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Vital Energy: the development of a core concept

Roazzi, Maira (2012) Vital Energy: the development of a core concept. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The present research was designed to investigate the development of vital energy reasoning. Previous research has demonstrated that children and adults reason about vitalistic causality in the domain of biology. However it is not clear if reasoning in terms of energy transfer/exchange (a component of vitalistic causality) is later recruited to explain phenomena in other domains of thought. The present study set out to investigate if vital energy reasoning is recruited to explain biological and psychological phenomena, and if this reasoning is further extended to explain transcendental and/or spiritual phenomena. Study 1 presented children and young adults from the USA with situations in which a character has either a biological (ex: sick) or psychological (ex: sad) condition. Participants judged whether a series of natural and social-psychological sources of vital energy could help the character improve their condition. Most of the participants had a similar pattern of response, associating energy transfer with biological conditions and natural sources. However there were some age differences when it came to children’s judgments of the psychological conditions. Study 2 used a cross-national sample from Brazil and the USA, and examined whether reasoning about energy exchange/transfer is recruited to explain transcendental/spiritual processes. Young adults were presented with a hypothetical death scenario to see how they reason about the continuity of vital energy (psychological and biological) when the biological body ceases functioning. Participants from both nationalities were more likely to reason about a positive psychological vital energy transcending into an afterlife. Furthermore, participants were more likely to conceive this energy continuity as attached to an identity, such as a soul or spirit. Findings also pointed to a relationship between people’s alternative beliefs, such belief in an immanent religiosity, in alternative medicine, and in the supernatural, and their likelihood to assume a continuity of vital energy.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Roazzi, Mairammr41@pitt.eduMMR41
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairJohnson, Carl"Johnson, Carl N" <>
Committee MemberBrownell, CeliaCelia Brownell <>
Committee MemberIverson, Jana"Iverson, Jana Marie" <>
Committee MemberEllice, Forman"Forman, Ellice A" <>
Date: 2 October 2012
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 25 June 2012
Approval Date: 2 October 2012
Submission Date: 26 June 2012
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 180
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Vital Energy; Naive Biology; Cognitive Development.
Additional Information: I am submitting a first draft of my dissertations document formated under the ETD standard. Please let me know what needs to be addressed before I submit a final version.
Date Deposited: 02 Oct 2012 18:13
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:59


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