Much of what excites me about psychological research is the collaborative process of studying "big" questions about fundamental aspects of the human condition. Following an existential tradition that draws heavily from such writers as Otto Rank and Ernest Becker, I am particularly fascinated by how our awareness of the transience of existence affects social behaviors, and how the pursuit of meaning and value in one’s life serves to protect the individual from deeply-rooted insecurities.
This interest has led me to examine such topics as aggression, prejudice, stereotypes, political judgments, self-esteem processes, depression, consumer motivations, legal issues, parental and interpersonal attachment, physiological arousal and affect, self-awareness, cultural identification and disidentification, and the psychological landscape of nostalgia. I have pursued many of these topics with a complimentary interest in trying to understand the cognitive architecture that underlies the psychological defenses that people use to protect themselves from both the conscious and unconscious awareness of death and the dynamic interface between defensively oriented processes with motives for creativity, growth, and self-enrichment. Much of my research has focused on the implications of such analyses for elucidating health relevant decisions and behaviors, which of late, has also inspired an interest in the capacity for conceptual metaphor to impact health decision making, as well as the role of existential isolation in social behavior and well-being.
The above is mostly a snapshot of some previous and developing interests. More generally, I continue to be excited by new questions and issues with which my students are engaged.
Arndt, J. & Goldenberg, J.L. (2017). Where health and death intersect: Insights from a terror management health model. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 26, 126-131.
Landau, M.J., Arndt, J., & Cameron, L.D. (2018). Do metaphors in health messages work: Exploring emotional and cognitive factors. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 74, 135-149.
Spina, M., Arndt, J., Landau, M.J., & Cameron, L.D (2018). Enhancing health message framing with metaphor and cultural values: Impact on Latina’s cervical cancer screening. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 52, 106-115.
Moser, R., Arndt, J., *Jimenez, T., Liu, B., & Hesse, B. (2021). Perceptions of cancer as a death sentence: Tracking trends in public perceptions from 2008 to 2017. Psycho-Oncology, 30, 511-519.
Jimenez, T., Helm, P.J., & Arndt, J. (2022). Fighting death with health inequality: The role of mortality cognition and shifting racial demographics in policy attitudes. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 25, 193-210.
Helm, P. J., *Jimenez, T., *Carter, S., & Arndt, J. (in press). A phenomenological divide: Reference group consequences for existential isolation. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.