About the Center for the Science of Moral Understanding

Political intolerance is high. People dread turning on the news and discussing politics at the dinner table. This intolerance not only poisons our everyday interactions, but also imperils the health of democracies. How do we increase tolerance and civility? Some scientific work has examined how to bridge divides across people, but it is often scattered into disconnected disciplines, and current funding climates make it difficult to create momentum. The Center for the Science of Moral Understanding seeks to unite this work and catalyze a new science of moral understanding. The CSMU will then translate these new discoveries into societal change, creating a set of empirically based ways of increasing tolerance.

The Center harnesses a key insight—that much political disagreement is moral disagreement. To increase tolerance and civility, we need to understand the nature of moral judgment and the interpersonal processes that transform divergent moral judgments into conflict. The Center therefore connects moral and social psychology with related disciplines of neuroscience, political science, sociology, history, philosophy, economics, and legal studies.

The Center has several distinct initiatives that work together:

  • A diverse internal research program

  • Funding scholars with the most creative and high-potential ideas

  • An annual conference connecting scholars to practitioners

  • Insights from a dynamic board of directors

  • A pipeline to develop scholars across career stages to give the science of moral understanding a lasting trajectory

The Center is funded as part of the Courageous Collaborations initiatives of the Charles Koch Foundation, with some of its projects leveraging funding from the National Science Foundation. It partners with More in Common by using science to transform divided tribes into cohesive communities.