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Kaye Cook

Kaye Cook

Professor of Psychology

Chair, Department of Psychology

B.A. Georgia College
M.A., Ph.D. University of North Carolina


Kaye Cook is interested in a range of developmental issues. Recently her work has focused on cross-cultural mixed methods studies that explore, for example, experiences of self and interpersonal forgiveness among Muslim and Christians in Indonesia and the U.S., the relationships among forgiveness, suffering, and grace among Christians in U.S. subcultures, everyday understandings of morality by Cambodian Buddhists and Christians, the values of Korean college students, and the meaning-making of religious individuals in rapidly changing cultures (Brazil and China). Currently, she is serving as PI of a Templeton subgrant titled "Experiences of Divine Forgiveness among Christians: A multi-method, multi-country project" that examines experiences of divine forgiveness across multiple cultures. She has been a visiting professor at Dartmouth College and a visiting fellow at Biola University’s Center for Christian Thought. Kaye is active in the Association for Moral Education, where she previously served as President.  


Experiences of Divine Forgiveness Among Christians: A Multi-Method, Multi-Country Project, 2023–2025

Divine forgiveness (DF) has received limited research attention, yet more than half of the world’s population is theistic and potentially experiences DF. The most common world religion is Christianity, and thus Christians are the focus of this research. DF can be described as perceived divine absolution for wrongdoing that is expressed in changed cognition, affect, and/or behavior. This research explores the process of state DF, or the experiencing of DF for a specific wrongdoing that one has committed, using a multi-method design (i.e., cross-sectional and longitudinal) and data collection approaches (i.e., interviews and surveys) involving a wide range of cultures. Relational Spirituality (RS), which proposes that religion/spirituality (R/S) takes place within a relational triad consisting of the God, the self, and others, provides a useful framework for examining experiences of DF and identifying some of the proximal barriers and facilitators of DF. Drawing on the RS model, our multi-study research project will use qualitative and quantitative data from Christians in a diverse set of countries to (1) describe the nature and process of experiences of state DF among Christians (within and across cultures), (2) develop, refine, and provide evidence preliminarily validating a measure of state DF for use among Christians in different cultures, (3) identify factors within the relational triad that function as barriers and facilitators of state DF among Christians (within and across cultures), and (4) explore factors embedded within the relational triad that predict change in state DF among Christians who self-identify with denominations that differ in normative practices of sacramental confession. This is the first multicultural project on DF, the findings of which will enrich the empirical literature on state DF and provide a strong foundation for subsequent theory, research, and practice dedicated to understanding DF and supporting individuals who might benefit from experiencing DF.

Psychological Perspectives on Divine Forgiveness, a Templeton-funded project, PIs : Frank Fincham, Myriam Rudaz, Florida State University.

Although considerable scientific progress has been made in understanding forgiveness, relatively little attention has been paid to divine forgiveness (forgiveness by a Supreme Being or Higher Power). Some published studies can be found that include a question that asks about forgiveness by God. However, the question is typically not the focus of the study resulting in scattered findings rather than a systematic and intentional literature. This is unfortunate because understanding the perception and experience of divine forgiveness is integral to understanding human behavior. For example, divine forgiveness likely influences earthly forgiveness, both of other people and of the self. The current project will facilitate systematic research on divine forgiveness via a request for proposals (RFP). Central questions that need to be addressed to develop a systematic understanding of the role of divine forgiveness in human functioning will inform the RFP. The RFP will fund empirical and non-empirical projects on the nature and manifestation of divine forgiveness in cognition, affect, motivation, and behavior. Inter alia, the funded research will increase understanding of how people go about seeking divine forgiveness, how divine forgiveness is perceived and experienced, individual differences regarding divine forgiveness, and how the desire for divine forgiveness develops and changes over the lifespan. A core research component is proposed that includes a psychometric exercise executed in the context of testing an aspect of a new model of divine forgiveness. Several studies are also outlined to test this model. The overall goal of the project is to support, generate, and disseminate innovative ideas in the study of divine forgiveness and in so doing, address a significant omission in the existing science of forgiveness which has thus far largely focused on interpersonal forgiveness, and to a lesser extent, self-forgiveness.

Forgiveness Among Muslims and Christians in Indonesia and the United States, 2020-2021

Forgiveness seems to be a universal virtue, yet there are contextual distinctives, e.g., in understanding when to forgive, who is involved, and what the process of forgiveness is like. As a universal virtue, it is valued among both Muslims and Christians; but contemporary descriptions often do not do justice to its contextualized nature in either non-Western or non-Christian contexts.We document that both decisional and emotional forgiveness are present in both cultures and religions, and that decisional forgiveness is more closely associated with subsequent well-being in Indonesian cultures. In a parallel way, self-forgiveness is a dual component process of both values reorientation and esteem restoration. Also in a parallel way, self-forgiveness is associated with subsequent well-being in Indonesia, and values reorientation is more closely associated with subsequent well-being than esteem restoration.

Dr. Cook conducted this research in association with three Indonesian colleagues: Dr. Taganing Kurniati, Dr. Christiany Chen, and Dr. Nilam Widyarini. The research is funded by the Global Religion Research Initiative.

Cross-Cultural Forgiveness Project, Summer 2019

Provost Summer Research Fellowship 2019 supported mixed methods analysis of surveys and interviews carried out in Indonesia in June 2019. Student Sara LePine, the 2019 recipient of the Fellowship, presented the data at NEPA during fall of 2019 and at SQIP (qualitative analysis) during June 2020. In addition, the manuscript Everyday Theology in Cultural Context was finalized and is under review for publication.

Forgiveness Project, Summer 2017, 2018

Provost Summer Research Fellowship 2018 supported research designed to encourage conversations about forgiveness in Brazilian, Chinese, and American contexts. Dr. Grace Chiou, professor of Communication Arts, and students Sara LePine and Caleb Chang co-led this project, which took place in churches, at Gordon, and on the Boston Common. This work was begun during the summer of 2017, in collaboration with fellows Adila de Souza and Carter Crossett, and has been presented in multiple venues, where the topic has triggered impassioned conversations.

Pluralism Project, Summer 2016

The book Faith in a Pluralist Age has been published by Wipf & Stock publishers. In this book, edited by Kaye Cook, the first chapter is written by Peter Berger, sociologist, who outlines the implications of pluralism for faith. The final chapter is written by Kaye Cook in association with two students: Si-Hua Chang and Taylor-Marie Funchion. Intervening chapters respond to, challenge, and extend Berger’s chapters.

Evangelicalism in Modernizing Cultures: Brazil and China, July 2015–October 2016

John Templeton Foundation Planning grant was designed to empower evangelical leaders in Brazil and China to better address social, political, and religious challenges in their home countries. Our hope was to establish an international center at Gordon whose purpose was to support the equipping of evangelical leaders worldwide (consistent with the Gordon mission statement). During the planning grant year, Kaye made multiple trips to Brazil and China during which she and they conducted 230 interviews in Brazil, China and Boston. She produced a book manuscript with Peter Berger (Faith in a Pluralist Age) and several chapters and presentations. Also as a result, Gordon hosted Brazilian and Chinese pastors from Boston at a luncheon and mini-conference, academics who do research on the church in Brazil and China, and multiple speakers.

Faith, Morality and Striving in Two American Subcultures, 2015

Provost’s Summer Research Fellowship provided funding to examine the dominant moral ethics, religious values, and career strivings in Brazilian-American and Chinese-American subcultures in the Boston area. Isabelle Skillen worked with me as student collaborator on this project.

Emerging Adulthood Grant: All phases I to III are now completed!

We received surveys from over 1,300 of you, including 80 undergraduates, and interviewed 159 of you! Thank you particularly to those 80 who completed the endless survey twice—and then participated in two interviews! We did not realize, at the beginning, how much we were asking of you. At the end, we were overwhelmed by your generosity. Thank you, in particular, to this select group.

Some findings:

  • Christian college graduates retain their faith, to a striking degree!
  • Christian college graduates show some “moralistic therapeutic deism”, a watered-down kind of faith identified by Christian Smith (preeminent sociologist and Gordon College graduate) but their faith is much more accurately characterized as a strong, orthodox faith that is practiced within community
  • Most Christian college graduates stay within their home denominations or choose to attend a denomination that is similar to their home denomination.
  • There are few differences between recent and long-term alumni. Thoughtfulness about and questioning of faith peaks around graduation and drops off afterward; ego identity commitment increases with time; and those who make commitments in faith, love, and work show higher well-being.
  • First-year students perceive the most stress in their lives, and perceived stress drops off significantly during their senior year and even immediately after graduation (surprisingly enough), and continues to drop off during the next four years. Perceived stress is measured by asking participants such questions as whether they feel in control of their lives.
  • In contrast to their perception of how much stress they are under, when asked how much stress they are experiencing (e.g., did you change jobs last year? did a parent die?), participants reported that stress peaks during the first year of college and immediately after graduation.
  • Females are more stressed than males (but they do not perceive themselves as any more stressed).
  • Females cope better than males. If they are more stressed, how can this be?!
  • Females have somewhat more mature, internalized faith (as measured by intrinsic religiosity).
  • Females also use their religion to cope with stress more than males, and this improves coping.
  • Females have stronger peer attachments, that males, when they have strong peer relationships, benefit from them as much as do females.

A press release and fuller description of one component of the study, which explores the power of Freedom within the Framework of Faith, is available for download by clicking on the links to the right.

Research Report: Is a Christian Education Worth It?

A study of student development and well-being by Kaye Cook, Ph.D. (PDF)

Evangelicals in Brazil and at Gordon

An unlikely partnership? (DOCX)

Spiritual Formation in Emerging Adulthood

Essay distributed to Council of 125 (DOCX)

Moralistic Therapeutic Deism

Do Christian college undergraduates and alumni maintain their faith? (PPTX)

resume icon  Résumé/CV

Click to download (PDF)