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Friday, May 20, 2011

Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives | Video on
(video, 19 min)
A must see for anyone who ever had an argument about politics! In this eye-opening talk, Jon Haidt, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia, shows the fundamental differences between the moral roots of liberals and conservatives. His simple model helps explain much of the variation between these two groups and understand the "other" side better.
Haidt and colleagues classify morality into 5 foundations:
* Harm/care - ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. This foundation underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
* Fairness/reciprocity - generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.
* Ingoup/loyalty - underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one".
* Authority/respect - underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
* Purity/sanctity- underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
Studies of tens of thousands of people from different cultures across the world showed that conservatives tend to have a "5-channel morality" (they value all 5 foundations almost equally) and liberals tend to have a "2-channel morality" (they value harm/care and fairness/reciprocity much higher than the other three foundations). One of the tests used in Haidt's research is here - you can find out how you score by taking this short quiz. The results of one of the studies (Graham, J., Haidt, J., & Nosek, B. A. (2009). Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1029-1046) are shown in the figure above.
According to Haidt, the progress of civilization, and especially the evolution of social order, benefited from all five foundations. Haidt encourages us to be aware of these fundamental differences between us, and use this knowledge to understand (and value) the moral foundations of people on the other side of the ideological debate. Step out of the "moral matrix" - even if it's just for a moment.

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