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Moral psychology; moral development

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Personal profile


Dr Gavin Nobes, Associate Professor in Psychology, conducts research on moral psychology and moral development, the physical abuse of children, and children's acquisition of scientific knowledge. He teaches developmental, forensic and applied psychology. Before joining UEA in 2007 he was a Principal Lecturer at the University of East London. Between 1990 and 1994 Gavin was a researcher at the Thomas Coram Research Unit and the Institute of Child Health, University of London, where he worked on a project on the physical punishment of children. His PhD (University of Bath, 1992) concerned children’s moral development, and his first degree (University of Oxford, 1983) was in psychology and philosophy.

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Indicative Publications

Nobes, G., & Martin, J. W. (2022). They should have known better: The roles of negligence and outcome in moral judgements of accidental actions. British Journal of Psychology. DOI: 10.1111/bjop.12536

Nobes, G., Panagiotaki, G., & Russell Jonsson, K. (2019). Child homicides by stepfathers: A replication and reassessment of the British evidence. Journal of Experimental Psychology: GeneralDOI: 10.1037/xge0000492

Siegal, M., Nobes, G., & Panagiotaki, G. (2011). Children’s knowledge of the Earth. Nature Geoscience, 4, 134-136.

Nobes, G., Panagiotaki, G., & Pawson, C. (2009). The influence of negligence, intention and outcome on children’s moral judgments. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 104, 382-397.

Nobes, G., Smith, M., Upton, P., & Heverin, A. (1999). Physical punishment by mothers and fathers in British homes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 887-902.

Key Research Interests

Moral psychology and moral development: The factors that influence children's and adults' moral judgements, such as agents' intentions and negligence (carelessness), and their actions' outcomes; children's understanding of social rules and authority; the roles of parenting and peer interaction in the development of moral reasoning.

Physical abuse of children: Physical abuse and homicide of stepchildren; the short- and long-term effects of harsh, frequent punishment and maltreatment 

Children's understanding of science:
the acquisition of knowledge of the Earth, climate change, biology, health and illness.

The development of antisocial behaviour, especially the influence of parents, siblings and peers.


Gavin supervises PhDs, MScs and BSc projects on moral psychology, moral development, children’s scientific knowledge, the psychology of climate change, and the development of antisocial behaviour.

Visit Gavin's Website for more information about Gavin’s research and publications.


Key Responsibilities

Teaching on Developmental, Forensic and Applied Psychology modules

Postgraduate and undergraduate research supervision

School of Psychology Plagiarism Officer

Faculty and UEA Appeals and Complaints Panellist

Areas of Expertise

Moral psychology and children's moral development; physical abuse of children; development of antisocial behaviour; children's understanding of science 

Research Group or Lab Membership

Centre for Research on Children and Families

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, University of Bath

Award Date: 1 May 1992

Master of Arts, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Jul 1990

Bachelor of Science, University of Oxford

Award Date: 1 Aug 1983


  • Decision making
  • Moral judgements and moral development
  • Developmental Science
  • Children's understanding of science, including astronomy and biology,
  • Parenting
  • Child physical abuse
  • Ethics
  • Moral judgements

Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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