Research

My research program involves characterizing the human moral conscience, looking at both moral universals and moral particulars. This involves understanding how we represent the moral world and investigating computations (such as moral rules) that are applied to those representations. 

Adults seem to make intuitive moral judgments based on abstract moral rules. Are these rules possibly a “core” part of cognition, or are they culturally specific and learned over a long period of development? One way to shed light on this question is to see if preschoolers have similar moral intuitions to adults. Indeed, my graduate work has shown that children use abstract rules that they have not been explicitly taught in order to make moral judgments. Many of these rules rely on subtle differences in mental states of the moral agents.

Despite the possibility of all people starting off with similar core moral principles, the mature moral conscience clearly differs dramatically across individuals, particularly in those living in different cultures and following different religions. In an on-going collaboration with a team of psychologists, philosophers, anthropologists, and religious scholars, I have found evidence that the conception of the moral domain differs dramatically from culture to culture.

I have recently become interested in how computational modeling of moral and social cognition can be used to answer questions at the intersection of machine learning, AI, and cognitive science.

I am now accepting applications for a summer research assistant position.