Study #1: Manipulating Narrative Points of View: A Potential Key Mechanism for Exemplar Interventions


  • PI: Peter Meindl (Calvin College)

    Peter is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Calvin College whose research focuses on the cultivation of character virtues. Previously, he researched character education interventions as a postdoctoral fellow with the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania.

  • Co-PI: Angela Duckworth (University of Pennsylvania)

    Angela is the Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. A MacArthur Fellow, she is also the Founder and CEO of Character Lab.

  • Co-PI: Jesse Graham (University of Utah)

    Jesse is George S. Eccles Professor of Business Ethics and Associate Professor of Management at the University of Utah. He has extensive expertise on the psychology of moral values, moral judgment, and character education.

In Manipulating Narrative Points of View: A Potential Key Mechanism for Exemplar Interventions, Meindl and his team pay close attention to the contexts that enable the success of exemplar interventions, particularly in middle schools and high schools. Building on their past work in moral psychology, character education, and psychological interventions, they will develop a set of school-based interventions based on insights derived from innovations on “wise” interventions that consistently shape middle and high school students’ character virtues. Additionally, they will tailor these interventions in a classroom-friendly manner that motivates middle- and high-school teachers to utilize their interventions in the classroom.

Study #2: The Role of Emotions in Exemplar Interventions for Academic Character Building


  • PI: Bart Engelen (Tilburg University)

    Bart is Assistant Professor of Philosophy who has published on the use of nudges and exemplars in moral education. Coordinating the service teaching courses at Tilburg, he plays a pivotal role in the implementation of the Tilburg Educational Vision with its focus on Academically Building Character.

  • Co-PI: Alfred Archer (Tilburg University)

    Alfred is Assistant Professor in Ethics with expertise in moral philosophy, moral psychology, and moral education. He was the primary investigator of the “Identifying Morally Exceptional People” project (funded by The Beacon Project at Wake Forest University) that brought together a team of philosophers and psychologists to investigate how morally exceptional people can be identified and what role they ought to play in moral education

  • Co-PI: Joanne Chung (University of Toronto)

    Joanne is Assistant Professor of Psychology with expertise on emotions and personality development. She is co-investigator of the project, “Emotional Character Growth Following Adversity” (funded by the Pathways to Character Project/John Templeton Foundation).

  • Co-PI: Theo Klimstra (Tilburg University)

    Theo is Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology. He has expertise in narrative analysis, the development of identity and morality-related personality dimensions, and longitudinal data analysis.

  • Co-PI: Anne Reitz (Tilburg University)

    Anne is Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology. Her research focuses on the social contexts and processes of the development of personality and the self and draws on developmental, personality, and social perspectives while applying a wide range of longitudinal research methods.

  • Co-PI: Jelle Sijtsema (Tilburg University)

    Jelle is Assistant Professor in Developmental Psychology. He has expertise in the field of social relationships and pro- and anti-social behavior.

In Exemplar Narratives as Teaching Tools for Academic Character Building, Engelen’s team will focus on identifying key mechanisms that can influence the success of exemplar interventions in the university context. Specifically, they will run a longitudinal study examining the efficacy of different exemplar interventions with a focus on the role of self-transcendent and other-praising emotions in promoting character growth. Emotions have been hypothesized to promote character virtues by reinforcing key values. Additionally, emotions such as admiration, elevation, inspiration, compassion, gratitude, and awe may plan a particularly important role in promoting character virtues. In addition to examining the role of these emotions, Engelen and his team will employ a contextualized approach that examines which specific exemplar narratives are effective for which types of students.

Study #3: Educating Character through Exemplars: Designing Research-Based Interventions for Colleges and Universities


  • PI: Michael Lamb (Wake Forest University)

    Michael is Executive Director of the Program for Leadership and Character and Assistant Professor of Politics, Ethics, and Interdisciplinary Humanities. He is also a Research Fellow with the Oxford Character Project, where he researched, designed, and facilitated exemplar-based character interventions. A Rhodes Scholar, he previously served as Dean of Leadership, Service, and Character Development for the Rhodes Trust.

  • Co-PI: Ann Phelps (Wake Forest University)

    Ann is the Director of Programming for Leadership and Character at Wake Forest University. Previously, she served as Interim Director of Religious Life, Adjunct Professor, and Director of the Faith and Work Initiative at Millsaps College and a Research Fellow, Teaching Assistant, and Residential Fellow at Yale University.

  • Co-PI: Kenneth Townsend (Wake Forest University

    Kenneth is the Director of Leadership and Character in the Professional Schools and Scholar-in-Residence in the School of Law. Previously he was Assistant Professor of Political Science, Special Assistant to the President, and founding Executive Director of the Institute for Civic & Professional Engagement at Millsaps College. A Truman Scholar and Rhodes Scholar with a J.D. and M.A.R. from Yale University and an M.Phil. from the University of Oxford. He pursues research on law and morality, the role of religion in a democracy, and the ethical character of professionals.

In Educating Character through Exemplars: Designing Research-Based Interventions for Colleges and Universities, Lamb and his interdisciplinary collaborators will draw on theoretical and empirical research to design a series of creative exemplar-based interventions to build character virtues among students at Wake Forest University. They aim to answer three key questions about promoting character in an institutional context: Which types of exemplar interventions are most effective for shaping the character of “emerging adults” in a university context? Which functions of exemplars are most relevant for students in this developmental stage? And how can exemplar interventions be integrated organically into both curricular and co-curricular offerings? By designing and assessing multiple types of exemplar interventions, their team will develop resources to enable other colleges and universities to adapt exemplar interventions for their own contexts.

Study #4: Using Exemplars to Facilitate Growth Following Adversity: Developing the SecondStory 2.0 Intervention

The question of how exemplar interventions promote specific character virtues is a core goal of Jayawickreme’s study, Using Exemplars to Facilitate Growth Following Adversity: Developing the SecondStory 2.0 Intervention. Jayawickreme and his interdisciplinary team will examine whether narratives of moral exemplars who have experienced and overcome adversity can facilitate the promotion of specific character virtues. Recent philosophical work has highlighted how moral exemplars who have experienced adversity may lead to increased admiration for the exemplar, enable more effective emulation, and affirm important truths about the human condition. Jayawickreme’s team will develop an interdisciplinary account of how such exemplars can be successfully employed to develop character growth in the wake of adversity and test a modified intervention designed to promote such growth in a randomized controlled trial.

Study #5: The Role of Spiritual and Literary Exemplar Narratives in Cultivating Character


  • PI: Liz Gulliford (University of Northampton)

    Liz is Senior Lecturer in Positive Psychology at the University of Northampton. Previously, she developed projects on the development of character virtues as a Senior Research Fellow at the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at the University of Birmingham.

  • Co-PI: Edward Brooks (University of Oxford)

    Edward is the Executive Director of the Oxford Character Project, where he has researched, designed, and facilitated exemplar-based character interventions.

  • Co-PI: Oliver Coates (Cambridge University)

    Oliver is a lecturer in the faculty of History at the University of Cambridge who specializes in literary and textual analysis.

  • Consultant: Jonathan Brant (University of Oxford)

    Jonathan is Director of the Oxford Character Project, a Research Fellow at Harris Manchester College, Oxford, and a member of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Oxford. He is also the Chaplain for the Oxford Pastorate.

In The Role of Spiritual and Literary Exemplar Narratives in Cultivating Character, Gulliford and her team will employ textual analysis to analyze different genres of exemplar narratives from diverse disciplinary perspectives. Their analysis will provide important information about how exemplar narratives appeal to individuals, as well as how they promote emulation and admiration. In doing so, Gulliford and her team will identify some of the psychological, pedagogical, and spiritual mechanisms that imbue moral exemplar narratives with their motivational and inspirational impact. By providing researchers and practitioners with important insights about the active ingredients of different types of exemplar narratives, they will facilitate the development of new interventions and narratives.