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The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion

4.1  ·  Rating Details ·  11,139 Ratings  ·  1,349 Reviews
As America descends deeper into polarization and paralysis, social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done the seemingly impossible—challenged conventional thinking about morality, politics, and religion in a way that speaks to everyone on the political spectrum. Drawing on his twenty five years of groundbreaking research on moral psychology, he shows how moral judgments aris ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published February 12th 2013 by Vintage (first published 2012)
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Michael Burnam-fink
Sep 14, 2012 Michael Burnam-fink rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: academic, 2012
Haidt is much better psychologist than political philosopher, and this book is both monumental and dangerously flawed.

On the good side: Haidt draws broadly from research in psychology, anthropology, and biology to develop a six-factor basis for morality (Care/Harm, Liberty/Oppression, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, Sanctity/Degradation), and show that moral judgement is an innate intuitive ability accompanied by post-hoc justifications. Morality serves to bind non-rel
Sep 28, 2012 Eric_W rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"This book is about why it’s so hard for us to get along. We are indeed all stuck here for a while, so let’s at least do what we can to understand why we are so easily divided into hostile groups, . . Politics and religion are both expressions of our underlying moral psychology, and an understanding of that psychology can help to bring people together. My goal in this book is to drain some of the heat, anger, and divisiveness out of these topics and replace them with awe, wonder, and curiosity. ...more
Clif Hostetler
Nov 06, 2014 Clif Hostetler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: current-events
I was hopeful this book might provide me with some sociological tools and rhetorical tricks to clear away the views of those who disagree with my positions on politics and religion. Of course this book does not deliver on this unrealistic hope. What the book does provide instead is an explanation why not everybody agrees with my definition of morality. This knowledge does not make disagreements go away, so the best I can hope for after reading this book is to comprehend the intuitive motivations ...more
Sean Chick
Feb 07, 2014 Sean Chick rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
If you are a Republican this book will make you feel very good about yourself. According to Haidt you have a more balanced morality, a realistic view of "human nature" (beware anyone who says they understand human nature), and some other good stuff I forgot about. He points the finger at liberals but seems unaware about the political dangers of conservatism. He discusses liberals with disdain. With conservatives there is a kind of awe and he rarely discusses their hypocrisies. Of course he conve ...more
THESE BE THE IMMORTAL IMMUTABLE COMMANDMENTS OF SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY (ok they're not really immutable nor do they necessarily have religious backing but bear with me here. I just want an excuse to write an authoritative-sounding list out of my areas of expertise and just mere curiosity.)

1) Humans are not predominantly rational actors. In the majority of cases, rational justifications are made after the fact, and emotions and feelings are predominant in value judgments. Our bodily states can affect
Jun 29, 2012 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012

Despite some painful infelicities of style, this book is compelling and generally well-argued. Two aspects irritated me -- I thought several of the author's chosen analogies were dreadful -- clunky and not particularly apt. The silliness of the metaphor that humans are Homo Duplex -- "90% chimp, 10% bee" -- is just so jarring that it distracts the reader from the argument. Similarly, I found his other recurrent metaphor, that for our rational and intuitive mental processes -- "The mind is divide
Marvin chester
Jan 22, 2013 Marvin chester rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
On page 88 the author writes: "As an intuitionist , I'd say that the worship of reason is itself an illustration of one of the most long-lived delusions in Western history: the rationalist delusion."

Apparently he hasn't noticed that reason has taken us to the moon, given us longer and healthier lives, allowed us to travel the world, to communicate with loved ones over vaste distances, even allowed his book to exist ...

The author is a dim witted charlatan and spends the rest of the book making a
Brad Foley
Jun 18, 2012 Brad Foley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's maybe not a stretch to say this book blew my mind, and in the best possible way. Some context: I'm a liberal far to the left of Obama, and I religiously read the New York Times and the Guardian - so I'm true blue pink. However, 30% of the country in which I live, including many well educated and erudite people hold views that I find completely incomprehensible, if not reprehensible. But, I think it's fair to say that they actually honestly believe they are right. Haidt promises to explain h ...more
Jay Kamaladasa
I had great expectations for this book after watching the author give an introduction in the Colbert report. However, the book didn't hold up to it's name. These are some of grudges I have against this book:

1.) The author doesn't tackle conservative vs. progressive morals. He tackles left wing vs. right wing morals.

This is a typical blunder made by the average American. And I would've overlooked it, as the book is geared towards an American audience. But the author is a professor in moral psych
This book is well-written, edited, and well-organized. Each chapter explores a concept, followed by a nice summary. The book is a mixed bag for me. Some parts are fascinating, while other parts are a bit technical and dry. But so much of it is original and fresh, that I give the book five stars.

Haidt proposes six foundations of morality; care/harm, liberty/oppression, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Haidt claims that liberals (Democrats) are i
Jan 17, 2016 Darwin8u rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
“[W]hen a group of people make something sacred, the members of the cult lose the ability to think clearly about it. Morality binds and blinds.”
― Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind


Jonathan Haidt give a nice social science explanation for how we align politically and how we are built to disagree. This is one of those books that seems to fit in the same evolutionary psychology space as Bob Wright's The Moral Animal. It is a combination of ethnography + evolutionary psychology + experimental psych
n.b. This is a “pre-review” — see full explanation below.

Recommended required reading:
Before I begin anything that bears even a slight resemblance to a review, I want to say that I am incredibly grateful that a friend (a real, live human one at that) suggested I read (or re-read, as it were) Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow before taking on Haidt's oevre. I wholeheartedly endorse the aforementioned recommendation, so do with that what you will.

Excuses, excuses:
I am absolutely commit
Brian Clegg
Mar 26, 2012 Brian Clegg rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Don't be put off by the title of this book (or the subtitle 'why good people are divided by politics and religion'). Although they are technically correct they don't give a full sense of the glory of what is certainly the best popular science book I have read this year, and comes easily into my top ten ever.

Jonathan Haidt is a psychologist who specializes in morality. We are inundated with books about human behaviours and traits - and many of them are rather tedious - but this is a totally diffe
สฤณี อาชวานันทกุล
สนุกมาก เขียนโดยอาจารยนักจิตวิทยาศีลธรรม (moral psychology)ทีคนควาวิจัยเรือง "กำเนิด" ของสำนึกทางศีลธรรมมายาวนาน โจนาธาน เฮดท นำเสนอวาสำนึกทางศีลธรรมของคนเราไมใชสิงทีติดตัวมาแตกำเนิดลวนๆ แตกไมใชสิงทีเกิดจากการเลียงดู อบรมพรำสอน(nurture) อยางเดียว แตเปน "ทักษะ" (skill) ทีวิวัฒนาการขึนมาตอบสนองตอความตองการทางสังคมของมนุษย (ศีลธรรมไมมีความหมายถามนุษยไมสนใจจะอยูรวมกับคนอืนอยางปกติสุข)

เราฝึกทักษะศีลธรรมของเราผานการใช "ตอมศีลธรรม" หาอยางหลัก ซึงเฮดทบอกวาเรามีตังแตเกิดไมตางจากปุมรับรสชาติของลิน ตอมศีลธ
Aug 15, 2016 Cheryl rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating. Enjoyably readable, if you don't try to keep up with the extensive end-notes. Scientifically and philosophically convincing, if you do....

Haidt is synthetic. He works on original research, traveling to conduct experiments on different people and groups of peoples, and he reads extensively & widely, and he interviews other scientists.

The biggest takeaway *I* have is that many ppl are voting Republican because they are conservative and feel, deep in their genes, that they absolute
John Brown
Dec 15, 2012 John Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After this year's presidential election I emailed my sister, a smart, super-competent, true-blue, bleeding-heart, save the weeds and snails, liberal, who volunteered to do campaign work for Hilary Clinton in Colorado during the 2008 Democratic primaries and, of course, voted loudly for Obama.

"Are you kidding me?" I asked. "How can anyone who doesn't have a carrot for a brain want more of the same? I don't get it. Obama? How can so many Americans be that gullible? I'm totally baffled." And that p
This was an interesting read and though I disagree with Haidt in many crucial points, such as the role of reason in our lives, he presents in this book challenging ideas which cannot be taken lightly.

However, I believe Haidt deliberately ignored the role of education, and though he acknowledged the good role discussions play in removing personal biases when people pursue their goals and agendas, he ignored it in his theory of the Moral Foundations. Discourse and education can play a huge role i
Zachary Bonelli
Dec 16, 2013 Zachary Bonelli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
(Originally posted at

Pretend for a moment that you grew up and now live in a completely different country. Let's call it Unrealia. Unrealia has two major political factions, Blarg and Frangle.

Now imagine growing up. The moment you can begin to process news and literature from a social standpoint, you notice something—every time the Blargs do something, it looks pretty awesome. And every time Blarg politicans talk on television, everything they say seems
Check out Politics, Odors and Soap by Nicholas Kristof, over at the New York Times. He writes a very enthusiastic little review of yet another book on the intersection of cognition and politics. No big surprise, it's by Jonathan Haidt, who's doing the pioneering research into how the brains of liberals and conservatives are wired in fundamentally different ways. Oh, also see the review in the Wall St. Journal, Conflicting Moralities . The longer, "official" Ney York Times review is at Why Wo ...more
Jan Rice
Dec 29, 2012 Jan Rice rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: psychology, science
First of all, some people get annoyed with Jonathan Haidt. I didn't have that reaction to The Righteous Mind. I guess I got rid of it with The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. It just seemed like he was selling something or trying to convert me to his point of view. He can rub people that way. If you have tried to read Haidt and have had that reaction, I suggest reading Thinking, Fast and Slow first. Daniel Kahneman has the ability to teach similar topics, in the fie ...more
This turned out to be pretty damn good in the end, despite the fact that it took pretty much forever to get to the point (out of a desire to set up foundational principles and concepts), and was super repetitive (reiterating said concepts again and again), and also felt a bit silly at times with the "I'm going to tell you what I'm going to tell you, then I'll tell you, and then I'll tell you what I just told you" format. (Also, if you have to describe more than 2 or 3 diagrams and figures, maybe ...more
Aaron Thibeault
Dec 01, 2012 Aaron Thibeault rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*A full executive summary of this book is available here:

The old saying goes that we are never to discuss religion or politics in polite company. These topics are singled out of course because they tend to be the two that people are most passionate about, and which therefore have the greatest potential to cause enmity and strife. According to the psychologist Jonathan Haidt, the fact that we disagree over politics and religion is not necessarily such a ba
Jan 29, 2013 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
From a psychological standpoint, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion earns five stars. The book loses some of its appeal when Jonathan Haidt veers into political philosophy, however - especially when he raises the biased question "why are religious people better neighbors and citizens?"

Let me backtrack. The Righteous Mind is split into three sections. The first focuses on how intuitions come first and are followed by strategic reasoning, the second shows that
Apr 23, 2016 Andy rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The main selling point of the book is the controversial thesis that conservatives have a more sophisticated and complete "moral matrix" than liberals. Haidt says conservatives have a complete sense of taste whereas liberals can only taste sweet. This implies that liberals have a dangerously inaccurate version of reality that they are using when deciding what ideas to swallow and what to spit out.

Such a bold claim should be backed up with solid proof. Haidt needs to show where the "complete" mat
Oct 27, 2012 Sylvie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
This book has many qualities, but ultimately its negatives outweighed its positives for me. First of all, I must give poor marks to his driving metaphor of the elephant and rider. It seemed counterintuitive as an example and wasn’t helpful to me at all in illustrating or clarifying his main point (which I actually understood just fine) that “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

Secondly, early on in the book Haidt tells an anecdote about his time in the field where he displays suc
Jun 17, 2012 Jafar rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is probably the best book that I’ve read when it comes to explaining the origin of morality in humans and how it developed and shaped us as individuals and societies. It makes a great case for the theory that, when it comes to morality, intuition comes first and reasoning second. Our moral judgments are largely based on our gut feelings – or to be more scientifically accurate, based on how our prefrontal cortex reacts to a situation. The book also makes a (less convincing) case for group se ...more
Alice Lippart
Definitely interesting, though probably even more interesting to an American audience. A bit dry in points and sometimes repetitive, but I definitely felt like I learned something.
Dec 30, 2015 Phan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is one of the best book in psychology i've read so far. Here's why:

1/ It is a beautiful melange of many insights from various fields psychology,philosphy, history, biology, sociology that is set out to explain why people are divided by politics and religion... Well-written, well-organized with summary at the end of each point made.

2/ My frame of thinking about the world changed and much needed to contemplate onwards. The book hit me at so many levels that my conscious mind can not grasp an
Aug 18, 2012 Tucker rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was ultimately a mixed bag for me. There is one supremely interesting component, which comes in part two, and which consists in the elaboration of what Haidt calls Moral Foundations Theory. MFT is roughly the idea that our evaluative judgments of rightness and wrongness of action are guided by intuitions that encode the world in terms of six dichotomies (care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, respect/disobedience, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression). The idea that th ...more
The Pirate Ghost (Formerly known as the Curmudgeon)
This is the sequal to The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. The audiobook narrated by the author, Johnathan Haidt himself who does a good job. He has a clear voice, and, of course, his prose fits his demenaor well.

In this book, Haidt builds on his metaphor of the elephant and Rider developed in the Happiness Hypothesis. Instead of a general lesson about how people get along, Haidt is attempting to tackle gridlock in American Politics (or any politics where there ar
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
  • The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science--and Reality
  • Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them
  • The Political Mind: Why You Can't Understand 21st-Century American Politics with an 18th-Century Brain
  • American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us
  • Twilight of the Elites: America After Meritocracy
  • The Belief Instinct: The Psychology of Souls, Destiny, and the Meaning of Life
  • The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy, and the Role of Government
  • Expert Political Judgment: How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
  • The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies
  • It's Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the Politics of Extremism
  • A Secular Age
  • Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us
  • Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress--and a Plan to Stop It
  • The Obama Hate Machine: The Lies, Distortions, and Personal Attacks on the President---and Who Is Behind Them
  • The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart
  • Pity the Billionaire: The Hard-Times Swindle and the Unlikely Comeback of the Right
  • The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology
  • Connectome: How the Brain's Wiring Makes Us Who We Are
Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. He is the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion and The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. He lives in New York City.
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“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle. It blinds us to the fact that each team is composed of good people who have something important to say.” 58 likes
“If you think that moral reasoning is something we do to figure out the truth, you’ll be constantly frustrated by how foolish, biased, and illogical people become when they disagree with you.” 35 likes
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