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How Exemplar Research Informs Moral Psychology and Moral Education

Publication Authors: 
William Damon (Chair) with Hyemin Han (Presenter)
Publication Year: 

Moral exemplar studies are necessary sources of knowledge for moral psychology and education. Human functioning cannot be completely understood without reference to people who have shown consistent moral commitment and elevated moral conduct. Moreover, because exemplars generally put their beliefs into action, exemplar research can help us understand the relation between judgment and behavior. This symposium presents three research programs centered on moral exemplars and discusses how the findings apply to moral education, focusing on a diverse set of exemplars that are familiar to today’s students rather than historic figures that are distant in time, place, and life experiences.


  • Lawrence J. Walker and William L. Dunlop
    "Brave Heroes are Not Banal"
  • Kendall Cotton Bronk
    "What Can Exemplars Teach Us About Typical Development?"
  • Hyemin Han
    "How Can We Apply Exemplary Stories to Moral Education?"
    Abstract: Exemplars are valuable sources of moral education. Through moral elevation and positive social comparison, the stories of moral exemplars can fuel students’ moral motivation and behavior. To maximize the positive effect of the stories of moral exemplars in moral education, this study suggests two points. First, educators should introduce exemplars that are relevant to students’ experiences and interests, instead of extremely distant moral exemplars. Second, to motivate students to become morally better people, educators should present moral exemplars while also teaching moral incremental theory, proximal moral goals, and concrete moral action plans.