How can the US recover after the negative, partisan presidential election of 2016? Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt studies the morals that form the basis of our political choices. In conversation with TED Curator Chris Anderson, he describes the patterns of thinking and historical causes that have led to such sharp divisions in America — and provides a vision for how the country might move forward. (Official site)

Who is he?

Haidt is a social psychologist whose research on morality across cultures led to his 2008 TED Talk on the psychological roots of the American culture war, and his 2013 TED Talk on how “common threats can make common ground.” In both of those talks he asks, “Can’t we all disagree more constructively?” Haidt’s 2012 TED Talk explored the intersection of his work on morality with his work on happiness to talk about “hive psychology” — the ability that humans have to lose themselves in groups pursuing larger projects, almost like bees in a hive. This “hivish” ability is crucial, he argues, for understanding the origins of morality, politics, and religion. These are ideas that Haidt develops at greater length in his book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. (Op.cite)

Why should you view?

By understanding more about our moral psychology and its biases, Jonathan Haidt says we can design better institutions (including companies, universities and democracy itself), and we can learn to be more civil and open-minded toward those who are not on our team. (Op.cite)

Discussion Questions:

1. Describe some of the games that can substitute for war.
2. What evidence can you cite to back up or refute his example about brothers and cousins?
3. What does he mean about being “draw bridge uppers” or “draw bridge downers”?
4. Is there anything in this talk that would have predicted the violence that we saw after the recent presidential election.
5. What is the advantage to thinking in terms of cultural similarities as opposed to racial differences?
6. What is motivated reasoning? Can you find some current examples?

Making Connections:

Here are two videos that discuss confirmation bias or motivated reasoning:


Here is another TED talk by Jonathan Haidt: The moral roots of liberals and conservatives

Can a divided America heal? with Jonathan Haidt


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