differently warrant their usual conviction that, notwithstanding outcroppings of evidence to the contrary, the logic of self-hood ordinarily requires individuals to be understood as synchronically unified across the various roles and conte...
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Full-text available
The meaning maintenance model (MMM) proposes that people have a need for meaning; that is, a need to perceive events through a prism of mental representations of expected relations that organizes their perceptions of the world. When people's sense of meaning is threatened, they reaffirm alternative representations as a way to regain meaning-a proce...
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What does it mean to somehow override change and to count one's self as one and the same individual, continuous in time? What does "continuity" mean for whole cultural groups? How might disruptions to a sense of personal or cultural persistence deprive us of a past, and a connection to our as yet unrealized futures? Why is it that the bulk of us wh...

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Projects (3)
Project
Are there arousal states specific to experiences that are inconsistent with beliefs and goals? Do they motivate efforts to compensate for inconsistency?
Project
How do people people compensate for the violation of meaning frameworks? Is there a common process that underlies meaning maintenance behaviours?