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Researchers from SWPS University have been awarded a total of PLN 1.3M in grants from the National Science Centre (NCN) for research projects that will focus on topics such as diffused responsibility on the Internet, the phenomenon of possession, intuition, factors contributing to obesity, and self-affirmation in chronic illness.

Possession - Clinical Diagnosis and Analysis of the Phenomenon

Possession relates to changes in behavior and alteration of identity that are attributed to supernatural forces. Usually, people who are possessed seek help from the Church, in the hope that exorcisms will reinstate control over their minds, bodies and speech. In Poland, there are Christian groups that offer individual and group exorcism sessions. Research indicates that possessed people have often suffered traumatic events in the course of their lives, such as emotional, physical or sexual abuse, but they rarely link the trauma with possession. Focusing on the phenomenon of possession and on exorcisms may delay therapy, divert attention from the problems in the family and potentially have a re-traumatizing effect on people with the history of addictions. Although possession has been studied by anthropologists, there is a need for psychological research on a group of possessed individuals, despite the fact that psychiatric classification of mental disorders describes symptoms related to possession.

Thanks to the grant form the National Science Centre (NCN), dr Igor Pietkiewicz from the Katowice Faculty of Psychology will study a group of 40 individuals, members of Christian groups, who have been undergoing exorcisms due to possession. Study participants will undergo psychiatric evaluation and will take part in diagnostic and in-depth interviews.

The main goals of this project include: analysis and systematization of descriptions of the phenomena and its symptoms, a comparison of different clinical pictures and diagnostic criteria of various disorders, analysis of changes of identity and behavior with the focus on memory, sense of control, concomitant affect and other clinically significant symptoms. The researchers will also observe how study participants assign meanings to their experiences and how they seek help.

How Does Intuition Work? Cognitive and Affective Processes vs Intuitive Judgements

The objective of the project is to define the impact of processing fluency and perceptual fluency in the process of formulating intuitive judgements. Thanks to the grant form the NCN, dr Joanna Sweklej, will conduct a series of experimental studies, where she will use independent manipulation influencing both types of fluidity and she will measure how they influence accuracy of intuitive judgements.

The main hypothesis of the project is that both the perceptual and the processing fluidity, independently of each other, influence formulation of intuitive judgements on semantic cohesion. Describing the power and the direction of this influence will help to better understand the mechanisms of formulating intuitive judgements.

Self-Affirmation in Chronic Illness

Self-affirmation is a confirmation of self-worth by referencing one’s positive characteristics, concentrating on one’s strengths or re-affirming one’s values. What boosts and what limits the effectiveness of auto-affirmation? How does auto-affirmation work? Do strategies such as auto-affirmation provide long-lasting effects?

Thanks to the grant from the NCN, mgr Patryk Łakuta from the Faculty of Psychology in Warsaw will examine whether self-affirmation can reduce stress, decrease symptoms of depression and anxiety and improve psychological wellbeing in people suffering from psoriasis.

Determinants of Obesity

Research indicates that obesity among children and youth is on the rise. The number of young people that can be classified as obese has doubled in the past 30 years. Despite educational campaigns and various prevention programs, obesity is still very high in this age group. It is well known that obesity is linked to numerous negative physical and psychological consequences. Obese individuals have lower quality of life than people with healthy BMI. They are not happy with their bodies and experience more negative emotions. Obesity is also linked with the risk of stigmatization and verbal abuse among children and youth. Moreover, obesity carried from childhood to adulthood often results in diseases linked to obesity and increased cost of healthcare.

Thanks to the grant form the NCN, mgr Kamila Czepczor, psychologist form the Katowice Faculty of Psychology will examine what factors contribute to becoming and staying obese in children an youth. The holistic approach of the study will include social, physical and psychological factors and it will help to understand the relation between these factors and obesity. It will also contribute to the development of more effective prevention programs.

Diffused Responsivity on the Internet

The theory of diffusion of responsibility states that the larger the number of people who are witnessing a traumatic event (e.g. a car crash or an act of aggression), the lower the probability that someone will help the victim, because individual responsibility is “defused” among all bystanders. Numerous research results have shown that there are many situations conducive to the phenomenon of diffused responsibility, from the actual life and death situations, such as a car crash, to daily events, for example providing assistance with a computer problem or holding a door for someone. However, previous studies have not explained the mechanisms related to diffusion of responsibility on the Internet. The Internet, especially social media, has become a place of increased social interaction and also a platform where internet users post various pleas for help.

The grant from the NCN will help mgr Jakub Kuś, from the Wrocław Faculty of Psychology to examine, which mechanisms are conducive to the occurrence of diffused responsibility on the Internet, in cases of online aggression and what mechanisms of social influence could be applied to minimize such incidents.

This year, researchers from SWPS University are conducting 220 projects, worth close to PLN 42M. We owe this success to the effectiveness of our Office for Research and the commitment of our scientists.

Piotr Metejek, Director of the Office for Research

Research Projects Awarded in the Last Edition of the NCN Competition

dr Igor Pietkiewicz 
Research Centre for Trauma and Dissociation
Faculty of Psychology in Katowice

  • Qualitative analysis of phenomena and symptoms associated with possession
  • Competition: OPUS 13
  • Grant amount: PLN 382,620

dr Joanna Marta Sweklej
Warsaw Faculty of Psychology

  • How does intuition work? The contribution of cognitive and affective processes in intuitive judgments of semantic coherence
  • Competition: OPUS 13
  • Grant amount: PLN 520,420

mgr Patryk Marek Łakuta
Warsaw Faculty of Psychology

  • Effectiveness of self-affirming implementation intentions to reduce anxiety and depression and improve well-being in psoriasis patients
  • Competition: PRELUDIUM 13
  • Grant amount: PLN 173,680

mgr Kamila Czepczor
Katowice Faculty of Psychology

  • Empirical verification of the Homeostatic Theory of Obesity in children and adolescents: longitudinal study
  • Competition: PRELUDIUM 13
  • Grant amount: PLN 115,400

mgr Jakub Michał Kuś
Wrocław Faculty of Psychology

  • Social influence techniques and reduction of diffusion of responsibility towards critical situations on the InternetInternetinternetowym
  • Competition: PRELUDIUM 13
  • Grant amount: PLN 118,584

National Science Centre Competitions

PRELUDIUM is a funding opportunity intended for pre-doctoral researchers about to embark on their scientific career. OPUS is a funding opportunity intended for a wide range of applicants. The research proposal submitted under this scheme may include the purchase or construction of research equipment.

Other Research Funding Sources

The National Science Centre is not the only funding source supporting research at SWPS University. The university receives grants from the Ministry of Science and Higher Education, the Foundation for Polish Science, and The National Centre for Research and Development. SWPS University conducts over 300 research projects, annually.

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