Penn State’s Consortium on Moral Decision-Making is progressing with its mission to create an interdisciplinary, collaborative network of social scientists and scholars studying how people make moral and ethical decisions with upcoming events and a new seed funding program.
Directed by Daryl Cameron, Sherwin Early Career Professor in the Rock Ethics Institute and associate professor of psychology at Penn State, the consortium recently received funding through a Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) Level 4 Seed Grant that supports interdisciplinary research initiatives. Cameron and Andrew High, associate professor of communications arts and sciences, are co-principal investigators on the grant.
The consortium is planning to continue hosting the Expanding Empathy speaker series for the sixth consecutive year with events taking place in March and April via Zoom. Attendance is free but registration will be required.
The first panel will feature talks on empathy, forgiveness and conflict, and will take place on March 19, from 12 to 2 p.m. Speakers are Sa-Kiera Hudson from the University of California, Berkeley; Felipe De Brigard from Duke University; and Eran Halperin from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The second panel will focus on moral convictions, moral norms and the moral circle. It will take place on April 2, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and include Linda Skitka, University of Illinois Chicago; Matti Wilks, University of Edinburgh; and Evan Westra, Purdue University.
The third panel will take place on April 25, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m., and will include talks on the boundaries of compassion and care presented by Stephanie Preston, University of Michigan; Aleksandra Cichocka, University of Kent; and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Duke University.
The consortium will also host a conference in partnership with the Center for Socially Responsible AI. According to Cameron, the conference will center around AI and its relationship with empathy and morality.
Tentatively scheduled for April 9, confirmed speakers include Alan Wagner, Penn State; Michael Inzlicht, University of Toronto; Yochanan Bigman, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Gus Skorburg, University of Guelph; Madeline Reinecke, Oxford University; and Jana Schaich Borg, Duke University; as well as several returning Expanding Empathy speakers from prior years, including Lasana Harris, University College London; Anat Perry, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Jim A. C. Everett, University of Kent; and Jason D’Cruz, University at Albany.
The consortium has also launched a website and a seed grant program, with the deadline for the seed grant applications Feb. 16.
“We want to establish a transdisciplinary network of researchers studying how people make moral and ethical decisions, with an emphasis on empathy,” Cameron said. “The seed grant program will help researchers get started on their work, assist them in obtaining additional funding and provide support in getting their work published.”
One of Cameron’s goals is to establish additional points of collaborative connections outside of Penn State.
“The speaker series generates participation from around the world, including England, Canada, Finland and Israel. Last semester, the consortium hosted a wide variety of speakers and topics including Theresa Vescio, psychology, talking about empathy and masculinity; Ben Jones, Rock Ethics Institute and Public Policy, presenting on race and policing; and Christopher Beem, McCourtney Institute for Democracy," Cameron said. “We also hosted a well-attended meeting about developing interdisciplinary projects on political polarization with diversity of representations from different colleges, including from the Colleges of Liberal Arts, of Communications and of Nursing), career stages, such as faculty and students, and locations including faculty from Penn State Brandywine and Abington."
Eventually, Cameron said he would like to try to find ways for these researchers to bridge collaborative connections with Penn State Consortium members.
“Morality is a core problem, and the basic questions of how to get along with others, and what are we responsible for, cross many disciplines," Cameron said. "Our goal is to further to find new paths of conversation and establish Penn State as a recognized name in moral decision-making research.”
For more information on the speaker series, upcoming conference and seed grant program, contact Cameron. Research assistant Clara Civiero is also helping to coordinate events.
The funding from SSRI has provided the consortium a base of support and the ability to expand and support the training of students and early career researchers in theory and methodology in interdisciplinary morality research. Additionally, the consortium is sponsored through joint funding by SSRI along with The Rock Ethics Institute and the College of Liberal Arts, with additional funding from the McCourtney Institute for Democracy and Department of Philosophy.