Darcia Narvaez, professor of psychology in the University of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters and a fellow in the Institute for Educational Initiatives, has been named one of two winners of the first Expanded Reason Award for research.
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.
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.