Understanding China’s Changing Moral Psychology
TWCF Number
Project Duration
January 1 / 2019
- June 30 / 2021
Core Funding Area
Big Questions
North America
Amount Awarded

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Ryan Tate Nichols
Institution CSU Fullerton Auxiliary Services Corporation

Scholars and researchers in the east and west have long puzzled over the incongruence between China’s Confucian heritage and a potential moral crisis in the country.

Barriers to Empirical Study
This project addresses a number of challenges that have inhibited the empirical study of morality in China. These include, but are not limited to:

  • the presence of cultural differences in interpreting social interactions, which has led to problems in development of research constructs
  • cultural differences in concepts of selfhood in relation to social, communal, and national groups
  • disjointed regional research, which has resulted in the existence of a confusing and disparate array of research methods and outcome measures
  • the muddy relationship between Confucian ethics and culturally siloed expressions of virtues
  • the current theories, methods, and data cannot be straightforwardly applied in the study of morality in China because they are heavily rooted in Western conceptualizations of basic constructs.

Capacity-related challenges include a lack of communication and coordination between local and foreign scholars of relevant disciplines.

The Solution
The goal of this project is to integrate current knowledge with recommended solutions, and plan for a series of empirical studies that would test specific hypotheses identified through the project. Project outputs will contribute to the outcome of setting a theoretically-justified, philosophically-aware empirical research agenda for understanding China’s contemporary moral landscape. This project will bring together a group of multidisciplinary and multicultural researchers to review current theoretical and methodological paradigms for studying morality in China. The group will identify the most promising hypotheses for empirical investigation.

The grant proposes six steps:

  1. the Project Director will convene individual meetings with team members at key conferences in North America and China
  2. team members will each author a review paper of the research in their sub-areas, focusing on problems and identifying testable hypotheses
  3. such papers will be circulated prior to a workshop in Hong Kong for in-depth discussion
  4. the papers will be revised for publication in a volume by a university press
  5. the volume will be translated into Chinese
  6. a larger grant application will be developed for experimental investigations of character and morality in China.
Project Resources
An agent-based model was developed to represent demographic, marital, and economic data from the period of Chinese history during which footbi...
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