Jonathan Haidt —
The Psychology Behind Morality

The surprising psychology behind morality is at the heart of social psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s research. “When it comes to moral judgments," he says, "we think we are scientists discovering the truth, but actually we are lawyers arguing for positions we arrived at by other means.” He explains “liberal” and “conservative” not narrowly or necessarily as political affiliations, but as personality types — ways of moving through the world. His own self-described “conservative-hating, religion-hating, secular liberal instincts” have been challenged by his own studies.

Share Episode

Shortened URL

Guests

is the author of the bestselling book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He is Professor of Ethical Leadership at The Stern School of Business at New York University.

Pertinent Posts

For service members returning home from combat, PTSD diagnoses are commonplace and extensive. But one VA psychologist argues that the complications of PTSD compound to create a moral injury — one that requires a community, not a clinic, in order to heal.

About the Image

Jonathan Haidt talks about humanity's "evolved trick," our ability to forge a team by circling around sacred objects and rituals at TEDxMidAtlantic in 2012.

Episode Sponsor

Funding provided in part by the John Templeton Foundation.

Share a Reflection

Filtered HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><span><div><img><!-->
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Embed content by wrapping a supported URL in [embed] … [/embed].

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
52Reflections

Reflections

I have been an avid listener for over a year now and this was one of the most fascinating and articulate interviews in my opinion (but don't get me wrong, I love them all). I'm really interested to now learn more about Haidt's research and outcomes. Thanks.

What Jonathan Haidt makes sense to me as a liberal when I think of conservative leaning family, friend and the general public. However, when I think of high level, well educated people who see the science regarding climate change and distort the truth to keep us on a path of continued plant and animal destruction, high risk fossil fuel extraction, and removing the right of choice for liberals,then I wonder if the behavior is more sociopathic. I might also add that extreme liberal advocates may share similar sociopathic traits as the far right. Climate change is occurring, deforestation is progressing at excessive pace, and with ocean temperature and acidity rises coral destruction has become very clear. I believe that I am just left of middle and realize that we must transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy such as fusion , wind and solar power; poor people in heavily forested areas burn them to live and must be provided with alternatives. Do you find that both right and left people who trend toward a middle ground have a mixture of findings with similarities to both sides and I wonder why we are not seeing that in politics?

Climate change is an excellent illustration of the limits of the psychological or cultural analysis of political issues. The atmosphere doesn't care what our values are or how we arrived at them.

I think you make a good point. Though most of my acquaintances might consider me a liberal, I am not particularly partisan - rather, more pragmatic. I feel strongly about the same environmental issues you mention, I am dismayed that most "liberal" environmentaliists seem incapable of making their case in a way that neutral listeners would find credible or trustworthy. In my view, they bear some responsibility for being dismissed as extremists or "flakes." But by paying attention to some of the factors raised by Haidt, they might be more successful at communicating beyond the safe enclave of like-minded liberal folks. When you have people like Paul Ehrlich, who raise legitimate concerns, but go on to make highly alarmist predictions (that don't come to pass), the credibility of anyone else addressing those concerns is severely compromised.

Why do we see so little of the middle ground in politics? For one thing, gerrymandering has gone a long way toward polarizing our politics. Only a very small percentage of congressional seats are competitive in November elections. For the most part, the decisive vote comes in the primaries, where an extreme wing of one party can wield disproportionate power to determine the outcome.

I found Dr. Haidt's conversation with Krista extremely interesting and highly informative. I think, in many ways, I, too am just left of center. I did find his characteristic of the Liberal lack of order somewhat off. I, very liberal in so many ways, like order and have it in my life. Perhaps it is a delusional way of thinking I have some control in my life, but it is also aesthetically pleasing and saves time. As a Liberal, I also like respect and civility.

I wanted to address the environmental part of your comment. I just turned 72 this June (2014) and have lived through numerous 'revolutions' ( lived in California for 30 yrs. when everything was shifting)and part of that was about the environment. Grassroots movements were not only trying to get attention to the on-coming problem but also to work on solutions such as auto's that ran on electricity, steam, etc. They were turned into demons, and in some cases, like Tesla, had designs bought up and done away with.

And, a quick note why there is so little information about the Middle Ground in politics. Hate, lack or civility and straight out lying sells. Efforts toward resolvable situations do not. It is, in part, about money and distraction, and a fostering of fear.

My two cents.
I was raised as a conservative but have struggled to break away from the idea of aligning myself with any political party, movement or philosophy.
Media have become too powerful in our society. The constant yammer can chip away at our ability to sort out our own thoughts. It can make us lazy, and I think this has caused our polarization.
There are millions of middle-of-America people who live in so-called conservative states who believe that the climate is changing and have much broader views of theology than media leads us to believe. These are people who are not racists or sexists. They're just people. Beware of media. The middle ground does not sell for them.

Robert, Your post reflects the very hatred and inability to empathize with other points of view that the program discussed. You associate your views with "high level, well educated people." It insinuates that people who believe differently from you can't be those things and if anyone is those things, but expresses views different from yours, they're likely sociopaths. It's fallacious logic.

Always inspiring, enlightening and full of hope. Thank you for what you do!

If our political leanings are determined by our personality type(s), why are certain personality types that tend toward liberalism or conservatism so related to geography, i.e the coasts vs. the south and mid-west, blue vs. red states?

The media have helped promote the polarization in our country.
I know for a fact there are a millions of conservatives in California and millions of liberals in Florida.
People who would never think of themselves being prejudiced about race or gender can be extremely prejudiced about people based on where they live, their religious beliefs (Christian, Jewish, Muslim or otherwise), as well as their political leanings.

I can't believe how biased this show is. According to Haight:

1) Being religious "makes you a better citizen". What?

2) Religious people give more money to charity? Right - they give more money TO THEIR OWN RELIGION. Just look at Mitt Romney.

3) Conservatives build societal structures that foster order. Is this a joke? Conservatives spend their time vilifying others, voting against programs that help the unemployed and the poor, etc. What kind of order is fostered by preventing women from having access to abortion, if that's what they choose.

4) Liberals care more about the world at large than their own country or community. Most of the people I know are liberal, and I don't know a single person who thinks that way. Not one.

5) LIberals should spend more time caring about what conservatives think. Conservatives are judgmental and try to impose their views on others. When was the last time you saw a conservative trying to listen to a liberal without imposing his or her beliefs?

On Being is the least fact-based program on NPR. What a disgrace.

Thank you. I thought that I was the only one who felt this way.

I found myself thinking much the same thing as I listened. I keep thinking I was hearing more "self-discovery" on Haight's part than I was hearing actual scholarship. While some points are worth considering, this entire piece felt like pandering to a particular point of view as a type of a priori or straw man argument. Not particularly helpful, IMO...

May I make a suggestion? Read Haidt's book. Make the effort to understand the context and the specific meanings of the claims he makes. You'll find that they are indeed all fact based.

For example, while it's true that religious people give more to their own religions, they ALSO give as much or more to secular charities than do non-religious people.

Here's a quote from page 310 of Haidt's book:

"In their book American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell analyzed a variety of data sources to describe how religious and nonreligious Americans differ. Common sense would tell you that the more time and money people give to their religious groups, the less they have left over for everything else. But common sense turns out to be wrong. Putnam and Campbell found that the more frequently people attend religious services, the more generous and charitable they become across the board. Of course religious people give a lot to religious charities, but they also give as much as or more than secular folk to secular charities such as the American Cancer Society.59 They spend a lot of time in service to their churches and synagogues, but they also spend more time than secular folk serving in neighborhood and civic associations of all sorts. Putnam and Campbell put their findings blundy:

By many different measures religiously observant Americans are better neighbors and better citizens than secular Americans-they are more generous with their time and money, especially in helping the needy, and they are more active in community life.

I first encountered Haidt's 5-attribute model of morality ( harm, fairness, community (or group loyalty), authority and purity) in this article from the New York Times Magazine The Moral Instinct in the section titled The Varieties of Moral Experience. In this analysis Pinker points out that although both Liberals and Conservatives share the value of fairness, Liberal personalities tend to rank it near the top, and Conservatives at the bottom.

Before I listened to this program, that insight has helped me make sense of conservatives because it appears to me that the only sense of fairness shared by conservatives is when it justifies their right to be selfish at the expense of others. Respect for authority? It seems to me only when they are in charge and dictating the policies.

Growing up in a conservative family and going to University and getting the rude awakening that the thoughts and values I was brought up with were largely unwelcome--and that the ideology of my parents marked them as "uneducated" and "hateful"---when I knew this to be totally false was very much isolating....thank you for this discussion...As a Poli Sci undergrad I did my senior thesis on the development of political ideology---what I found is that where conservatives did have religion/religious leaders listed as an influencers....liberals were totally unaware that they replace religious leaders with secular ones---in the form of their academic leaders/professors----this observation came from the fact that I constantly heard liberal students parrot back the "company line" of their respective liberal professors without question---and yet the religious conservative students were the ones perceived to be blindly following leaders--unquestioning---not at all open-minded. Haidt's presentation was of such comfort--even though I am much more liberal than my conservative family I value their thoughts and opinions---this presentation confirms the need and path to civility which has been lost in the current combative political environment between Right and Left.

Mr. Haidt has interesting research, but I was struck by his comment that liberals are sheltered from conservative ideas. It seems like his views have been shaped a lot by growing up in the Sixties and Seventies. The formative political events of my life were the rise of Ronald Reagan, Fox News, and 9/11. Conservative ideas were hardly marginalized!

I enjoyed the radio program featuring Professor of Ethical Leadership at a University in New York; I have to say that it was one of the most important broadcast shows that we may have, that is, banking on 'where we are at' in time (evolutionary wise). I don't mean to 'bring you down' with the idea but, something IS going on, in the news, with many mass tragedys..that's not my intent here , but, I can see the importance of having those who study Human Research and, then, having them see the Need for Americans to possibly study 'Virtues' or, 'a civics class explaining Left & Right' is outstanding! I agree, because well, spending for armed security guards and, more defensive things does not add up to American progress. It IS dumb..we need more ideas and, I think we should also start explaining to our youth that there does exist "Judith Olaff's philosophy also known as the: concept of the 'will or Astral Projection' and, that it does exist. Then, our youth will be better able to handle their journey. Bravo.

This program hit home! In 2008, after voting for Democratic candidates all my life, I voted for McCain. Obama was too
inexperienced for the presidency in my opinion. Much to my surprise, I was not able to discuss my views with liberal
friends. This shocked me as I had always thought that the word "liberal" meant open minded and tolerant. NOT AT ALL!
Meeting and hearing from "conservative" voters was interesting to me. These were folks that I had never heard from in the past, since most of my friends and family were Democrats.
Since that year, I consider myself an Independent. Unfortunately, there is no political party for me.
I have also found that very few people are able to discuss anything without emotion getting in the way. This tends to
eliminate an honest discussion completely and that is sad.

sincerely, D Heinze

another wonderful topic and speaker!

What a fascinating, eye opening presentation! I, for a long time secretly thought or identifed myself as liberal - secretly because I could not hold with ALL liberal views-then to my almost horror I realized I am in actualality more conservative! So I have when in a situation where I have to or feel compelled to identify myself politically or otherwise I state I am a moderate conservative. Politically, this can be very problematic- in today's politics where there are two predominant parties Democrats and Republicans (which encompass extremist of various labels)which have become so extreme and polarized. If I were to vote "conservatively" it goes without saying vote Republican however my more moderate side compels me to look at both parties- so what is the problem? While I may find an indivdual politician that measures up to my balanced/moderate way of thinking,believing and living that person is going to be thrown into a mix in D.C or my home state of extremist or bullies! Wouldn't it be interesting at the beginning of each Congressional Session to have an "orientation" freshman senators and congress wo/men AND to have to attend a series of lectures such as this one, that is mandatory for ALL Senators amd Congrssional members to attend before going into session and pummeling this country with thier inability to compromise. Perhaps after a few sessions we would begin to see a shift in our government to a more moderate, cooperative and productive sessions and our country reflecting the positive changes overall- once again becoming the compassionate land it once was.
On the religous front, my "moderate conservative" ways influence on my beliefs or affiliation some thirty plus years ago brought me to Buddhism- specificaaly to Nicheren Buddhism of the Soka Gakai International(SGI) or Value Creating Society. Recently a book was published by author Clark Strand 'Waking the Buddha' which very nicely describes this philosophy or religion. To me, it is the perfect blend of liberal/conservative thought and life-style, where diversity is celebrated at the same time as the values of respect, loyalty, self restraint, accountabilty, family and faith are the guiding principles.

The conservatives are funding economists in various colleges, like the guy who beat Eric Cantor in the primary this week. Looks like they are also supporting people in other disciples to say how terrible liberals are, as a false equivalence with the Ayn Rand worshiping conservatives. There is no equivalence, especially in dialogue. Reagan destroyed the fairness doctrine. ‘Liberal’ MSNBC got rid of the hosts of its 2 most popular shows at the time, Phil Donahue and Olbermann, because they were liberal. Listen to talk radio some time. The conservatives are ravishing our society and culture. Our political dialogue is constantly being pulled to the right. Now this to justify it. I think it was Eric Blair who said there is a difference between the fire and the fire brigade. There is. There is right and wrong.

What a fascinating, eye opening presentation! I, for a long time secretly thought or identifed myself as liberal - secretly because I could not hold with ALL liberal views-then to my almost horror I realized I am in actualality more conservative! So I have when in a situation where I have to or feel compelled to identify myself politically or otherwise I state I am a moderate conservative. Politically, this can be very problematic- in today's politics where there are two predominant parties Democrats and Republicans (which encompass extremist of various labels)which have become so extreme and polarized. If I were to vote "conservatively" it goes without saying vote Republican however my more moderate side compels me to look at both parties- so what is the problem? While I may find an indivdual politician that measures up to my balanced/moderate way of thinking,believing and living that person is going to be thrown into a mix in D.C or my home state of extremist or bullies! Wouldn't it be interesting at the beginning of each Congressional Session to have an "orientation" freshman senators and congress wo/men AND to have to attend a series of lectures such as this one, that is mandatory for ALL Senators amd Congrssional members to attend before going into session and pummeling this country with thier inability to compromise. Perhaps after a few sessions we would begin to see a shift in our government to a more moderate, cooperative and productive sessions and our country reflecting the positive changes overall- once again becoming the compassionate land it once was.
On the religous front, my "moderate conservative" ways influence on my beliefs or affiliation some thirty plus years ago brought me to Buddhism- specificaaly to Nicheren Buddhism of the Soka Gakai International(SGI) or Value Creating Society. Recently a book was published by author Clark Strand 'Waking the Buddha' which very nicely describes this philosophy or religion. To me, it is the perfect blend of liberal/conservative thought and life-style, where diversity is celebrated at the same time as the values of respect, loyalty, self restraint, accountabilty, family and faith are the guiding principles.

There's a kind of paradox here that Haidt seems strangely unaware of. If we liberals are open to new experience, empathic, and so on, then it stands to reason that we should have relatively little difficulty understanding and sympathizing with the conservative viewpoint; while closed-minded, difference-fearing conservatives will be very hard put to reciprocate. Thus the symmetry Haidt, in his character as "former" partisan, now loving compromiser, proposes—"they're really just like us"—is nonexistent. Liberals can (and do!) behave as Haidt suggests, conservatives can't (and don't!). This is borne out by research as in the new Pew poll on partisanship.

You’re right that the personality trait of openness correlates more strongly with liberals than with conservatives. But I think that if you look into Haidt’s work more carefully you’ll find there’s no paradox. In fact, Moral Foundations Theory helps us to understand openness and empathy even better than before.

Regarding “Openness”

Moral foundations are cognitive modules of social threat awareness that evolved in humans in response to adaptive challenges that were faced by our genetic ancestors as we developed into “The Social Animal.”

Liberal moral cognition uses half the foundations, conservative moral cognition uses all of them in equal balance.

It follows from this that liberals would be “open” to a wider range of human behaviors; Liberals are less aware than conservatives of the threats to themselves and to society that those behaviors represent.

The opposite of openness is threat awareness. It is not closed mindedness.

Regarding Empathy and Understanding

Moral foundations determine the limits and the extent of our “moral matrix”; the “closed epistemic system[s]” beyond which it becomes impossible to think. A Venn diagram of liberal and conservative moral matrices would represent liberalism as a circle around half the foundations and conservatism as a circle around all the foundations, completely surrounding liberalism. There’s no conservative foundation that is not also a liberal foundation, but half the tools of moral cognition are external to liberal thought.

Merriam-Webster defines empathy as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner; also: the capacity for this.”

In the interview Haidt described a survey in which he “asked liberals and conservatives to fill out our main surveys, pretending to be the other — and also as themselves for different people. What we found is that conservatives and moderates were very accurate at filling it out as though they were liberals. But liberals were not accurate filling it out as though they were conservatives,

And it’s not just political opponents who conservatives understand better than liberals, it’s human nature. In Haidt’s book, “The Righteous Mind” he shows that Conservatives like David Hume and Edmund Burke were right about human nature. And he has also stated in interviews, for example on the “Moyers and Company” and “The Colbert Report” TV shows that conservatives understand human nature better than liberals. This too makes sense. It would follow from that fact that conservatives are “in tune” with all of the evolved psychological mechanisms of morality whereas liberals employ only half of them.

The Pew Data

I’m not sure why you refer to the Pew study. It says nothing about openness, empathy, sympathizing, or understanding. What it does show is that over the past twenty years Democrats have become more extreme in their liberalism than Republicans have in their conservatism.

In the Pew data, the graph titled “More Democrats Take Liberal Positions, More Republicans Take Conservative Positions,” shows that the percent of Democrats with political views that are mostly liberal almost doubled, moving from 30% to 56%, and the percent of Democrats who are consistently liberal more than quadrupled, increasing from 5% to 23%. But on the Republican side, the changes were much more modest, moving from 45% to 53% and 13% to 20% respectively.

That same graph also shows that the change in Democrats was steadily and consistently leftward, increasing in each and every time period that Pew measured. But Republicans also moved to the left during the Bush presidency, and only moved back to the right as the Democrats become more extreme.

The Pew graph titled “Growing Minority Holds Consistent Ideological Views” shows that the percent of people on the extreme left quadrupled from 3% to 12%, whereas the percent of people on the extreme right increased by only two percentage points, moving from 7% to 9%.

The link in my previous comment wasn't very helpful—should have been http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/section-4-partisan-compromise-and-divisive-policy-debates/pp-2014-06-12-polarization-4-03/

Excellent interview for so many reasons. Thank you.

Good to hear that he is separated a little from his secular outlook.
Anyone who is horrified by the Bible ... needs to re-read it.
Dawkins is wrong. Another materialist. Another materialist. Another materialist.

Positive psychology - wonderful. The psychology of virtue.
Why aren't moral judgments based on reason and not emotion? I guess this would be true if there were not absolute truth that we could access. From a Catholic point of view, morality is a science, it proceeds from revelation, and is based on reason (see St. Thomas).

Again from an evolutionary view only. The other view is that morality flows from God, that we follow it to allow us to be able to have communion with God.
I'm glad he's not hostile to religion any more.
Religion makes people better. Just noticed that, eh?

How about Jesus? Remember him??

Pure evil isn't a myth. It exists.
The idea that what we see is an illusion is part of Buddhism, etc., not part of Judeo-Christianity, where matter is created too.
It must have been painful for you to listen to Fox, makes me laugh, but you did free yourself of the anger. Self-righteousness is always bad.
What changes reasoning is grace.

The Matrix was a wonderful movie, the best reflection on the Crucifixion that I've seen.
That's the claim of the Catholic Church, it's beliefs are universal.
Exactly, authority can be very good and appropriate.
Conservative and liberal differences would be OK, but they should both refuse to accept morally unacceptable actions, like abortion.

We could all repent and turn to God.

According to Jonathan Haidt, all of us believe that compassion (care) and fairness are moral values. Some of us also hold loyalty, authority and purity to be moral values. I understand that empathy is expressed with compassion and fairness. Loyalty, authority and purity are means of controlling our expressions of empathy. Can Mr. Haidt's essentialist systematizing help us understand moral values or does he effectively apologize for controls imposed by authoritarians and their institutions?

I echo and expand on Robert Haile's sentiments...unfortunately, the two sides are not on equal moral footing. A strong case can be made that a large and disproportionately influential segment of conservatives is motivated by self-interest and sociopathic tendencies that disregard the health of the larger society. The Koch brothers, for instance (and many others in the 1%) have every reason to resist change and defend harmony...they've got theirs and you're going to have to pry it out of their dead hands. You would be hard pressed to find a bunch of liberals motivated by self-interest to implement liberal policies which, by their very nature, do not enrich those who are already successful. Aside from the disingenuous argument of some conservatives that there is a power-hungry liberal elite that wants to run our lives simply out of lust for power, there really isn't a case for sociopathic liberalism.

With the removal of the Fair Doctrine Act back in 1989 and the removal of the Glass Seagall Act under Clinton, it is dialogues like Jonathan Haidt's is what we have come to. I consider myself a progressive. Neither a liberal nor a conservative. I am concerned about the common good as well as my own. Most conservatives I know could careless about anyone but themselves... Ayn Rand anyone? Allen Greenspan, Milton Friedman. Mr. Haidt is at best very naive and at worst very small in his universe. But, he is merely a product of the shrinking view over the last generation or so our nation has been going through. Tea Party or ProLife, anyone? Actually, this is one of the worst shows I have ever heard on Speaking of Faith/On Being. This is an all time low for Ms. Tippett and I felt so badly for her. Conservatives have always been on the wrong side of history. It is those upstart environmentalists, feminists, abolitionists, civil rights activists, the 99%... that have rocked the boat so and have actually made the world a better place. The likes of George Wallace, Richard Nixon, Dick Cheney, the NRA and there ilk that have always proven themselves to be on the wrong side of history. Temperance and appreciation are most important. It has been the 'Conservatives' that have consistently left our nation in debt and in endless wars. What blather! Thank goodness Krista does far greater shows than this one. Come on, Krista, you can do better than this! And Prof. Haidt, so can you!

Thanks for this wonderful interview Kriista. I have been loving your show for years - and I love your choices for subjects and people to interview. This one has been a fascinating one and I must say one of the best things I have heard in a long while. It makes me want to study more about how to go about fostering civility and the moral foundations theory. I was heartened and felt particularly uplifted by this interview……..and I look forward to studying more about what Jonathan Haidt had to say today - and the great questions you had for him. Thanks for all your wonderful shows- and this one was a great one for me!

Half-way through and liking most of this, but when he said people in religious groups give more time, money, etc., and that this proves religions are a good thing, he doesn't seem to be taking into account that probably much of the giving is insular within that particular religious group, and it goes toward promoting that religious agenda. That is not necessarily a good thing.

I am going to step out and say that you assume too much about people who are religious who give to charities. There are fundamentalists who fund missionary causes through their places of worship, as well as service causes that have little to do with religion. Churches I am familiar with help support community charities, such as food banks and clothing closets for the poor. Also, don't assume that religious is making reference just to Christians. There are also Jews, Muslims and members of other religious communities.

hate to only comment with a criticism, as my general comment on the show is AWESOME, but here goes. Jonathan Haidt's perception of his position as the embodiment of detached objectivity on the issues of morality and on right/left divides exhibited extreme hubris COMBINED WITH inaccuracy. I will only give one example. Haidt claims that everyone, both right and left, values compassion. And it is SO very obvious to him that it hardly needs to be said. This is FALSE. How can I say so with such definitiveness? It's not hard. There are millions of followers of Ayn Rand in this country -- I was unfortunate enough to be raised by one -- and it's not MERELY that compassion is a neglected virtue in her philosophical system. She ACTIVELY DERIDES IT. She finds it to be base, disingenuous, even evil. I know these things intimately because I was partly raised to believe these things. (I am NO LONGER an Objectivist nor even a conservative.) As recently as a couple of years ago, I was having a conversation with my Ayn Randian parent and I said, "You can judge a society by how it treats its most vulnerable citizens." With disdain in her voice, she said, "SOME people can judge it based on that." She is not alone in this opinion. Far from it. Mr. Haidt needs to recheck his assumptions and not merely the one I have just identified.

An ahha! moment within the Haidt interview.
That conservatives prefer order and family connections shook my brain is a revelation But does that mean the so-called liberal prefer chaos? Many of us have become accustomed to chaos in our every-day lives - we are constantly seeking balance - as well as within the leadership and management of our government. Actually, there is little management in D.C.

I am not coming down on the side of conservatives, because orderliness does not necessary beget new ideas or even success. But the idea has joggled my brain. We seem to continue to accept messiness as part of our ways to be. Do we like it this way?

I have to apply these thoughts to the show and not to the book, not having read it. But I found myself at odds with Haidt's reasoning about morality and his interpretations and also found many holes. I would have liked to have heard how the value of money played into his scheme. How do the moral calculations play out for the monied vs non monied conservatives and liberals? Perhaps the time constraints of the show were to blame, but I also found a tremendous amount of generalizing. (i.e.: liberals not caring about family because concerned about the world at large, liberals not valuing respect, which I found offensively inaccurate from my own experience, conservatives being more respectful. Perhaps he speaks for his younger self in these regards. Speaking of which, I found a lot of projection of his younger self onto liberals as a whole).

It would help if he were a little more clear about how liberals and conservatives apply their value of compassion in this regard - in what sphere(s)? family/community/nation (patriot)/world? If compassion for all world occupants is a liberal tendency then there might be another value in play? Perhaps valuing the continuation of life on the planet carries its own moral weight - morally valuing life? - and might be added on the liberal side. (Conservatives do grant the moral value of life to the unborn, but that sphere is narrow indeed).

I take away from this that conservatives are deemed personally nicer and more respectful than liberals. But if applied to those working in environmentally threatening industries the value of compassion it should be recognized that compassion has been removed or at best applied only within the confines of self/family/nation in the present = a dangerous proposition indeed.

I agree communication is possible and important. I think there is certainly opportunity for communication between Tea Partiers and Progressives. We are all on this boat together. And finding that common ground is essential - i.e. 99% of mothers worldwide love their children and want them safe. My father was a conservative Republican, my mother is still a liberal Democrat but Catholic so morally opposed to abortion, so I grew up seeing both sides (but the A issue), and my father admired my for the most part liberal perspective, based partly on applying Christian/Buddhist concepts of compassion. I was hungry and you fed me - that can be applied to ALL spheres from family to global.

I did appreciate that some kind of structure would have helped the occupiers' campaign. Egalitarianism need not exclude the recognition of abilities to accomplish certain tasks: the street cleaner has value as well as a president. Kudos to them for being economically moral, however.

Again, the missing component of how money plays in to this scheme is a big omission, I think.

As a member of the academic world, Community College, I struggled with his asking me to move to accept the "conservative" perspective. I disagree that the public discourse has a liberal bias. For years, I felt like a liberal-progressive in the wilderness of profane conservative invective. As I listened, I felt like I was listening to the FOX mantra. I am disillusioned with the public discourse not by the liberal voices but by the louder more strident conservative voices. The conservative voices reflect what this writer has explained. I would also suggest the people read the work of Lakoff who commented on this dichotomy in the 1990s and 2000s.

Glad to learn of your work and research. Please include me in mailings.

"Um, because we engage in reasoning, not to figure out the truth, but for social purposes, to show our team that we’re good team players."

Um, are you, as a player on team Templeton, perhaps speaking for yourself Mr. Haidt? There is no such thing as "liberals" and "conservatives". These are constructs. There is however such a thing as facts. Namely those elucidated by Science and supported by evidence. Like global climate change and Evolution.

It doesn't matter that the denial of these facts by millions of Americans is driven by the stock they hold, pecuniary or emotional, in, respectively, the fossil fuel industry or the delusion dissemination industry (religion), or, for that matter, if they are of "the left" or of "the right": They are simply and succinctly wrong.

And if you engage in "reasoning" that describes religions as "really nice, and warm, and open" that "create moral communities" and make you "a better citizen", while omitting the fact, that (you as an atheist know full well) the core factual claims of religion e.g. the supernatural saviour's virgin birth, resurrection and imminent return are simply and succinctly false, then you get invited on On Being and get funding from the Templeton Foundation. An organization run by an evangelical Christian who "really nicely", "warmly", "openly" and "morally" donated $ 1 million to ban gay marriage and whose foundation pays "scientists" money, lots of money, to say really nice, and warm things about religion.

As a Conservative, Christian, staunch T-party member, I have never heard anyone outside of my circle that made more sense than Jonathan Haidt...I haven't actually read his book, yet, but plan to do so, based on this interview I listened to on NPR radio...I listen to NPR, because I've always remembered Steven Covey's statement "seek first to understand, before trying to be understood"...Thus, I try to listen to the liberal's viewpoint in an effort to understand why and where their beliefs come from...I agree w/Jonathan Haidts' theory that we should glean the very best of both sides and put aside the differences that divide us...

Perhaps the irony is lost on some of the folks leaving comments, but perhaps much of the expressed astonishment and dismay simply serve to illustrate Mr. Haidt's main thesis. Having read his earlier work, "The Happiness Hypothesis," I suggest going back and reading it first before moving on to his more recent book. Better yet, go back and start with the PDF version of his paper on the emotional dog and its rational tail--early 2000s, if you can find it. Despite potential cognitive dissonance from first encountering some of the ideas set forth, I think open-minded readers will find subtle, nuanced, and deep analyses. Some of the conclusions in the latest book are ones that in my opinion don't resonate, but there is no quibbling that the scope and methodology of scholarship are, at least to a non-specialist's eye, deeply impressive. While one may disagree with some of his conclusions, Haidt's analysis itself is probably without peer--and on that basis alone, his work makes compelling reading. Just don't expect to encounter an echo of your own opinions. Shorter version: serious scholarship; cannot be dismissed lightly.

Thank you so much. This is the kind of conversation that will start to find some common ground, instead of continuing to contribute to the deadly polarization that is rampant in our world and culture today. Most gratefully.

This was an excellent topic and interview. While explaining the liberal/conservative, order/chaos, progress&reform/stability&order as pieces to the puzzle- Haidt may have enlightened me to the problem with my Catholic Church today. Describing each side as necessary pieces of the "puzzle". He kind of brought new meaning to the story of the Good Shepherd not resting until the lost sheep is found. Maybe, just maybe we (liberal leaning Catholics) can see the value of authority in trying to hold the ship together and maintain order so that we can address our problems and heal. And our more conservative leaning members see that loyalty to the structure and to the tradition has harmed some of our weakest (children) and most loyal (nuns) members. There are two other groups to consider- those of us who love and understand both sides, and most importantly- the lost sheep. Let's hope that the apology and acknowledgement of our problems by our Pope will trickle down through the ranks and prepare the ground for real conversation and healing. May we find those lost sheep and humble ourselves to ask for their forgiveness and work to heal them and by doing so, heal ourselves and our church.

Reading through your comment section I was particularly struck by those people who feel that Mr Haidt was saying that individuals are either conservative or liberal. As with any personality trait it will vary and have degrees. I believe the either/or argument is just what Mr Haidt called purification which was a result of lack of relationship and understanding of the other essence. I thought he did a great job of presenting the pros and cons of each pole and encouraged humility and understanding for progress and survival. It seems that his comment that both sides are wise in different ways and that both sides are necessary was lost on some listeners.

I do remember Dr. Haidt saying that morality does not necessarily reflect being fair or being nice. Because if it did, that is certainly not reflected in the world that we are living in now. Not in real life.