Aug 042017
 August 4, 2017

This fall, Rethinking Regulation at the Kenan Institute for Ethics will host a new faculty member: Sarah Bloom Raskin, former deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

Raskin, who will act as a Rubenstein Fellow at Duke, comes to Kenan after serving at the Treasury from March 2014 to January 2017. In addition to research related to markets, regulation and public leadership, Raskin will offer guest lectures, advise students and participate in public events.

“We’re thrilled to to have Sarah working with Rethinking Regulation to provide a unique perspective on policies that shape markets in the U.S. and around the world,” said Suzanne Shanahan, the Nannerl O. Keohane Director of the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

Among her priorities as second-in-command at the Treasury, Raskin emphasized solutions to enhance Americans’ shared prosperity, the resilience of financial infrastructures and consumer safeguards in the financial marketplace.

Jonathan B. Wiener, co-director of Kenan’s Rethinking Regulation, noted the breadth of expertise Raskin will bring to the program as it explores a variety of areas in research and practice.

“We are eagerly looking forward to working together with Sarah on questions on which she has extraordinary insight, such as how financial regulation can promote resilience to shocks, how financial regulatory systems can learn and adapt to change, and how conflict and cooperation can be managed among multiple regulatory agencies and oversight bodies,” said Wiener, who also serves as Perkins Professor of Law, Public Policy and Environmental Policy at Duke.

For more information about Raskin’s career and her appointment, which also includes the Global Financial Markets Center at Duke Law School, see this story on Duke Today.

Aug 022017
 August 2, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics has selected 15 Duke graduate students as its 2017-2018 Graduate Fellows.

This year’s group of students represent six different schools/faculties and seven departments from across Duke’s Trinity College of Arts & Sciences. They bring a vast array of methodological tools and experiences – from biblical and literary scholarship to economic and psychological analysis. As Fellows at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, each shares a common interest in understanding how the world works, and will explore ways in which it can be reformed and improved.

As part of their fellowship with Kenan, the group will meet for seminars and workshops in the fall and spring semesters to share dissertation research and provide each other with fresh interdisciplinary feedback. These seminars are organized and facilitated by Wayne Norman, Mike & Ruth Mackowski Professor of Ethics, and Amber Díaz Pearson, Research Scholar at the Institute. The seminars often feature visiting speakers drawn from the current Fellows’ suggestions.

This year’s collection of graduate students and dissertation topics include:

  • Sarah Jean Barton, Divinity – intellectual disability, theological anthropology, and baptismal practices within diverse faith communities.
  • Eladio Bobadilla, History – immigrant rights movements from 1954 to 2004.
  • Hannah Bondurant, Philosophy – how others inform/transform one’s sense of self and identity.
  • Emma Davenport, English – contract in Victorian literature.
  • Joshua Doyle, Sociology – influence of cultural embeddedness on environmental attitudes.
  • Jae Yun Kim, Management and Organizations, Fuqua – justifying functions of self-help ideology.
  • Anyi Ma, Management and Organizations, Fuqua – conceptualization of agency for gender and leadership.
  • Emily Pechar, Environmental Policy – how identity salience can generate bipartisan support for climate change policies.
  • Christine Ryan, Law – feminist human rights-based approach to abortion law and politics.
  • Bailey Sanders, Political Science – gender stereotypes and regulation of assisted reproduction technologies.
  • Valerie Soon, Philosophy – social norms and practices that create and perpetuate social injustice.
  • Jacob Soule, Literature – contemporary fiction and urban crisis.
  • Jan P. Vogler, Political Science – emergence of public bureaucracies and the emergence of modern administrative organizations.
  • Laurel Wheeler, Economics – local labor demand shock and how land tenure affects economic development.
  • Emma Xiaolu Zang, Public Policy – property rights upon divorce and intra-household allocation of resources from divorce reform in China.

Fellows receive a stipend of $3,000 that supplements their current funding.

Jul 312017
 July 31, 2017

In newly published research in the July 2017 issue of Child Care in Practice, student Louden Richason uses interviews and insight gained through the Kenan Institute for Ethics’ DukeEngage: Dublin program to analyze child protection services for refugees in Ireland.

Richason, who traveled with Kenan to Dublin in 2016 for field research and internship opportunities with TUSLA Family and Child Agency for Separated Children Seeking Asylum, performed extensive interviews with social workers, children and reviewed existing work. “The experience sparked my passion for working with refugees and interest in humanitarian governance and refugee law and policy,” said Richason, a rising junior.

Richason’s paper adds to a limited amount of research focused on best practices for separated children in international settings and finds that Ireland’s example of child services maximizes continuity and support since responding to unhealthy and threatening living arrangements for separated children in the early 2000s.

Because children seeking refuge in foreign countries often end up marginalized and isolated, Richason noted that his paper has potential to spur additional research for other countries as refugee numbers continue to climb globally. The United Nations Refugee Agency counts 22.5 million refugees around the world, over half of whom are under 18 years old. In Ireland specifically, 585 separated children sought asylum between 2010 and 2015, with 518 under 18.

“Given that the number of separated children has been on the rise in Europe since 2010, it is especially important to find sustainable solutions for these children to ensure they can grow up in stable, nurturing environments,” Richason writes in his findings.

From June to August 2016, Richason collected information through observation, interviews and research as part of his stay in Dublin during Kenan’s DukeEngage program. In his paper, he identified 10 areas of analysis that impact an asylum-seeking child’s experience and the approach of Ireland’s Social Work Team for Separated Children Seeking Asylum:

  • Meeting immediate needs during intake
  • Inclusive needs assessment to determine future course of action
  • Family reunification and challenges in DNA testing
  • Age assessments
  • Beginning the asylum process
  • Guiding children after placement in supported, foster or residential living situations
  • Providing an outlet for concerns from the child
  • Aftercare and community support
  • Resource allocation
  • Discretion among social workers

“It’s my hope that the paper can contribute to a more coordinated, equitable response to the refugee crisis in Europe and elsewhere,” Richason said. “Separated children seeking asylum are an incredibly vulnerable group and deserve a safe, nurturing environment to grow and develop.”

Click here to for an abstract and access to Richason’s paper, “Social work for separated children seeking asylum in the Republic of Ireland: setting the standard for child-centred care and protection.”

Jul 292017
 July 29, 2017

In a new profile on the Duke Global Health Institute website, former Kenan Institute for Ethics student Leena El-Sadek ’15 is highlighted for her work combining justice and global health, partially inspired by her time in programs at Kenan.

El-Sadek is an alumna of Kenan’s DukeImmerse: Uprooted/Rerouted, the Institute’s co-founded Supporting Women’s Action program, and is a former Bass Connections team member, in which she studied how the resettlement process affects the mental health and well-being of refugees.

“We used life story interviews to understand the effects of forced displacement on health outcomes,” El-Sadek said. “Each country incorporated refugees in their society in a unique way, and I found it fascinating how the differences among the country’s policies and laws could result in completely different experiences.”

El-Sadek now works as a research analyst at RTI International in the Drug, Violence, and Delinquency Prevention program.

Read the full profile here.

Jul 272017
 July 27, 2017

Two rising Duke seniors who were founding members of the Kenan Refugee Project recently presented research to a network of academics and practitioners in Greece as part of the inaugural interdisciplinary conference, Building Bridges in a Complex World.

Maha Ahmed and Maura Smyles worked for three years researching global displacement and interacting with Syrian and Iraqi refugees with findings reported in their paper, “Temporal Experiences as a Force of Oppression: A Case Study of Syrian and Iraqi Refugees in Jordan.” The conference, they said, acted as a culmination of data collected with the help of the Kenan Institute and programs like the Refugee Project and DukeImmerse. The Institute also provided assistance for Ahmed and Smyles to travel to the conference.

“We had the incredible opportunity to not only share our own work, but also learn from and network with many scholars and activists from around the world,” said Ahmed, who has helped grow the Kenan Refugee Project, a community-based research and advocacy effort. “Learning about their incredible work on social justice and human rights issues was both intellectually stimulating and incredibly inspiring for us as first time conference-goers.”

At Building Bridges, Ahmed and Smyles spoke to attendees about findings from their paper, which included 81 interviews between 2014 and 2016 with refugees living in Amman, Jordan. Each interview subject described a typical day, and responses were recorded and coded for references to the passing of time. Ahmed and Smyles found that refugees awaiting resettlement perceived time to be a source of oppression that creates a sense of powerlessness over their daily reality and imagined future.

“We illustrate that the indeterminacy of the resettlement process, which is entirely at the discretion of humanitarian organizations, is oppressive and contributes to an unequal power dynamic between each individual refugee and the humanitarian institution,” they write in the paper.

Ahmed and Smyles noted that their findings add to other financial and cultural capital imbalances between refugees and organizations meant to help them, concluding that policy reforms are needed to reduce the negative impact forced displacement has on the lives of refugees.

Jul 182017
 July 18, 2017

The depth and reach of Duke’s focus to interdisciplinary education has grown tremendously in recent years, and in a new story from The Chronicle of Higher Education, the Kenan Institute for Ethics is highlighted as a core component of bringing that to reality.

In the special report, Breaking Down Barriers Across Disciplines, the higher ed news outlet cites support provided by Kenan in 2010 for Edward J. Balleisen’s then-new Rethinking Regulation program, which shifted how faculty could connect on campus.

The Rethinking Regulation Project, now under the leadership of Lori Bennear and Jonathan Wiener, has since supported a variety of graduate and undergraduate courses, research opportunities, a forthcoming book, Policy Shock and more.

“This could never have happened without the structure of the Institute,” Balleisen told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “Just assuming that any idea worth exploring is going to happen on its own is actually unrealistic.”

Read more about interdisciplinary education in this story.

Jul 102017
 July 10, 2017

The Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making (MADLAB) program at the Kenan Institute for Ethics has a part in three recently published studies analyzing aspects of empathy, conformity and mind control.

Led by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, the Chauncey Stillman Professor in Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics, research has been published in the journals Social Influence, Cognition and Nature Human Behavior. Sinnott-Armstrong is a co-author for all three studies.

“Morality is an extremely complex topic, so you can’t look at it from just one perspective,” Sinnott-Armstrong said. “The goal of MADLAB is to look at morality and ethics from a wide variety of disciplines and perspectives, which is illustrated by this recent collection of studies.”

In addition to providing new insight and research in areas of ethics, morality and science, the work of Sinnott-Armstrong and others will also help lead to philosophical papers about how these findings are relevant to broader ethical issues.

Shaping Moral Judgments Online

Included in Social Influence, Sinnott-Armstrong was part of a team to publish the study “Moral conformity in online interactions: rational justifications increase influence of peer opinions on moral judgments,” which shows how social media can shape moral judgments, noting that rational arguments can be more effective at eliciting conformity than emotional ones. Sinnott-Armstrong worked with Scott Huettel, Duke’s Jerry G. and Patricia Crawford Hubbard Professor, Duke associate in research Vlad Chituc, and Duke students Meagan Kelly and Lawrence Ngo.

The two-part study first analyzed the use of impersonal statistics such as anonymous “likes” on news stories, which showed that participants would conform to moral attitudes of others when presented with statistical information about how others respond. A second study used carefully phrased descriptions that positioned an action in a positive or negative light through emotional and rational arguments. Both cases showed how a person’s point of view might change through subtle manipulation of online interactions.

“Though it is reasonable to predict that the influence we have on each other’s opinions would be greatly diminished in this detached world,” the authors wrote, “it appears that the power of social influence is retained.”

Implicit Morality

Led by former MADLAB member Daryl Cameron, now director of the Empathy and Moral Psychology Laboratory and an assistant professor of psychology at Penn State University, “Implicit moral evaluations: A multinomial modeling approach” shares insight on how new tests and mathematical models can help capture and quantify implicit moral and empathetic judgments. Research was funded by an incubator award from the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences and findings were published in Cognition.

Sinnott-Armstrong, who helped design studies and edit findings for publication, said greater understanding of human selfishness and lack of concern for others can assist in explaining how to better teach morality. As part of the study, a test was created in which two words were quickly shown in succession – a mixture of morally wrong terms, like “stealing,” and neutral, such as “whistling.” Researchers found a morally wrong phrase that precedes a neutral one can impact a person’s interpretation of the neutral word.

“It shows part of what limits people from being too selfish, harmful, and destructive,” Sinnott-Armstrong explained. “There might be some people who act selfishly because they lack empathy, and others who act selfishly because they lack morality. Understanding the sources of those behaviors can help us figure out how to prevent or treat extreme selfishness.”

Ethics of Mind Control

Sinnott-Armstrong is among an interdisciplinary group of researchers from Duke, the University of Pennsylvania and American University that are calling for new safeguards to guide treatments and protect patients during interventions for mental illnesses and neurological disorders.

In a perspective article published in the journal Nature Human Behavior, “Mind control as a guide for the mind” argues that these interventions should now be thought of as a form of “mind control.” As such, neuroscientists, clinicians and bioethicists should begin looking toward the engineering discipline of control theory as a way to better understand the relationship between brain physiology and mental states. The work began as discussions at Duke’s Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy, co-directed by Sinnott-Armstrong and Felipe De Brigard, funded by the John Templeton Foundation.

“We need to think hard about the ensuing ethical issues regarding autonomy, privacy, equality, and enhancement,” Sinnott-Armstrong said.

Read more about the research in this story.

Jul 072017
 July 7, 2017

The Kenan Institute for Ethics is accepting applications for its annual Graduate Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year. Applicants must be enrolled in a graduate program at Duke.

The ideal applicant will be entering the 3rd, 4th or 5th year of their program. The Fellowship comes with a stipend of $3,000 that can supplement all other forms of funding they receive. Fellows are expected to attend a dozen or so special seminars, often involving visiting speakers, during the fall and spring semesters.

Click here for more information about the Graduate Fellowship at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and for a link to the application form. Download and complete the application form, and e-mail it to by noon on July 10.

Jul 062017
 July 6, 2017

Government officials might take a lesson from their schooldays as a way to enact change around the world, according to an approach known as “Scorecard Diplomacy.”

Research by Judith Kelley, a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, shows that governments may act like boastful parents placing a report card on the fridge to highlight good grades issued by the U.S. State Department in the area of human trafficking. Conversely, low scores from America’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report can cause embarrassment, forcing some countries to reconsider their efforts in combating forced labor and sexual exploitation. The work provides an important look at aspects of policy and human rights, two programmatic areas of research at the Kenan Institute for Ethics.

“Every single country reacts every single year,” said Kelley, who serves as Senior Associate Dean at the Sanford School of Public Policy and Terry Sanford Professor of Public Policy and Political Science. “Nobody just lets this go by.”

Of particular note in 2017’s report is the downgrade of China to the lowest tier – Tier 3 – which is reserved for countries that aren’t showing signs or effort or progress. China is now lumped with the likes of Syria, Iran and North Korea.

“Dropping China pushes back against criticism from last year’s report that the U.S. was too lenient on them,” Kelley explained. “But you can also read into it that the administration clearly wants to take a strong stand on China to highlight a number of issues and maybe get China to act on issues related to North Korea.”

To understand the political impact of the human trafficking report, Kelley spent six years creating a global survey of NGOs, and examining case studies, diplomatic cables, media stories, interviews, and other documents. Her findings led her to realize that countries rated poorly by the State Department often fear sanctions by the U.S. or an impact on tourism.

“What countries are really concerned about is their image and reputation,” Kelley said. “They don’t like being stigmatized in this way and grouped with others they consider poor peers.”

In 2009, for example, Kelley notes that Israel worked to focus on human trafficking after being tiered with countries like Afghanistan, Jordan and Botswana.

The international relations implications led Kelley to publish this spring the book “Scorecard Diplomacy: Grading State to Influence Their Reputation and Behavior” and added to the idea in a recent op-ed in the Washington Post explaining why the annual human trafficking report matters.

The aftermath of the annual report is part of a larger discussion around human rights, Kelley said, as human trafficking worsens around the world, especially in places like Libya and in Africa. According to estimates from the International Labour Organization (ILO), almost 21 million people are victims of forced labor, a number which has grown considerably since the ILO’s 2005 estimate of 12.3 million.

“The influence of the report has come a long way as we demand more evidence and data-based information,” Kelley said. “There’s great overlap from a policy perspective combining human rights with global governance.”

Read more about Kelley’s research on the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog and in her book, Scorecard Diplomacy.

Jul 032017
 July 3, 2017

Jana Schaich Borg, co-director of the Moral Attitudes and Decision-Making Lab at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, is part of a team of researchers that recently released new findings on how the human brain handles decisions of altruism and empathy.

Published in the June 2017 issue of Brain and Behavior, Schaich Borg and others studied how rats would make decisions that could negatively impact them individually while preventing another rat from being harmed. In the research, rats could enter a brightly-lit chamber in order for another to not receive an electrical shock.

“The brain regions that encoded what the rat was choosing to do were the same ones we found in other studies to be involved in human empathy and moral decision making,” Schaich Borg told Duke Today. “It’s fascinating that rats are using the same brain regions that we seem to be using, and it suggests that rats provide a promising avenue for better understanding the way the human brain makes decisions to help others.”

Findings from the study have the potential to help better determine how the bran works by isolating regions one at a time, with impacts on understanding of psychopathy and addiction. In addition to her work with Kenan’s MADLAB, Schaich Borg also serves as an assistant research professor at Duke’s Social Science Research Institute and the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

For more information about the study, which was supported by a National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship, the Imitatio Foundation, an Information Initiative at Duke Research Incubator Award, the One Mind Institute (IMHRO) Rising Star Award, the National Institutes of Health (R01MH102638) and the NARSAD Distinguished Scientist Award, visit Duke Today.