Jonathan Haidt

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Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt 2012 03.jpg
Haidt in 2012
Jonathan 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 social psychologist, Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business,[1] and author. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and the moral emotions.

Haidt studied at Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania. He then performed post-doctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India. Haidt was a professor at the University of Virginia from 1995 until 2011, when he joined the NYU Stern School of Business.[2]

Haidt’s first book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006), explored the relationship between ancient philosophies such as Stoicism and Buddhism and modern science. His second book, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012), examined how morality is shaped by emotion and intuition more than by reasoning, and why differing political groups such as progressives, conservatives, and libertarians have such different notions of right and wrong.[3]

Haidt has attracted both support and criticism for his critique of the current state of universities and his interpretation of progressive values.[4] He has been named one of the "top global thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine, and one of the "top world thinkers" by Prospect magazine.[5][6] In 2019, Haidt was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[7]


Haidt was born in New York City and raised in Scarsdale, New York, in a liberal Jewish family.[8][9]

Education and career[edit]

Haidt received 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). 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.[10]

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.[11]

In 2011, Haidt moved to New York University Stern School of Business. Haidt's current research applies moral psychology to business ethics. In 2013, he co-founded Ethical Systems, 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 and to increase the ideological diversity of social psychology and other social sciences.[12] In 2015, Haidt co-founded Heterodox Academy, a non profit organization that works to increase viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and productive disagreement. In 2018, Haidt co-edited an illustrated edition of John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty, titled All Minus One: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Illustrated (2018, co-edited with Richard Reeves, illustrated by Dave Cicirelli). Haidt's most recent book is The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018, co-authored with Greg Lukianoff). Haidt is writing a book on capitalism and morality that will be published in 2021.[13]

Research contributions[edit]

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

Moral disgust[edit]

Together with Paul Rozin and Clark McCauley, Haidt developed the Disgust Scale,[citation needed] which has been widely used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust. Haidt, Rozin, and McCauley have written 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.[citation needed]

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.[14] Haidt called the emotion "moral elevation",[15] as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who had described the emotion in detail in a letter discussing the benefits of reading great literature.[16] Feelings of moral elevation cause lactation in breast-feeding mothers,[17] suggesting the involvement of the hormone oxytocin. There is now a large body of research on elevation and related emotions.

Moral foundations theory[edit]

In 2004, Haidt began to extend the social intuitionist model to identify what he considered to be the most important categories of moral intuition.[18] 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/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 assert that the theory works well to explain political differences too. According to Haidt, Liberals tend to endorse primarily the care and equality foundations, whereas conservatives tend to endorse all six foundations more equally.[19]

Social intuitionism[edit]

Haidt's principal line of research 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[citation needed]. 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 7,858 times.[citation needed]

Elephant and rider metaphor[edit]

The observations of social intuitionism—that intuitions come first and rationalization second—led to the elephant and rider metaphor.[20] 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.[21] 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.[22] 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 anti-corruption 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"[23] 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.[24] In 2015, the working group published a report titled "Opportunity, responsibility, and security: A consensus plan for reducing poverty and restoring the American dream".[25]


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.[26] Other scientists and philosophers disagree with Haidt's generally positive opinion about religiosity as evidenced in an online debate sponsored by the website Edge.[27]

In 2012, 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."[28] Journalist Chris Hedges wrote a review of The Righteous Mind in which he accused Haidt of supporting "social Darwinism".[29] In his response, Haidt disagreed with Hedges's reading of the book, claiming that Hedges took quotations from conservatives and inappropriately attributed them to Haidt.[30]

Haidt and Greg Lukinaoff were awarded the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in 2019 for their book.[31]



  • Keyes, Corey L.M.; Haidt, Jonathan, eds. (2002). Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well Lived. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association. ISBN 978-1-55798-930-7.
  • Haidt, Jonathan (2006). The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. Basic Books. ISBN 978-0-465-02802-3.
  • Haidt, Jonathan (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Pantheon. ISBN 978-0-307-37790-6.
  • Reeves, Richard V.; Haidt, Jonathan, eds. (2018). All Minus One: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Illustrated. New York: Heterodox Academy. ISBN 978-0-69206831-1. OCLC 1038535520
  • Haidt, Jonathan; Lukianoff, Greg (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. New York City: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-0-73522489-6. OCLC 1007552624.[32]

Selected articles[edit]

  • Haidt, J., Koller, S.; Dias, M. (1993). "Affect, culture, and morality, or is it wrong to eat your dog?", Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 65, 613–28.
  • Haidt, J. (2001). "The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment." Psychological Review. 108, 814–34.
  • Wheatley, T.; Haidt, J. (2005). "Hypnotic disgust makes moral judgments more severe." Psychological Science, 16, 780–84.
  • Haidt, J. (2007). "The new synthesis in moral psychology." Science, 316, 998–1002.
  • Rozin, P.; Haidt, J.; McCauley, C.R. (2008). "Disgust." In M. Lewis, J. Haviland, and L.F. Barrett (Eds.) Handbook of Emotions, 3rd edition. (pp. 757–76). New York: Guilford Press.
  • Graham, J.; Haidt, J.; Nosek, B. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 96, 1029–46.
  • Haidt, J.; 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.; Haidt, J. (2012). "Understanding Libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians." PLoS ONE 7(8): e42366. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366
  • Duarte, J.L., Crawford, J.T., Stern, S., Haidt, J., Jussim, L.; Tetlock, P.E. (2015). "Ideological diversity will improve psychological science." 38, e130, Behavioral and Brain Sciences. doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000430
  • Haidt, J.; Trevino, L. (2017). "Make business ethics a cumulative science." Nature Human Behavior, 1. doi:10.1038/s41562-016-0027


  1. ^ Leadership, -Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical. "NYU Stern - Jonathan Haidt - Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership".
  2. ^ "Bio". The Righteous Mind. July 14, 2012. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  3. ^ Saletan, William (March 23, 2012). "'The Righteous Mind,' by Jonathan Haidt". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  4. ^ Henriques, Gregg (January 1, 2012). "Jonathan Haidt's Moral-Political Psychology". Psychology Today. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  5. ^ Foreign Policy Staff (November 26, 2012). "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy.
  6. ^ "World Thinkers 2013". Prospect. April 24, 2013.
  7. ^ "Newly Elected Members:CLASS V — Public Affairs, Business, and Administration". American Academy of Arts & Sciences. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  8. ^ Jonathan Haidt: He Knows Why We Fight, Holman W. Jenkins Jr., June 29, 2012, The Wall Street Journal
  9. ^ The psychology behind morality A discussion with Heidt describing his own outlook as being part of the Jewish culture
  10. ^ "". Archived from the original on May 1, 2007.
  11. ^ "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People, Particularly Intellectuals, Are Divided by Politics - An America's Founding and Future Lecture". Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  12. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (July 14, 2014). "Post-Partisan Social Psychology" (web page). Retrieved July 8, 2017.
  13. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. "Stories About Capitalism". Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  14. ^ 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, 105–27.
  15. ^ 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. 275–89). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  16. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. (1975). "Letter to Robert Skipwith." In M.D. Peterson (ed.), The Portable Thomas Jefferson (pp. 349–51). New York: Penguin.
  17. ^ Silvers, J., and Haidt, J. (2008). "Moral elevation causes lactation." Emotion, 8, 291–95.
  18. ^ 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.
  19. ^ 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): 1029–46. doi:10.1037/a0015141. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 19379034.
  20. ^ McNerney, Samuel. "Jonathan Haidt and the Moral Matrix: Breaking Out of Our Righteous Minds". Scientific American (blogs). Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  21. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (October 7, 2012). "Reasons Matter (When Intuitions Don't Object)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  22. ^ Weiss, Bari (April 1, 2017). "Jonathan Haidt on The Cultural Roots of Campus Rage". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  23. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 1, 2012). "How Common Threats Can Make Common Political Ground". TED. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  24. ^ Haidt, Jon (December 12, 2015). "The Backstory of the AEI Brookings Poverty Report". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  25. ^ 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.
  26. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (2005). The happiness hypothesis : finding modern truth in ancient wisdom. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465028016. OCLC 61211244.
  28. ^ "" (PDF).
  29. ^ "". Archived from the original on November 9, 2012. Retrieved September 14, 2013.
  30. ^ "Chris Hedges Joins the Tea Party". July 1, 2012.
  31. ^ Hugh M. Hefner Foundation: Press Release
  32. ^ Aaronovitch, David (August 18, 2018). "Review: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt – how we raised Generation Snowflake". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved August 24, 2018.

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