Ethics Center rotating gif

What Causes Moral Behavior?

Exploring this quintessential question at the heart of ethics is the goal of the UCI Interdisciplinary Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality. The center was established in 2003 by a group of scholars from social sciences, social ecology, biological sciences and medicine interested in recent scientific research that yields insight on the origins and causes of morality. In creating the center, UCI faculty are addressing topics that reflect critically on the moral implications of the new frontiers in science.

Housed in the School of Social Sciences, the center convenes faculty, researchers, graduate students, and visiting scholars from all disciplines to conduct studies, present lectures and publish professional papers and proceedings from public talks and organized conferences.


Who goes fascist? A political psychologist explains.

Kristie Monroe, poli sci, explains in this piece with The Nation

In April 2018, an audience packed the American Academy in Berlin to listen to the political scientist Kristen Renwick Monroe. The room crackled with energy. Donald Trump had been president for just over a year, and people desperately wanted insight into the tumultuous changes happening in the United States. The newspapers were filled with stories about the Muslim travel ban, a planned wall along the US-Mexican border, and White House attacks on the press.

Monroe’s talk, “Third Reich Émigrés and Traumatic Political Change,” looked at the decisions people made in Nazi-occupied Europe. It also explored what we could learn from people who had lived through that time. How, in perilous times, would we know how to act?

Read in full via The Nation: Click Here


September 2, 2021. Message from the Director:

Members of the Ethics Center have been busy even during COVID-19 although we cut back on public activities in an attempt to help control the spread of the COVID virus. We shall wait to see what the health situation is as we go into the 2021-2022 academic year but here are a list of things we either have done or are planning for the future. Please contact Claudia Cheffs, the new Ethics Center Program Manager, or Professor Kristen Monroe, the Director, if you have questions. KRMonroe@UCI.Edu or

1. One of our Tobis Fellows published a new book about life behind the Iron Curtain in Romania. We include some of the links (below, some in English, some in Romanian). The book is titled Under the Iron Curtain and can be found at Amazon. Our congratulations to Andrada.

TV Sud :

Radio Omega:

Book launch at the library:

2. Another of our Tobis Fellows, Lina Haddad Kreidie, and a UCI PhD in Political Science worked with the Intisar Foundation on a project using drama therapy to help deal with the post traumatic stress disorder of women refugees from the Syrian War. You can find a link to two video talks about that project on our website too: This work was funded in part by the Medical Humanities Initiative. We are grateful for their cooperation and support.

3. We had a very successful summer mentoring program again this year. We had six graduate student mentors and one student mentor: Monica DeRoche, Ben Hecht, Jessica Gonzalez, Matt Dean, Jeni Cruzette Cruz Francisco, Itzel Aurora Garcia are all grad students at UCI, Andrada Costoiu is a Tobis Fellow, Chloe Lampros-Monroe is a grad student at Washington U in St. Louis and a former Tobis Fellow, and Hannah Dastgheib (a student at AndoverAcademy) served as a student mentor. The mentors are currently writing descriptions of the work done in their modules and these will be posted shortly. We had many applicants for the mentoring program and had to stop accepting applications when we had admitted 300 students. Students worked online via zoom and came from all over the world. (One student got up at 3:30 each morning in China to take part in his module at 4 a.m.) We will continue to conduct the mentoring program on-line in the summer of 2022 since there obviously is a demand for it throughout the world, not just at UCI.

4. It was announced in Julyu 2021 that Kristen Monroe and David Seaers (UCLA) were to receive the first John Sullivan Mentoring Award from the International Society of Political Psychology. It is an honor to share this award with David.

5. Several Tobis Fellows worked on a project on human rights for the American Political Science Association. Andrada Costoiu, Chloe Lampros-Monroe and Hannah Dastgheib took the lead on this project. Hannah his completing the documentary now, to be shown at APSA and on our website in September. A paper -- and possibly a book -- from this project also will be put on line as a Working Paper later this fall.

PLANS FOR 2021-2022.

1. We are planning an on-line Ethics at the Movies night. Each month we will announce that we will be holding an on-line discussion of a movie touching on important ethical themes. Copyright dictates that individual participants will have to watch the movies themselves but we will meet online once a month to discuss the themes in these movies. We have the help of some professional movie critics -- Liz Mitchell, Chicago movie critic -- and some of the summer interns want to participate in the discussion. Stay tuned for an announcement. (If you have a movie to stuggest, please do so by contacting KRMonroe@UCI.Edu.) Some of the movies we are watching include: Gentleman's Agreement (Academy Award Best Picture winner for its depiction of the subtle complicity that allows prejudice to survive, in this case, anti-Semitism. South Pacific, recipient of over 25 awards, from the Pulitzer Prize to the Tony, for its depiction of prejudice and how it can be overcome. Into the Arms of Strangers, Academy Award winner for its documentary on the kindertransports of Jewish refugees before World War II. And The Long Walk Home, The Help, and Dear White People all depict racism in America.

2. Spring term 2022 we will teach a special course on how to confront discrimination and prejudice against all groups judged "different." This course will be part of The Legacy project. Stay tuned for further details.



Dr. Mahtab Jafari, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences at UC Irvine, and a member of the Executive Board of the UCI Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality has distilled decades of clinical experience and research in her new book. The Truth About Dietary Supplements: An Evidence-Based Guide to a Safe Medicine Cabinet, which provides fresh insights into the supplement industry.

Dr. Jafari has written a thorough guide containing a robust appendix about the scientific evidence on dietary supplements and COVID-19 to help navigate this new minefield of misinformation. Now you can avoid the hype-mongers and arm yourself with the facts and information you need to make informed decisions about the supplements you take. Her book will be launched and available on Amazon on September 7, 2021.

Etel Solingen received the Richard Holbrooke Chair Berlin Prize as one of the 2021-2022 Fellows elected by the American Academy in Berlin. Her volume on Geopolitics, Supply Chains, and International Relations in East Asia (Cambridge University Press, 2021) was just published, leading to recent invited presentations at the Brookings Institution, Asian Development Bank, Stockholm University, National Bureau of Asian Research, Mondragone Economic Seminar (Rome); University of California Berkeley's Law School, and UCSD's Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.


The Ethics Center tries to collaborate with scholars at UCI and throughout the world on projects that advance our understanding of ethical issues. These two podcasts reflect one of our collaborations, with the Intisar Foundation and the UCI Medical Humanities Initiative, to use drama therapy to help Arab women displaced by war. If you are interested in this kind of work, please contact the Center Director, Kristen Monroe at KRMonroe@UCI.Edu or the Tobis Fellow and UCI PhD graduate in charge of this project, Lina Kreidie at

Intisar Foundation Podcast


Francesca Polletta

Francesca Polletta is a cultural sociologist who studies the beliefs that underpin social solidarity and that drive social change. Her most recent book, Inventing the Ties that Bind: Imagined Relationships in Moral and Political Life (Univ. Chicago, 2020), examines how ordinary Americans cooperate, and shows that they have often done so without becoming friends first. Polletta has written or edited books on radical democracy in social movements, on the power and limits of storytelling in effecting progressive change, and on emotions' role in contentious politics. Currently, she is working on two book projects: one, with Edwin Amenta, on when movements have changed not laws or policy, but people's beliefs, values, and everyday practices; the other, on when stories persuade--and why they often do not persuade.


From the Ethics Center Director. January 19, 2021

We celebrate free speech and peaceful protest. Indeed, UC Irvine's Ethics Center was founded not just to understand the ethical dimensions of the human experience but also to promote a more thoughtful, compassionate, and informed politics. Part of supporting ethical reasoning and encouraging ethical behavior is condemning dishonest rhetoric; part of supporting peaceful protest is condemning violent criminality; part of supporting democracy is demanding accountability.

With this in mind, we wish to publicly condemn the events at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. on January 6, 2021, when a crowd of protesters broke through police barriers and stormed the Houses of Congress, threatening members of Congress, Senators and the Vice-President of the United States as they assembled to confirm the legal election of President-elect Joseph Biden. In the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election, each state's officials have affirmed its laws were followed in counting votes and declaring a winner. We stand with all those who wish to protest past problems and/or petition for a better future. But there is no place for violence. We especially condemn the political leaders who incited such lawlessness, and we condemn those who participated in such lawlessness. Ethics demands justice, and we hope justice will be served.

Kristen Monroe
Director of the UCI Interdisciplinary Center
for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality

Peter Ditto, Mahtab Jafari, Kamal Sadiq and Roxane Cohen Silver
Members of the Executive Board


 Message from the Director, Kristen Renwick Monroe

2021 Summer Internship Program

We regret that we can no longer accept applications for the 2021 summer internship. We have been flooded with applications and have accepted an exceptionally good group of interns this summer. We must keep the program limited in order to provide a high quality mentorship program. We look forward to seeing the accepted interns on June 22nd, 2021, at 1 pm online, and will send the zoom link and the dates and times of each module by May 1st.

The 2021 Internship program will again be online and run for four weeks, beginning the week of June 21st and ending July 16th, 2021. 


Supporting the Center
If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to support our programs, please click here. Thank you!




© UC Irvine School of Social Sciences - 3151 Social Sciences Plaza, Irvine, CA 92697-5100 - 949.824.2766