Sandra Lee Dixon

Associate Professor

What I do

I am Associate Professor of Psychology and Religion in the Department of Religious Studies.

Professional Biography

I studied at the University of Chicago's Divinity School for the Ph.D. in Religion and Psychological Studies and for the M.A. in Divinity. While there I worked in the Committee on Human Development as a research assistant on a project on moral development in the U.S. and India. I then served as project director of a study in the School of Social Service Administration on the social science background to issues in public policy for children. I received the A.B. in Psychology from Bryn Mawr College. My research interests focus in moral psychology across the lifespan. My dissertation and early research led to psychological and cultural studies of St. Augustine’s life and moral reasoning. My current research investigates long-term moral commitment, especially among pro-life and anti-abortion activists, as well as pro-choice advocates.


  • Ph.D., Religion and Psychological Studies, University of Chicago, Divinity School, 1993
  • MA, Divinity, University of Chicago, Divinity School, 1982
  • AB, Psychology, Bryn Mawr College, 1978

Professional Affiliations

  • American Academy of Religion
  • American Academy of Religion; Psychology, Culture and Religion Unit
  • Association for Moral Education
  • Society for Psychological Anthropology
  • C.G. Jung Society of Colorado
  • American Association of University Professors, DU Chapter


My research focuses on psychology of the moral life and its relationships to religion. I am interested in how people look at their lifespan and its moral challenges. I aim to elucidate the role that religion may play in morality across the lifespan, as well as how people may maintain serious moral commitment without support from religion.

My current research project relies on interviews with people who have been active one or the other side of the abortion controversy for at least ten years. The participants in the interviews who oppose abortion profess high levels of religious commitment. One of the pro-choice participants does. The interviews ask about their path to activism, its role in their lives, and their modes of self sustenance. The model under construction of religion and culture in the moral life draws on theory from cultural psychology and moral development, as well as on the interviews and observations of the study participants in their activism and daily lives.

Featured Publications

  • Augustine and Psychology
  • Reading Augustine, Monica, Milan with Attention to Cultural Interpretation and Psychological Theory
  • Teaching Freud and Interpreting Augustine's CONFESSIONS
  • Ethics
  • Augustine: The Scattered and Gathered Self


  • Response to Keynote: The Demands of the Day: Reason, Affection, and the Ethics of Education After Truth, by Thomas Carlson
  • Archetypal Patterns and the Right-to-Life / Pro-Choice Movements
  • Expansive Moral Psychologies of the Early 21st Century and Some Cautions for the Scholars of Religion who Consult Them
  • Religion and Consolation in Moral Commitments
  • Examining Religion in a Life of Commitment to a Morally Controversial Cause