Faculty Research: Harm and Morality

Dr. Cowell

Together with Jean Decety (U of Chicago), we argue for the primacy of perceiving harm as a fundamental component of morality. Recent evidence from social neuroscience highlights the shift from the basic aspect of perceiving potential harm to the self (something infants are capable of) towards a mapping of this harm-to-self understanding towards harm-to-other. This transition, coupled with the development of perspective-taking, attention, and self-control lead to adult-like moral judgments.

Decety, J. & Cowell, J. M. (2017). Interpersonal harm aversion as a necessary foundation for morality: A developmental neuroscience perspective. Development & Psychopathology.

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