- Additional Positions at AU
- Department Chair
- PhD, Psychology, Stanford University BA, Psychology, Mathematical Methods in the Social Sciences, Northwestern University
- I did my undergraduate work at Northwestern University and received my doctorate in psychology from Stanford University. My continuing interests include gratitude and mindfulness, especially the relation of gratitude to the desire to be independent of others. I also have two relatively new interests. (1) Non-Buddhist contemplative practices. Many ancient traditions have forms of contemplation, and those outside the Buddhist tradition seem to me understudied. My student Milly Curlee and I presented initial data on the Ignatian examen at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology convention this past spring and I look forward to doing further work on this exercise. (2) Moral psychology: (a) I have become interested in the integration of social cognitive theory and virtue theory. A grant is permitting me to do initial empirical work on this topic. A previous grant from the Templeton Foundation allowed me to write a paper, published in Social and Personality Psychology Compass, arguing for that integration. (b) My student Ryan Smout and I are beginning to do study the consequences arising from witnessing others violating our sense of morality.
PSYC-450 Psychology of Well-Being
PSYC-898 Doctoral Continuing Enrollment
PSYC-899 Doctoral Dissertation
PSYC-205 Social Psychology
PSYC-898 Doctoral Continuing Enrollment
PSYC-899 Doctoral Dissertation
Dr. Ahrens’ continued research interests include gratitude and mindfulness. Recent interests include contemplative practices outside the Buddhist tradition, the integration of social cognitive theory with virtue theory, and moral injury.
Honors, Awards, and Fellowships
- Outstanding Reviewer Award, Journal of Happiness Studies, 2009
- American University, University Faculty Award for Outstanding Service to the University Community, 2007
- To, C., Spitzen, T., Mhoon-Mock, W, & Ahrens, A. H. Daily gratitude diaries and changes in interpersonal variables. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, New Orleans, 2020.
- Curlee, M., & Ahrens, A. H. Examen spiritual exercises and self-transcendent positive emotions. Society for Personality and Social Psychology, New Orleans, 2020.
- Mhoon-Mock, W., & Ahrens, A. H. Uncertainty avoidance and the perceived utility of low arousal positive emotions. Presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies convention, Washington, DC, November 2018.
- Curlee, M. S. & Ahrens, A. H. Non-reactivity impacts the relationship between daily mindful awareness and negative affect. Presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies convention, Washington, DC, November 2018.
- Mhoon-Mock, W. & Ahrens, A. H. The differential effects of gratitude “to” vs. gratitude “for” exercises. Presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology convention, Atlanta, GA, March 2018.
- De Simone Irace, C., Spitzen, T., & Ahrens, A. H. Are one’s relationships about exchange? Then daily gratitude is less likely to increase trait gratitude. Presented at the Association for Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies convention, San Diego, CA, November 2017.
Ahrens, A. H., & Cloutier, D. (2019). Acting for good reasons: Integrating virtue theory and social cognitive theory. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.
Stewart, K. L., Ahrens, A. H., & Gunthert, K. C. (2018). Relating to self and other: Mindfulness predicts compassionate and self-image relationship goals. Mindfulness, 9, 176-186.
Parker, S. C., Majid H., Stewart, K. L., & Ahrens, A. H. (2017). No thanks! Autonomous interpersonal style is associated with less experience and valuing of gratitude. Cognition and Emotion, 31, 1627-1637.
Ahrens, A.H., & Forbes, C. N. (2014). Gratitude. In M. M. Tugade, M. L. Shiota, & L. D. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of positive emotions. (pp. 342-361). New York: Guilford Press.
- Carlin, E., & Ahrens, A. H. (2014). The effects of mindfulness and fear-inducing stimuli on avoidance behavior. Mindfulness, 5, 276-281.
- Kirby, L. D., Tugade, M., Morrow, J., Ahrens, A. H., & Smith, C. A. (2014). Vive la difference: The ability to differentiate positive emotional experience and well-being. In M. M. Tugade, M. L. Shiota, & L. D. Kirby (Eds.), Handbook of positive emotions. (pp. 241-255). New York: Guilford Press.
- Williams, K. E., Chambless, D. L., & Ahrens, A. H. (1997). Are emotions frightening? An extension of the fear of fear construct. Behavior Research and Therapy, 35, 239-248.
- Haaga, D. A. F., Ahrens, A. H., Schulman, P., Seligman, M. E. P., DeRubeis, R. J., & Minarik, M. (1995). Metatraits and cognitive assessment: Application to attributional style and depressive symptoms. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 19, 121-142.
- Ahrens, A. H., & Abramson, L. Y. (1991). Changes in personal standards and dysphoria: A longitudinal approach. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 15, 47-68.
- Ahrens, A. H., Zeiss, A. M., & Kanfer, R. (1988). Depressive deficits in interpersonal standards, self-efficacy, and social comparison. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 12, 53-67.
- Alloy, L. B., & Ahrens, A. H. (1987). Depression and pessimism for the future: Biased use of statistically relevant information in predictions for self versus others. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 52, 366-378.
Grants and Sponsored Research
Templeton Foundation, ‘Character development and adolescent health: An Evaluation of the impact of traditional storytelling on improving sexual and reproductive health education outcomes.’ (PI), 2020-2022
Templeton Foundation, “Integrating Social Cognitive Theory and Virtue Ethics,”Co-Principal Investigator (David Cloutier PI), 2016-2018
R21 National Cancer Institute, “Applying Self-Regulatory Focus Theory to Cigarette Smoking Cessation,” Co-Investigator (David Haaga, PI) 2002-2004, total costs=$275,233
- R03 National Institute of Mental Health, "Mood, Recall, and Changes in Attributional Style." 1992-1995, total costs=$132,982
Area of Expertise
Gratitude, depression, fear of emotion, mindfulness
Anthony Ahrens focuses on gratitude, mindfulness, and fear of emotion. His work on gratitude focuses on two topics. Most research defines gratitude as a reaction to benefits received from others. Ahrens believes that, in addition, some individuals report gratitude for benefits for which there is no clear origin: Some report being grateful for being at the beach on a sunny day, though they might not report being grateful toanyone. He has data using a trait measure of this sort of gratitude, e.g., in response to specific subsequent daily events. Ahrens is interested in the relation of gratitude to the sense of being interconnected. He is also interested in mindfulness. Several researchers have found that mindfulness techniques assist in preventing relapse into depression and in treating for depression. Ahrens is interested in examining the mechanisms by which mindfulness exerts its effects.