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Investigating the roots, nature, and impact of virtues on human flourishing.

For the 2022 funding cycle, please note that we will only consider Online Funding Inquiries that involve philosophically or theologically substantive scientific inquiries on the subject of love. Online Funding Inquiries on any other aspect of this priority area will not be considered for invitation in 2022.


The scientific study of character virtues is central to the Foundation’s mission, and is part of multiple funding areas, including Character Virtue Development, Philosophy & Theology, and Human Sciences. Since the late 1990s, the Foundation has made major investments to catalyze inquiry on such topics as forgiveness, generosity, and humility. While we will continue to consider proposals on these and other virtues as part of the Open Funding Track, for the 2019 – 2023 funding cycle we are focusing on four specific and targeted themes:

  1. Curiosity. Curiosity plays an important role in the epistemic virtues, in awe and wonder, and in religious and spiritual development. These roles have, however, received relatively little research attention. We would therefore welcome empirical or conceptual proposals from psychologists, philosophers, or education researchers that would advance understanding of the nature and development of curiosity. Potential research questions include the following: (a) Is there a universal developmental pathway for curiosity? (b) How does curiosity relate to such constructs as intellectual humility and open-mindedness? (c) How can the motivational aspect of curiosity (i.e., eagerness to learn) be cultivated? (d) How does curiosity about one domain relate to curiosity about another domain (e.g., scientific, experiential, existential, religious, or fantastical concepts)? (e) How does curiosity lead to awe and wonder?
  2. Gratitude. JTF played a significant role in supporting early conceptual and empirical research on gratitude. In the current funding cycle we are narrowing our focus to proposals considering (a) how gratitude develops across the lifespan and/or (b) whether—and how—gratitude differs cross-culturally.
  3. Love. Over the past decades, scholars from the disciplines of psychology, philosophy, and theology have independently given some attention to the study of love. We welcome proposals that strengthen and draw together these disparate lines of inquiry and that develop clear, empirically accessible concept(s) of love. Potential research questions include the following: (a) What are the core components of love? (b) How do people apprehend divine love? (c) How can people develop genuine love for their enemies? Advances in measurement of love, including behavioral and biological methods, would be of particular interest.
  4. Virtues and religion. While the virtues and religion are each increasingly well-established as domains of scientific inquiry, research questions at the interface of virtues and religion have generally been neglected. We therefore welcome proposals that take opportunities for empirical research into questions at three points of connection: (a) virtues enacted in relation to supernatural agents (e.g., humility before God); (b) the apprehension of—and responses to—perceived moral attributes of supernatural agents (e.g., apprehension of God’s faithfulness); and (c) the influence of spiritual worldviews on the development and practice of virtues (e.g., eschatological hope). For each target construct (e.g., love of God), we would consider proposals addressing research questions related to one or more of definition, measurement, individual and cultural variation, development, interaction with situation, function, and intervention.

Featured Grants

Character Virtue Development
Project Leader(s): Sara Algoe
Grantee(s): The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Peter Hill, Robert Emmons
Grantee(s): Biola University
Human Sciences
Project Leader(s): Michael McCullough
Grantee(s): Regents of The University of California at San Diego