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Wake Forest University
Support by a
Grant From
Templeton Religion Trust

Executive Summary

We believe that a full understanding of morality and virtue can be achieved only by examining the morally excellent, for example, those who risked their lives saving others during the Holocaust (Monroe, 2006), or members of the Amish community who demonstrated forgiveness following the slaughter of 10 Amish schoolgirls in 2006 (Dreher, 2006). Just as much attention has been paid to how geniuses and high-performing businesses function and thrive, the morally exceptional represent a form of “genius” that deserves such attention.


  • Researchers and scholars in three disciplines.
  • The Wake Forest interdisciplinary and student communities.
  • Individuals wishing to cultivate their own morality.
  • Parents and educators wishing to cultivate children’s morality.

Four Hypotheses

  • There are individual differences in moral character, and some people are morally exceptional.
  • Morally exceptional people can be conceptually and empirically identified.
  • The study of the morally exceptional can answer big questions and facilitate new discoveries about moral functioning.
  • The morally exceptional provide unique insights into how to improve moral character.

Three Aims

  1. Jumpstart a field of study on the morally exceptional similar to the study of exceptional cognitive talent.
  2. Integrate philosophical, theological, and psychological expertise to characterize the morally exceptional.
  3. Answer big questions about the morally exceptional.

About Our Team

Meet the Team »

Initial Conference Workshop

A two day workshop was held July 14-17, 2016 at the Graylyn International Conference Center in Winston-Salem, NC. The workshop occurred shortly after the Morally Exceptional RFP Funding Competition winners were announced and was designed to provide interdisciplinary feedback to each winner.


Final Conference: 2018

The Final Conference will be held Summer 2018.


Funded Research

We believe the field is in a state of readiness for a study of the morally exceptional, but what is needed is a significant infusion of resourced scholars, networked in a carefully managed way, to transform readiness into reality.