Darcia Narvaez is a Professor of Psychology Emerita at the University of Notre Dame. She is the founder of the public and professional educational outreach project The Evolved Nest Initiative whose nonprofit mission is to share her science research into developing appropriate baselines for lifelong human wellness by meeting the biological needs of infants. This wellbeing baseline is imperative at this time as the United States ranks 41st out of 41 developed countries in public policies that support families.
Darcia is the current president of the award-winning, venerable nonprofit Kindred World, who has been "serving the re-generation since 1996." The Evolved Nest is an initiative of Kindred World. See all of Kindred World's strategies and initiatives for advancing a Wisdom-based, Wellness-Informed Society here.
In 2022, Narvaez was elected a fellow to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest international body of professional scientists in the world and publisher of the prestigious journal Science. Narvaez was honored for her distinguished contributions illuminating typical and atypical development in terms of well-being, morality and sustainable wisdom.
For the first portion of her career, Narvaez investigated moral psychology and moral development in typical ways — through studying reason, cognition, and education. But several years ago, she grew deeply interested in cross-disciplinary insights into evolutionary issues. As she read deeper into neuro- and clinical sciences, she began to see all sorts of connections that sparked further research.
“I realized that all these fields bore on moral development. I was awakened to the fact that human beings are a particular species with particular needs that, especially in early life, need to be fulfilled in order to construct an individual’s sociality and compassionate morality,” she said. “The key insight was realizing that our species’ evolved nest is vital for fostering our cooperative human nature. When the evolved nest is degraded, as it is in industrialized countries, it can impair capacities for cooperation and compassion because early stress is toxic to species-typical neurobiological function.”
Her empirical, theoretical, and applied research now focuses on the kinds of characteristics notable in communities that provide the evolved nest to children from conception, societies that demonstrate wellbeing, heart-minded morality, and communal imagination.
In a 2020 analysis of top scientists, Narvaez emerged in the top 2% of scientists worldwide. Of the eight million scientists in the world, the analysis concerned those who had at least five articles published in scientific journals between 1996 and 2017-- over six million scientists. Individuals were ranked according to various criteria, including number of citations of their work.
Narvaez’s book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, was chosen for the 2017 Expanded Reason Award from among more than 360 total entries from 170 universities and 30 countries. Narvaez received the prize, including a substantial monetary award, at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on September 27, 2017. The book also received the William James Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015. She is former executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education.
Narvaez hosted interdisciplinary conferences at the University of Notre Dame regarding early experience and human development in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2016 she organized a conference on Sustainable Wisdom: Integrating Indigenous KnowHow for Global Flourishing. (Click on the links to see the full conferences in video on the Evolved Nest's YouTube Channel.)
She is the author or editor of numerous books and articles, see The Science page for listings.
She is the president of the venerable American nonprofit, Kindred World, a contributing editor to Kindred, the first global eco-parenting magazine, a board of directors member of Attachment Parenting International, and an advisory board member of the Association for Pre- and Perinatal Psychology and Health, APPPAH.
Darcia Narvaez, PhD, founder of The Evolved Nest
About the Expanded Reason Award
The award was given by University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation to recognize innovation in scientific research and academic programs based on Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason. The university and foundation sought academic works that question and explicitly incorporate reflections on the anthropology, epistemology, ethics and meaning that exist within the specific science.
The award was given by University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation to recognize innovation in scientific research and academic programs based on Benedict XVI’s proposal to broaden the horizons of reason. The university and foundation sought academic works that question and explicitly incorporate reflections on the anthropology, epistemology, ethics and meaning that exist within the specific science. Two awards were given for research, and two were given for academic programs.
Narvaez’s book, Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom, was chosen from among more than 360 total entries from 170 universities and 30 countries. Narvaez will receive the prize, including a substantial monetary award, at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in Vatican City on September 27, 2017.
Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture and Wisdom outlines an evolutionary framework for early childhood experience that is grounded in developmental systems theory, encompassing not only genes but a wide array of inheritances and epigenetic factors. It describes the neurobiological bases for the development of distinctive moral mindsets, addressing ethical functioning at multiple levels of complexity and context before turning to a theory of the emergence of wisdom. Finally, it suggests that we honor the sociocultural orientations of our ancestors and cousins in small-band hunter-gatherer societies—the norm for 99% of human history—for a re-envisioning of an organic, sustainable moral life, from the way we value and organize child raising to how we cooperate with a living planet.
The book integrates elements of anthropology, clinical and developmental psychology, and neuroscience to examine the influences in early childhood that help shape a person’s moral character. Narvaez also received the 2015 William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association for the book.
“Our research in the lab examines the evolved developmental niche—the evolved nest for humans—whose primary characteristics emerged with social mammals more than 30 million years ago,” Narvaez said. She and her team have published several empirical papers about the effects of the evolved nest on wellbeing and morality in children and adults.
In giving the award, University Francisco de Vitoria and the Joseph Ratzinger/Benedict XVI Vatican Foundation seek academic works that question and explicitly incorporate reflections on the anthropology, epistemology, ethics and meaning that exist within the specific science. Narváez’s book was chosen in the research category.
Narvaez, who joined the Department of Psychology in 2000, has published numerous books and articles on moral cognition, moral development, and moral character. She is a co-director of the interdisciplinary Self, Motivation, and Virtue project and the Developing Virtues in the Practice of Science initiative. She is the exiting executive editor of the Journal of Moral Education and writes the popular Moral Landscapes blog for Psychology Today.
Visit Narvaez's University of Notre Dame website to find a complete list of her publications, educational materials, papers and videos.
Read and share The Evolved Nest series on Psychology Today and Kindred.
Download, listen and share The Evolved Nest podcast series.
Watch and share the many Evolved Nest presentations, lectures and interviews with Darcia Narvaez, PhD, in our video collection.
Babies are “half-baked” at birth and have much to learn with the help of physical and emotional support from caregivers. Taking care of baby’s needs is an investment that pays off with a happier, healthier child and adult. Here are 28 days of reminders about babies and their needs.
You, your children, your family are invited to discover ways to connect with nature, renew your ecological attachment, and restore your living connection to the Earth. Based on research by Dr. Narvaez and her students, the dance includes a pre- and post test to measure your success!
We are excited to unveil Evolved Nest’s Child Care Center Checklist. The Checklist has been created to help parents and guardians determine how well a child care center matches up with the components of the Evolved Nest. The checklist is intended to be supplemental to the other protocols a center has (e.g., infection prevention, abuse prevention, diaper change frequency).
What would a new generation, pre-parenthood, say about The Evolved Nest? Does this new generation see the connection between the state of their world and how humans are disconnected from their own nature as well as Nature? What could we learn from a pair of Fresh Eyes on The Evolved Nest? View college students' blogs, posters, and children's books.
Neurobiology and the Development of Human Morality: Evolution, Culture, and Wisdom
Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology
Personality, Identity, and Character: Explorations in Moral Psychology
Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution: Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing
Contexts for Young Child Flourishing: Evolution, Family, and Society
Embodied Morality: Protectionism, Engagement and Imagination
Evolution, Early Experience and Human Development: From Research to Practice and Policy
Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom
First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing
Edited By Darcia Narvaez, Four Arrows (Don Trent Jacobs), Eugene Halton, Brian S Collier and Georges Enderle
Contributors describe ways of being in the world that reflect a worldview that guided humanity for 99% of human history: They describe the practical traditional wisdom that stems from Nature-based relational cultures that were or are guided by this worldview. Such cultures did not cause the kinds of anti-Nature and de-humanizing or inequitable policies and practices that now pervade our world. Far from romanticizing Indigenous histories, Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom offers facts about how human beings, with our potential for good and evil behaviors, can live in relative harmony again. Contributions cover views from anthropology, psychology, sociology, leadership, native science, native history, and native art.
“Authentic and deep respect for Indigenous knowledge(s) means keeping it alive and vital, appreciating its urgent necessity for today’s times, and interweaving it into the lives of non-Indigenous people. No longer can Indigenous knowledge be marginalized, relegated to the past, or shelved in a museum. As becomes clearer each day, our planet cannot survive without its inhabitants learning to live in harmony with Mother Earth, as Indigenous wisdom teaches. The diverse chapters in this book offer ways to make this vision a reality for right now and lasting into the future.” ―Susan Roberta Katz, Professor, International and Multicultural Education, University of San Francisco
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