About The Team

Project Leader

Dr. Christian Miller

Dr. Christian Miller is Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University. His main areas of research are meta-ethics, moral psychology, action theory, and philosophy of religion, and his work has appeared in such journals as Noûs, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Philosophical Studies, Philosophical Psychology, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, The Journal of Ethics, Social Theory and Practice, The Journal of Philosophical Research, The European Journal of Philosophy, and Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. He is the editor of Essays in the Philosophy of Religion (Oxford University Press) and The Continuum Companion to Ethics (Continuum Press), and is the book review editor of the Journal of Moral Philosophy. He was awarded the 2009 Wake Forest University Reid-Doyle Prize for Excellence in Teaching, the 2009 Wake Forest University Award for Excellence in Research, and the 2014 Kulynych Family Omicron Delta Kappa Award. He has two books with Oxford University Press, Moral Character: An Empirical Theory (2013) and Character and Moral Psychology (2014), which together articulate a new framework for thinking about character that is empirically supported by research in psychology. His third book on character with Oxford is forthcoming in 2016.

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Psychology Co-Director

Dr. William Fleeson

Dr. William Fleeson is Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University. He has been associate editor and consulting editor of several leading journals, and has been PI on two separate NIH R01s. His work focuses on examining actual behavior, behavior patterns, and behavior contingencies in order to obtain new insights about personality constructs and to explain the mechanisms and operation of personality constructs, especially moral character and borderline personality disorder. His work on this line of research has resulted in several publications in leading journals such as the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Personality, and Journal of Research in Personality, and in the 2002 Society for Personality and Social Psychology Theoretical Innovation Prize.

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Psychology Co-Director

Dr. R. Michael Furr

Dr. R. Michael Furr is Professor of Psychology at Wake Forest University and recipient of WFU’s 2012 Award for Excellence in Research. In addition, he currently serves on editorial boards for Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Social Psychological and Personality Science, Journal of Research in Personality, Journal of Personality Assessment, and Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, and he is former Associate Editor of the Journal of Research in Personality and former Executive Editor of the Journal of Social Psychology. His broad areas of expertise are personality psychology, social psychology, psychological measurement, and quantitative analysis. More specifically, his substantive research includes person-situation interactions, peoples' perceptions of their social worlds, and personality pathology, while his methodological interests include psychometrics, statistical analysis of data from repeated-measures research designs, and the statistical analysis of profile similarity. He has authored two books on psychological measurement, including Psychometrics: An Introduction (Sage Publications), which has been translated into Russian and which will soon appear in its 2nd edition. His research has appeared in journals such as Psychological Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Journal of Personality, Journal of Research in Personality, European Journal of Personality, Social Psychological and Personality Science, and Psychological Methods.

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Theology Director

Dr. Angela Knobel

Dr. Angela Knobel is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America. Her main areas of research are Thomas Aquinas's virtue theory, ethics, and bioethics. Her papers have appeared or are forthcoming in such journals as The Thomist, American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, Nova et Vetera, International Philosophical Quarterly, Christian Bioethics, Studies in Christian Ethics, and Théologie Morale Fondamentale, and her book, Aquinas and the Infused Moral Virtues, is under contract with University of Notre Dame Press.

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Affiliated Faculty Member

Eranda Jayawickreme

Dr. Eranda Jayawickreme is an assistant professor of psychology at Wake Forest University and a visiting scholar at the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania. He received his Ph.D. in positive and political psychology in October 2010 from the University of Pennsylvania. He subsequently served as the postdoctoral fellow for the Character Project. Eranda is broadly interested in questions related to personality psychology, moral psychology, political psychology and the study of ethnopolitical warfare. Trained in both psychology and moral philosophy, he graduated with summa cum laude honors from Franklin & Marshall College in 2005, and was awarded the Henry S. Williamson Medal, the college’s highest student award presented annually to the outstanding senior of the graduating class. His awards include grants from the John Templeton Foundation, the Asia Foundation/USAID, the Penn Program on Democracy, Citizenship, and Constitutionalism, and the Positive Psychology Center, a Mellon Refugee Initiative Fund Fellowship, and numerous academic awards from Franklin & Marshall College.

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Past Graduate Students

Maxwell Barranti

Maxwell Barranti graduated from UC Riverside in 2012. He is currently a second year graduate student in the psychology department at Wake Forest University. Max is broadly interested in personality and social psychology. Some of his more specific interests include how selves and others form impressions of moral character, issues surrounding the consistency of behaviors and judgments, and the measurement of traits that manifest themselves infrequently. Recently Max has examined consistency in moral judgments and agreement among moral character traits.

Cory Costello

Cory Costello graduated from New College of Florida in 2012 and is a second year graduate student in the psychology department at Wake Forest University. He is primarily interested in evolutionary explanations of social perceptual processes, especially as they pertain to personality and moral trait perception.

Ashley Hawkins was a graduate student with the Character Project from 2010-2012. Her research focused on agreement between the self and others regarding one's moral character traits and general moral character. She received her M.A. in Psychology from Wake Forest University and her B.S. in Psychology from the College of Charleston. Ashley is the Research Coordinator of the Interdisciplinary Behavioral Research Center (IBRC) at Duke University, where she manages a variety of resources and support to social science researchers and continues to explore her own research interests.

Kassidy Velasquez

Kassidy Velasquez graduated from Baylor University in May 2014 with a double major in psychology and philosophy. She is an incoming graduate student in the psychology department at Wake Forest University. Her primary research interests include the cognitive and social mechanisms that affect the development of people's moral constructs, as well as the role personality plays in their predilection towards different moral values and behaviors.

Past Post-Doctoral Fellows

Adam Pelser

Dr. Adam Pelser received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Baylor University in August 2011. From August 2011 to May 2012 he served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. His main areas of research are ethics, epistemology, moral psychology, philosophy of emotions, and philosophy of religion. He is currently developing work from his dissertation focusing on various ways that emotions can contribute positively to our achievement of such epistemic goods as justified beliefs, understanding, and wisdom. He is also exploring whether emotions play a significant role in our perception and knowledge of character traits. In light of his research, which suggests that virtuous emotion-dispositions are partially constitutive of wisdom, he is developing a theoretical foundation and practical guidelines for emotion-character formation as an integral aspect of educating for wisdom. While a graduate student, he received four paper award prizes for papers presented at meetings of the American Philosophical Association and his work has appeared in History of Philosophy Quarterly and Southwest Philosophy Review. Before commencing his graduate studies in philosophy at Baylor University he earned an M.A. in religion from Wake Forest University, graduating with highest honors. He is now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the United States Air Force Academy.

Arik Helzer

Dr. Erik Helzer received his Ph. D. from Cornell University in 2012. His research interests include self- and social knowledge, morality, agency, and free will. Erik is interested in divergent views of self and other – essentially cases in which other people's knowledge about a target is superior to that target's own self-knowledge. Recent work has explored how conceiving of oneself as a free agent may hamper self-knowledge, and how, conversely, thinking less agentically about others may promote greater social insight. Erik's work on morality has explored the divergent ways people assess their own and other people's capacity for laudable behavior, as well as some of the subtle, everyday cues that affect moral thought. Erik's work has been published in journals such as Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Science, and Social Cognition. He is now Assistant Professor in the research track at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Heidi Giannini

Dr. Heidi Giannini received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Baylor University in May 2013. Her main areas of research are ethical theory, Kant’s practical philosophy, and moral psychology. She is currently expanding on work in her dissertation focusing on the challenges nonideal theory presents for ethics. That is, how does the fact that we are surrounded by people who sometimes act badly influence our reflections on how to live? She is particularly concerned that certain approaches to metaethics may be undermined by allowances required by nonideal theory. In addition to her research in metaethics, Heidi is developing accounts of specific virtues required in light of nonideal circumstances, such as justice, forgivingness, and graciousness. Her research in Kantian ethics has been presented at the International Kant Congress and published in Kant Studies Online. Heidi was a Presidential Scholar at Baylor University. Before beginning her graduate studies, she graduated summa cum laude from Houghton College. She is now Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Hope College.

Laura Blackie

Dr. Laura Blackie received her PhD in social psychology from the University of Essex in 2012. Shortly afterwards, she moved to Wake Forest University in North Carolina to work as a postdoctoral fellow on a project examining the behavioral manifestations of post-traumatic growth. In May 2015, she took a research fellow position at the University of Nottingham working on a project examining the testimonies of survivors and perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide. Her research program is at the intersection of social and lifespan psychology, and investigates how individuals adjust and find meaning from adverse experiences. Her research on this topic has focused on three areas, and has used experimental, longitudinal, and qualitative methods: (1) Mortality Awareness - examining the conditions that enable people to react to reminders of their mortality in a positive and life-affirming manner. (2) Posttraumatic Growth - examining positive personality development in the wake of significant trauma and adversity. (3) Existential Wisdom - examining whether confronting significant adversity cultivates skills and virtues characteristic of wisdom and humility. She has examined these questions in a range of populations including community samples in the U.K., U.S., civil war-affected populations in Sri Lanka, and genocide-affected populations in Rwanda.

Maxwell Barranti

Dr. Anselma Hartley received her Ph.D. from Brown University in 2013. Her research interests include social perception, contextual approaches to personality assessment, personality change, and moral psychology. Her research has examined how people naturally perceive and form judgments of personality, and how widely used personality assessments capture and potentially shape these judgment processes. Her other main area of research is personality change processes. To this end, she has conducted and published field and experimental studies of child and adult personality change that have explored individual differences in contextual patterns of behavior, cross-informant agreement, assessment methodologies, and expert-novice differences in social perception. Before attending Brown’s doctoral program, she received her M.A. in psychology from Connecticut College. She is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology for the Beacon Project at Wake Forest University.

Maxwell Barranti

Dr. Brandon Warmke received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Arizona in 2014. His primary areas of research are ethics and moral psychology, with a particular focus on the nature and norms of moral forgiveness, blame, and punishment. One of the key ideas he explores in his research is thought that our practice of moral forgiveness can be modeled upon our practice of economic debt-cancellation: forgivers cancel moral debts, which is why forgiving alters the norms of interaction between victim and wrongdoer. Brandon is also currently working on the topics of love, moral grandstanding, the nature of moral responsibility, and the character traits involved in forgiveness. His work has been published in Philosophical Studies, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Journal of Moral Philosophy, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, and Philosophia. He is now a Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame.

Past Grant Manager

Joshua Seachris

Dr. Joshua Seachris was the grant manager for the Character Project from 2010-2013. He is currently Program Director for the Center for Philosophy of Religion and Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at the University of Notre Dame. He holds a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oklahoma, and is the author of articles on a range of topics in philosophy, including the problem of evil, Confucius and virtue, the meaning of life, and death. His work has appeared in such journals as Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Religious Studies, Philo, Asian Philosophy, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, and the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. He is the editor of Exploring the Meaning of Life: An Anthology and Guide (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

Kathleen McKee

Kathleen (McKee) Stimely has a combination of experience and education in the fields of psychology, human resources, and higher education administration. She received her Master's Degree in Human Resource Management from the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina and her Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Francis Marion University.

The Character Project: New Frontiers in Psychology, Philosophy, and Theology