The Ontogeny of Normativity

Psychology | Academic Year 2024/2025

Humans live in a social world that is largely constituted by social norms that prescribe, for example, how to treat each other (moral norms), how to behave in different social contexts (conventional norms), and how to handle objects and tools (instrumental norms). Importantly, humans not only display regularity in their behavior, but also show an appreciation of the underlying norms. The human mind is unique by its capacity to have normative stances and to engage in normative practices. This raises a number of important questions. Most central, how do normative stances actually emerge in human ontogeny? What are suitable indicators of normative stances in young children and in which (social) contexts are they first displayed? What are the developmental building blocks that are necessary for the emergence of normative stances? Despite an increased interest in this topic, there is little clarity on key concepts and suitable empirical approaches in the field, hampering theoretical progress and leading to stagnation in theory building.

The CAS Research Group aims at advancing this debate by providing a conceptual framework on the central aspects and indicators of early normativity. This will open novel avenues for innovative lines of empirical research. Ultimately, it will pave the way for a theoretical account on the ontogeny of normativity in humans. To this end, it will feature two workshops that bring together psychologists and philosophers interested in human normativity in order to advance the conceptual questions (workshop 1) and developmental scholars empirically exploring early normativity in order to foster collaborative empirical work that moves the field to a next level (workshop 2). Overall, the CAS Research Group will advance theoretical progress in the investigation of the ontogeny of normative stances.


Prof. Dr. Markus Paulus

Spokesperson of the CAS Research Focus “Empathy”

Psychology and Educational Psychology

Members of the CAS Research Group

  • Prof. Audun Dahl, Ph.D., Cornell University
  • Prof. Kristen Dunfield, Ph.D., Concordia University
  • Prof. Stuart Ian Hammond, Ph.D., University of Ottawa
  • Prof. Annette Henderson, Ph.D., University of Auckland
  • Prof. Richard Holton, Ph.D., University of Cambridge
  • Dr. Ladislav Koreň, University of Hradec Králové
  • Prof. Annie Riggs, Ph.D., Western Washington University
  • Prof. Glenda Satne, University of Wollongong