About Me

Darcia Narvaez, PhD

My name is pronounced DAR-sha narv-EYES.


My life has been an adventure through many careers. I am still growing.

My academic scholarship has moved from work on nonconscious moral rationality (in the 1990s), to moral character education in the schools (late 1990s- early 2000s), to the neurobiology of moral development (mid 2000s to present), to the study of evolved parenting practices (presently), and the study of small-band hunter-gatherers who represent the type of society in which humans evolved (presently). All this comes together in a moral developmental systems theory that emphasizes the ongoing epigenetic plasticity of how we develop our humanity and our morality. We are co-constructed by our families and our experiences.


My concerns are for developmental optimization and fulfilling human potential—actionable communal imagination.  I put some of this together in various articles and chapters but mostly in my 2014 book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom.


My prior careers include being a musician (organist, choir director, piano teacher), classroom teacher (K-12 music, middle school Spanish), human resource developer (Minnesota Migrant Council, MN Hispanic Women’s Development Corporation), business owner (E-SPAN—Easy Spanish for adults), seminarian (Luther Seminary). All my careers aim at discovering what it means to be human, to develop and use one’s talents, to give more than take from Life, and to live a virtuous life. I’m still learning.


Go to my Notre Dame website for lots of downloadable papers, education materials, links to interviews, blogs, conference videos and more.


Also see the website, EvolvedNest.org for podcasts, videos, blogs of young voices and more.

Darcia Narvaez, PhD
Darcia Narvaez, PhD

Expanded Reason Award

About the Expanded Reason Award

The award was given by University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation to recognize innovation in scientific research and academic programs based on Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason. Watch the Rome television news report to the left and read the full release below.

The Expanded Reason Award

The award was given by University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation to recognize innovation in scientific research and academic programs based on Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason. The university and foundation sought academic works that question and explicitly incorporate reflections on the anthropology, epistemology, ethics and meaning that exist within the specific science. Two awards were given for research, and two were given for academic programs.


Narvaez’s book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, was chosen from among more than 360 total entries from 170 universities and 30 countries. Narvaez will receive the prize, including a substantial monetary award, at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on September 27, 2017.


Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom outlines an evolutionary framework for early childhood experience that is grounded in developmental systems theory, encompassing not only genes but a wide array of inheritances and epigenetic factors. It describes the neurobiological bases for the development of distinctive moral mindsets, addressing ethical functioning at multiple levels of complexity and context before turning to a theory of the emergence of wisdom. Finally, it suggests that we honor the sociocultural orientations of our ancestors and cousins in small-band hunter-gatherer societies—the norm for 99% of human history—for a re-envisioning of an organic, sustainable moral life, from the way we value and organize child raising to how we cooperate with a living planet.


The book integrates elements of anthropology, clinical and developmental psychology, and neuroscience to examine the influences in early childhood that help shape a person’s moral character. Narvaez also received the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association for the book.


“Our research in the lab examines the evolved developmental niche—the evolved nest for humans—whose primary characteristics emerged with social mammals more than 30 million years ago,” Narvaez said. She and her team have published several empirical papers about the effects of the evolved nest on wellbeing and morality in children and adults.


In giving the award, University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation seek academic works that question and explicitly incorporate reflections on the anthropology, epistemology, ethics and meaning that exist within the specific science. Narváez’s book was chosen in the research category.


Narvaez, who joined the Department of Psychology in 2000, has published numerous books and articles on moral cognition, moral development, and moral character. She is a co-director of the interdisciplinary Self, Motivation, and Virtue project and the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science initiative. She is the exiting executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education and writes the popular Moral Landscapes blog for Psychology Today.


Visit Narvaez's University of Notre Dame website to find a complete list of her publications, educational materials, papers and videos. 

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