Josh D Rottman Associate Professor of Psychology & Scientific and Philosophical Studies of Mind



Joshua Rottman is Associate Professor of Psychology and Scientific & Philosophical Studies of Mind at Franklin & Marshall College, where he directs the Developing Moral Values Lab.  He received a B.A.with honors  in Cognitive Science from Vassar College in 2008 and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Boston University in 2015.  Dr. Rottman's research lies at the intersection of cognitive development and moral psychology.  His work primarily focuses on children's acquisition of moral norms, the role of disgust in moral judgment, and cognitive precursors of environmentalist ethics.  He has published in a range of peer-reviewed journals, including Psychological Science, Cognition, and Emotion.  His work has also been featured in National GeographicThe Atlantic, and Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman.  At Franklin & Marshall, Dr. Rottman teaches courses such as Origins of Moral Thought; Minds, Machines, & Morals; and Nature/Nurture. 



Josh Rottman is the director of the Developing Moral Values Lab at Franklin & Marshall College.  In collaboration with F&M students, Prof. Rottman conducts research to determine the extent to which moral judgments are fixed or flexible in childhood and adulthood.  Current research questions include the following:

  • How do children learn that certain kinds of actions are morally wrong?
  • Does disgust lead children to adopt harsher moral judgments?
  • How does religion influence moral beliefs?
  • What is the scope of the moral realm, and how can moral concerns be expanded?
  • How can knowledge about moral psychology be leveraged to promote environmentalism? 

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If you are interested in conducting research in the Developing Moral Values Lab, please contact Prof. Rottman to inquire about opportunities .



For a complete set of publications, please visit my personal website or my Google Scholar page.



Course Information

PSY 101 (Psychological Science): A topics-based, non-lab, non-survey, question-and procedure-oriented discussion of important perspectives in contemporary psychological science. The course will examine origins, support for, and applications of a series of theoretical positions. In the process, students will learn to appreciate the empirical procedures through which psychologists formulate and evaluate hypotheses about behavior, using texts as well as primary literature that illustrates how these procedures occur in actual practice.    

PSY 311 (Origins of Moral Thought): How have humans acquired the capacity to make judgments about right and wrong?  We will address this question on three different timescales – millennia (human evolution), centuries (modern history), and years (individual development) – to explore how morality has resulted from natural selection, how cultural and ecological shifts bring about new moral convictions, and how moral beliefs emerge during childhood.  Readings will combine insights from psychology, anthropology, philosophy, economics, history, and biology in order to provide manifold perspectives on the genesis of morality.

PSY 452 (History and Philosophy of Psychology): The historical origins of contemporary psychology in European philosophy, physiology, and biology and subsequent development of the schools of structuralism, functionalism, Gestalt, behaviorism, and psychoanalysis.  Emphasis on identifying the goals, implicit assumptions and potential contributions of scientific psychology.

PSY 453 (Nature/Nurture): Since its advent, psychology has been embroiled in arguments about the degree to which psychological traits are learned or innate.  Are genes or socialization responsible for heightened rates of aggression in men?  How do biological and environmental factors interact to produce language?  Is culture an evolved adaptation?  Does it make any sense at all to partition the causes of psychology into “nature” and “nurture”?  Throughout this course, we will draw upon cutting-edge research to evaluate a range of theoretical perspectives on the interplay of nature and nurture.  We will also discuss the sociopolitical ramifications of this fundamental debate.

PSY 489 (Collaborative Research in Moral Psychology): Students will conduct experimental research on relevant theoretical issues within the field of moral psychology.  Topics may include investigations of the scope of moral concern, perceptions of moral virtue, children’s acquisition of moral beliefs, contributions of emotions to moral judgment, and other related areas that reflect student interest.  Techniques for designing, conducting, analyzing, and presenting empirical research will be discussed, practiced, and implemented. 

SPM 100 (Minds, Machines, and Morals): This course provides an introduction to the central problems, concepts, and methods of cognitive science and moral psychology.  We will analyze questions addressing the nature of intelligence, the relationship between minds and bodies, and the basis of moral beliefs and behaviors.  These explorations will bridge the sciences and humanities by taking a fundamentally interdisciplinary perspective. 

SPM 499 (Senior Research Seminar): Intensive research and writing on a topic of the student's choice carried on in a seminar setting. Includes several oral presentations by each student.