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Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, a Book Review

I first saw Jonathan Haidt (pronounced height) on Bill Moyer's show. He is a Professor of Moral Psychology from the University of Virginia. As a result of many years of worldly research, analysis, and many lab experiments, he wrote a book about the difference in thinking between liberal and conservatives. The book is called: The Righteous Mind...Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. This is a book review of his work. I paraphrased the key points of his work. My commentary is in italics.

Three Metaphors

I found this book to be fascinating. It gives reasons why there is such a difference between liberal and conservative thinking and why discussions of politics and religion can become so vitriolic. He uses three metaphors to explain these differences and behaviors. The three metaphors are as follows:

  • The mind is divided like a rider on an elephant and the rider's job is to serve the elephant.
  • The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors
  • We are 90% Chimp and 10% Bee

Source

The mind is divided like a rider on an elephant and the rider's job is to serve the elephant.

He states: "We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reason why we came to a particluar judgment. We reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment."

If you can picture a very large elephant with a rider on top of the elephant, this is the metaphor that he uses. I reiterated this because it seemed like an abstract concept that took some time for me to grasp. But once I got it. It really made sense.

The rider is our controlled processes including reasoning why. The elephant is the automatic processes including emotion, intuition, and all forms of seeing that reason.

The rider can do several useful things it can see further into the future because we can examine alternative scenarios in our heads and therefore can help the elephant make better decisions in the present The rider can learn new skills and master new technologies which can be deployed to help the elephant reach its goals and prevent disaster. And most important the writer acts as a spokesman for the elephant even though it doesn't necessarily know what the elephant is really thinking."

I think this is why we can make decisions based on intuition and better judgment and why the reason for it comes sometimes later. It is also why our first response in political and religious arguments is emotional and intuitive.

The righteous mind is like a tongue with six taste receptors

Here he uses six Moral Foundations to describe the difference between liberals and conservative thinking and behavior. These six moral foundations are like taste buds on our tongue. Taste buds allow us to taste sweet, salty, sour, and bitter. Some people have more sensitivity to different tastes than others. The six Moral Foundations are:

  • Care/Harm
  • Liberty/Oppression
  • Fairness/Cheating
  • Loyalty/Betrayal
  • Authority/Subversion
  • Sanctity/Degradation

The words following the slash mark are the opposite of the moral foundation.

He describes how both the liberal mind and the conservative mind have a pre-disposition to these six Moral Foundations. The liberal mind is much more attuned to the first three (care, liberty, and fairness), while the conservative mind is attuned to all six of them (care, liberty, fariness, loyalty, authority, and sanctity. Thus, he feels this gives conservatives the political edge, because they have more moral capital to work with than liberals do.

Source
Source

We are 90% Chimp and 10% Bee

He uses this metaphor to show how we have a dual nature. We are selfish primates who long to be something nobler than ourselves. The selfish part is more like chimp behavior where studies have shown that chimps are really not good at working together. But we are also like bees, where we also have a need to work together for something bigger and nobler than ourselves.


Conservatives

Conservatives react more to certain situations than liberals. His research and studies show that conservatives react more strongly than liberals to signs of danger including the threat of germs contamination and even low-level threats such as sudden blast of white noise. Conservatives prefer to stick with what is tried and true. They care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries and traditions.

Liberals

While liberals are more attracted to sensation seeking and openness to experience and they have less need for order and structure. They are also attracted to new people new foods, music and new ideas.

All of this comes about because we have the need for these experience. Because when they are fulfilled, they make us feel better. Studies have shown that pleasure neurotransmitters are triggered by genes differently for liberals than conservatives.

My Opinion of the Book

I thought the organization was excellent. Each chapter has a summary that describes the key points of the chapter. Each chapter gives a scholarly description of the research and analysis that brought him to the conclusion in the book. It might be a little too scholarly for some, but the summary of each chapter keeps it at a higher level. There is also very comprehensive sections on notes and references.

Would I recommend this book?

Absolutely, it gives me a much better understanding of the liberal and conservative mind set and why we react the way we do to political and religious discussion. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has that curiosity. I hope I have whetted your appetite. I believe the more people who read this book, the more we can understand each other and iron out our differences...and if not, why we can't.

This is my first book review. Was the information?

  • Too abstract.
  • O.K. but I don't believe it.
  • Good and I'm thinking about buying the book.
  • Good, it helps me understand the difference between liberals and conservatives.
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Comments 39 comments

lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

hmm, Interesting. I often feel like those on the right are in a different universe. And I am very conservative, because I am poor. I cannot stand to see the waste! They take from a hungry child so a quadra-billionaire can have less taxes out of his/her bundle.

It's the biggest waste of resources imaginable. Wasteful and with no moral boundaries.

Yet, they see me as immoral because I am pro-choice.


lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

F. Scott Fitzgerald’s test for a first rate intelligence: ‘The ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

lovemychris: The author says: "morality binds and blinds. Thanks for stopping by. I hope this has given you some insight into both sides.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

I guess that is a measure of intelligence.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

Thanks for your second comment.


American Romance profile image

American Romance 4 years ago from America

I enjoyed the review, not sure if I would read the book because I am more interested in promoting my ideology than being taught WHY I am this way.

lovemychris, the fact you despise the wealthy gives you an unfair advantage in ever being wealthy, this too is part of the mind that I hope you realize and overcome. If you destroy wealth as liberals desire, you at the same time put walls in place to keep yourself from ever gaining wealth.

You speak of waste yet never mention the Solyndras, or the fact Democrats lie to the public when they try and create class warfare, Lovemychris, remember the wealthy pay 80% of all the bills according to the IRS, so this garbage about them not paying their fair share is a lie, and of course the IRS says 50% of all Americans do not pay income tax............food for thought!


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

American Romance: That's what he said in the beginning: "We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reason why we came to a particluar judgment. We reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment." That's probably why you won't read the book. But you will promote your own ideology.

Thanks for your comments.


lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

"lovemychris, the fact you despise the wealthy gives you an unfair advantage in ever being wealthy,"

This is why you are in a different universe. How dare you tell me about me. Trust me, I Know more about me than you do, and not ONCE did I say I depsise the wealthy. I said the policies that favor them are WASTEFUL and IMMORAL.

Now--you hate Obama and all Democrats so what do you know?How do you like that? Fair for me to do?

Knock it off. I swear, these R's think they are all gods.

Romney paid 14% on 45 million. That is not a fair share. He got preferential treatment.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

I think by fair share, they mean stop the loop holes for the super-rich and corporations. They all have tax shelters so they don't pay hardly anything in taxes compared to their net income. The tax codes are written to incentives them to do that. But there are people like Grover Norquist that makes the Repubs sign a pledge that they would never raise taxes. Exon Mobile earned $9.45 billion profits, or almost $104 million per day in the first three months of the year. They paid

13 percent: last year. That's lower than the average American family!


American Romance profile image

American Romance 4 years ago from America

lovemychris, you have now said you were poor not once but TWICE, This in itself indicates self loathing. Stop it! I too have been truly poor, I grew up poor, I married poor, but at the same time I was never 'poor' . You live in America! Become proactive! Go and get it! fight for it instead of living in self pity. Think daily! What can I do to get ahead! I have done hundreds of things to make more money! Clean offices at night, clean houses, wash cars in folks driveways, babysitt, build crafts and sell them on ebay, go to garage sales looking for antiques and sell them on ebay and on and on! This is the conservative mindsett of all those wealthy you despise.........including me!


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

I'm staying out of this one. Thanks to both of you for dropping by. Have a nice day.


Johnkadu123 profile image

Johnkadu123 4 years ago from Toronto, Canada

Thanks for the hub. Together we stand, divided we all. The politicians like to keep us fighting over the little things so that they can take the big things. That is how the world works and until we have unity, we are going to be mercilessly exploited for centuries. Sorry for the pessimism but that is my personal perspective.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

I respect your opinion, thanks for dropping by.


lovemychris profile image

lovemychris 4 years ago from Cape Cod, USA

"Go and get it! fight for it instead of living in self pity. "

Yet again, telling me all about myself.

Being poor is nothing to be ashamed of. It's not the fault of those who work. It's the fault of those who control things. I work plenty hard, and have for a very long time. I already explained, once Bushco came in , and those R policies hit: that was the beginning of the struggle for me.

Obama is trying best he can to make it better for those like me, but it's really hard when people-- in gvt and out-- say: "Oh--it's all their fault...they just need to work harder: get 3, 4 jobs"

My one job is hard enough, and it gets me by. If the cost of living was sustainable, I would have no problems. And when my little one doesn't need me anymore, I'll be free to work more--like all the other seniors I see working at stop n shop and mcdonalds. :(

But , the ones who control --who need to squaeeze blood from a stone for some ungodly reason--take you judgements and that know-it-all attitude to them!

Ask verizon, n-star, comcast, etc.....Hey--why do you need to make such a huge profit? Why does your ceo need to make 53 mil a year? Why don't you ever ask those questions?

We are on the same plane, but in a different universe.


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 4 years ago from usa

peoplepower73

Where do the progressives fall in the liberal/conservative ideologies? The ideology of the progressives lean toward a socialist mentality, do you agree?


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

JON EWALL: I do agree, but not socialism as associated with communism. Progressive is just another name for liberals. There is one other group that I left out that the author describes and that is libertarian. I left it out because I didn't want to confuse the reader. But you are right, there are degrees of each of these ideologies. Thanks for dropping by. I apprecitate your comments.


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 4 years ago from Space Coast

I am at a loss. What about independents who are only divided because of the division of the liberals and conservatives?

I am a woodcarver as you know. You have to keep your tools sharp and work with the grain. These factions are hacking at it with a dull adz. Maybe the canoe will float, but it won't be pretty.

As far as critique of the revue . . . I'll steal it and say I wrote it!


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

WD Curry 111: Good observation, there is one more moral matrix and that is libertarians. I purposely left them out at the risk of boring my readers. You are right, there is a continuium from one extreme to the other and everything in between. As far as your critique...lmao, you made my day. They say imitation is the highest form of flattery. Thanks for dropping by, looking forward to more of your comments.


Born2care2001 profile image

Born2care2001 4 years ago from Asheville NC

Hi peoplepower73

I did enjoy reading your review however it would not entice me to buy the book. Not because of your review or its quality as I think you did a masterful job. More to do with the content of the text. Understanding is wonderful if it brings us closer together. Sadly, I view our political system as archaic and I believe it no longer serves the majority. Nor do I believe that corporate America has the country's best interest at heart.

If the book's subject matter were focused more on our commonalities I'd run to purchase it.

My uncle was a democratic congressman for 22 years and I've worked at mid manager levels for 4 of the largest corporations in the world and the only comfort I received from either were the hard life lessons learned by the self interest of either.

Respectfully submitted,

Bruce


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

Hi Born2care2001: Thank you so much for your honest and forthright reply. With the experiences that you have been through, I can understand where you are coming from. I read the book because of the very emontional agruments that I get into with friends and relatives. This has given me the understanding to be empathetic with them and hopefully approach them from a different angle.

From what I read in the book, many of the differences are wired into our DNA, Thanks for your comments. We were in Ashville about two months ago for a wedding. It was in a barn up on a hill, very beautiful. - Mike


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 4 years ago from usa

lovemychris

‘’Romney paid 14% on 45 million. That is not a fair share. He got preferential treatment.’’

It sometimes is difficult to understand how the tax codes work in our government when the public is fed a constant distortion of the true facts. Mr. Romney has not received a payroll check in many many years hence he isn’t required to pay income tax at a high rate of 35%.Romney’s income is TAXED on capital gains that he receives on his investments. President Obama talks a lot about investing ( $ 1 trillion of stimulus ) tax payer money. If one had to choose who would handle one’s investments, without a doubt one would choose Mr.. Romney. Mr. Romney is investing his own private money whereas President Obama is investing tax payer (public money).

One should not envy the rich person for what he/she has accomplished by hard work and intelligence.

4/10/12

Potential impact of Obama's 'Buffett rule ' President Obama’s

2011 tax returns rate was . 20.5 % , a lot less than his secretary

http://www.foxnews.com/on-air/your-world-cavuto/20...


Thomas Swan profile image

Thomas Swan 4 years ago from New Zealand

It may be better to be focused on care, liberty and fairness than on the other 3 moral foundations. Rather than liberals being deficient in the other 3, perhaps conservatives have an over-abundance. A greater disposition for loyalty may mean an increased likelihood of following the orders of leaders who "care" less for people's well-being. I suppose it does give them a wider audience for their moralising though, like you say.

Like I said in the forums, I have heard of Haidt. Even though I disagree with him for the most part, his papers on morality are quite famous, and crop up consistently in the literature on psychology and cognitive science courses at university. His research has been important, even if his conclusions are wayward.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 4 years ago from Placentia California Author

Thomas Swan: Thanks for reading my review. I'm honored that you dropped by. When I try to bring up fairness to a conservative, the response usually is: There is nothing in the constitution that mentions fariness. You live in Belfast, UK. I'm suprised you are so in tune to our political system. Thanks for your comments.


JON EWALL profile image

JON EWALL 4 years ago from usa

lovemychris

''because I am poor'' WHY ARE YOU POOR? Do you have a good reason to be poor. What is being poor like?


Shyron E Shenko profile image

Shyron E Shenko 16 months ago

Hello Mike, your review is spot-on.

I disagree with Mr. Haidt about the taste receptors, I believe it is the opposite.

I could not vote in your poll, for me none of the answers fit.

Blessings my friend


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 16 months ago from Placentia California Author

Shyron: Thanks for dropping by. I do enjoy reading your articles.


Jean Bakula profile image

Jean Bakula 10 months ago from New Jersey

I may not read the book, but think you did a good review. I write mostly about metaphysical things, and I love to read. But I found that the only reviews that get much traffic are when I review books on metaphysical subjects. I guess that's reasonable, even though I read about so many more subjects. As long as you stay with your "niche" subjects, book reviews get attention.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 10 months ago from Placentia California Author

Hi Jean: Thanks for visiting my hub and participating in my forum on the 2nd amendment. I consider you one of the voice of reasons on the forum. i noticed that liberals, conservative, and libertarians all the fit the profiles outlined in the book. But I have come to the conclusion that trying to change conservative gun people is an exercise in futility. But I must also say that I'm addicted to the writing aspect of the forum and trying to express my values and beliefs in the best way I know how. Thanks again for dropping by.


Norine Williams 3 months ago

"Conservatives prefer to stick with what is tried and true. They care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries and traditions.

While liberals are more attracted to sensation seeking and openness to experience and they have less need for order and structure. They are also attracted to new people new foods, music and new ideas."

Based on this analogy, MOST "Religious" individuals are conservative! Maybe because it's their belief in a life hereafter and fear eternal damnation. If it worked for "mom and dad," it has been "tried and true" (Because who wants to think their parents are in The Lake of Fire!); therefore, it will work for me also rather than searching Scripture for themselves!

I'm still trying to understand why "Facts are presented and they still don't change their minds!" They say they are believers, yet when the Gospel of Christ is given and they've never heard it taught, they don't believe although it's in Scripture!

I'm still trying to figure that one out! So far, all I can come up with is "pride! "Their entire agenda and value and belief system would come crashing down like a house of cards."

Great HUB!


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 3 months ago from Placentia California Author

Norine Williams:

I think these are very powerful words from the author and we all do this to one degree or another.

"We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reason why we came to a particular judgment. We reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment."

Thanks for dropping by and your comments.


Norine Williams 3 months ago

Think "Religion!" One MUST believe Bible is "the inspired WORD of GOD" (II Timothy 3:16) if they are a "Christian!" Therefore as a "Christian," Bible is FACT!

When it comes to "the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join "us" in our judgment" has nothing to do with what GOD SAID! I don't "like" some of the things HE SAID, but I'm not the CREATOR only the creation and "my" opinion doesn't matter! IF one "proclaims" they are "Christian," it shouldn't matter to them either! Therefore, I've concluded "pride!"

I looked at your Bio and based on HUB'S, I need to ask do you believe in GOD? You seem to use a lot of "logic and reasoning" versus spiritual!


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 3 months ago from Placentia California Author

Norine Williams: I believe, there is a human spirit that we all have and it manifests itself in time of need. However as far as God goes, it's hard to wrap my head around the concept when I see that humans use their own versions of God to justify wars and killings of others. You either kill a Christian for Allah or kill Muslims for Christ. Who's God is right?

When a God given event like a tsunami kills thousands of people, I have a hard time justifying that it is God's will and that God works in strange ways.


Norine Williams 3 months ago

Before you get started on "Why does GOD allow this to happen?" let me remind you of Scripture. In Genesis 1:26 GOD SAID "Let us make "man" in our image, after our likeness: and let THEM (man) have DOMINION over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over ALL the earth, and over EVERY "creeping thing" that creepeth upon the earth."

With that being said, it is "man" who has caused all the catastrophes via "industrialization" & "agriculture" due to needs of the consumer! Therefore, don't "blame GOD" for what we have done!

"Who's God is right?" There is but ONE SPIRIT (Ephesians 4:4-6) although based on one's culture, each "think" they're right (II Kings 17:29-41). However, if the ONE SPIRIT is not the GOD of Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the CREATOR of ALL things, they're an unbeliever! II Timothy 3:16 says the Bible is "the inspired word of God" and I can't find another book with as many "accurate" fulfilled prophecies written by man! Not only does the Bible have the most "accurate" fulfilled prophecies, but when one believes in HIS Promises so much until actions are manifested in one's life, they will "see" HIS manifestations and KNOW - THERE IS A GOD!

MANY operate (in US also) in the name of "Christianity," but are they TRULY a "CHRISTIAN?" GOD came, DIED for us, and sent us HELP (aka The Holy Spirit) which manifests HIMSELF as LOVE in all TRUE CHRISTIANS! Again I ask, are they TRULY "CHRISTIAN?"

My continuous Message is: "STUDY" (II Timothy 2:15) Scripture to find Who GOD is, HIS Characteristics, What HE has Promised, and your rewards as a child of GOD!

Blessings


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

Hi Mike, Good to see you. Your review is excellent. Book reviews have always been fun for me to tackle although I've only written a few. Since this particular book is non-fiction~fact-based, you didn't need to concern yourself with "spoilers," which is the tricky part when reviewing fiction.

Congratulations on your first try. Now that you know you can do this well, I hope you will try a few more.

I am slightly familiar with this author and the subject matter is indeed fascinating. By your review, I know this is a book I'd enjoy.

Thanks Mike. Once again, good job!


Norine Williams 3 months ago

Mike, do you see how TRUTHFUL the Bible is? Here we have an Unbelieving Hubber calling TRUTH in HIS WORD from a "spoiler!" John 10:10 says "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." However, when one starts talking RIGHTEOUSNESS, the Bible again fulfills Itself! Job 1:6 says "Now there was a day when the sons of GOD came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan came also among them." Did Scripture not fulfill itself?

I have continuously asked ALL unbelievers to "Provide a book with as many "accurate" fulfilled prophecies written BEFORE Bible, and to date, no one (nor subject Hubber) has provided! Therefore, until one does, I consider "opinions" as pure "babbling!"

Based on the summary of subject book, you are right in saying "They dig their heels in deeper" when TRUTH is presented afraid their little "house of cards" will crumble!

Again, great summary!

Blessings


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 3 months ago from Placentia California Author

fpherj48: Thank you so much for your comments. You have just boosted my confidence level as far as writing book reviews. I think I just might try another one. I think you might enjoy the book. I thought his concepts were fascinating. I try to apply them in the heat of political discourse, but sometimes, the elephant takes over.


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 3 months ago from Placentia California Author

Norine Williams: Thank you for your thoughtful comments.. Blessings to you as well.


fpherj48 profile image

fpherj48 3 months ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

That darned elephant.....too big to fight! LOL


peoplepower73 profile image

peoplepower73 3 months ago from Placentia California Author

This is another one of my hubs that has high traffic, but is not featured. So I made some changes. Now we shall see if it makes a difference.

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