Jonathan Haidt

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Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt 2012 03.jpg
Haidt in 2012
BornJonathan David Haidt
(1963-10-19) October 19, 1963 (age 55)
New York City, New York, U.S.
ResidenceNew York City
EducationYale University (B.A.),
University of Pennsylvania (PhD)
Scientific career
FieldsSocial psychology, moral psychology, positive psychology, cultural psychology
InstitutionsUniversity of Virginia (1995–2011)
Stern School of Business, New York University (current)
ThesisMoral Judgment, Affect, and Culture, or, Is it Wrong to Eat Your Dog? (1992)
Doctoral advisorJonathan Baron, Alan Fiske

Jonathan David Haidt (/ht/; born October 19, 1963) is an American moral psychologist and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business.[1] His academic specialization is the psychology of morality and the moral emotions. Haidt is the author of two books: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) and The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), which became a New York Times bestseller.[2] He was named one of the "top global thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine,[3] and one of the "top world thinkers" by Prospect magazine.[4]


Haidt was born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, New York, in a liberal Jewish family.[5][6]

Education and career[edit]

Haidt earned a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1985, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He then studied cultural psychology at the University of Chicago as a post-doctoral fellow. His supervisors were Jonathan Baron and Alan Fiske (at the University of Pennsylvania) and cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder (University of Chicago). During his post-doctoral appointment, Haidt won a Fulbright fellowship to fund three months of research on morality in Orissa, India. In 1995, Haidt was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where he worked until 2011, winning four awards for teaching, including a statewide award conferred by the Governor of Virginia.[7]

In 1999, Haidt became active in the new field of positive psychology, studying positive moral emotions. This work led to the publication of an edited volume, titled Flourishing, in 2003, and then to The Happiness Hypothesis in 2006. The Happiness Hypothesis introduced the widely cited metaphor that the mind is divided into parts, like a small rider (conscious reasoning) on a very large elephant (automatic and intuitive processes). In 2004, Haidt began to apply moral psychology to the study of politics, doing research on the psychological foundations of ideology. This work led to the publication in 2012 of The Righteous Mind. Haidt spent the 2007–2008 academic year at Princeton University as the Laurance S. Rockefeller Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching.

In 2011, Haidt moved to the New York University Stern School of Business. Haidt's current research applies moral psychology to business ethics. In 2013, he co-founded Ethical Systems,[8] a non-profit collaboration dedicated to making academic research on ethics widely available to businesses. He is also engaged in efforts to foster greater political civility[9] and to increase the ideological diversity of social psychology and other social sciences.[10] Haidt is writing a book on capitalism that will be published in 2019.[11]

Haidt is a co-founder of Heterodox Academy,[12] Ethical Systems,[13] and OpenMind,[14] as well as,[15] and[16].

Haidt has signed the Pro-Truth Pledge.[17]

Research contributions[edit]

Haidt's research on morality has led to publications and theoretical advances in four primary areas:

Social intuitionism[edit]

Haidt's principal line of research since graduate school has been on the nature and mechanisms of moral judgment. In the 1990s, he developed the social intuitionist model, which posits that moral judgment is mostly based on automatic processes–moral intuitions–rather than on conscious reasoning. People engage in reasoning largely to find evidence to support their initial intuitions. Haidt's main paper on the social intuitionist model, "The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail", has been cited over 6,000 times.[18]

Moral disgust[edit]

Together with Paul Rozin and Clark McCauley, Haidt developed the Disgust Scale,[19] which has been widely used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust. Haidt, Rozin, and McCauley have written extensively on the psychology of disgust as an emotion that began as a guardian of the mouth (against pathogens), but then expanded during biological and cultural evolution to become a guardian of the body more generally, and of the social and moral order.[20]

Moral elevation[edit]

With Sara Algoe, Haidt argued that exposure to stories about moral beauty (the opposite of moral disgust) cause a common set of responses, including warm, loving feelings, calmness, and a desire to become a better person.[21] Haidt called the emotion "moral elevation",[22] as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who had described the emotion in detail in a letter discussing the benefits of reading great literature.[23] Feelings of moral elevation cause lactation in breast-feeding mothers,[24] suggesting the involvement of the hormone oxytocin. There is now a large body of research on elevation and related emotions.[25]

Moral foundations theory[edit]

In 2004, Haidt began to extend the social intuitionist model to specify the most important categories of moral intuition.[26] The result was moral foundations theory, co-developed with Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, and based in part on the writings of Richard Shweder. The theory posits that there are (at least) six innate moral foundations, upon which cultures develop their various moralities, just as there are five innate taste receptors on the tongue, which cultures have used to create many different cuisines. The six are care/harm, fairness (equality)/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. The theory was developed to explain cross-cultural differences in morality, but Haidt and his collaborators at[27] assert that the theory works well to explain political differences as well. According to Haidt, Liberals (leftists) tend to endorse primarily the care and equality foundations, whereas conservatives (rightists) tend to endorse all six foundations more equally.[28]

Elephant and rider metaphor[edit]

The observations of social intuitionism–that intuitions come first and rationalization second–led to the elephant and rider metaphor.[29] The rider represents the conscious controlled processes and the elephant represents all of the automatic processes. The metaphor corresponds to Systems 1 and 2 described in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.[30] This metaphor is used extensively in both The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind.

Political centrism[edit]

In chapter 8 of The Righteous Mind, Haidt describes how he began to study political psychology in order to help the Democratic Party win more elections, but in chapter 12 of The Righteous Mind argues that each of the major political groups—conservatives, progressives, and libertarians—have valuable insights and that truth and good policy emerge from the contest of ideas. Since 2012, Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist.[31] Haidt is involved with several efforts to help bridge the political divide and reduce political polarization in the United States. In 2007, he founded the website, a clearinghouse for research on political civility. He serves on the advisory boards of Represent.Us., a non-partisan anticorruption organization, the Acumen Fund, which invests in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty; and, a bipartisan group working to reduce political polarization. Three of his four TED talks are on the topic of understanding and reducing political divisions.

His 2012 TED talk on "How common threats can make common ground"[32] introduced a set of ideas on how to use moral psychology to foster collaboration among partisan opponents. This talk became the basis of a bipartisan working group of poverty researchers, which Haidt helped to convene under the auspices of the American Enterprise Institute and the Brookings Institution.[33] In 2015, the working group published a report titled "Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream".[34]


In chapter 9 of The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt extends a comprehensive inquiry on the role of religion in society concluding that the scientific community should recognize the evolutionary origins of religiosity and accept its potential benefits.[35] Other scientists and philosophers disagree with Haidt's generally positive opinion about religiosity as evidenced in an online debate sponsored by the website Edge.[36]

Social psychologist John Jost wrote that Haidt "mocks the liberal vision of a tolerant, pluralistic, civil society, but, ironically, this is precisely where he wants to end up."[37]

Journalist Chris Hedges wrote a review of The Righteous Mind in which he accused Haidt of supporting "social Darwinism".[38] In his response, Haidt disagreed with Hedges's reading of the book, most notably that Hedges took quotations from conservatives and inappropriately attributed them to Haidt.[39]



  • Haidt, Jonathan; Keyes, Corey L.M. (2002). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well Lived. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. p. 335. ISBN 978-1-55798-930-7.
  • Haidt, Jonathan (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-02802-0.
  • Haidt, Jonathan (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-307-37790-6.
  • Haidt, Jonathan; Lukianoff, Greg (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind. New York City: Penguin Press. ISBN 9780735224896. OCLC 1007552624.[40]

Selected articles[edit]

  • Haidt, J., Koller, S., and Dias, M. (1993). "Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog?", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 613–628.
  • Haidt, J . (2001). "The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment." Psychological Review. 108, 814–834.
  • Wheatley, T., and Haidt, J. (2005). "Hypnotic disgust makes moral judgments more severe." Psychological Science, 16, 780–784.
  • Haidt, J. (2007). "The new synthesis in moral psychology." Science, 316, 998–1002.
  • Rozin, P., Haidt, J., and McCauley, C. R. (2008). "Disgust." In M. Lewis, J. Haviland, and L. F. Barrett (Eds.) Handbook of Emotions, 3rd edition. (pp. 757–776). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Graham, J., Haidt, J., and Nosek, B. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1029–1046.
  • Haidt, J., and Kesebir, S. (2010). "Morality." In S. Fiske, D. Gilbert, and G. Lindzey (eds.) Handbook of Social Psychology, 5th edition. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley. pp. 797–832.
  • Iyer, R., Koleva, S. P., Graham, J., Ditto, P. H., and Haidt, J. (2012). "Understanding Libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians." PLoS ONE 7:e42366 doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366.


  1. ^
  2. ^ Cowles, Gregory. "Print & E-Books". The New York Times.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Jonathan Haidt: He Knows Why We Fight, Holman W. Jenkins Jr., June 29, 2012, The Wall Street Journal
  6. ^ The psychology behind morality A discussion with Heidt describing his own outlook as being part of the Jewish culture
  7. ^ Archived May 1, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^
  9. ^, Haidt's third TED talk
  10. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (14 July 2014). "Post-Partisan Social Psychology" (web page). Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  11. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. "Stories About Capitalism". Retrieved 9 March 2017.
  12. ^ Haidt, Jon; Jussim, Lee; Martin, Chris. "The Problem". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved 19 March 2017.
  13. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 13 September 2018.
  15. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  16. ^ "Homepage". Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Public Figures and Organizations That Signed the Pledge". Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  18. ^ Google Scholar
  19. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (16 October 2012). "The Disgust Scale Home Page". Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  20. ^
  21. ^ Algoe, Sara B, and Haidt, Jonathan. (2009). "Witnessing excellence in action: The 'other-praising' emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration." Journal of Positive Psychology, 4, 105–127.
  22. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. (2003). "Elevation and the positive psychology of morality." In C. L. M. Keyes and J. Haidt (eds.), Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-lived (pp. 275–289). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
  23. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. (1975). "Letter to Robert Skipwith." In M. D. Peterson (ed.), The Portable Thomas Jefferson (pp. 349–351). New York: Penguin.
  24. ^ Silvers, J., and Haidt, J. (2008). "Moral elevation causes lactation." Emotion, 8, 291–295.
  25. ^
  26. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Joseph, Craig (2004). "Intuitive ethics: How innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues". Daedalus. 133 (4): 55–66. doi:10.1162/0011526042365555. JSTOR 20027945.
  27. ^
  28. ^ Graham, Jesse; Haidt, Jonathan; Nosek, Brian A. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association. 96 (5): 1029–1046. doi:10.1037/a0015141. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 19379034.
  29. ^ McNerney, Samuel. "Jonathan Haidt and the Moral Matrix: Breaking Out of Our Righteous Minds". Scientific American (blogs). Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  30. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (October 7, 2012). "Reasons Matter (When Intuitions Don't Object)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  31. ^ Weiss, Bari (April 1, 2017). "Jonathan Haidt on The Cultural Roots of Campus Rage". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  32. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 1, 2012). "How Common Threats Can Make Common Political Ground". TED. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  33. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 12, 2015). "The Backstory of the AEI Brookings Poverty Report". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  34. ^ Various Authors (December 3, 2015). "Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream". AEI. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  35. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (2005). The happiness hypothesis : finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 0465028012. OCLC 61211244.
  36. ^
  37. ^
  38. ^ Archived November 12, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  39. ^
  40. ^ Aaronovitch, David (2018-08-18). "Review: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt – how we raised Generation Snowflake". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 2018-08-24.

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