Like Sir John Templeton, Character Lab sees enormous potential in applying the scientific method to the timeless question of how to cultivate character and virtue in young people.
Why young people? Character and virtue are relevant across the lifespan, but research suggests adolescence as a sensitive period for brain development and identity formation. Accordingly, we focus particularly on advancing the science and practice of character development in teenagers.
Why the scientific method? Because precise measurement and carefully designed studies can radically accelerate learning. Just as the scientific method revolutionized medicine—effectively doubling life expectancies over the last two centuries—the science of character development will lead to discoveries that help young people develop to their fullest potential.
Our ultimate aim is to provide, to teachers and other adults who care for young people, character-building insights and strategies based on rigorous science. In the past, Character Lab dispensed grants to scientists. But we’ve since found that even well-funded, highly regarded researchers struggle to execute research in schools.
We are proposing a different approach. We aim to make character development attractive to world-class social scientists not because of the promise of grant money but, rather, because its largest discentives have been removed. As it has for medicine, more scientific research on character and virtue will lead to more insights and better outcomes.
Character Lab Research Network comprises three elements: (1) partnerships with middle and high schools across the country, (2) a digital platform for delivering interventions and collecting data remotely, and (3) legal agreements that allow Character Lab to act as a neutral third-party intermediary between schools and researchers.
Collectively, these resources will make character development fast, frictionless, and fruitful.