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Between morality’s infant roots and its adult branches, children transform their views about right and wrong. Humans are not born disagreeing about whether some provocations warrant a violent response, nor are they born agreeing that unprovoked violence is wrong: By adulthood, they do both. Despite the proliferation of studies on morality from infancy to adulthood in the past two decades, the field has witnessed a disconnect between studies on the moral development of children and studies on the moral psychology of adults. At a time when leading developmental psychologists proposed that reasoning guides the moral judgments of children, leading cognitive and social psychologists argued that reasoning rarely shapes the moral judgments of adults. To resolve such discrepancies, a developmental moral psychology is needed—one that incorporates psychological methods and findings across the lifespan. My presentation will discuss three empirical insights that instantiate a developmental moral psychology. This framework enables coherence within research on child and adult morality and, I will argue, promotes cross-paradigm collaborations in the study of why humans agree and disagree about right and wrong.



Audun Dahl is an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. His work centers on the development of judgments, reasoning, emotions, and actions around issues of right and wrong from infancy to adulthood. Using behavioral experiments, naturalistic observations, structured interviews, and surveys, his lab currently examines the development of helping and harming through everyday interactions in early childhood; judgments and reasoning about helping and harming among preschoolers; application of religious norms by adolescents and adults; and decisions about academic integrity and cheating from high school to college. He has published articles in the Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Psychological Science, Child Development, and Developmental Science. He received the 2016 Dissertation Award from the International Congress on Infant Studies and the 2022 Early Career Award from the Jean Piaget Society.



This is a hybrid event.  The seminar will be held at the Seminar Room, New Radcliffe House (2nd Floor) but can also be followed on Zoom.  

You can access the Zoom link via OxTalks at Roots and Branches of Right and Wrong: Three Insights from a Developmental Moral Psychology - Oxford Talks Or, email us at to request the link.