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THE DEVELOping moral values LAB

Research Projects




Research Projects
Research Projects

In the Developing Moral Values Lab, we aim to discover how morality is shaped during childhood and into adulthood.

Our moral values define us, unite us, and give meaning to our lives. Gaining a scientific understanding of how these values are acquired provides a powerful vantage point from which to make informed decisions about how to facilitate a better future. In order to contribute to this emerging understanding of the inner workings of our moral minds, the Developing Moral Values Lab conducts a range of studies with and adults and with children between the ages of 5 and 10. Some of the issues we are currently investigating include:

    How and why do children and adults differ in their beliefs about which entities deserve moral consideration?

    How does an awareness of the fallibility of one's knowledge relate to patterns of selective trust?

  • Evaluations of belief change

     Is it considered good to change your mind in light of compelling evidence, even in intergroup contexts?

  • Assessments of moral character

     What does it take to consider somebody else as a good person, and what happens if they temporarily lapse?

  • the roots of environmental ethics

     Why do some people care deeply about the planet, while others believe that humans can exploit nature?

Principal Investigator
[Personal website]

J Rottman
S. Silverman
Sara Silverman

Sara is a senior from Millburn, New Jersey. She is a psychology and public health double major. On campus, she is the Co-President of Colleges Against Cancer and a member of Kappa Delta, Psi Chi, the Benjamin Rush Pre-Health Honor Society, and Phi Beta Kappa. She is also a TA for Face Perception. A fun fact about her is that she has two dogs!

L. Mendoza
Laura Mendoza

Laura is a senior from Miami, Florida majoring in psychology and minoring in Latin American studies. On campus, Laura is a POSSE scholar and the secretary of S.I.S.T.E.R.S. A fun fact about her is that she was born in Colombia!

S. Joseph
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Sierra Joseph

Sierra is a senior from Miami, Florida. She is a psychology major with a French minor. On campus, she is a member of the Rugby team, S.I.S.T.E.R.S., and Kappa Delta, a Brooks Housing Advisor, and a POSSE scholar. A fun fact about Sierra is that she met Camila Cabello at her local Starbucks!

D. Benson
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Devin Benson

Devin is a senior from Bradford, Pennsylvania double majoring in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science. He is a member of the Environmental Action Alliance and the EMS Club on campus and works at Lemon Street Market. A fun fact about him is that he loves to hike!

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Annaliese Heidelberger

Annaliese is a senior from Red Bank, New Jersey majoring in psychology and minoring in environmental studies. On campus, she is a member of F&M Votes and is involved in the Epilogue literary magazine. She is also a PSY100 tutor. A fun fact about her is that she has been a vegetarian her whole life and loves to cook new vegetarian recipes!

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Santiago Reyes

Santiago is a junior from Miami, Florida majoring in moral psychology and minoring in philosophy. He currently works at the bookstore on campus. Some fun facts about him are that he's a musician and loves all forms of art. He's fascinated with the nature of love and is exploring it through a documentary.

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Kylie Henigan

Kylie is a sophomore from Falls Church, Virginia. She is an intended psychology major with a minor in philosophy. On campus, she is involved in a leadership program. A fun fact about her is that she has a cat living with her on campus!

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Maddie Mealey

Maddie is a sophomore from San Antonio, Texas intending to major in cognitive science. She is on the F&M swim team and a fun fact about her is that her favorite book is "The Brothers Karamazov"!

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Sedona Levine
Sedona is a senior from Long Island, New York majoring in psychology and minoring in economics. On campus, she is involved in Kappa Delta and the Ware Institute and serves as Spring Arts Chair for the College Entertainment Committee. A fun fact about her is that she studied abroad in New Zealand for a semester!
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Lula Odendaal Williams
Lula is a junior from Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates majoring in cognitive science and minoring in anthropology. She is a member of the Equestrian Club and the International Student Advisory Board. A fun fact about her is that she is from three continents: North America, Africa, and Asia!
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Piper is a junior from Eugene, Oregon pursuing a joint major in anthropology and BFB. On campus, she is a member of the climbing club. A fun fact about her is that she has 500 digits of pi memorized!

A few sample publications, which report findings from data collected in the Developing Moral Values Lab, are below.  The asterisks signify undergraduate coauthors. For a complete list, please visit Prof. Rottman's personal website.

{PDF} White, C. J. M., Schaller, M., Abraham, E.*, & Rottman, J. (2022). Navigating between punishment, avoidance, and instruction: The form and function of responses to moral violations varies across adult and child transgressors. Cognition, 223, 105048. 


{PDF} DeJesus, J. M., Gerdin, E., Venkatesh, S., & Rottman, J. (2021). Considering uncontaminated food as an early-emerging and previously ignored disgust elicitor. Emotion, 21(7), 1522–1536.


{PDF} Rottman, J., Zizik, V.*, Minard, K.*, Young, L., Blake, P. R., & Kelemen, D. (2020). The moral, or the story? Changing children’s distributive justice preferences through social communication. Cognition, 205, 104441. 

{PDF} Rottman, J., Johnston, A. M., Bierhoff, S.*, Pelletier, T.*, Grigoreva, A. D.*, & Benitez, J.* (2020). In sickness and in filth: Developing a disdain for dirty people. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 196, 104858. 

Lab alumni
Elizabeth Abraham ’20; Sam Bellersen ’21; Josie Benitez ’18; Sydney Bierhoff ’18; Colleen Boggs, '22; Leslie Botey ’18; 
Gregory Case ’18; Lauren Chen '23; Skylynn Coble, '23; Cristina Conde ’23; Jayda Cole '25; Tenny-Ann Dandy ’23; 
Chandrakant Dhanraj ’20: Ipeknaz Erel ’18; Zoe Favilla, '23; Mary Fouad, '24; Caitlin Geller, '23; Rachel Gerb ’18; 
Linned Gomez ’20; Heather Greenebaum ’18; Anastasiia Grigoreva ’20; Kat Gunther, '23; Emily Kapner ’21;
Nina Kegelman ’21; Nicole Kolmstetter ’21; Justin Lanzilotti, '25; Caroline Lawrence ’18; Mira Lerner ’20; Julianna Lynch ’19; 
Xinyu Lu ’20; Zhuoying Lyu ’19; Maritza Marquez, '23; Kelly Minard ’21; Sophi Mitchell ’19; Kelsey Nason ’20; Prsni Patel ’20; 
Taisha Pelletier ’18; Nithya Ramaswamy ’22; Raluca Rilla, '23; Lilian Rodriguez ’21; Stylianos Syropoulos ’18; 
Caroline Stolfi ’19; Zachary Walden ’16; Julia Weber, '23; Maya Workowski ’21; Xinjie Zhao ’19; Valerie Zizik ’19
Independent study students

Sam Bellersen ’21: "Korsgaard and Lugones: Social Conditions and Constraints"

Josie Benitez ’18: "Conceptualizing Socioeconomic Status: Children's Essentialist Thinking About Differentially Advantaged SES Categories"


Olivia Brick ’24: "“Navigating the Autonomy-Beneficence 'Conflict': Does Perspective-Taking Improve Assessments of Willing Amputees?”


Teresa Flanagan ’18 (co-mentored with Dr. Lauren Howard): "What Will the Robot Do?: A Psychological, Philosophical, and Technological Study on Children’s Attribution of Free Will"


Rebecca Glass (née Branovan) ’17: "Gossip and Well-Being on College Campuses"

Anastasiia Grigoreva ’20: "Does 'No' Mean No if She is a Sex Robot? Assessments of Sexual Consent Violation Impermissibility in the Case of Sex Robots"

Nina Kegelman ’21: "Who’s Right, Who’s Wrong? Truth and Racial Reckoning in a Divided United States"


Isaac Kelly ’24: "Fuzzy Handcuffs: Social Media Infringes on Autonomy via Inconspicuous Behavioral Interventions"


David Leibowitz ’22: "Does Identification with Animals Influence Convergent Beliefs on Human and Animal Nature?"

Mira Lerner '20: "The Burden of Climate Action: How Environmental Responsibility is Impacted by Socioeconomic Status"


Julia Madaio ’21: "Monotheistic Religions and their Relationship to the Moral Foundations Theory"

Anna Markovitz ’18: "Analysis of Sexual Consent Perception"


Alexander Moog ’16: "The Moral Circle, Emotions, and Moral Foundations"

Nithya Ramaswamy '22: "Why do Beings Matter? A Study on Children's Perceptions of Existential Worth"

Stylianos Syropoulos '18: "The Creation and Validation of the Perceived Safety Scale"

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