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 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.

The Center convenes faculty, researchers, graduate students, and visiting scholars to conduct studies, present lectures and publish professional papers and proceedings from public talks and organized conferences.

Faculty Interests
The scope of the Center’s interests is wide-ranging, and includes topics as disparate as:

  • altruism, cooperation and moral psychology
  • bioethics and the biochemistry of friendship, community and human flourishing
  • religion and international security
  • an innate moral sense, cognition and moral reasoning
  • genes, personality and moral responsibility

Although housed in the School of Social Sciences, the Center is truly interdisciplinary, engaging faculty members from the Schools of Biological Sciences, Humanities, Medicine, Social Science, and Social Ecology.

Activities of the center are designed to:

  • increase and facilitate scholarly research on ethics and morality, contributing to the scholarly exchange within the general academic community in the United States and abroad
  • heighten public awareness of existing scientific studies relevant to morality
  • provide public outreach to the local community through public lectures by internationally renowned scholars working on ethics
  • create the visibility of UCI within the scholarly and intellectual community as a place where scientific discussions of ethics occur, with a broad definition of scientific inquiry encompassing disparate methodological approaches and focusing on both individual and collective morality

Unique Focus
The UCI Center for the Scientific Study of Ethics and Morality focuses on the etiology of ethical behavior and differs in several important ways from existing centers dedicated to the discussion of ethics.

Traditional academic approaches tend to originate in philosophical, foundational, or religious discussions of ethics. They tend to be humanistic in orientation and emphasize abstract, theoretical considerations of what constitutes ethics and morality. The UCI Center complements this traditional approach and explores the scientific and/or the empirically verifiable factors that influence morality, using a variety of methodologies that examine factors contributing to and driving moral action in a variety of social, psychological and biological contexts.

The UCI center encourages ties between scholars interested in ethics in humanities and the sciences -- including social science, social ecology, biological sciences and medicine -- building on the interdisciplinary tradition at UCI, complementing, rather than duplicating, existing efforts.

Keynote Address by Kristen Monroe, Ph. D. - Cracking the Code: Moral Psychology and Genocide


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