Morality, Action, and Cognition Lab

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His. Kind fourth the wherein our us whose may fruitful blessed.


His. Kind fourth the wherein our us whose may fruitful blessed.

How do people learn to be moral?

Morality benefits both individuals and societies. Acting morally can generate positive emotions, increase trust, foster social connections, and bolster a sense of community. How, though, do people learn to be moral?

Theories of moral learning often focus on the people and social institutions that immediately surround individuals, such as parents, friends, schools. Our research team extends these persepctives by asking how moarality maps onto to larger social structures. For example, how are moral convinctions patterned by race or gender?  

Past research also predominately views morality as having to do with care and justice. While these are important aspects of morality, for many people moral concerns extend far beyond these into matters such as loyalty to groups such as families, communities, and nations; respect for proper authority; a strong work ethic; and concern for spiritual or sexual purity. Our research team asks how this moral diversity comes about. Do the pathways of moral learning differ for different types of moral concerns?

Current Projects

Values and Sociodemographic Predictors

Determining how values are distributed across the sociodemographic landscape is an important first step in understanding how values are learned. However, little previous research has explored this topic, and what research exists gives contradictory results. We reassess past work and find that differences in findings cannot be attributed to methodological differences. Rather, they reflect real and substantial variability in how sociodemographic variables relate to values. This suggests that how values are learned may depend on the broader social context.

Higher Education and Moral Change

Higher education is fraught with controversy over its alleged liberalizing effects. Others bemoan the loss of character education in schools. Which is true? Does the educational system change our morals, or leave them largely untouched? Using rich longitutindal data spanning adolescence and emerging adulthood we explore how involvement in higher education and programs of study influence moral attitudes. Findings to date suggest that higher education does affect morality, but the direction of this effect depends on the program of study.