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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion | [Jonathan Haidt]

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong. Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right.
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Publisher's Summary

Why can’t our political leaders work together as threats loom and problems mount? Why do people so readily assume the worst about the motives of their fellow citizens?

In The Righteous Mind, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt explores the origins of our divisions and points the way forward to mutual understanding. His starting point is moral intuition - the nearly instantaneous perceptions we all have about other people and the things they do. These intuitions feel like self-evident truths, making us righteously certain that those who see things differently are wrong.

Haidt shows us how these intuitions differ across cultures, including the cultures of the political left and right. He blends his own research findings with those of anthropologists, historians, and other psychologists to draw a map of the moral domain, and he explains why conservatives can navigate that map more skillfully than can liberals. He then examines the origins of morality, overturning the view that evolution made us fundamentally selfish creatures.

But rather than arguing that we are innately altruistic, he makes a more subtle claim - that we are fundamentally groupish. It is our groupishness, he explains, that leads to our greatest joys, our religious divisions, and our political affiliations. In a stunning final chapter on ideology and civility, Haidt shows what each side is right about, and why we need the insights of liberals, conservatives, and libertarians to flourish as a nation.

Download the accompanying reference guide.

©2012 Jonathan Haidt (P)2012 Gildan Media LLC

What the Critics Say

"Haidt is looking for more than victory. He's looking for wisdom. That's what makes The Righteous Mind well worth reading…. a landmark contribution to humanity’s understanding of itself.” (The New York Times Book Review)

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  •  
    Wayne Matthews, NC United States 07-20-15
    Wayne Matthews, NC United States 07-20-15 Member Since 2015
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    "The most important book in decades!"

    I first read the dead tree version of Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind when it was released in 2012. 9 months ago I purchased the audiobook and found when listened to in conjunction with the online materials as the narrator recommends it was as easy to understand and the original book. Late in 2013 another social psychologist, Joshua Greene, wrote the book Moral Tribes which he intended as an attempt to challenge some of the conclusions of Haidt's The Righteous Mind. The Righteous Mind is based on years of serious studies that are will documented and properly analyzed while Moral Tribes is a long, flailing, immature argument with \based almost entirely on Greene's personal political philosophy. Both books have high reader ratings on Audible and Amazon, but The Righteous Mind is clearly far superior to Moral Tribes.

    Both Haidt and Greene describe themselves as left of center politically and both are PhD social psychologist. Haidt's book is not primarily about political beliefs: it is about six categories of moral concepts that groups of people (tribes in Greene's language) hold. But the relative importance of the six categories of moral concepts do translate into political philosophy and Haidt's studies of group moral values do lead to discussions of political differences, so that is why Haidt's interviews and speeches are mostly about political differences.

    The Righteous Mind is based on numerous studies of human beliefs of morality. The studies are fascinating. It is a wonderful book apart from the political conclusions. The Righteous Mind is a hugely important book that can help us better understand ourselves and others. And it can help us to work together constructively despite our differences. I wish everyone would read this important book!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Micah Clark Ithaca, NY 07-20-15
    Micah Clark Ithaca, NY 07-20-15
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    "Eye opening"

    This book is a must read. I found that The writing style left much to be desired for my personal taste, but the revelations of interpersonal and societal interaction and understanding were so profound to me that I just couldn't quit. I see culture and society through entirely revised lenses after finishing this fantastic tome of ideas and explanations.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Christopher Sheung WanHong Kong 06-18-15
    Christopher Sheung WanHong Kong 06-18-15 Member Since 2013
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    "If you want a challenge this book is for you"

    I enjoyed most of this book and ha great moments of insight that I want to listen to it again.
    I recommend listeners to wait though and not jump to conclusions as most topics get explained further as the book goes on.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Entelech 06-05-15
    Entelech 06-05-15 Member Since 2014
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    "I wish I had this book 20 years ago."

    Seriously. Whether you are a politico, a leader, a follower, or just interested in why people do what they do, listen to this book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lauriana 05-31-15
    Lauriana 05-31-15
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    "A definitive account of human nature"

    An enlightening, sociological account of human nature, reaching a crescendo when finally dealing with two of the most divisive issue of our day: politics and religion. the author deliberately makes his argument for his view of human nature, always backing it up with scientific studies, and always remaining politically neutral. By the end, I felt as if I understood myself and human nature better, and felt very fulfilled. Highly recommended

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 05-20-15
    Douglas Atlanta, GA, United States 05-20-15 Member Since 2015

    I like to read but listening is better.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Interesting; entertaining; belief challenging"

    I found this to be a very interesting and unusual book. It's not a masterpiece or a book that I'm going to be thinking about for the next month. But it's certainly worth a read.

    This book is relatively short and doesn't get bogged down with super theoretical discussion that will have you day dreaming. That's not to say that it's superficial or a "for dummies" book. It's as interesting as the other great non-fiction psychology/science books you may be reading.

    There aren't many dull points of the book. There is a point somewhere in the middle that you might be like "okay, I get it, let's move on," but for the most part you'll be hooked and the book is easy to get through. The first few hours are awesome and so are the last few hours.

    Most of the science/psychology audio books are read either by the author or with a narrator who sounds like he might be the author (in other words, not a booming voiced guy with a lot of inflection). In this case, Haidt reads the book himself. While I can certainly appreciate why he would wish to read his own work, I do think it takes something from the quality of the audio book.

    You can tell that his strategy was to read the book with an even keel, but his voice is a bit too quiet sometimes and tends to fade. He also does some annoying things that professional readers know to avoid (I'm talking about sounds here). For example there are times when you can actually hear things going on in his mouth because it got dry.

    I will say that one of the most interesting things about the book for me was that the author really incorporated his own beliefs and changes in beliefs into the story. He told of his experiences and the different stages he went through to arrive where he is now. I have no problem with authors injecting their personal thoughts into any book. We know that they're there; it's silly not to just be out front with them.

    I also found it unusual that this was written by a scientist who had gone from the left to being a libertarian (it sounds like that anyway). I myself am to the left, so there were times where it got uncomfortable, but that's actually the whole point of the book. And I respect that this guy was willing to change his views when he came across things that challenged his beliefs (even though he moved from "my" side).

    Like any book, there are parts of it that I accept; parts that I'm not sure about; and parts that I straight up disagree with. But it's all very interesting and everything is backed up by research. This one is worth reading, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mikael Langner Berkeley, CA USA 04-27-15
    Mikael Langner Berkeley, CA USA 04-27-15 Member Since 2015

    mikaellangner

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    "Great book"

    It met my expectations by providing evidence that good people are divided by religion and politics. It also provided solid research evidence to back up the claim. I also liked that the online material, such as book figures, was available to go along with the audio version. An added bonus is that the author reads the audio book.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    James 04-04-15
    James 04-04-15 Member Since 2015
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    "How Not to Offend Our Secret Cows"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes! Because the information is helpful.


    What was the most compelling aspect of this narrative?

    The narration of this Audible audiobook by the author is just OK, however I think it could have benefited from a professional reader/performer. Tone and tambour of professional voice and knowing when to put the proper inflectional twist can add life and interest when the facts become a bit dull.


    What about Jonathan Haidt’s performance did you like?

    The narration of this Audible audiobook by the author is just OK! He annunciated the words clearly and the meter moved along nicely. The voice is not unpleasant but it lacks liveliness.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Yes, the metaphor at the start of each of the three parts I found useful.


    Any additional comments?

    One of the biggest problems of the modern political scene is the right cannot seem to communicate with the left and the converse is also true. Whether we all get together at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter or at an office gathering, we all have that certain relative or office friend you know you cannot discuss politics with, without sending them into what seems like a torrent angry words, bordering on foaming at the mouth, and an implacable wall of not hearing a word you say. This book written by, social and cultural psychologist, Ph.D. Jonathan Haidt, explains why certain issues are a “hot button issue” on either the right or the left. He does this by providing a metaphor for understanding the interaction of the unconscious mind and the conscious mind when it formulates its sense of right and wrong, known as morals in PART ONE of the book. This section is how the individual mind works. How it marries the emotional feeling unreasoning part of our brain with the rational conscious articulate part of our brain. In PART TWO, he provides a different metaphor to explain why morals have different priorities and vary in focus from person to person. Thus at the heart of any dispute between generally honest and moral people, a heated difference in approach can rise to the point where we stop listening to one another. By keeping in mind these differences in approach are not motivated by sinister concerns, we can overcome the divide, and perhaps work toward a common solution. In PART THREE, another metaphor provides a context in which we can understand that we behave differently when we act as an individual and when we act as a group. The emotional need to belong to a group for both survival and comfort is hard wired and can overcome our better individual judgment in the heat of collective passion of herd solidarity.

    Unless you are academically inclined and enjoy reading about experiments designed to get at the root of what drives our behavior, this book can be a bit of a slog at times. However, considering the useful prospective I have extracted from this book and apply to both real life situations and evaluating written material, it is well worth the effort to master the material in this book. When you are on the receiving end of a relative’s diatribe of full troughed, “I hate all taxes and the government that imposes them – rant – rant- rant, there is not one good tax in the last 100 years;” to be able to stop and deflate that expansive gas bubble with one question was priceless. The individual on exhibit is not some cheap hearted, flinty, miserly person. He is in fact a good business man, loving husband, good father, and respected member of his community. But the moral imperative that drives his psyche are a desire to be fair and anger at cheating. When he is feed too many examples of fraud and abuse of the social welfare system, he becomes blinded to his desire to be fair, and totally ignores his sense of Christian caring and a desire to not harm others. What stopped this man’s rant you ask? I simply ask him if he would abolish the social security tax and move his then to be destitute parents in with him. All of a sudden government was not so bad. His blinders were off! We could then discuss rationally, like two human beings, flaws in government welfare policy that could do with some revision to ensure the taxes were going to the truly needy and deserving and the “free riders” were driven out. The reverse of this example is also true. Among some of my leftward leaning friends, when they get their hair on fire over the evil selfish greedy right, “shredding of the social safety net to line their already rich pockets;” I know their moral imperative is driven by a sense of caring for others and to prevent harm from happening to the unfortunate good people. With them, I simply reach into my experience bag from when I was a workers compensation claims adjustor, for an example of a claimant who would use crutches to go into a scheduled medical examination, then exit the exam, toss his crutches into his truck bed, and then drove to a farm where he returned to roofing the barn. I then ask, “Is it fair to allow the undeserving to steal benefits intended for the truly needy from the system?” All of a sudden the flaming hair goes out and a more reasonable tone replaces empty rhetoric.

    What this book did for me? It made me aware that there are two or more sides to most issues. Opponents need not be demonized as evil or stupid just because they differ in your approach to an issue. In recognizing the moral underpinning of their argument and granting their motivation the respect it deserve for their position, I am able to do two things. One is to disrupt the blind rant that really says, “NO ONE LISTENS TO MY MORAL OUTRAGE!” Two lay the basis for dialog when the fires of rage have been quenched. When you recognize the moral underpinning of the rage, you defuse it by in effect saying, “I recognize the morality of your position now let’s talk about a practical solutions like human beings.” Then I am more likely to garner respect and a willingness to hear where I am coming from, and be open to what I am saying. The book “Think Like a Freak” by Ph.D. Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner, (reviewed elsewhere) addresses these same problems using the term incentives and persuasion as tools for change.

    Finally, the book makes clear, that people who keep on hitting the key moral receptors that drive an angry reaction are looking to drive movements and form an unreasoning mass in a slavish hive like mentality against a target of rage. When we unconsciously allow ourselves to be manipulated in such a way, it does not lead to good public policy, or privet dispute resolution.

    By using the tools this book provides it has made me a much better consumer of thoughts and ideas, either oral or written. It has also made me better at persuasion when I disagree with those thoughts or ideas. Our moral values are our personal sacred cows. The quickest way to produce discord in the society is to offend others sacred cows. When you offend another’s sacred cow you offend their personhood and foreclose dialog.

    In writing this review I hope to persuade the reader/listener to get this book and consume the content. I have done so by providing two storytelling examples of how the book has benefited me. Hopefully, I have piqued your interest to learn more about the various receptors that underpin our moral values and that drive our action and conversation in life. When confronted with an individual in the throes of moral outrage we have a choice. We can throw the bucket of gas of our own moral outrage on the conflagration and burn it all down; or we can choose the bucket of, “I hear your moral outrage” provide recognition and reason to it, then extinguish the flames and engage in dialog. It has worked for me and I cordially invite you to see if it will work for you. I highly recommend the take away from this book even as I acknowledge a wish it could have been as entertaining in its presentation.

    Personal note: I have both the audio and hardback book. I prefer the cover art on the version published in the United Kingdom’s version in 2012. The cover on the US version in 2013 is plain, dull, and a bit pedantic. The British version will poke you right in the eye. At the bottom of the US Amazon page select United Kingdom to get to the British Amazon. Once there look up 2012 hardback version of “The Righteous Mind” and you will see what I am talking about. They also show the US 2013 version so you can compare the two’s cover art and make up your own mind.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim Moore 03-23-15
    Tim Moore 03-23-15 Member Since 2014
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    "So many insight!"

    This book gave me many insights into human behavior particularly with regard to how people divide up into separate camps based on politics and beliefs. Loved it so much I am buying the hardcover version.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jerry 03-12-15
    Jerry 03-12-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Fantastic"

    Eye opening look at how and why we are so much alike and so different. A look at the importance of understanding morality.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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  • Mr
    LONDON, United Kingdom
    7/8/13
    Overall
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    Story
    "Good Book"
    Where does The Righteous Mind rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    The author is an excellent narrator, it made listening a pleasure. The book was well structured with summaries at the end of each chapter.

    As a liberal the book made me think about myself and why I am the way I am!

    I did not agree entirely with everything written, it certainly challenged my ideas as to what is right and wrong. This makes me want to find out more about the subject to find more answers.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    na


    Which scene did you most enjoy?

    na


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    na


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Jim Vaughan
    Malvern, UK
    11/26/12
    Overall
    "Brilliant! Well researched, accessible, convincing"

    This is a highly intelligent, yet accessible book, beautifully read by the author himself.



    If like me you are puzzled by the stupidity of other people's beliefs and values, then I urge you to read "The Righteous Mind". At its core is a message of reconciliation; an enlightened liberation from the "Filter Bubble" of our own confirmation biases to see ourselves & those we most profoundly disagree with as belonging on the same continuum.



    Haidt's thesis is controversial :- that Western liberals (e.g. him & me) are "WIERD" outliers, using just three moral foundations of harm, freedom, and fairness, when for conservative & non Western cultures, morality includes a far broader spectrum of sensibilities, including hierarchy, loyalty and sacredness.



    Our own values feel like 'The Truth' and the more moral we are, the more self-righteous in imposing our own moral framework. Moreover, we are all moral hypocrites, acting to maximise our good reputation, with our moral rationalisations serving as press officer to our emotional prejudices.



    Haidt cites a ton of research (including his own), underpinned by psychology, anthropology, neuroscience & evolutionary theory: the latter an elegant mix of Selfish Gene, Multi-Level selection and Dual Inheritance Theory, summed up in the sound-byte that we are 90% chimp and 10% hive mentality.



    Yet it was in his uncritical advocacy for the "Durkheimian Hive Switch" that I started to dissent. Anyone who knows the film "The Wave", the deindividuation of rioting crowds, Milgram's Experiment, or phenomena such as scape-goating or "corporate groupthink" will be wary of the dangers of the "Hive Switch", and the potential madness of crowds. The Enlightenment was about liberation from our hive mentality and the benefits of Mill's style individualism and secularism.



    However, that said, I consider Haidt a hero, and I hope this excellent book will help heal the animosity between good people who differ only in the hyper-goods they value.

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • levw49
    United Kingdom
    4/29/13
    Overall
    "A thoroughly interesting book!"

    I always feel that book's read by the author are far better to listen to and this book illustrates the point perfectly. Haidt is open, honest, informative and passionate about his chosen field of moral psychology. Throughout the book he is unbiased and remains remarkably dispassionate with regards to a variety of moral, social and political views, thus making this book thoroughly educational and informative whilst allowing you to make up your own mind and opinions. I would certainly recommend this to someone who is interested in this field, I have listened to it twice so far and i'm still not bored of it.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Chris Samuel
    London
    2/19/15
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    Performance
    Story
    "Entertaining and provoking"

    Great narrator, well structured and researched. Made by an expert in the field of moral psychology. A great book to learn from, argue with and grow in our understanding of morality

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful

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