MADLAB is a vertically-integrated, interdisciplinary laboratory, co-directed by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (Philosophy, Kenan Institute for Ethics, Psychology and Neuroscience, Law School) and Jana Schaich Borg (Kenan Institute for Ethics).

About the Lab

Faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and undergrads work together on shared research projects. MADLAB is built around the broad theme of how social, cultural, neurological, and biological factors shape our moral attitudes, decisions, and judgments. More specifically, we work on the roles of attention and automatic processes, scrupulosity and psychopathy, objectivity and evolution, moral foundations and the unity of morality, and virtue and development. We have grants on implicit moral attitudes, moral artificial intelligence, disgust, and neurophilosophy.

Our methods include surveys, manipulations, fMRI, EEG, and animal models as well as philosophical reflection. Lab activities include presentations of works in progress, discussions of recent relevant literature, and discussions with visiting experts.

Meet the Team


Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is the Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He holds secondary appointments in Duke’s Law School, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and Institute for Brain Science. He serves as Resource Faculty in the Philosophy Department of UNC at Chapel Hill, Partner Investigator at the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Neuroethics, and Research Scientist with The Mind Research Network in New Mexico. His current work focuses political polarization, moral artificial intelligence, free will and moral responsibility, narratives and reasons, framing effects, moral foundations, and various other topics in moral psychology and brain science.



Jana Schaich Borg is a Senior Fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics and co-director of the Institute’s MADLAB. She also serves as Assistant Research Professor at Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. She uses neuroscience, computational modeling, and emerging technologies to study how we make social decisions that influence, or that are influenced by, other people. As a neuroscientist, she employs neuroimaging, ECOG, simultaneous electrophysiological recordings in rats, and 3-D videos to gain insight into how humans and rodents make social decisions. As a data scientist, she works on interdisciplinary teams to develop new statistical approaches to analyze these high-dimensional multi-modal data in order to uncover principles of how the brain integrates complex social information with internal representations of value to motivate social actions.




Rose Graves is an undergraduate studying Statistical Science, Mathematics, and Political Science. She is currently the manager of MADLab and spent the previous summer what impacts moral decision making. Rose has also been a member of the polarization lab for last two years studying what influences political polarization. Her current research centers around using network analysis to predict the illegal arms trade. 



Kristina Krasich is a postdoctoral associate in the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience at Duke University. She studies how attention–and inattention–affect visual perception, memory, and the culminating attribution of causal judgements. She also explores how her research interfaces with philosophical concepts, such as responsibility and moral agency. She uses behavioral, eye tracking, and neuroimaging techniques for a multidimensional view of human cognition.



Hannah Reed is a PhD student in Philosophy at Duke. Her work is broadly concerned with issues that arise as part of life in diverse communities, in the face of disagreement and different. Her dissertation deals with the problem of empathic failures between moral and political opponents. She argues that empathy is especially well suited to the task of bridging divides between these opponents. She also proposes ways in which empathy’s various limits might be overcome to this purpose through training and other interventions.



Kelsey McDonald is a graduate student in the Psychology & Neuroscience department at Duke University. She received a BA in Psychology from Princeton University, writing a senior thesis in computational reinforcement learning under Dr. Yael Niv. Before coming to Duke, she was a research assistant in Dr. Catherine Hartley’s lab at Weill Cornell Medicine, studying the neurodevelopment of learning and decision making. At Duke, she is focusing on using computational models to study neuroeconomics, learning, and decision making. Outside of the lab, she loves to cook, read, and play with her husky puppy, Khaleesi.



Leon Li is a third-year Ph.D. student in Psychology at Duke. His research interests pertain to language, morality, and their many intersections. Prior to Duke, he conducted research at the University of Maryland, the Center for Advanced Study of Language, and Johns Hopkins University. Leon’s research has explored topics such as the mental representation of polysemy, neuropragmatics, moral reasoning, moral development, and peak experiences of awe. He is perpetually excited to learn more about moral philosophy and moral psychology.



Samuel Murray is a postdoctoral researcher at Duke University. Before coming to Duke, he earned his PhD from the University of Notre Dame in philosophy. His work focuses on the psychology of acting over time and how vigilance interacts with attention, memory, and control to facilitate temporally extended agency. Additionally, he works on normative questions of moral responsibility–especially responsibility for negligence–and has an abiding interest in the history of early modern philosophy.



Paul Rehren is a visiting Philosophy graduate student, working at the intersection of Moral Philosophy and Experimental Psychology. Before coming to Duke, he studied Philosophy, Physics and Mathematics at Bielefeld University, Germany. He is especially interested in some of the processes underlying our moral intuitions and moral judgements.



Claire Simmons is a Bioethics and Science Policy M.A. candidate at Duke University. She received her B.S. with an emphasis in medicine and neuroscience from Texas Christian University in 2019. Her research interests include social and affective neuroscience and implicit moral attitudes. Claire previously conducted research using mouse models of neuropathology, but has since focused more on conducting research using manipulations, EEG, and survey data. 



Projects and Research

  • “Some Ethics of Deep Brain Stimulation” by Joshua August Skorburg and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, in Global Mental Health and Neuroethics, edited by Dan Stein and Ilina Singh. Elsevier, 2019.
  • “Moral Conformity and its Philosophical Lessons” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Vlad Chituc. Philosophical Psychology.
  • “Responsibility and Vigilance” by Samuel Murray. Philosophical Studies 174, 2017, pp. 507–527.
  • “Reference Fiction and Omission” by Samuel Murray. Synthese 195, 235–257 (2018) DOI:10.1007/s11229-016-1211-0
  • “Vigilance and Control” by Samuel Murray and Manuel Vargas. Philosophical Studies, November 2018, DOI:10.1007/s11098-018-1208-2
  • “Responsibility for Forgetting” by Samuel Murray, Elise Murray, Gregory Stewart, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Felipe De Brigard. Philosophical Studies 176, 2019, pp. 1177-1201.
  • “A Reason-Based Explanation for Moral Dumbfounding” by Matt Stanley, Siyuan Yin, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Judgment and Decision Making 14 (2), March 2019, pp. 120-129.
  • “Responsibility without Freedom? Folk Judgements about Deliberate Actions” by Tillmann Vierkant, Robert Deutschländer, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and John-Dylan Haynes. Frontiers in Psychology, Cognitive Science section, Volume 10, Article 1133 (21 May 2019). DOI: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.01133
  • “Do Framing Effects Debunk Moral Beliefs?” by Kelsey McDonald, Siyuan Yin, Tara Weese, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Volume 42 (2019), e162 (doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X18002662)
  •  “Disgust Theory Through the Lens of Psychiatric Medicine”, by Caroline R. Amoroso, Eleanor K. Hanna, Kevin S. LaBar, Jana Schaich Borg, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Nancy Zucker. Clinical Psychological Science. (2019), pp. 1-22.
  • “The Central Role of Disgust in Disorders of Food Avoidance,” by Adrianne A. Harris, Adrienne L. Romer, Eleanor K. Hanna, Lori A. Keeling, Kevin S. LaBar, Walter Sinnott‐Armstrong, Timothy J. Strauman, Henry Ryan Wagner, Marsha D. Marcus, and Nancy L. Zucker. International Journal of Eating Disorders, Volume 52, Issue 5 (May 2019), pp. 543-553. First published 25 February 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1002/eat.23047
  • “Contrastive Mental Causation” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong in Synthese online First (December 11, 2019 at https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02506-0
  • “Artificial Artificial Intelligence: Measuring Influence of AI ‘Assessments’ on Moral Decision-Making”, Lok Chan, Kenzie Doyle, Duncan McElfresh, Vincent Conitzer, John P. Dickerson, Jana Schaich Borg, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. Proceedings of AIES-20 (Artificial Intelligence, Ethics, and Society conference in 2020).

  • Clean Hands: Philosophical Lessons from Scrupulosity, by Jesse Summers and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. New York: Oxford University Press. 

  • “Defining Addiction: A Pragmatic Perspective,” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Jesse S. Summers. For Routledge Handbook of Philosophy and Science of Addiction, eds., Hanna Pickard and Serge Ahmed. Routledge, 2018, pp. 123-131.
  • “Which Biopsychosocial View of Mental Illness?” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Jesse S. Summers, for Psychiatry Reborn: Biopsychosocial Psychiatry in Modern Medicine, edited by Julian Savulescu, Rebecca Roache, and Will Davies. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019.
  • “Partisanship, Humility, and Epistemic Polarization” by Thomas Nadelhoffer, Rose Graves, Gus Skorburg, Mark Leary, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong for a collection to be edited by Michael Lynch et al.

  • “Consequentialism” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online, revised 2019)
  • “Moral Skepticism” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online, revised 2019)

  • “Within subjects Framing Effects” by Paul Rehren.

Several philosophers and psychologists have argued that evidence of moral framing effects shows that many of our moral judgments are unreliable (at least until independently confirmed). However, all previous empirical work on moral framing effects has used between-subject experimental designs. We argue that between-subject designs cannot help us accurately estimate the extent of moral framing effects or properly evaluate the case from framing effects against the reliability of our moral judgments. To do better, we report results of our new within-subject study on four types of moral framing effects, and we discuss the implications of our findings for the reliability of moral judgments. Overall, our results strengthen the evidence from moral framing effects against the reliability of some of our moral judgments.

  • “Some Potential Philosophical Lessons of Implicit Moral Attitudes” by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Daryl Cameron. Forthcoming in Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology,


  • “Translation and Validation of the Moral Foundations Vignettes (MFVs) for the Portuguese Language in a Brazilian Sample from São Paulo,” Lucas Murrins Marques, Scott Clifford, Vijeth Iyengar, Graziela Vieira Bonato, Patrícia Moraes Cabral, Rafaela Barreto dos Santos, Roberto Cabeza, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Paulo Sérgio Boggio. Judgment and Decision Making.