Andrew Lodge: Can Virtue Alignment Save Lives?

Hello! My name is Andrew Lodge, and I am a third-year student pursuing a dual degree in psychology and statistics with minors in mathematics and business. My interest in research began when I participated in the UROP program my sophomore year. While I was a UROP student, I was able to work in Dr. Thomas Joiner’s lab under Professor Sean Dougherty studying suicide constructs. Through continued work with Professor Dougherty and Dr. Joiner, I have had the opportunity to assist in the development of new measures for suicide constructs and suicide risk, host workshops on topics such as meta-analysis and suicide definitions, and help explore the potential utility of virtue in clinical settings. In addition to conducting research in Dr. Joiner’s lab, I have had the privilege to serve as an undergraduate research assistant in Dr. Christopher Patrick’s lab investigating the neurobiological systems that undergird mental disorders. Outside of research I am also passionate about my role as a Resident Assistant on campus, and I have the privilege to serve as a UROP Leader where I hope to inspire a passion for research in other undergraduate students at FSU.

Andrew Lodge, Junior, Psychology and Statistics

The research project that I will be conducting over the summer is titled, “Can virtue alignment save lives? Investigating the relationship between virtue and suicide constructs.” Expanding upon a theory developed by FSU’s Department of Psychology, my project is motivated by the growing mental health crisis in our nation as well as the inadequacies in how this crisis is currently being addressed. Recent data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that suicide is a leading cause of death in in the United States with an estimated 14.0 suicide deaths occurring per every 100,000 people annually (2022). Even more concerning is that the U.S. suicide rate has increased by nearly 30% throughout the past 20 years, establishing a dire need for improved clinical solutions (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2022). To address this ongoing issue, my project aims to investigate how virtue, defined as those actions which engender objectively good outcomes, can be utilized when treating individuals at risk for suicidality.

To complete my research project over the summer, I am currently working with my research mentor and undergraduate colleagues to finalize novel measures for suicide constructs and alignment with virtue (i.e., the extent to which individuals behave in accordance with a set of objective virtues). Once these measures have been completed, I plan to develop an online survey which compiles these measures alongside existing measures. Our survey will be distributed across two populations of interest—students at FSU and Reddit users—throughout the summer in order to collect the data we need to test the relationship between virtue and suicide constructs. Through our research we hope to illustrate which virtues are most negatively associated with suicidal outcomes, as well as which virtues are most positively associated with objectively good outcomes (e.g., fulfillment in life). Ultimately, we hope to use these data to develop new therapeutic practices focused on virtue-alignment that will improve the current treatment not only of suicide-related conditions and behaviors, but mental illness in general.

After this summer, I hope to continue studying suicide, virtue, and positive psychology in effort to continuously improve our current knowledge and treatment of mental disorders. Beyond my undergraduate years I hope to pursue a doctoral degree in clinical psychology in order to prepare myself for a career in research and clinical practice. I am looking forward to conducting independent research funded by the IDEA Grant this summer to prepare me for the academic and professional challenges that lie ahead!

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