Have you checked in with your elephant lately?

Remember that elephant and rider episode we did? Like a tiny rider on the back of a huge, lumbering elephant, the conscious, reasoning part of our mind has less control than you think. Yet the elephant has a built-in moral compass that we ignore at our peril because it drives much of our discourse and behavior.

Jonathan Haidt, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia, has written about a metaphor for how the human mind works that just might change your mind. Because how we can we influence others if we don’t understand how they (and we) work?

Get Jonathan Haidt’s outstanding book The Righteous Mind here!

So why DO we hate each other?

Political bickering plagues us, seemingly more than ever; parties are unwilling to cooperate and understand the others’ point of view. We witness this increasing polarization on the internet—just look at antivax/provaxxers and liberals/conservatives for the most blatant examples. So why are we so divided?

Turns out we each have a palate of moral “taste buds” that comprise our “elephant.” They are common across cultures and all humans, but we each emphasize different moral tastes. We become “morally blind” when our hive mind kicks in, and we lose ourselves in our groups that share similar moral emphases…thereby demonizing the other side and seeking confirmation for our “elephant” by cherry-picking data (confirmation bias), ignoring or twisted opposing arguments, and committing a ton of logical errors to reinforce our elephant’s moral beliefs. Instead of realizing we are ALL moral creatures, with different flavor preferences, all trying to do the “right” thing…we create “us” and “them” distinctions and social media is the PERFECT catalyst for this polarization.

How do we better understand those with different views?

First, let’s identify our own palate. Here are the moral “flavors” as Haidt describes them (along with their opposites):

Care vs. Harm

Fairness vs. Cheating

Authority vs. Subversion

Purity/Sanctity vs. Degradation

Loyalty vs. Betrayal

Liberty vs. Oppression

We each value each flavor differently. Liberals (on aggregate) tend to focus on care and fairness, conservatives (on aggregate) tend to value the other four. You can test your moral palate here! Then check out the original video here on Facebook. and leave your comments!

Prefer to listen on your commute? Free podcast audio-only versions are here on iTunes and Soundcloud.