James Rest was and continues to be an integral figure in the field of moral psychology. He was an internationally renowned scholar, professor, researcher, and author. Rest led an entire branch of Moral Psychology, along with his Minnesota Group of colleagues, including Darcia Narvaez, Muriel Bebeau, and Stephen Thoma, among others. Other branches of Moral Psychology include those led by Lawrence Walker and Elliot Turiel. But it was Rest, along with the Minnesota Group who coined the term and took a Neo-Kohlbergian approach to examining and researching moral reasoning. The field of Moral Psychology is heavily influenced by the work of Lawrence Kohlberg but Neo-Kohlbergians' approach is influenced by yet modifying the work of Kohlberg. James Rest was a professor and 1993 recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Minnesota from 1970 until his formal retirement in 1994. Rest continued mentoring, researching, and writing until his death in 1999.
Two of the largest and most enduring artifacts that came out of Rest's and the Neo-Kohlbergians' work include the Defining Issues Test (DIT) and the Four Component Model of Moral Development. The point of the DlT is to provide a way to measure moral development, which some critics say is nearly impossible to measure. Vast amounts of research in the field have resulted from DIT research and the Four Component Model.  Also noteworthy and not always common amongst researchers is the openness of Rest and the Minnesota Group to other approaches, new research, criticisms, and integrating their Neo-Kohlbergian approach with others.
Microsoft's Academic Search program cites Rest as having been cited by 452 authors since 1984, collaborated with eight co-authors, and has 14 publications. This number continues to grow as Rest's ideas and work and that of his colleagues continues to influence the field of psychology. The importance of Rest's work can also be seen in the work his colleagues and their students as they continue to research and write about moral psychology.
Four stages component model
Rest maintained that four key psychological components must be developed for a person to be morally mature and correct. These were moral sensitivity, moral judgment, moral motivation, and moral character. These would allow the person to be able to recognize the issues at hand, make correct and intelligent judgements, have the motivation to take action and the character to maintain good morality throughout the person's life.
Rest died in 1999, his work continued at the Center for the Study of Ethical Development by his peers and colleagues.
- Rest, J.R., Narvaez, D., Bebeau, M. & Thoma, S. (1999). Postconventional Moral Thinking: A Neo-Kohlbergian Approach. Mahweh, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Her, Lucy Y. (1999, 20 July). "Obituaries: James R. Rest, 58, professor". Minneapolis Star Tribune.
- Pascarella & Terenzini, E.T. & P. (1991). How college affects students: Findings and insights from twenty years of research. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
- King, P.M.; Mayhew, M.J. (2002). "Moral Judgment Development in Higher Education: Insights from the Defining Issues Test". Journal of Moral Education 31 (3): 247–270.
- McClosky, H.; Brill, A. (1983). "Moral Judgment and antisocial behavior in early adolescence". Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology 4: 189–199.
- "Microsoft Academic Search". Microsoft. Retrieved 2012, 5 April.
- "The Center for the Study of Ethical Development". Office of the Center for the Study of Ethical Development. Retrieved 2012, 5 April.