Jonathan Haidt: The Righteous Mind

Righteous reviews

The Righteous Mind is about one of the hottest topics in the sciences: morality. It’s about how we evolved to live in moral “matrices,” which bind us together around sacred values and then blind us to the truth. It’s about righteousness, moral diversity, politics and religion.

As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments arise not from reason but from gut feelings. He shows why liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have such different intuitions about right and wrong, and he shows why each side is actually right about many of its central concerns. In this subtle yet accessible book, Haidt gives you the key to understanding the miracle of human cooperation, as well as the curse of our eternal divisions and conflicts. If you’re ready to trade in anger for understanding, read The Righteous Mind.

Source: The Righteous Mind | Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

Jonathan Haidt on Wikipedia

Jonathan David Haidt (/ht/; born October 19, 1963) is an American social psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business.[1] His academic specialization is the psychology of morality and the moral emotions. Haidt is the author of two books: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), which became a New York Times bestseller.[2] He was named one of the "top global thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine,[3] and one of the "top world thinkers" by Prospect magazine.[4]

Education and career

Haidt was born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, New York, to a liberal Jewish family.[5][6] He earned a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1985, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He then studied cultural psychology at the University of Chicago as a post-doctoral fellow. His supervisors were Jonathan Baron and Alan Fiske (at the University of Pennsylvania) and cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder (University of Chicago). During his post-doctoral appointment, Haidt won a Fulbright fellowship to fund three months of research on morality in Orissa, India. In 1995, Haidt was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where he worked until 2011, winning four awards for teaching, including a statewide award conferred by the Governor of Virginia.[7]

In 1999, Haidt became active in the new field of positive psychology, studying positive moral emotions. This work led to the publication of an edited volume, titled Flourishing, in 2003, and then to The Happiness Hypothesis in 2006. The Happiness Hypothesis introduced the widely cited metaphor that the mind is divided into parts, like a small rider (conscious reasoning) on a very large elephant (automatic and intuitive processes). In 2004, Haidt began to apply moral psychology to the study of politics, doing research on the psychological foundations of ideology. This work led to the publication in 2012 of The Righteous Mind. Haidt spent the 2007–2008 academic year at Princeton University as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching.

In 2011, Haidt moved to the New York University Stern School of Business. Haidt's current research applies moral psychology to business ethics. In 2013, he co-founded Ethical Systems,[8] a non-profit collaboration dedicated to making academic research on ethics widely available to businesses. He is also engaged in efforts to foster greater political civility[9] and to increase the ideological diversity of social psychology and other social sciences.[10] Haidt is writing a book on capitalism that will be published in 2019.[11]

Haidt is a co-founder of Heterodox Academy,[12] and Ethical Systems[13] as well as,[14] and[15].

Research contributions

Haidt's research on morality has led to publications and theoretical advances in four primary areas:

Social intuitionism

Haidt's principal line of research since graduate school has been on the nature and mechanisms of moral judgment. In the 1990s, he developed the social intuitionist model, which posits that moral judgment is mostly based on automatic processes–moral intuitions–rather than on conscious reasoning. People engage in reasoning largely to find evidence to support their initial intuitions. Haidt's main paper on the social intuitionist model, "The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail", has been cited over 6,000 times.[16]

Moral disgust

Together with Paul Rozin and Clark McCauley, Haidt developed the Disgust Scale,[17] which has been widely used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust. Haidt, Rozin, and McCauley have written extensively on the psychology of disgust as an emotion that began as a guardian of the mouth (against pathogens), but then expanded during biological and cultural evolution to become a guardian of the body more generally, and of the social and moral order.[18]

Moral elevation

With Sara Algoe, Haidt demonstrated that exposure to stories about moral beauty (the opposite of moral disgust) cause a common set of responses, including warm, loving feelings, calmness, and a desire to become a better person.[19] Haidt called the emotion "moral elevation",[20] as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who had described the emotion in detail in a letter discussing the benefits of reading great literature.[21] Feelings of moral elevation cause lactation in breast-feeding mothers,[22] suggesting the involvement of the hormone oxytocin. There is now a large body of research on elevation and related emotions.[23]

Moral foundations theory

In 2004, Haidt began to extend the social intuitionist model to specify the most important categories of moral intuition.[24] The result was moral foundations theory, co-developed with Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, and based in part on the writings of Richard Shweder. The theory posits that there are (at least) six innate moral foundations, upon which cultures develop their various moralities, just as there are five innate taste receptors on the tongue, which cultures have used to create many different cuisines. The six are care/harm, fairness (equality)/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. The theory was developed to explain cross-cultural differences in morality, but Haidt and his collaborators at[25] have found that the theory works well to explain political differences as well. Liberals (leftists) tend to endorse primarily the care and equality foundations, whereas conservatives (rightists) tend to endorse all six foundations more equally.[26]

Elephant and rider metaphor

The observations of social intuitionism–that intuitions come first and rationalization second–led to the elephant and rider metaphor.[27] The rider represents the conscious controlled processes and the elephant represents all of the automatic processes. The metaphor corresponds to Systems 1 and 2 described in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.[28] This metaphor is used extensively in both The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind.

Political centrism

In chapter 8 of The Righteous Mind, Haidt describes how he began to study political psychology in order to help the Democratic Party win more elections. But in chapter 12 of The Righteous Mind Haidt argues that each of the major political groups – conservatives, progressives, and libertarians—have valuable insights and that truth and good policy emerge from the contest of ideas. Since 2012 Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist.[29] Haidt is involved with several efforts to help bridge the political divide and reduce political polarization in the United States. In 2007 He founded the website, a clearinghouse for research on political civility. He serves on the advisory boards of Represent.Us., a non-partisan anticorruption organization, the Acumen Fund, which invests in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty and, a bipartisan group working to reduce political polarization. Three of his four TED talks are on the topic of understanding and reducing political divisions. His 2012 TED talk on “How common threats can make common ground”[30] introduced a set of ideas on how to use moral psychology to foster collaboration among partisan opponents. This talk became the basis of a bipartisan working group of poverty researchers, which Haidt helped to convene, under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution.[31] In 2015 the working group published a report titled: Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream.[32]


Neuroscientist Sam Harris criticized Haidt by arguing that Haidt's defense of religion ends up justifying human sacrifice and superstition. In chapter 9 of The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt extends a comprehensive inquiry on the role of religion in society, concluding, merely, that the scientific community should recognize the evolutionary origins of religiosity, and accept its potential cognitive implications (p. 211).[33]

Social psychologist John Jost wrote that Haidt "mocks the liberal vision of a tolerant, pluralistic, civil society, but, ironically, this is precisely where he wants to end up."[34]

Journalist Chris Hedges wrote a review of The Righteous Mind in which he accused Haidt of supporting "social Darwinism".[35] In his response, Haidt disagreed with Hedges's reading of the book, most notably that Hedges took quotations from conservatives and inappropriately attributed them to Haidt.[36]

Recently, Haidt has co-written some articles for newspapers and magazines about campus culture at American universities which have received mixed reactions, such as "The Coddling of the American Mind"[37][38][39] and "Hard Truths About Race on Campus" [40][41]



Selected publications

  • Haidt, J., Koller, S., & Dias, M. (1993). Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 613-628.
  • Haidt, J . (2001). The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment. Psychological Review. 108, 814-834.
  • Wheatley, T., & Haidt, J. (2005). Hypnotic disgust makes moral judgments more severe. Psychological Science, 16, 780-784.
  • Haidt, J. (2007). The new synthesis in moral psychology. Science, 316, 998-1002.
  • Rozin, P., Haidt, J., & McCauley, C. R. (2008). Disgust. In M. Lewis, J. Haviland, & L. F. Barrett (Eds.) Handbook of emotions, 3rd edition. (pp. 757–776). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. (2009). Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1029–1046.
  • Haidt, J., & Kesebir, S. (2010). Morality. In S. Fiske, D. Gilbert, & G. Lindzey (Eds.) Handbook of Social Psychology, 5th Edition. Hobeken, NJ: Wiley. pp. 797–832.
  • Iyer, R., Koleva, S. P., Graham, J., Ditto, P. H., & Haidt, J. (2012). Understanding Libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians. PLoS ONE 7:e42366 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Cowles, Gregory. "Print & E-Books". The New York Times. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jonathan Haidt: He Knows Why We Fight, Holman W. Jenkins Jr. June 29, 2012, Wall Street Journal
  6. ^ The psychology behind morality A discussion with Heidt describing his own outlook as being part of the Jewish culture
  7. ^ Archived May 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^
  9. ^, Haidt’s third TED talk
  10. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (14 July 2014). "Post-Partisan Social Psychology" (web page). Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  11. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. "Stories About Capitalism". Retrieved 9 March 2017. 
  12. ^ Haidt, Jon; Jussim, Lee; Martin, Chris. "The Problem". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved 19 March 2017. 
  13. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  14. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  15. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017. 
  16. ^ Google Scholar
  17. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (16 October 2012). "The Disgust Scale Home Page". Retrieved 8 July 2017. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ Algoe, Sara B, & Haidt, Jonathan. (2009). Witnessing excellence in action: The 'other-praising' emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration. Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 105-127.
  20. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. (2003). Elevation and the positive psychology of morality. In C. L. M. Keyes & J. Haidt (Eds.), Flourishing: Positive psychology and the life well-lived (pp. 275-289). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
  21. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. (1975). Letter to Robert Skipwith. In M. D. Peterson (Ed.), The portable Thomas Jefferson (pp. 349-351). New York: Penguin.
  22. ^ Silvers, J., & Haidt, J. (2008). Moral elevation causes lactation. Emotion, 8, 291-295.
  23. ^
  24. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Joseph, Craig (2004). "Intuitive ethics: How innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues". Daedalus. 133 (4): 55-66. doi:10.1162/0011526042365555. JSTOR 20027945. 
  25. ^
  26. ^ Graham, Jesse; Haidt, Jonathan; Nosek, Brian A. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association. 96 (5): 1029–1046. doi:10.1037/a0015141. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 19379034. 
  27. ^ McNerney, Samuel. "Jonathan Haidt and the Moral Matrix: Breaking Out of Our Righteous Minds". Scientific American (blogs). Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  28. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (October 7, 2012). "Reasons Matter (When Intuitions Don't Object)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2013. 
  29. ^ Weiss, Bari (April 1, 2017). "Jonathan Haidt on The Cultural Roots of Campus Rage". The WallStreet Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2017. 
  30. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 1, 2012). "How Common Threats Can Make Common Political Ground". TED. Retrieved July 7, 2017. 
  31. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 12, 2015). "The Backstory of the AEI Brookings Poverty Report". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved July 7, 2017. 
  32. ^ Various Authors (December 3, 2015). "Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream". AEI. Retrieved July 7, 2017. 
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Archived November 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^
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  40. ^
  41. ^

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