Jeremy Clifton in Sri Lanka
Jeremy Clifton in Sri Lanka
Author: Sara Steffenhagen
Date: September 22, 2015
Categories: Alumni|Philosophy|Psychology

Houghton graduate and director of the Primals Initiative, Jeremy Clifton '07, was awarded a $200 thousand planning grant by the Templeton Religion Trust. Renowned psychologist, author and former president of the American Psychological Association, Martin Seligman, is the principle investigator in the research study and is working alongside Clifton.

Clifton’s research examines the psychological idea of primals, which he defines as “an individual’s most general and most simple beliefs or assumptions about existence.” He further explains, “Understanding them could allow us to improve the human condition.”

After being awarded the planning grant, Clifton, with the help of 71 interns, senior advisors and consultants, spent the last year and a half researching primals, including reading over 358 culturally influential historical texts and analyzing over 61,939 tweets to find new primals. Psychologists have previously studied three primals, and, through his research, Clifton discovered 24 more to investigate further.

Clifton will be applying for a multi-million-dollar research grant in 2017 to further his work.

Clifton grew up in Taiwan to missionary parents and later moved to the United States to attend Houghton College. After graduating from Houghton in 2007 with a B.A. in philosophy, Clifton became a community organizer with AmeriCorps in Buffalo, N.Y., and later served as a strategic planner in the CEO’s office at Habitat for Humanity International in Atlanta. He then attended the University of Pennsylvania to receive his Masters of Applied Positive Psychology. Clifton is currently the Director of the Primals Initiative and a Psychology Ph.D. student at the University of Pennsylvania.

Clifton is the founder of the Primals Initiative team, a group that works to find a scientific understanding of how primals influence human life.

The Templeton Religion Trust is affiliated with the John Templeton Foundation, a large philanthropic organization that supports research “related to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality.”

Houghton alumna Jessica Miller ’14 is currently working for Clifton as the Research Coordinator for the Primals Initiative.