Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives
Minessence eZine #51 13 Dec, 2012

Keeping you Up-to-Date with Values R&D and Events—Paul Chippendale, Editor.


Haidt in The Righteous Mind, identifies five moral dimensions which are characteristic of human behaviour:

  1. Care/Harm - evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of caring for vulnerable children. It makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need; it makes us despise cruelty and want to care for those who are suffering.
  2. Fairness/Cheating - evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of reaping the rewards of cooperation without getting exploited. It makes us sensitive to indications that another person is likely to be a good (or bad) partner for collaboration and reciprocal altruism. It makes us shun or punish cheaters.
  3. Loyalty/Betrayal - evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of forming and maintaining coalitions. It makes us sensitive that another person is (or is not) a team player. It makes us trust and reward such people, and makes us want to hurt, ostracize, or even kill those who betray us or our group.
  4. Authority/Subversiveness - evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of forging relationships that will benefit us within social hierachies. It makes us sensitive to signs of rank or status, and to signs that other people are (or are not) behaving properly, given their position.
  5. Sanctity/Degradation - evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of the omnivore's dilemma, and then to the broader challenge of living in a world of pathogens and parasites. It includes the behavioural immune system, which makes us wary of a diverse array of symbolic objects and threats. It makes it possible for people to invest objects with irrational and extreme values - both positive and negative - which are important for binding groups together.

Haidt  discovered liberals (progressives) higher positive rank on the first 2, and conservatives on the last 3.

For an explanation of Haidt five-dimension model of moral preferences, see his TED talk:

There is strong convergence of Haidt's work with that of our Transformational Leadership model. Both Haidt's an our model point to the fact that real change can only occur when there is effective dialogue between those people who prefer structure, certainty and comfort and those people who prefer change, uncertainty and blind trust.

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