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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:

  • The boundaries of moral circles

      What kinds of entities and objects do people include within their circles of moral regard, and why?

  • Evaluations of belief change

     To what extent do children and adults believe that it is morally good to change your mind, even if it conflicts       with partisanship?

  • 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
[F&M faculty profile]
J Rottman
N. Ramaswamy
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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.

S. Coble
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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.


C. Geller
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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.

Z. Favilla
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Zoe Favilla

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

R. Rilla
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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

L. Chen
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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!

J. Weber
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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.

M. Marquez
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Maritza Marquez
Maritza is a junior from Houston, TX and is a double major in women's, gender, and sexuality studies (WGSS) and psychology. On campus she serves on executive boards of Phi Sigma Pi, First Generation Diplomats, Catastrophic Relief Alliance, and the Alice Drum Women's Center. Maritza is a Peer Health Educator for the Student Wellness Education and Violence Prevention Office and a student worker for the Alice Drum Women's Center.
K. Gunther
Kat Gunther

Kat is a junior from Tampa, Florida majoring in neuroscience and minoring in psychology. She is on the Varsity Softball Team, a First Year Advising Mentor, and a Rotartact member.

M. Fouad
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Mary Fouad

Mary is a senior 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.

S. Silverman
Sara Silverman

Sara is a junior from Millburn, New Jersey double majoring in psychology and Public Health (Sociology). She is the Co-President of Colleges Against Cancer and Vice President-Events & Programming of Kappa Delta. She hopes to go to occupational therapy school after she graduates from F&M.

J. Cole
Jayda cole

Jayda is a first-year from York, Pennsylvania intending to major in cognitive science and minor in medicine in society. Jayda is excited to join the lab as she is interested in family dynamics and childhood, and the consequential impact on adulthood.

L. Mendoza
Laura Mendoza

Laura is a first-year from Miami, Florida intending to major in psychology and minor in women's, gender, and sexuality studies. On campus, Laura is a POSSE scholar and a member of S.I.S.T.E.R.S and Mi Gente Latina. 

J. Lanzilotti
Justin Lanzilotti

Justin is a first-year from Mt. Kisco, New York intending to major in cognitive science and philosophy. On campus, Justin is involved in the music program, both in group and individual instrument performance.

J. Kisilevich
Joshua Kisilevich

Joshua is a first-year from Ridgewood, New Jersey intending to major in psychology. On campus, Joshua is the treasurer of the table tennis club and is involved in Hillel. A fun fact about him is that he has never broken a bone!

C. Boggs
Colleen Boggs

Colleen is a rising senior at Wellesley College from Shillington, PA, majoring in psychology. She is a member of her college radio station (WZLY) and is a psychology Teaching Assistant. In her free time, she enjoys spending time with her big family, thrift shopping, and being in nature. 


A few sample publications are below.  The asterisks signify undergraduate coauthors. For a complete list, please visit Prof. Rottman's faculty page or his 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} Lerner, M.*, & Rottman, J. (2021). The burden of climate action: How environmental responsibility is impacted by socioeconomic status. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 77, 101674. 

{PDF} Rottman, J., Crimston, C. R., & Syropoulos, S.* (2021). Tree-huggers versus human-lovers: Anthropomorphism and dehumanization predict valuing nature over outgroups. Cognitive Science, 45(4), e12967.


{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: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2019; Directed Study, 2019

Sam Bellersen ’21: Directed Study, 2019–2021; Independent Study, 2021

Josie Benitez ’18: Franklin Grant-funded Summer Scholar, 2017; Directed Study, 2017; Independent Study, 2018

Sydney Bierhoff ’18: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2016

Leslie Botey ’18: Directed Study, 2016–2017

Tenny-Ann Dandy ’23: Directed Study, 2020

Chandrakant Dhanraj ’20: APA SUPRE Grant-funded Summer Scholar, 2017

Ipeknaz Erel ’18: Directed Study, 2016 (co-mentored with Dr. Krista Casler)

Teresa Flanagan ’18: Independent Study, 2018 (co-mentored with Dr. Lauren Howard)

Rachel Gerb ’18: Directed Study, 2017

Rebecca Glass (née Branovan) ’17: Independent Study, 2016–2017

Linned Gomez ’20: Directed Study, 2019; Independent Study, 2020

Heather Greenebaum ’18: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2017; Directed Study, 2017

Anastasiia Grigoreva ’20: APA SUPRE Grant-funded Summer Scholar, 2017; Wank Award-funded Summer Scholar, 2018; Puff-funded Summer Scholar, 2019; Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2019; Directed Study, 2017–2020; Independent Study, 2020

Nina Kegelman ’21: Independent Study, 2021; Templeton-funded Summer Scholar, 2021

Mira Lerner ’20: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2018; Directed Study, 2018; Independent Study, 2019–2020

David Leibowitz ’22: Independent Study, 2022

Julianna Lynch ’19: Directed Study, 2017–2019

Julia Madaio ’21: Independent Study, 2021

Anna Markovitz ’18: Independent Study, 2018

Tyler McGee ’20: Independent Study, 2019

Kelly Minard ’21: Puff-funded Summer Scholar, 2018–2019; Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2019; Directed Study, 2018–2019

Alexander Moog ’16: Independent Study, 2016

Kelsey Nason ’20: Directed Study, 2019

Taisha Pelletier ’18: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2016

Nithya Ramaswamy ’22: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2021; Directed Study, 2022; Independent Study, 2022

Stylianos Syropoulos ’18: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2017; Independent Study, 2017–2018; Directed Study, 2017–2018

Maya Workowski ’21: Directed Study, 2019–2020

Valerie Zizik ’19: Hackman-funded Summer Scholar, 2018; Directed Study, 2018–2019

Gregory Case ’18 (2018)

Cristina Conde ’23 (2021)

Emily Kapner ’21 (2020–2021)

Nicole Kolmstetter ’21 (2018–2020)

Caroline Lawrence ’18 (2016–2017)

Xinyu Lu ’20 (2020)

Zhuoying Lyu ’19 (2017–2018)

Sophi Mitchell ’19 (2018)

Prsni Patel ’20 (2018)

Lilian Rodriguez ’21 (2018)

Caroline Stolfi ’19 (2018)

Zachary Walden ’16 (2016)

Xinjie Zhao ’19 (2017–2019)
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