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The Righteous Mind Chapter 4: Vote For Me (Here's Why)


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This is the last chapter in Part One, and is a summing up of Haidt's 'first principle of moral psychology' - Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second

 

He looks in more detail at the implications of this principle, and states that, 'Our moral thinking is more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.'

 

He makes five points, backed up by research:

1. We do care about what others think of us, even if we think we don't. Our reasoning is less for our own benefit, and more to convince others of our stance.

2. Our reasoning will do anything it can to justify our original judgement

3. Most of us will be a little dishonest if we think no-one will find out, and our reasoning is excellent at finding justifications for such acts.

4. Given a bit of ambiguity, we will see what we want to see. We will see the flaws in something we don't want to believe in, and justify the flaws in something we do believe in.

5. We can believe almost anything that supports our 'team'. When it comes to political voting, people tend to look for their group's best interest (racial, religious, regional etc) rather than their own interest.

 

Finally, Haidt again talks about 'the rationalist delusion', and claims that reason shouldn't be held in the high esteem that it currently is. He says, though, that this doesn't mean that we should always go by our gut feeling - in law, science etc that could be disastrous. He says that many people reasoning together is the best way to get to truth, as our reasoned arguments can disconfirm the claims of others. In such a situation it is important that there is intellectual and ideological diversity within a group.

 

Interestingly, Haidt admits that the above process must be applied to his own work, and the truth will emerge when counter-arguments arise from those who disagree with him.

 

Jonny

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4. Given a bit of ambiguity, we will see what we want to see. We will see the flaws in something we don't want to believe in, and justify the flaws in something we do believe in.

 

In research, this has been called "confirmation bias." Once we form a hypothesis, we tend to see only things that confirm it and ignore, or reason away, things that refute it.

 

I often find myself doing this in political material. I tend to read opinions that support mine and avoid opposing points of view. I am aware of this (from Haidt and others) and try to avoid it, but it is hard to do. We really don't want to find out, or admit, that we are wrong or our opponents may have a good point. (Even in attempts at balance, I refuse to listen to Rush Limbaugh or watch Faux News).

 

George

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This book has been quite eye-opening for me and I can think of lots of examples of these theories with myself and with others. So far he has looked a lot at reasoning, and I am interested in finding out what he has to say about the intuition side of it.

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I was interested in the theory (by Mark Leary) that self-esteem is not of evolutionary value in itself, but makes sense as a drive to make others include and trust us. It brings to mind the weight of the average teenagers' desire to fit in. School shoes were a dilemma for me; the trendy groups had the expensive brand (Trex) but I wasn't in an 'in' group, so after persuading my Mom to buy me Trex I didn't want to wear them, and found my sister's old ones instead..

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Just for information, I've recently started listening to the podcast "Point of Inquiry" and their podcast dated 20 March was with none other than Jonathon Haidt discussing The Righteous Mind.

 

As a result of listening to their podcast I've joined Audible.com (a site for audiobooks) and downloaded my first book free - The Righteous Mind. I haven't been reading lately due to an increased workload and a fair bit of travelling - hence the audiobook and a hope of being able to participate in this dscussion soon.

 

Cheers

Paul

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i saw this book in my local library yesterday:

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Believing-Brain-Spiritual-Convictions/dp/1780335296/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1354181006&sr=8-1

 

It looks to address some of the same issues as 'the righteous mind' - "beliefs come first and explanations for beliefs follow"

 

What interests me about it is that it addresses the 'extinguishing' of beliefs. That was one thing that Haidt's book made me wonder - if we seek only to reinforce our belief, how come many of us have stopped believing in things we once did? Think i'll give that one a read next.

 

Jonny

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- if we seek only to reinforce our belief, how come many of us have stopped believing in things we once did?

 

 

Sometimes changing beliefs goes along with moving into different social groups that we want to fit into, eg when I started uni I was more impressed by lecturers' views than by those of the minister of the conservative church I had attended for many years.

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Sometimes changing beliefs goes along with moving into different social groups that we want to fit into, eg when I started uni I was more impressed by lecturers' views than by those of the minister of the conservative church I had attended for many years.

 

Rodney Stark, a sociologist who specializes in religion, has said that generally people join churches because of social connections. They first go because of family or friends. Then, they embrace the theology. I suspect a number of people remain because of social connections even when the theology is not perfectly suitable.

 

Social connections are very powerful in our lives. But, this should not be surprising for a highly social animal ("eusocial" according to E. O. Wilson).

 

George

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What interests me about it is that it addresses the 'extinguishing' of beliefs. That was one thing that Haidt's book made me wonder - if we seek only to reinforce our belief, how come many of us have stopped believing in things we once did?

 

Haidt doesn't claim that we are 100% intuitional and zero% rational. He uses the elephant (intuition) and rider (reason) metaphor which suggests that reason does play a role, but not as much as we like to think.

 

George

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Haidt doesn't claim that we are 100% intuitional and zero% rational. He uses the elephant (intuition) and rider (reason) metaphor which suggests that reason does play a role, but not as much as we like to think.

 

George

 

Yes, this is true. Otherwise the prefrontal lobes of our brain would never activate. On the others hand, evidence from fMRI studies show that during problem solving both the reasoning and the emotional processing centers of the brain are active. This is expected as both centers have rich neural pathways connecting the regions in both directions. This would be much closer to Kant, not Haidt as presented here.

 

Put another way, reason tells use what is or what could be and emotion tells us what it is worth. The two can agree or disagree and, according to Whitehead, the task of religion is to bring them into agrreement compatible with location and time.

 

Myron

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This is the last chapter in Part One, and is a summing up of Haidt's 'first principle of moral psychology' - Intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second

 

Jonny

 

Are you saying that intuition comes first during individual development over time and that reasoning enters the picture at a later stage? Which of the two is more likely to be influenced by societal pressures?

 

Myron

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Haidt doesn't claim that we are 100% intuitional and zero% rational. He uses the elephant (intuition) and rider (reason) metaphor which suggests that reason does play a role, but not as much as we like to think.

 

George

 

George,

 

Haidt is applying an Eastern antidote to the Western over valuing of reason. Not that this is anything new and Haidt is well aware of the history of this process. He has, at times, answered this question directly.

 

BTW ... to add to my previous post, fMRI studies show that the prefronal lobes (the seat of reason) often activate before the centers of emotion and intuition. Signals are sent from the prefrontal lobes along one path to the emotion-intuition center, and a response returns along a different pathway.

 

Myron

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