THE DEVELOping moral values LAB

Research Projects



Research Projects

In the Developing Moral Values Lab, we aim to discover how values are shaped during childhood.

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 adults and with children between the ages of 5 and 9. Some of the issues we are currently investigating include:

> the morals of a story

To what extent are children influenced by moral lessons that are conveyed in storybooks?

> SELECTIVE trust in moral advisors

What kinds of people do children tend to trust when they are being taught morally-relevant information?


How and when does the emotion of disgust emerge in childhood, and is this intertwined with morality?

> the roots of environmental ethics

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



Principal Investigator


[F&M faculty profile]


Nithya Ramaswamy

Nithya is a senior from Bangalore, India and is majoring in psychology and minoring and economics. She is in the Harbaugh Club and is also a tutor in the Q&SC. A fun fact about Nithya is that she thinks goats are the most frightening species.

Sky coble

Sky is a junior from Bainbridge, Pennsylvania with a psychology major and a spanish minor. Sky is a Writing Center tutor, a Squash ACES mentor, and a member of the F&M Dance Company. In her free time Sky enjoys reading and baking.


Caitlin Geller

Caitlin is a junior from Armonk, New York majoring in psychology and minoring in english. In addition to serving as the lab manager, Caitlin is involved in sorority life and the ultimate frisbee team.

Zoe Favilla

Zoe is a junior from Scarsdale, NY double majoring in psychology and public health. On campus, she is a Diplomat Corps Tour Guide, the Women's Club Soccer Team Social Chair, and is involved in Hillel and Knittervention. 

Raluca rilla

Raluca is a junior from Bucharest, Romania majoring in cognitive science and psychology. On campus Raluca is a Writing Center Tutor, the International Student Advisory Board Co-president, a Fellow Advising Mentor, and is involved in the Philosophy in High Schools Program

Lauren chen

Lauren is a junior from Moorestown, NJ. She is Neuroscience Major and Sociology Minor, and aspires to become a pediatrician. Outside of the classroom, she is a member of the Women’s Golf team, a violinist in F&M’s Orchestra, and Co-President of the Spoon University club. Lauren also enjoys traveling, playing the guitar, and loves to bake!

Julia Weber

Julia Weber is a junior from Irvington, New York and is majoring in psychology and minoring in Spanish. On campus, she is a member of Alpha Delta Pi, a Jewish Engagement Fellow with Hillel, and a First-Year Advising Mentor. As an Asian adoptee adopted by a single Jewish mother, she is deeply interested in understanding the foundation and continued development of moral values, particularly in children. Additionally, she finds it important to share such findings with others.

Mary Fouad

Mary is a sophomore from New Jersey pursuing a major in moral psychology and a minor in anthropology. On campus she is the Diversity Outreach Chair for the Mindfulness Club, and is involved in S.I.S.T.E.R.S and Unleashed. A fun fact about Mary is that she lived in Egypt for 10 years.


Alexander Moog '16, Independent Study Student

Ashley Christopherson '16, Student Coordinator

Zachary Walden '16, Student Coordinator

Rebecca Branovan '17, Independent Study Student

Sydney Bierhoff '18, Hackman Summer Scholar 2016

Taisha Pelletier '18, Hackman Summer Scholar 2016

Leslie Botey '18, Research Assistant 

Caroline Lawrence '18, Research Assistant 

Tess Flanagan '18, Independent Study Student

Heather Greenebaum '18, Hackman Summer Scholar 2017

​Ipeknaz Erel '18, 

Josie Benitez '18, Independent Study Student

Stylianos Syropoulos '18, Hackman Summer Scholar 2017 and Independent Study Student

Rachel Gerb '19, Research Assistant 

Xinjie (Adele) Zhao '19, Research Assistant

Chandrakant Dhanraj '20, APA SUPRE Scholar 2017

Prsni Patel '19, Directed Study Student

Julianna Lynch '19, Research Assistant, Brookshire Award Recipient

Valerie Zizik '19, Research Assistant, Hackman Summer Scholar 2018

Liz Abraham '20, Directed Study Student

Anastasiia Grigoreva '20, Lab Manager

Mira Lerner '20, Research Assistant
Kelly Minard '21, Research Assistant
Sam Bellerson '21, Research Assistant
Nicole Kolmstetter '21, Research Assistant
Maya Workowski '21, Research Assistant
Lulu Gomez '20, Research Assistant
Emily Kapner '20, Research Assistant
Nina Kegelman '21, Research Assistant


A few sample publications are below.  For a complete list, please visit Prof. Rottman's faculty page or his personal website.

Selected publications

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. doi:10.1016/j.jecp.2020.104858. [PDF]

Lynch, J. M., Lane, J. D., Berryessa, C. M., & Rottman, J. (2019). How information about perpetrators’ nature and nurture influences assessments of their character, mental states, and deserved punishment. PLOS One, 14(10), e0224093. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0224093. [PDF]

Rottman, J., DeJesus, J. M., & Greenebaum, H. (2019). Developing disgust: Theory, measurement, and application. In V. LoBue, K. Pérez-Edgar, & K. Buss (Eds.), Handbook of emotional development (pp. 283–309). New York: Springer. [PDF]


Rottman, J., & Young, L. (2019). Specks of dirt and tons of pain: Dosage distinguishes impurity from harm. Psychological Science.  doi: 10.1177/0956797619855382.  [PDF]


Rottman, J., Young, L., & Kelemen, D. (2017). The impact of testimony on children’s moralization of novel actions. Emotion, 17(5), 811–827. doi:10.1037/emo0000276. [PDF]