As humans, we have a remarkable tendency to seek out and identify with people like “us” while distancing ourselves from “them”. It is in our group-based character that the angels and demons of human nature can be seen: the shining success of intragroup cooperation that has given us liberal democracy and social welfare; and the darkness of intergroup conflict that has given us genocide and war.
And yet these well-documented tendencies appear at odds with universalistic moral principles that people adhere to and hold others accountable for (e.g. “thou shall not kill”; “treat others as you’d wish to be treated yourself”). Moreover – and most intriguingly – we are not only more likely to act in a moral way towards people with whom we share a group membership, but these group memberships fundamentally shape what we think a moral act is.
How can this be explained? And once we understand it, how can we overcome these biases to bring about a better state for the world? In short, these are the questions my research addresses.
I have been privileged in receiving support from a number of academic funding bodies, including from the University of Oxford and the Economic and Social Research Council for my D.Phil; the University of Oxford and the Oxford Martin School for my PostDoctoral work looking at moral responsibility; the US-UK Fulbright Commission for my visiting research position at Harvard University looking at in-group favouritism; the Marie-Sklodowska-Curie Foundation and Leiden University for my Post-Doctoral research on parochial morality; and the Templeton Foundation, via the Summer Schools in Neuroscience and Philosophy, for a research grant looking at morality and psychological identity.