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University of Notre Dame Resources



BOOKS (*award-winning)


Neurobiology and the development of Human morality


“Does childhood baggage influence morality? Not according to dominant traditions in Western philosophy. Emotional reactions do not matter so long as reasoning and will are intact. So when I started my work in moral psychology I did not think these childhood burdens would matter. Like many, I considered morality to be a matter of reasoning and will. In this Kantian view, it doesn’t much matter what you feel or who you have become as long as you reason well, make a good decision, and have a strong will to carry it out. As long as one chooses the right action with moral intent, one fails only if the will is not successful at carrying one through the action. The view that reason controls action is still common among philosophers and economists (e.g., “rational choice theory”). The field of moral psychology, impressed by moral philosophy, has had a bent toward explicit reasoning as well, although its founder, Jean Piaget, also measured the development of implicit mental structures (schemas) upon which explicit reasoning relies.

When I joined the field of moral developmental psychology, there was still an emphasis on measuring reasoning, although my work addressed implicit processes. In recent decades, psychology has been undergoing a type of paradigm shift to understanding that most of human behavior is governed by implicit processes (although integration with prior theories of implicit cognition—for example, Freud’s—has yet to be accomplished). This book is about how implicit processes rely on our neurobiological capacities and govern our moral behavior…”

Noted Acclaim:

“A masterfully written book with insights, fresh ideas, and important questions worthy of wide readership and influence. With a background taken from evolutionary biology and virtue ethics, the author integrates knowledge from a sweeping array of disciplines within biology, anthropology, and the developmental sciences to advance her compelling narrative about the human condition and what is needed today for healthy development and flourishing. Concluding appeals for more of an ‘engagement ethic,’ becoming in balance with nature, and appreciating values from our indigenous cultures are graced with her personal experiences and poetically-toned positive advice.”

—Robert N. Emde, MD, Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry, University of Colorado School of Medicine; Centers for American Indian Alaska Native Health, Colorado School of Public Health; Honorary President, World Association for Infant Mental Health; Former President, Society for Research in Child Development


indigenous sustainable wisdom

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing

Edited By Darcia Narvaez, Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), Eugene Halton, Brian S Collier and Georges Enderle

Contributors describe ways of being in the world that reflect a worldview that guided humanity for 99% of human history: They describe the practical traditional wisdom that stems from Nature-based relational cultures that were or are guided by this worldview. Such cultures did not cause the kinds of anti-Nature and de-humanizing or inequitable policies and practices that now pervade our world. Far from romanticizing Indigenous histories, Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom offers facts about how human beings, with our potential for good and evil behaviors, can live in relative harmony again. Contributions cover views from anthropology, psychology, sociology, leadership, native science, native history, and native art.

See the Sustainable Wisdom conference program here and the video playlist from the conference here.

“Authentic and deep respect for Indigenous knowledge(s) means keeping it alive and vital, appreciating its urgent necessity for today’s times, and interweaving it into the lives of non-Indigenous people. No longer can Indigenous knowledge be marginalized, relegated to the past, or shelved in a museum. As becomes clearer each day, our planet cannot survive without its inhabitants learning to live in harmony with Mother Earth, as Indigenous wisdom teaches. The diverse chapters in this book offer ways to make this vision a reality for right now and lasting into the future.” ―Susan Roberta Katz, Professor, International and Multicultural Education, University of San Francisco


Basic Needs, Wellbeing and Morality

Basic Needs, Wellbeing and Morality: Fulfilling Human Potential

Basic needs fulfilment is fundamental to becoming human and reaching one’s potential. Extending the BUCET list proposed by Susan Fiske – which includes belonging, understanding, control/competence, autonomy, self-enhancement, trust, purpose and life satisfaction – this book demonstrates that the fulfilment of basic needs predicts adult physical and mental health, as well as sociality and morality. The authors suggest that meeting basic needs in childhood vitally shapes one’s trajectory for self-actualization, and that initiatives aimed at human wellbeing should include a greater emphasis on early childhood experience. Through contemporaneous and retrospective research in childhood, the authors argue that basic need-fulfilment is key to the development of the self and the possibility of reaching one’s full potential. This book will be of interest to scholars of human wellbeing and societal flourishing, as well as to health workers and educators.

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Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination

Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination

In this book the broad, interdisciplinary theory of Triune Ethics Meta-theory is explored to demonstrate how it explains the different patterns of morality seen in the world today. It describes how human morality develops dynamically from experience in early life and it proposes that the methods in which humans are raised bring about tendencies towards self-protective or open-hearted social relations. When the life course follows evolutionary systems, then prosocial, open-hearted capacities develop but when the life course goes against evolutionary systems it should not be a surprise that self-focused values and behaviors develop such as violent tribalism, self aggrandizement and a binary orientation to others (dominance or submission). Many humans alive today exhibit impaired capacities in comparison to humans from small-band hunter-gatherer societies, the type of society that represents 99% of humanity’s history. TEM is rooted in ethical naturalism and points out how to optimize human moral development through the lifespan—toward the ethics of engagement and communal imagination.

  • Digitally watermarked, DRM-free
  • Included format: EPUB, PDF
  • eBook ISBN 978-1-137-55399-7
  • DOI 10.1057/978-1-137-55399-7
  • Hardcover ISBN 978-1-137-55398-0

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Developing the Virtues: Integrating Perspectives

Developing the Virtues: Integrating Perspectives

  • Provides an integrative approach to studying virtue development from a cross-disciplinary perspective
  • Discusses topics that are important and in many cases cutting edge, such as the development of automatic and reflective virtuous dispositions
  • Essays in this volume are organized around themes and engage each other in a broader dialogue

ISBN: 9780190271466

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Contexts for Young Child Flourishing

Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family, and Society

This is a long form text area designed for your content that you can fill up with as many words as your heart desires. You can write articles, long mission statements, company policies, executive profiles, company awards/distinctions, office locations, shareholder reports, whitepapers, media mentions and other pieces of content that don’t fit into a shorter, more succinct space.

Articles – Good topics for articles include anything related to your company – recent changes to operations, the latest company softball game – or the industry you’re in. General business trends (think national and even international) are great article fodder, too.

Mission statements – You can tell a lot about a company by its mission statement. Don’t have one? Now might be a good time to create one and post it here. A good mission statement tells you what drives a company to do what it does.

Company policies – Are there company policies that are particularly important to your business? Perhaps your unlimited paternity/maternity leave policy has endeared you to employees across the company. This is a good place to talk about that.

Executive profiles – A company is only as strong as its executive leadership. This is a good place to show off who’s occupying the corner offices. Write a nice bio about each executive that includes what they do, how long they’ve been at it, and what got them to where they are.

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Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom

by Darcia Narvaez

Moral development has traditionally been considered a matter of reasoning―of learning and acting in accordance with abstract rules. On this model, largely taken for granted in modern societies, acts of selfishness, aggression, and ecological mindlessness are failures of will, moral problems that can be solved by acting in accordance with a higher rationality. But both ancient philosophy and recent scientific scholarship emphasize implicit systems, such as action schemas and perceptual filters that guide behavior and shape human development. In this integrative book, Darcia Narvaez argues that morality goes “all the way down” into our neurobiological and emotional development, and that a person’s moral architecture is largely established early on in life. Moral rationality and virtue emerge “bottom up” from lived experience, so it matters what that experience is. Bringing together deep anthropological history, ethical philosophy, and contemporary neurobiological science, she demonstrates where modern industrialized societies have fallen away from the cultural practices that made us human in the first place.

Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality advances the field of developmental moral psychology in three key ways. First, it provides an evolutionary framework for early childhood experience grounded in developmental systems theory, encompassing not only genes but a wide array of environmental and epigenetic factors. Second, it proposes a neurobiological basis for the development of moral sensibilities and cognition, describing ethical functioning at multiple levels of complexity and context before turning to a theory of the emergence of wisdom. Finally, it embraces 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 moral life, from the way we value and organize child raising to how we might frame a response to human-made global ecological collapse.

Integrating the latest scholarship in clinical sciences and positive psychology, Narvaez proposes a developmentally informed ecological and ethical sensibility as a way to self-author and revise the ways we think about parenting and sociality. The techniques she describes point towards an alternative vision of moral development and flourishing, one that synthesizes traditional models of executive, top-down wisdom with “primal” wisdom built by multiple systems of biological and cultural influence from the ground up.

*Winner of the William James Book Award from Division I of the American Psychological Association

*Winner of the 2016 book award from the Moral Development and Education SIG at the American Educational Research Association

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Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution

Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution; Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing

  • Addresses the question: How do culture and parenting influence child development as well as individual and cultural wellbeing?
  • Offers an in-depth examination of hunter-gatherer cultural practices relevant to child development
  • Examines children’s contributions and collaborations with parents in human evolution
  • Explores mammalian early care effects on wellbeing

The social contexts in which children develop have transformed over recent decades, but also over millennia. Modern parenting practices have diverged greatly from ancestral practices, which included natural childbirth, extensive and on-demand breastfeeding, constant touch, responsiveness to the needs of the child, free play in nature with multiple-aged playmates, and multiple adult caregivers. Only recently have scientists begun to document the outcomes for the presence or absence of such parenting practices, but early results indicate that psychological wellbeing is impacted by these factors.

Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution addresses how a shift in the way we parent can influence child outcomes. It examines evolved contexts for mammalian development, optimal and suboptimal contexts for human evolved needs, and the effects on children's development and human wellbeing. Bringing together an interdisciplinary set of renowned contributors, this volume examines how different parenting styles and cultural personality influence one another. Chapters discuss the nature of childrearing, social relationships, the range of personalities people exhibit, the social and moral skills expected of adults, and what 'wellbeing' looks like. As a solid knowledge base regarding normal development is considered integral to understanding psychopathology, this volume also focuses on the effects of early childhood maltreatment. By increasing our understanding of basic mammalian emotional and motivational needs in contexts representative of our ancestral conditions, we may be in a better position to facilitate changes in social structures and systems that better support optimal human development. This book will be a unique resource for researchers and students in psychology, anthropology, and psychiatry, as well as professionals in public health, social work, clinical psychology, and early care and education.

ISBN: 9780199964253 

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From Research to Practice and Policy

Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development

Edited by Darcia Narvaez, Ph.D., Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., Allan N. Schore, Ph.D., and Tracy R. Gleason, Ph.D.

The field of cognitive psychology has expanded rapidly in recent years, with experts in affective and cognitive neuroscience revealing more about mammalian brain function than ever before. In contrast, psychological problems such as ADHD, autism, anxiety, and depression are on the rise, as are medical conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and autoimmune disorders. Why, in this era of unprecedented scientific self-knowledge, does there seem to be so much uncertainty about what human beings need for optimal development?

Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs. In this pioneering volume, scientists from a range of disciplines theorize that the increase in conditions such as depression and obesity can be partially attributed to a disparity between the environments and conditions under which our mammalian brains currently develop and our evolutionary heritage. For example, healthy brain and emotional development depends to a significant extent upon caregiver availability and quality of care. These include practices such as breastfeeding, co-sleeping, and parental social support, which have waned in modern society, but nevertheless may be integral to healthy development. As the authors argue, without a more informed appreciation of the ideal conditions under which human brains/minds develop and function, human beings will continue to struggle with suboptimal mental and physical health, and as problems emerge psychological treatments alone will not be effective. The best approach is to recognize these needs at the outset so as to optimize child development. Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development puts forth a logical, empirically based argument regarding human mammalian needs for optimal development, based on research from anthropology, neurobiology, animal science, and human development. The result is a unique exploration of evolutionary approaches to human behavior that will support the advancement of new policies, new attitudes towards health, and alterations in childcare practices that will better promote healthy human development.

  • The first book to pull together research on the set of parenting practices in early life that characterize social mammals
  • Discusses the effects of parenting practices on child development
  • Asserts that human development is being misshaped by government policies, social practices, and public beliefs that fail to consider basic human needs
  • For scholars and professionals in the human sciences, including psychology and anthropology, as well as experts in mental health and human services

ISBN: 9780199755059

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Personality, Identity, and Character

Personality, Identity, and Character; Explorations in Moral Psychology

Edited by Darcia Narvaez and Daniel K. Lapsley

Moral notions are foundational questions that have commanded deep reflection since antiquity, reflection that psychological science cannot evade, because the moral formation of children is a central concern of parents, schools, and communities charged with educating the next generation. In this respect there are few domains of study more crucial than moral psychology and few topics of greater importance than the development of moral self-identity, of moral character, and of the moral personality. This edited volume features the expertise of pre-eminent scholars in moral personality, self, and identity, such as moral philosophers, personality theorists, developmental psychologists, moral personality researchers, social psychologists, and neuroscientists. It brings together cutting-edge work in moral psychology that illustrates an impressive diversity of theoretical perspectives and methodologies and simultaneously points the way toward promising integrative possibilities.

ISBN-13: 9780521719278

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Handbook of Moral Character and Education, 2nd Edition

Handbook of Moral Character and Education, 2nd Edition

Edited by Larry Nucci, Darcia Narvaez, Tobias Krettenauer

There is widespread agreement that schools should contribute to the moral development and character formation of their students. In fact, 80% of US states currently have mandates regarding character education. However, the pervasiveness of the support for moral and character education masks a high degree of controversy surrounding its meaning and methods. The purpose of this handbook is to supplant the prevalent ideological rhetoric of the field with a comprehensive, research-oriented volume that both describes the extensive changes that have occurred over the last fifteen years and points forward to the future. Now in its second edition, this book includes the latest applications of developmental and cognitive psychology to moral and character education from preschool to college settings, and much more.

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Handbook of Moral Character and Education, 1st Edition

Handbook of Moral Character and Education, 1st Edition

Edited by Larry Nucci and Darcia Narvaez

There is widespread agreement that schools should contribute to the moral development and character formation of their students. In fact, 80% of US states currently have mandates regarding character education. However, the pervasiveness of the support for moral and character education masks a high degree of controversy surrounding its meaning and methods. The purpose of this handbook is to supplant the prevalent ideological rhetoric of the field with a comprehensive, research-oriented volume that both describes the extensive changes that have occurred over the last fifteen years and points forward to the future. Now in its second edition, this book includes the latest applications of developmental and cognitive psychology to moral and character education from preschool to college settings, and much more.

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Nurturing Character in the Classroom EthEx Series

Nurturing Character in the Classroom EthEx Series

by Darcia Narvaez and colleagues

The Nurturing Character in the Classroom book series is a set of guidebooks for teachers that provide hundreds of ideas for how to incorporate moral character skill development into regular academic instruction. EthEx refers to the lifelong development of ethical skills toward expertise (ethical expertise) in many domains and situations. The four EthEx books each suggest 7 skills with 3 subskills important for a virtuous life. The books outline how to teach these skills in a middle-school context. But the books are used by K-16 instructors. 

Each book contains:

· Hundreds of ideas for integrating ethical skill development into standards-drive academic instruction

· Four levels of novice-to-expert instruction

· Guidelines for a classroom climate supporting each skill

· Student self-monitoring items for each skill

“A wonderful resource for nurturing character in the school setting. Narvaez, Bock, Endicott and Lies offer sound, practical, non-prescriptive guidance for teachers that thoughtfully integrates virtue ethics, social and emotional learning, and moral development theory with current research on knowledge acquisition and expertise development.” Marilyn Watson, Author of Learning to Trust.

These books were initiated during the Minnesota Community Voices and Character Education Project (U.S. Department of Education, Grant # R215V98000, Office of Educational Research and Improvement) where Dr. Narvaez was research director.

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Book 1: Ethical Sensitivity

Book 2: Ethical Judgment

Book 3: Ethical Motivation

Book 4: Ethical Action


Moral Development, Self, and Identity 1st Edition

Moral Development, Self, and Identity 1st Edition

by Daniel K. Lapsley (Editor), Darcia Narv ez (Editor)

This volume examines the psychological, social-relational, and cultural foundations of the most basic moral commitments. It begins by looking at the seminal writings of Augusto Blasi, whose writings on moral cognition, the development of self-identity, and moral personality have transformed the research agenda in moral psychology. This work is now the starting point of all discussion about the relationship between self and morality; the developmental grounding of the moral personality; and the moral integration of cognition, emotion, and behavior. Indeed, it is now widely believed that organizing self-understanding around basic moral commitments is crucial to the formation of a moral identity which, in turn, underwrites moral conduct. Using Blasi’s work as a point of departure, a distinguished interdisciplinary and international group of scholars have contributed essays summarizing their own theoretical and empirical research on these topics.

This book features new theories of moral functioning that range across several psychological literatures, including social cognition, cognitive science, and personality development. Examining the social-relational, communitarian, and cultural aspects of moral self-identity, it provides a comprehensive account of moral personality. Uniformly integrative, field-expanding, and on the cutting edge of research on moral development and personality, the book appeals to scholars, developmental theorists and graduate students interested in issues of moral development, education, and behavior, as well as cognitive development theory.

ISBN-13: 978-0415650274

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Postconventional Moral Thinking: A Neo-kohlbergian Approach

Postconventional Moral Thinking: A Neo-kohlbergian Approach, 1st Edition

by James R. Rest (Author), Darcia Narvaez (Author), Muriel J. Bebeau (Author), Stephen J. Thoma (Author)

Although Lawrence Kohlberg provided major ideas for psychological research in morality for decades, today some critics regard his work as outmoded, beyond repair, and too faulty for anybody to take seriously. These critics suggest that research would advance more profitably by taking a different approach. Postconventional Moral Thinkingacknowledges particular philosophical and psychological problems with Kohlberg's theory and methodology, and proposes a reformulation called "Neo-Kohlbergian." Hundreds of researchers have reported a large body of findings after having employed Kohlberg's theory and methods to the Defining Issues Test (DIT), therefore attesting to the relevance of his ideas.

This book provides a coherent theoretical overview for hundreds of studies that have used the DIT. The authors propose reformulations in the underlying psychological and philosophical theories. This book pulls together the analysis of criticisms of a Kohlbergian approach, a rationale for DIT research, and new theoretical ideas and new research.

ISBN-13: 978-0805832853

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