In an age of political extremism and legislative gridlock, compromise has become increasingly rare. Why are we so frustrated and flummoxed by people whose values and votes differ from our own? According to author Jonathan Haidt, the field of moral psychology can help answer that question.

His new book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion,” explores the moral roots of political division.

‘The Righteous Mind’ 24 May,2012forum

Jonathan Haidt, author and Thomas Cooley professor of ethical leadership at the NYU-Stern School of Business

  • USARunByCriminals

    The two parties are NOT in a state of gridlock when it comes to enacting new police state laws. These get overwhelming bipartisan support, no matter how fascistic or expensive and no matter how bogus the justifications for them are.

    Speaking of political extremism, in 1933 Wall St was caught planning to install a fascist dictator (it was called the Business Plot) but were exposed by General Smedley Butler. Today we have police state laws being passed quietly one after the other. Some of those like the Patriot Act were even written well in advance of 9/11.

    There is political extremism, but it comes from Wall St and the 1%.

    Now comes the news that Wall St banksters have stealthily bought mercenary companies including Blackwater, arms and ammunition companies including Remington, and even CPI, the company that makes microwave heat cannons that are used for crowd control.

  • Gerald Fnord

    I’ve liked Dr. Haidt’s work, and think it especially relevant to a time in which it’s become increasingly easier to never hear a word from people with moral assumptions different to one’s own.  Three questions:

    0.) Have conservatives objected to  not being given a stake in ‘Fairness’?—after all, many a right-wing person appears to sincerely believe that it were only fair that a person (and their [sic] dependents) should starve or die of exposure or of disease should that person turn out not to be good at making money and there’s not enough private charity to go around.  I am both stating this as snarkily as possible and dead-seriously—it is very common to hear this trope, sometimes immediately juxtaposed with ‘life is unfair’….

    1.) How were effective dialogue and compromise even _possible_ between persons with widely divergent moral needs?

    2.) How much of this were inborn?  Has medication or injury been known to change one’s valence of these 5?

    • Joe

      This comment was poorly formatted and uses confusing syntax.  Whatever thought you attempted to express has failed to reach your audience.  

    • Guest

       Interesting! Maybe when you calm down, you can re write this so you make your point. Thanks.

    • OhBoy

       By valence do you refer to electrons and valence shells?

      • Gerald Fnord

         No, ‘valence’ as in the value one assigns to a given literal thing or reification, its attractiveness to one.

  • greg slater

    Your guest said to many Israelis, including conservative ones, Egypt is now more of a worry than Iran.  Maybe they should threaten to attack Egypt unless ruthless sanctions are imposed by the world?

  • Ken Jaffee

    You do know that most of us Liberals have now switched off the program based on this last ridiculous analysis.

    • OhBoy

       No, don’t switch away. This guest is a conflation sensation bent on shocking the nation.

  • Chrisco

    I, as a proud liberal, can definitely asser’t that I don’t understand how the principle of “respect for authority” is any gauge of morality.

    • USARunByCriminals

       Respect for authority is the opposite of morality whenever the authority is not all-knowing and just, and therefore the respecter encourages implementation of the authority’s perfect edicts, but authority is never ever all-knowing and just.

  • Chrisco

    Glenn Beck: “Obama has a deep-seated hatred of white people… the white race.”

  • OhBoy

    This guest is deluded. Atheists do not “sacralize” science. He doesn’t understand atheists and he loses his credibility as an atheist by misrepresenting this diverse group. He is in fact projecting his own lack of understanding about science onto strangers.

  • Ayn Marx 666

    I’m a bit autistic, and I don’t understand why one would care about a sports team or care about incest among truly free adults (that is, not even financial dependence).  I would readily wear Jeffrey Dahmer’s sweater were it clean and I needed to wear a sweater.  I don’t respond well to primate dominance cues, and so don’t understand why anyone feels they can give me orders.

    I’m very interested in fairness and nurturance, as I can be mistreated and will probably need nurturance at some point

    • fairlady68

       I am on the spectrum, too, and I find shows like the one today very useful in helping me to understand what for me are very often inscrutable aspects of other people’s behavior.

  • Martberg

    Thank you for this show. I was raised in a fundamentalist religion but rebelled and I am now decidedly agnostic. It saddens me when we exchange barbs without listening. I find Richard Dawkins-style atheists and their certainty as off-putting as fundamentalists and their certainty.

  • Javier

    Mr. Haidt, I really enjoyed your recent interview with Bill Moyers and learned a lot from your perspective.  I would like to ask you, however, to please spend some time trying to learn more about evolutionary theory.  It would provide you with a revolutionary and immensely powerful scientific tool to gain a deeper understanding of your field in particular and human nature in general, as well as help you avoid common mistakes such as equating the selfish gene argument with an argument for human selfishness, or using group selection (which is not a widely accepted subset of evolutionary theory) to explain human cultural evolution.

  • Ann Rothblatt

    why do right wing Christians think it’s OK to proselytize at public events ( eg. community lunch). I sat next to someone at a Sr. Center lunch to denigrate Jews using this analogy: they’ve been waiting for a messiah and one he comes along, they won’t accept him. Using the analogy of people waiting at a bus stop… The bus comes along, some get on, and others just let it go. I said they might have decided that wasn’t the bus they were waiting for, but he kept right on going and I decided to drop the conversation.

    • j0nny5

      Because they are told to. Evangelicals are called Evangelicals because they believe that god calls upon them to Evangelize. This is not present in Catholicism or most other world religions. Evangelicals have a distinct goal of “saving” people “through christ”, much in the same way that you don’t make any money selling Amway unless you pester all of your friends and family to join your pyramid scheme.

      • EtTuBrute

        Pedophile priests evangelize for anal sex. They spread their message directly inside young believers.

  • Janice

    Unfortunately psychologists don’t have a very good record in interpreting human behavior. There is a “new flavor” every week. This is not science but interpretation of data and this can change depending who looks at it and how.
    What questions are asked affects the answers, for instance.

    This author makes vast generalizations about groups such as the “left” and “right.”  The left believes this, etc. I don’t know how many times I’ve read what “feminists” believe when I as a feminist don’t believe this at all!      

    • OhBoy

      Clearly this psychologist thinks that a multiple-choice questionnaire constitutes “science”.

      • j0nny5

        Have you ever performed or participated in a clinical study? Science simply implies “knowledge” or the pursuit thereof. If 1,000 tall people answer a multiple choice question of “True/False: Apples are delicious.” with “False”, and 1,000 short people answer “True”, out of a total sample size of 2500, we can safely assume the tall people generally dislike apples, assuming the sample population was randomly selected. Care to explain how that’s not “Science”?

        • OhBoy

          Yes, I have. And I know that when people want to distort a questionnaire to achieve the results they desire, they jigger the questions to confuse the participant, and then pretend that their  questionnaire’s cryptic language meant X rather than the Y that the participants thought it did.

          Thus, you don’t know whether a questionnaire constitutes real science until you carefully examine each question.

    • j0nny5

      Generalization feels icky, but how do you propose we resolve this issue otherwise? As a Feminist, you of all people should know that there are massive divides among people that profess to be one “ist” or another. One good Femenist friend of mine is a professional dominatrix and adult actress. Another acquaintance who calls herself a Feminist admonishes the first for doing those things, claiming she’s “under the control of a society that prices her to objectify herself.” My point is, someone is trying to bridge the gap and help people understand each other. Not agree, not like, not join, but understand. It’s the first step to reuinifying humanity under a more common banner based on our shared physiology.

  • Fourcents

    Read book.  Disagree.  This is about two different species off the same tree.  Too many fundamental and consistant differences through conservatives and liberals.  The two are mixed thoroughly at the middle but left and right clearly defined with empathy perhaps greatest missing DNA element in conservatives.  They are better at moral and faith based realities.  Left or ethical thinkers seaking a level playing field.  Liberal seek teaching and science fields.  Conservatives prefer police, miltary, and sales with authority base.  This is about two species with very little common ground.

  • guest

    Format consumed, analytically consumed and may be on target? Some may not be listening to message. Think philosophy.

  • Kkestrel2000

    Could Mr. (Dr?) Haidt talk more slowly? The speed at which he tries to deliver his viewpoint suggests that he’s trying to put something over on people, hoping listeners won’t catch the nuances of his position.

    The assertions he makes are so sweeping that they need more parsing than his verbal rocketry allows. This does not contribute to useful discussion or enlightenment.

    • j0nny5

      Wait- so you’re going to decide that something is not usefully contributive because the speaker spoke too fast? Are you aware that you can listen to the entire broadcast, repeatedly if it pleases you, right on this website?

      Verbal rocketry? Honest question: do you have a cognitive processing disorder?

  • Ninfa

    If wikipedia can be believed, why is it that there have been 72 Republicans convicted of crimes and 50 Democrats convicted of crimes since the time of President Harding’s administration?  Is it likely that because they consider themselves morally upright, they feel righteous about adhering to the Machiavellian quote “the end justifies the means”?

  • Andrew Toscana

    Based on Jonathan Haidt’s research, is there a best way forward to lessen the divide between Politics and Religion, Right and Left?

  • MelFC

    The most useful discussion I’ve heard on Forum in many years of listening! 

    • fairlady68

       Yes, it was a good one, but then Forum has a lot of interesting guests.  Especially when Michael Krasny is the host. 

  • Wally

    I used to be pro-choice until I joined PETA, and I realized that abortion is a kind of cruelty to animals.

    • j0nny5

      I sincerely hope you never have to personally face that choice someday. Until then, you have only a minimally relevant opinion on the matter.

      • Wally

         It was a joke, an example of dark humor. But it shows the contradiction of being pro-choice for one species (humans) and pro-life for another (other mammals).

        But many have said and it’s true that many people are kinder toward animals than they are to the unborn, to the homeless, to liberals even.

        And of course what person that is pro-life really cares about what happens to a kid after birth? Rarely do they care.

  • Aandrea

    The guest’s analyses is very similar if not exact to George Lakoff’s, the cognitive linguistics scholar at UC Berkeley, author of “Don’t Think of An Elephant”, and the “Political Mind,” among other books about why and how liberals and conservatives express their moral values.

    • MelFC

      Thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge on this important and timely topic.

  • Maryclairebn

    How is it moral for Glenn Beck to lie in order to destroy the career of Van Jones?

  • Andrew Toscana

    All of your listeners are reacting negatively to this obviously powerful and enlightening research and writing! But I would love to hear Dr. Haidt talk about the best ways forward to lessen divides in our world, in general.

  • victoria s.

    I am a Christian, yes, Jesus Christ is my Lord! And it
    astounds me that most conservatives place their righteousness in themselves
    instead of “in God”, who truly hates evil. Looking down on people as if they
    do no wrong, when in fact there is NO GOOD thing in anybody’s heart apart
    from God Himself. Is this not mimicking a Pharisaic culture? I think this is really
    what so many people in society are reacting to…

    • Wally

      Without proof of the existence of your god, everything connected to that god is irrelevant and suspicious.

    • j0nny5

      Do you realize you’re repeating a distorted message from a 5,000 year-old game of telephone? I don’t want to come off as disrespectful, but, have you ever asked yourself why you believe what you believe? Who taught you? Why they believe? Where that belief came from? Spend some time in that rabbit hole, and you might find it enlightening, if unpleasantly discomforting.

  • Karl

    Tibalism which covers group loyalty drives of following leaders, accepting hierarchy, and group defense is a very ancient mammalian drive common to most. As our ancestors reached the “Great Ape” stage we also developed alturism, and empathy.
    Why would anyone down play the aspects of evolution that raise us above other animals, and make life as a society easier 

  • Duncan Heath

    I was a caller on today’s program. I encourage two books offering a  conservative viewpoint “A Conflict of Visions” by Thomas Sowell, and “The Moral Landscape” by Sam Harris.As a self-described “liberal” of Jonathan Haidt’s definition, I recommend these books as  touchstones for better conversations that escape labels, and instead, wrestle with big ideas. My point in calling today was to restate the idea below:
    “Every man, wherever he goes, is encompassed by a cloud of comforting convictions, which move with him like flies on a summer day.”
    –Bertrand Russell, Skeptical Essays (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1938), 28.
    Wouldn’t you agree?

    • fairlady68

       Thanks for writing in and repeating the names of the books you quoted on air!  I am the person whose email about Catholicism was read on air and as I hope was clear from my message, I always struggle when it comes to election time.  Maybe some of this reading will help clarify my thinking…

  • Karl

    Haidt’s research is groundbreaking mostly because he recognizes (seen in other writings) that our political leanings are largely the result of our evolution. The problem is our Tribalism drives are very old (several hundred million years) as well as relatively powerful and permanent parts of our limibc system. These are absolutely there in all of us but just more evident in conservative personalities.  Our Altruism and Empathy drives are recent (probably only 7-10 million years), they fail to show up in true pschopaths, and are scanty at best in libertarians, and only modest in conservatives.

    It is the amount to which one fails to show empathy that  really shows what party they belong to.

  • j0nny5

    I heard your call-in, Duncan, and am grateful for someone that doesn’t profess to know the answers, but has demonstrated that he seeks to ask the questions. Thank you for your post.

  • Cookhskpr

    suficiente cuerda

  • Pb8823 (Allan)

     Michael, actually is there (or at least was) a group meeting in living rooms on the Peninsula consisting of Palestinians and Jews (locals) meeting successfully on a regular basis. At least I think they were able to engage successfully. You might check with “j”, the local Jewish weekly, where I read about this group. I myself live in Marin, so i have not been at their events. i am not sure how “good” a participant I would be.

  • Allan

    Wow, after posting earlier, I read all the previous posts, and was amazed to find that many of the posters are as IQ challenged as the ones who comment on the dumb “breaking news” posted on Yahoo. Prof. Haidt has provided a brilliant theory for both sides to chew on, and if the two sides could return to the pre-Newt times, perhaps provide a means for America to truly come together again as “one nation, indivisible…” For those of you who are religious, it appears that his analysis explains God’s plan to keep population in check by regularly thinning it out. BTW, for those of you who will immediately fire off outraged replies, I am willing to match my IQ with yours, for say, the amount suggested by Romney. Further, I am slightly left of center, but due to Prof. Haidt’s comments today, I now see my conservative side as well

  • fairlady68

    Here is my email that was read on the air…Prof. Haidt evidently did not have  time to address the issue sufficiently enough for me.  (It was pretty close to the end of the program.)  What do you guys think about it?  Thanks!

    I am Catholic and support my church’s position
    on most sexual and family values issues.  However if I want to vote
    accordingly I usually must vote Republican…which I cannot do because my
    Catholic values regarding social justice, fairness, etc don’t allow me to
    support candidates whose party promotes benefits primarily to corporations and
    the wealthy, to the detriment of the poor, disadvantaged…and Gods creation in
    the environment.  So I usually vote Democratic.  Please discuss how
    Catholics like me can feel better about our voting choices.

    • Pb8823

      Very good question. Sadly, I don’t think there is a way for you to feel better about your choices. Life offers many tough choices, and we have to do the best we can, and realize that the choice we make does not make us a bad or immoral person.

    • RA

      I don’t think that Republicans would agree with you that the party benefits corporations and the wealthy and  they stand for raping the environment.  I think that many Republicans believe that an efficient economy is better for everyone and that it is not the role of the Federal government to take money by force from people via taxes to redistribute to the poor. 

      In any case, due to our governmental system,  abortion and sex stuff just is not going to be regulated all that tightly no matter what.   Even if Roe v Wade were overturned abortion would still be legal in most states.   If you live in CA i can’t really imagine it ever becoming illegal here.  And on the sex issue… laws about what adults do behind closed doors are just never coming back. (at least i don’t see how they could).   Basically it is not in the sphere of control of the government.

      On the other hand, taxation and government programs… that’s something that the government has full control over… so you should probably vote for whoever you agree with on this part and forget the sex stuff.  

       I make the same decision but from the other side (i.e. socially liberal, financially conservative => vote Rep. because government is a lot more about spending than it is about sex)

  • brux

    “Conservative use more taste buds” ??? What incredible nonsense.  This is one of the typical things that Conservatives do, they find a resonant slogan that rings with the group, and since they have group loyalty they sit around and agree with each other and then start to expand and extrapolate whatever it is, and they never go back to check it once it “feels” right or resonant to them.  Gingrich is the perfect example.

    If one cannot at least make an effort to keep their hypocrisy out of their political discussions, or suspend it when they are talking, then they have no business pretending to discuss something.  I am still hearing about “the Liberal media” what that is such a impossibility.

    But the “groupish” word is what I key on here.  Conservatives are very good at those groupish political games – and that is really ugly in today’s incarnation of it.  Sure, without groupishness therer would be no civilization, and that is how Conservatives always seem to cast themselves, as the saviours of civilization – a totally ridiculous position, just like the Nazis, savior of the superior Aryan race.

    By the way, although I consider myself “Progressive” or Liberal, I can understand and defend basic Conservatives values, but not that groupishness combined with modern PR to abuse those values that people have into supporting something really ugly – and unilateral.

  • brux

    One pattern I see that I find particularly nasty on the part of the right is to use their strength and power to bully, lie, dissemble on issues.

    When Haidt wants to justify the right’s mistakes he says we are all human and everyone does it – but when he wants to attack the left he uses things like the taste bud analogy and then claims in the moment that it doesn’t matter, but he sets the meme up so Conservatives latch onto it and then use it in the way he claims they should not.

    As if there even is a left in the US anymore, the whole framework of his logic is as evil as anything the old Church used to come up with.

    The thing that has been going on subconsciously, subliminally, which is the area where none of what Haidt says matters, it is the actions of the top of the pyramid … the right has cast the left position as being associated with minorities, women, and the weird looking.  This is nothing to do with anything Haidt is saying.

    Watch TV, and this is subtle, but not so suble it is imperceptible, the spokespeople who make it on TV and in the media are slick well-groomed, relatively normal attractive people, mostly caucasian.  Then notice the people on the left.  When there is some issue, it is immediately cast as a minority issue, and that allows that subtle racism to show up, but also can be disavowed as well.  When they interview the average person on the street in TV for example, there are lots of very weird looking people, and it sets up a subtle assocation and contempt for normal people, or anyone who  steps up to say anything.

    This is the branding of the left as poor, non-white, uneduated, poorly-groomed, or gay in an offensive way and these images stick with people.

    The continual supercession of Roosevelt’s winning of WWI with Reagan’s claimed but false winning of the cold war – and the impression that if when you are in a group, such as at work, if someone says this, you must say Amen! or you are Liberal, anti-American, etc.

    • utera

      You are not self aware if you think it is just the right that is nasty.  Look at the recent issue of banning fois gras in california, if you don’t like something, ban it.  Now apply this type of thinking to abortion;)  You see how it works, you might say but fois gras is cruel, well it is as debatable as whether abortion is murder.  After all, the folks who are quick to scream cruelty seem to forget these animals have no teeth, and normally swallow entire animals whole, their experience is alien to our own, yet they take the self righteous stance so far they wish to ban it, yet on other issues like abortion they are outraged when others take the same stance.

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