Dr. Charlotte vanOyen-WitvlietLavern '39 and Betty DePree '41 VanKley Professor of Psychology
Charlotte vanOyen-Witvliet is the Lavern ’39 and Betty DePree ’41 VanKley Professor of Psychology and has been a member of the Hope faculty since 1997. Her teaching responsibilities have included:
- Introductory Psychology
- Positive Psychology
- Behavior Disorders
- Clinical Psychology
- Advanced Research Lab
She loves teaching and mentoring students with a vision to cultivate competence with compassion so that they are prepared for effective and faithful service and leadership in a diverse world.
Prof. Witvliet adopts a bio-psych-social-spiritual approach to study mental health, emotion and virtues (e.g., forgiveness, gratitude, hope, accountability). She has mentored students to become co-authors on a sixth of her 90 publications and half of the 150 professional conference presentations from her lab. Her research teams have won 14 Psi Chi Regional Research Awards, and several of her lab students are now psychology professors who mentor their students.
She has been principal investigator on six external research grants from the Templeton Religion Trust, John Templeton Foundation and the Fetzer Institute. She has been a member of national, multi-year, interdisciplinary work groups on the pursuit of happiness, leading from the soul and living accountably.
Prof. Witvliet has conducted more than 150 media interviews about virtues, especially forgiveness, with her research featured in venues such as Time, Newsweek, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, CNN, ABC, CBS, Michigan Radio, The Science of Happiness with Public Radio International, and international newspapers. Her research is referenced in blogs and books, including The Book of Joy, co-authored by Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, and The Science of the Virtues: Why Positive Psychology Matters to the Church by Mark McMinn. She has been interviewed for the podcasts by BioLogos and Hidden Brain.
Areas of expertise
Professor Witvliet's primary research contributions have focused on forgiveness and its emotional and physiological side effects. Her team's experiments have tested compassionate and benefit-focused reappraisal strategies that facilitate granting forgiveness.
Additionally, Professor Witvliet has conducted research in trauma, mental health, emotion and psychophysiology. Her lab also studies forgiveness, repentance, self-forgiveness, empathy, gratitude, humility, hope and accountability.
Prof. Witvliet was awarded the Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Purdue University in 1997. After training as a scientist-practitioner, Prof. Witvliet completed her American Psychological Association predoctoral internship at the Durham Veterans Affairs Medical Center affiliated with Duke University, focusing on trauma and associated disorders, neuropsychological assessment, behavioral medicine, inpatient and outpatient care.
Honors, grants and awards
- Midwestern Psychological Association Fellow, 2021
- John H. and Jeanne M. Jacobson endowed professor, 2011–2015
- Ruth and John Reed Faculty Achievement Award, 2008
- Towsley Research Scholar Award, 2000–2004
- Fourteen Psi Chi Regional Research Awards won by student researchers working in Professor Witvliet's lab
Professor Witvliet has involved students in all of her external grant-funded research from:
- Templeton Religion Trust
- John Templeton Foundation
- Fetzer Institute
- Howard Hughes Medical Institute
- "Accountability: Construct definition and measurement of a virtue vital to flourishing,” with S.J. Jang, B.R. Johnson, C.S. Evans, J.W. Berry, J. Leman, R.C. Roberts, J. Peteet, A.B. Torrance, A.N. Hayden, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2022.
- “Accountability as a key virtue in mental health and human flourishing,” with J.R. Peteet and C.S. Evans, Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 2022.
- “Accountability and autonomy” with J.R. Peteet and C.S. Evans, Philosophy, Psychiatry, & Psychology, 2022.
- “The Eschatological Hope Scale: Construct development and measurement of theistic eschatological hope,” with M.E.L. Hall, J. Exline, D.C. Wang, L.M. Root Luna, D.R. Van Tongeren, D.G. Myers, A.D. Abernethy, and J.D. Witvliet, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 2022.
- “Gratitude and patience moderate meaning struggles and suicidal risk in a cross-sectional study of inpatients at a Christian psychiatric hospital,” with S. A. Schnitker, J. M. Currier, A. D. Abernethy, J. D. Foster, L. M. Root Luna, K. VanHarn and J. Carter, Journal of Personality, 2021
- “The benefit of gratitude: Trait gratitude is associated with effective economic decision-making in the ultimatum game,” with G. Park, J. A. Barraza and B. U. Marsh, Frontiers in Psychology: Emotion Science, 2021
- “Forgiveness, embodiment, and relational accountability: Victim and transgressor psychophysiology research,” in E. L. Worthington, Jr. and N. Wade (Eds.), Handbook of Forgiveness, second edition, pp. 167–177. Brunner-Routledge, 2020
- “Apology and restitution: The psychophysiology of forgiveness after accountable relational repair responses,” with L.M. Root Luna, E. L. Worthington, Jr. and J-A Tsang. Frontiers Psychology: Emotion Science, 2020
- “Apology and restitution: Offender accountability responses influence victim empathy and forgiveness,” with N. G. Wade, E. L. Worthington, Jr., L. M. Root Luna, D. R. Van Tongeren, J. W. Berry and J-A.Tsang, Journal of Psychology and Theology, 2020
- “Granting forgiveness: State and trait evidence for genetic and gender indirect effects through empathy,” with L.M. Root Luna, J.L. VanderStoep, T. Gonzalez and G.D. Griffin, Journal of Positive Psychology, 2019
- “Consecutive reappraisal strategies strengthen and sustain empathy and forgiveness: Utilizing compassion and benefit finding while holding offenders accountable,” with L.M. Root Luna, R.D. Vlisides-Henry and G.D. Griffin, Journal of Positive Psychology, 2019
- “Patient patients: Increased patience associated with decreased depressive symptoms in psychiatric treatment,” with S.A. Schnitker, D.B. Ro, J.D. Foster, A.D. Abernethy, J.M. Currier, L.M. Root Luna, K.M. Putman, K. Van Harn and J. Carter, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2019
- “Spiritual struggles and mental health outcomes in a spiritually integrated inpatient program,” with J.M. Currier, J. Foster, A. Abernethy, L.M. Root Luna, S. Schnitker, K. Van Harn and J. Carter, Journal of Affective Disorders, 2019
- “Understanding the role of religious comfort and strain on depressive symptoms in an inpatient psychiatric setting,” with A.D. Abernethy, J.M. Currier, S.A. Schnitker, K.M. Putman, L.M. Root Luna, J.D. Foster, A. Spencer, H. Jones, K. VanHarn and J. Carter, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 2019
“OXTR rs53576 and gender predict trait gratitude,” with L.M. Root Luna, J.V. VanderStoep, R.D. Vlisides-Henry, T. Gonzalez and G.D. Griffin, Journal of Positive Psychology, 2018
- “Gratitude predicts hope and happiness: A two-study assessment of traits and states,” with F.J. Richie, L.M. Root Luna and D.R. Van Tongeren, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 2018
- “Virtue, positive psychology, and religion: Consideration of an overarching virtue and an underpinning mechanism,” with L. Root Luna and D.R. Van Tongeren, Psychology of Religion and Spirituality, 9, 2017
- “Body esteem and appearance-based self-worth: A test of religious moderators in men and women,” with M. Inman, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 36, 2017
- “Positive reappraisals after an offense: Event-related potentials and emotional effects of benefit-finding and compassion,” with J.C. Baker, J.K. Williams and P.C. Hill, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12, 2017
- “Self-forgiveness and forgiveness-seeking in response to rumination: Cardiac and emotional responses of transgressors,” with S.P da Silva and B. Riek, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 12, 2017
- “Transforming or restraining rumination: The impact of compassionate reappraisal versus emotion suppression on empathy, forgiveness, and affective psychophysiology,” with A.J. Hofelich Mohr, N.G. Hinman and R.W. Knoll, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 10, 2015
- “Compassionate reappraisal and emotion suppression as alternatives to offense-focused rumination: Implications for forgiveness and psychophysiological well-being,” with N.J. DeYoung, A.J. Hofelich and P.A. DeYoung, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 6, 2011
- “Responding to our own transgressions: An experimental writing study of repentance, offense rumination, self-justification, and distraction,” with N.G. Hinman, J.J. Exline and T. Brandt, Journal of Psychology and Christianity, 30, 2011
- “Compassion-focused reappraisal, benefit-focused reappraisal, and rumination after an interpersonal offense: Emotion regulation implications for subjective emotion, linguistic responses, and physiology,” with R.W. Knoll, N.G. Hinman and P.A. DeYoung, The Journal of Positive Psychology, 5, 2010
- “Not so innocent: Does seeing one’s own capability for wrongdoing predict forgiveness?” with J.J. Exline, R.F. Baumeister, A.L. Zell and A.J. Kraft, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 94, 2008
- “Retributive justice, restorative justice, and forgiveness: An experimental psychophysiology analysis,” with E.L. Worthington Jr., L.M. Root, A.F. Sato, T.E. Ludwig and J.J. Exline, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 44, 2008
- “Posttraumatic mental and physical health correlates of forgiveness and religious coping in military veterans,” with K.A. Phipps, M.E. Feldman and J.C. Beckham, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 17, 2004
- “Granting forgiveness or harboring grudges: Implications for emotions, physiology, and health,” with T.E. Ludwig and K.L. Vander Laan, Psychological Science, 12, 2001
Outside the college
Professor Witvliet enjoys connecting with people as they discern their vocations — the ways in which they can use their God-given gifts and opportunities to meet real needs in this world. Witvliet’s own multi-faceted sense of vocation includes co-parenting four children with her husband, John. They love cross-country meets and concerts.