Sunday, March 31, 2013

What you think you think depends on what your brain does.

My friend Julianne brought an interesting article to my attention that describes a model proposed by psychologist Jonathan Haidt. The article suggests that
Our beliefs are shaped by unconscious drives and deep-seated emotions, but our minds come up with ingenious ways of justifying them and presenting them to the world as reasonable and well thought out.
 Haidt and his colleagues suggest a framework of six moral foundations.

  • care/harm, which makes us sensitive to signs of suffering and need;
  • fairness/cheating, which alerts us to those who might take advantage of us;
  • loyalty/betrayal, which binds us as team players;
  • authority/subversion, which prompts us to respect rank and status; 
  • sanctity/degradation, which inspires a sense of purity, both literally (physical cleanliness) and symbolically; and
  • liberty/oppression, based on the desire not to be bullied, it leads to distrust of big government on the right and of big business on the left. 
I am not sure that the model will hold up in the long run, but it is interesting. Haidt goes on to suggest that the balance among these moral foundations separate liberals from conservatives and that they are found in different frequencies in different nations.

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