The Righteous Mind

Jonathan Haidt

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Highly Recommend

Amazing book that completely re-framed how I view differences in morals / opinions. You know when someone talks about politics or religion and you get that feeling of knowing that you are right and the other person is wrong? This book helps explain that feeling. Eye-opening in a number of ways. Read this, then give it to people disagree with you politically :)


People bind themselves into political teams that share moral narratives. Once they accept a particular narrative, they become blind to alternative moral worlds.

The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.

Piaget argued that children’s understanding of morality is like their understanding of those water glasses: we can’t say that it is innate, and we can’t say that kids learn it directly from adults. It is, rather, self-constructed as kids play with other kids.

But by using a framework that predefined morality as justice while denigrating authority, hierarchy, and tradition, it was inevitable that the research would support worldviews that were secular, questioning, and egalitarian.

But if you ask kids about actions that hurt other people, such as a girl who pushes a boy off a swing because she wants to use it, you get a very different set of responses. Nearly all kids say that the girl was wrong and that she’d be wrong even if the teacher said it was OK, and even if this happened in another school where there were no rules about pushing kids off swings. Children recognize that rules that prevent harm are moral rules

Children construct their moral understanding on the bedrock of the absolute moral truth that harm is wrong.

Turiel’s account of moral development differed in many ways from Kohlberg’s, but the political implications were similar: morality is about treating individuals well. It’s about harm and fairness (not loyalty, respect, duty, piety, patriotism, or tradition).

When I read the Hebrew Bible, I was shocked to discover how much of the book—one of the sources of Western morality—was taken up with rules about food, menstruation, sex, skin, and the handling of corpses. Some of these rules were clear attempts to avoid disease, such as the long sections of Leviticus on leprosy. But many of the rules seemed to follow a more emotional logic about avoiding disgust. For example, the Bible prohibits Jews from eating or even touching “the swarming things that swarm upon the earth” (and just think how much more disgusting a swarm of mice is than a single mouse).

Liberals sometimes say that religious conservatives are sexual prudes for whom anything other than missionary-position intercourse within marriage is a sin. But conservatives can just as well make fun of liberal struggles to choose a balanced breakfast—balanced among moral concerns about free-range eggs, fair-trade coffee, naturalness, and a variety of toxins, some of which (such as genetically modified corn and soybeans) pose a greater threat spiritually than biologically.

When you put individuals first, before society, then any rule or social practice that limits personal freedom can be questioned. If it doesn’t protect somebody from harm, then it can’t be morally justified. It’s just a social convention.

“A woman is cleaning out her closet, and she finds her old American flag. She doesn’t want the flag anymore, so she cuts it up into pieces and uses the rags to clean her bathroom.” My idea was to give adults and children stories that pitted gut feelings about important cultural norms against reasoning about harmlessness, and then see which force was stronger.

Interviewers challenged these invented-victim claims. I had trained my interviewers to correct people gently when they made claims that contradicted the text of the story. For example, if someone said, “It’s wrong to cut up the flag because a neighbor might see her do it, and he might be offended,” the interviewer replied, “Well, it says here in the story that nobody saw her do it. So would you still say it was wrong for her to cut up her flag?” Yet even when subjects recognized that their victim claims were bogus, they still refused to say that the act was OK. Instead, they kept searching for another victim. They said things like “I know it’s wrong, but I just can’t think of a reason why.” They seemed to be morally dumbfounded—rendered speechless by their inability to explain verbally what they knew intuitively. These subjects were reasoning. They were working quite hard at reasoning. But it was not reasoning in search of truth; it was reasoning in support of their emotional reactions.

We’re born to be righteous, but we have to learn what, exactly, people like us should be righteous about.

So now we have three models of the mind. Plato said that reason ought to be the master, even if philosophers are the only ones who can reach a high level of mastery. Hume said that reason is and ought to be the servant of the passions. And Jefferson gives us a third option, in which reason and sentiment are (and ought to be) independent co-rulers, like the emperors of Rome, who divided the empire into eastern and western halves. Who is right?

Damasio’s interpretation was that gut feelings and bodily reactions were necessary to think rationally, and that one job of the vmPFC was to integrate those gut feelings into a person’s conscious deliberations. When you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of murdering your parents … you can’t even do it, because feelings of horror come rushing in through the vmPFC.

No more of those “dreadful but necessary disturbances,” those “foolish counselors” leading the rational soul astray. Yet the result of the separation was not the liberation of reason from the thrall of the passions. It was the shocking revelation that reasoning requires the passions. Jefferson’s model fits better: when one co-emperor is knocked out and the other tries to rule the empire by himself, he’s not up to the task.

My question was simple: Can people make moral judgments just as well when carrying a heavy cognitive load as when carrying a light one? The answer turned out to be yes.

Not wanting to drink roach-tainted juice isn’t a moral judgment, it’s a personal preference. Saying “Because I don’t want to” is a perfectly acceptable justification for one’s subjective preferences. Yet moral judgments are not subjective statements; they are claims that somebody did something wrong. I can’t call for the community to punish you simply because I don’t like what you’re doing. I have to point to something outside of my own preferences, and that pointing is our moral reasoning. We do moral reasoning not to reconstruct the actual reasons why we ourselves came to a judgment; we reason to find the best possible reasons why somebody else ought to join us in our judgment.

We make our first judgments rapidly, and we are dreadful at seeking out evidence that might disconfirm those initial judgments.

But intuitions (including emotional responses) are a kind of cognition. They’re just not a kind of reasoning.

The social intuitionist model offers an explanation of why moral and political arguments are so frustrating: because moral reasons are the tail wagged by the intuitive dog. A dog’s tail wags to communicate. You can’t make a dog happy by forcibly wagging its tail. And you can’t change people’s minds by utterly refuting their arguments.

The social intuitionist model starts with Hume’s model and makes it more social. Moral reasoning is part of our lifelong struggle to win friends and influence people. That’s why I say that “intuitions come first, strategic reasoning second.”

Therefore, if you want to change someone’s mind about a moral or political issue, talk to the elephant first. If you ask people to believe something that violates their intuitions, they will devote their efforts to finding an escape hatch—a reason to doubt your argument or conclusion. They will almost always succeed.


Wundt said that affective reactions are so tightly integrated with perception that we find ourselves liking or disliking something the instant we notice it, sometimes even before we know what it is.



Moral judgment is not a purely cerebral affair in which we weigh concerns about harm, rights, and justice. It’s a kind of rapid, automatic process more akin to the judgments animals make as they move through the world, feeling themselves drawn toward or away from various things.




But if there is affection, admiration, or a desire to please the other person, then the elephant leans toward that person and the rider tries to find the truth in the other person’s arguments.

Wouldn’t it have been most adaptive for our ancestors to figure out the truth, the real truth about who did what and why, rather than using all that brainpower just to find evidence in support of what they wanted to believe? That depends on which you think was more important for our ancestors’ survival: truth or reputation.

But in the social world, things are different, according to Tetlock. The social world is Glauconian. Appearance is usually far more important than reality.

Exploratory thought is an “evenhanded consideration of alternative points of view.” Confirmatory thought is “a one-sided attempt to rationalize a particular point of view.” Accountability increases exploratory thought only when three conditions apply: (1) decision makers learn before forming any opinion that they will be accountable to an audience, (2) the audience’s views are unknown, and (3) they believe the audience is well informed and interested in accuracy.

Our moral thinking is much more like a politician searching for votes than a scientist searching for truth.

They might indeed have steered by their own compass, but they didn’t realize that their compass tracked public opinion, not true north. It was just as Glaucon said.

The political scientist Don Kinder summarizes the findings like this: “In matters of public opinion, citizens seem to be asking themselves not ‘What’s in it for me?’ but rather ‘What’s in it for my group?’ ” Political opinions function as “badges of social membership.”

Westen found that partisans escaping from handcuffs (by thinking about the final slide, which restored their confidence in their candidate) got a little hit of that dopamine. And if this is true, then it would explain why extreme partisans are so stubborn, closed-minded, and committed to beliefs that often seem bizarre or paranoid. Like rats that cannot stop pressing a button, partisans may be simply unable to stop believing weird things. The partisan brain has been reinforced so many times for performing mental contortions that free it from unwanted beliefs. Extreme partisanship may be literally addictive.

Anyone who values truth should stop worshiping reason. We all need to take a cold hard look at the evidence and see reasoning for what it is.

If you see a world full of individuals, then you’ll want the morality of Kohlberg and Turiel—a morality that protects those individuals and their individual rights. You’ll emphasize concerns about harm and fairness. But if you live in a non-WEIRD society in which people are more likely to see relationships, contexts, groups, and institutions, then you won’t be so focused on protecting individuals.

They found three major clusters of moral themes, which they called the ethics of autonomy, community, and divinity. Each one is based on a different idea about what a person really is.

The ethic of autonomy is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, autonomous individuals with wants, needs, and preferences. People should be free to satisfy these wants, needs, and preferences as they see fit, and so societies develop moral concepts such as rights, liberty, and justice, which allow people to coexist peacefully without interfering too much in each other’s projects.

The ethic of community is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, members of larger entities such as families, teams, armies, companies, tribes, and nations. These larger entities are more than the sum of the people who compose them; they are real, they matter, and they must be protected.

The ethic of divinity is based on the idea that people are, first and foremost, temporary vessels within which a divine soul has been implanted. People are not just animals with an extra serving of consciousness; they are children of God and should behave accordingly.

Rather than automatically rejecting the men as sexist oppressors and pitying the women, children, and servants as helpless victims, I began to see a moral world in which families, not individuals, are the basic unit of society, and the members of each extended family (including its servants) are intensely interdependent. In this world, equality and personal autonomy were not sacred values. Honoring elders, gods, and guests, protecting subordinates, and fulfilling one’s role-based duties were more important.

When an artist submerges a crucifix in a jar of his own urine, or smears elephant dung on an image of the Virgin Mary, do these works belong in art museums? Can the artist simply tell religious Christians, “If you don’t want to see it, don’t go to the museum”? Or does the mere existence of such works make the world dirtier, more profane, and more degraded? If you can’t see anything wrong here, try reversing the politics. Imagine that a conservative artist had created these works using images of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela instead of Jesus and Mary. Imagine that his intent was to mock the quasi-deification by the left of so many black leaders. Could such works be displayed in museums in New York or Paris without triggering angry demonstrations? Might some on the left feel that the museum itself had been polluted by racism, even after the paintings were removed?

If you grow up in a WEIRD society, you become so well educated in the ethic of autonomy that you can detect oppression and inequality even where the apparent victims see nothing wrong.

Conversely, if you are raised in a more traditional society, or within an evangelical Christian household in the United States, you become so well educated in the ethics of community and divinity that you can detect disrespect and degradation even where the apparent victims see nothing wrong.

Cuisines vary, but they all must please tongues equipped with the same five taste receptors. Moral matrices vary, but they all must please righteous minds equipped with the same six social receptors.

The original triggers are the set of objects for which the module was designed (that is, the set of all snakes is the original trigger for a snake-detector module). The current triggers are all the things in the world that happen to trigger it (including real snakes, as well as toy snakes, curved sticks, and thick ropes, any of which might give you a scare if you see them in the grass).

Five adaptive challenges stood out most clearly: caring for vulnerable children, forming partnerships with non-kin to reap the benefits of reciprocity, forming coalitions to compete with other coalitions, negotiating status hierarchies, and keeping oneself and one’s kin free from parasites and pathogens, which spread quickly when people live in close proximity to each other.

Imagine that your four-year-old son is taken to the hospital to have his appendix removed. You are allowed to watch the procedure from behind a glass window. Your son is given a general anesthetic and you see him lying, unconscious, on the operating table. Next, you see the surgeon’s knife puncture his abdomen. Would you feel a wave of relief, knowing that he is finally getting an operation that will save his life? Or would you feel pain so strongly that you’d have to look away? If your “dolors” (pains) outweigh your “hedons” (pleasures), then your reaction is irrational, from a utilitarian point of view, but it makes perfect sense as the output of a module.


Mothers who were innately sensitive to signs of suffering, distress, or neediness improved their odds, relative to their less sensitive sisters.

The moral matrix of liberals, in America and elsewhere, rests more heavily on the Care foundation than do the matrices of conservatives.


On the left, concerns about equality and social justice are based in part on the Fairness foundation—wealthy and powerful groups are accused of gaining by exploiting those at the bottom while not paying their “fair share” of the tax burden.

On the right, the Tea Party movement is also very concerned about fairness. They see Democrats as “socialists” who take money from hardworking Americans and give it to lazy people (including those who receive welfare or unemployment benefits) and to illegal immigrants (in the form of free health care and education).


The left tends toward universalism and away from nationalism, so it often has trouble connecting to voters who rely on the Loyalty foundation.


As with the Loyalty foundation, it is much easier for the political right to build on this foundation than it is for the left, which often defines itself in part by its opposition to hierarchy, inequality, and power.


Omnivores therefore go through life with two competing motives: neophilia (an attraction to new things) and neophobia (a fear of new things). People vary in terms of which motive is stronger, and this variation will come back to help us in later chapters: Liberals score higher on measures of neophilia (also known as “openness to experience”), not just for new foods but also for new people, music, and ideas. Conservatives are higher on neophobia; they prefer to stick with what’s tried and true, and they care a lot more about guarding borders, boundaries, and traditions.

Cultures differ in their attitudes toward immigrants, and there is some evidence that liberal and welcoming attitudes are more common in times and places where disease risks are lower.

Why do people so readily treat objects (flags, crosses), places (Mecca, a battlefield related to the birth of your nation), people (saints, heroes), and principles (liberty, fraternity, equality) as though they were of infinite value? Whatever its origins, the psychology of sacredness helps bind individuals into moral communities.

The Sanctity foundation is used most heavily by the religious right, but it is also used on the spiritual left. You can see the foundation’s original impurity-avoidance function in New Age grocery stores, where you’ll find a variety of products that promise to cleanse you of “toxins.” And you’ll find the Sanctity foundation underlying some of the moral passions of the environmental movement.

If you dismiss the Sanctity foundation entirely, then it’s hard to understand the fuss over most of today’s biomedical controversies. The only ethical question about abortion becomes: At what point can a fetus feel pain? Doctor-assisted suicide becomes an obviously good thing: People who are suffering should be allowed to end their lives, and should be given medical help to do it painlessly.

Republicans since Nixon have had a near-monopoly on appeals to loyalty (particularly patriotism and military virtues) and authority (including respect for parents, teachers, elders, and the police, as well as for traditions).

But when we look at the Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity foundations, the story is quite different. Liberals largely reject these considerations.

Figure 8.2 shows our data on the MFQ as it stood in 2011, with more than 130,000 subjects. We’ve made many improvements since Jesse’s first simple survey, but we always find the same basic pattern that he found in 2006. The lines for Care and Fairness slant downward; the lines for Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity slant upward. Liberals value Care and Fairness far more than the other three foundations; conservatives endorse all five foundations more or less equally.

I then showed how the American left fails to understand social conservatives and the religious right because it cannot see a Durkheimian world as anything other than a moral abomination. A Durkheimian world is usually hierarchical, punitive, and religious. It places limits on people’s autonomy and it endorses traditions, often including traditional gender roles. For liberals, such a vision must be combated, not respected.

The Liberty/oppression foundation, I propose, evolved in response to the adaptive challenge of living in small groups with individuals who would, if given the chance, dominate, bully, and constrain others. The original triggers therefore include signs of attempted domination.

You can hear the heavy reliance on the Liberty/oppression foundation whenever people talk about social justice.

The difference seems to be that for liberals—who are more universalistic and who rely more heavily upon the Care/harm foundation—the Liberty/oppression foundation is employed in the service of underdogs, victims, and powerless groups everywhere…Conservatives, in contrast, are more parochial—concerned about their groups, rather than all of humanity. For them, the Liberty/oppression foundation and the hatred of tyranny supports many of the tenets of economic conservatism: don’t tread on me (with your liberal nanny state and its high taxes), don’t tread on my business (with your oppressive regulations), and don’t tread on my nation (with your United Nations and your sovereignty-reducing international treaties).

When people divide up money, or any other kind of reward, equality is just a special case of the broader principle of proportionality. When a few members of a group contributed far more than the others—or, even more powerfully, when a few contributed nothing—most adults do not want to see the benefits distributed equally.

The current triggers of the Fairness foundation vary depending on a group’s size and on many historical and economic circumstances. In a large industrial society with a social safety net, the current triggers are likely to include people who rely upon the safety net for more than an occasional lifesaving bounce.

The various moralities found on the political left tend to rest most strongly on the Care/harm and Liberty/oppression foundations.

Libertarians care about liberty almost to the exclusion of all other concerns, and their conception of liberty is the same as that of the Republicans: it is the right to be left alone, free from government interference.

But conservatives care more, and they rely on the Fairness foundation more heavily—once fairness is restricted to proportionality.

Conservatives, for example, think it’s self-evident that responses to crime should be based on proportionality, as shown in slogans such as “Do the crime, do the time,” and “Three strikes and you’re out.” Yet liberals are often uncomfortable with the negative side of karma—retribution… After all, retribution causes harm, and harm activates the Care/harm foundation.

Liberal moral matrices rest on the Care/harm, Liberty/oppression, and Fairness/cheating foundations, although liberals are often willing to trade away fairness (as proportionality) when it conflicts with compassion or with their desire to fight oppression. Conservative morality rests on all six foundations, although conservatives are more willing than liberals to sacrifice Care and let some people get hurt in order to achieve their many other moral objectives.

When groups compete, the cohesive, cooperative group usually wins. But within each group, selfish individuals (free riders) come out ahead. They share in the group’s gains while contributing little to its efforts.

Group selection may or may not be common among other animals, but it happens whenever individuals find ways to suppress selfishness and work as a team, in competition with other teams. Group selection creates group-related adaptations. It is not far-fetched, and it should not be a heresy to suggest that this is how we got the groupish overlay that makes up a crucial part of our righteous minds.

I used to believe that there were too many small steps in the evolution of morality to identify one as the Rubicon, but I changed my mind when I heard Michael Tomasello, one of the world’s foremost experts on chimpanzee cognition, utter this sentence: “It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.”

It may sound depressing to think that our righteous minds are basically tribal minds, but consider the alternative. Our tribal minds make it easy to divide us, but without our long period of tribal living there’d be nothing to divide in the first place. There’d be only small families of foragers—not nearly as sociable as today’s hunter-gatherers—eking out a living and losing most of their members to starvation during every prolonged drought.

What was their secret? We’ll probably never know, but let’s imagine that 95 percent of the food on Earth magically disappears tonight, guaranteeing that almost all of us will starve to death within two months. Law and order collapse. Chaos and mayhem ensue. Who among us will still be alive a year from now? Will it be the biggest, strongest, and most violent individuals in each town? Or will it be the people who manage to work together in groups to monopolize, hide, and share the remaining food supplies among themselves? Now imagine starvations like that occurring every few centuries, and think about what a few such events would do to the human gene pool.

Increase similarity, not diversity. To make a human hive, you want to make everyone feel like a family.

Exploit synchrony. People who move together are saying, “We are one, we are a team; just look how perfectly we are able to do that Tomasello shared-intention thing.”

Create healthy competition among teams, not individuals.

When I began writing The Happiness Hypothesis, I believed that happiness came from within, as Buddha and the Stoic philosophers said thousands of years ago. You’ll never make the world conform to your wishes, so focus on changing yourself and your desires. But by the time I finished writing, I had changed my mind: Happiness comes from between. It comes from getting the right relationships between yourself and others, yourself and your work, and yourself and something larger than yourself.

A college football game is a superb analogy for religion. From a naive perspective, focusing only on what is most visible (i.e., the game being played on the field), college football is an extravagant, costly, wasteful institution that impairs people’s ability to think rationally while leaving a long trail of victims (including the players themselves, plus the many fans who suffer alcohol-related injuries). But from a sociologically informed perspective, it is a religious rite that does just what it is supposed to do: it pulls people up from Durkheim’s lower level (the profane) to his higher level (the sacred).

But trying to understand the persistence and passion of religion by studying beliefs about God is like trying to understand the persistence and passion of college football by studying the movements of the ball. You’ve got to broaden the inquiry. You’ve got to look at the ways that religious beliefs work with religious practices to create a religious community.

Atran and Henrich argue that the cultural evolution of religion has been driven largely by competition among groups. Groups that were able to put their by-product gods to some good use had an advantage over groups that failed to do so, and so their ideas (not their genes) spread. Groups with less effective religions didn’t necessarily get wiped out; often they just adopted the more effective variations. So it’s really the religions that evolved, not the people or their genes.

In other words, the very ritual practices that the New Atheists dismiss as costly, inefficient, and irrational turn out to be a solution to one of the hardest problems humans face: cooperation without kinship. Irrational beliefs can sometimes help the group function more rationally, particularly when those beliefs rest upon the Sanctity foundation. Sacredness binds people together, and then blinds them to the arbitrariness of the practice.

Studies of charitable giving in the United States show that people in the least religious fifth of the population give just 1.5 percent of their money to charity. People in the most religious fifth (based on church attendance, not belief) give a whopping 7 percent of their income to charity, and the majority of that giving is to religious organizations.

Whether you believe in hell, whether you pray daily, whether you are a Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Mormon … none of these things correlated with generosity. The only thing that was reliably and powerfully associated with the moral benefits of religion was how enmeshed people were in relationships with their co-religionists. It’s the friendships and group activities, carried out within a moral matrix that emphasizes selflessness. That’s what brings out the best in people.

Societies that forgo the exoskeleton of religion should reflect carefully on what will happen to them over several generations. We don’t really know, because the first atheistic societies have only emerged in Europe in the last few decades. They are the least efficient societies ever known at turning resources (of which they have a lot) into offspring (of which they have few).

But if you take a Durkheimian approach to religion (focusing on belonging) and a Darwinian approach to morality (involving multilevel selection), you get a very different picture. You see that religious practices have been binding our ancestors into groups for tens of thousands of years. That binding usually involves some blinding—once any person, book, or principle is declared sacred, then devotees can no longer question it or think clearly about it.

Whether you end up on the right or the left of the political spectrum turns out to be just as heritable as most other traits: genetics explains between a third and a half of the variability among people on their political attitudes. Being raised in a liberal or conservative household accounts for much less.

Even though the effects of any single gene are tiny, these findings are important because they illustrate one sort of pathway from genes to politics: the genes (collectively) give some people brains that are more (or less) reactive to threats, and that produce less (or more) pleasure when exposed to novelty, change, and new experiences. These are two of the main personality factors that have consistently been found to distinguish liberals and conservatives.

On the day they were born, the sister was not predestined to vote for Obama; the brother was not guaranteed to become a Republican. But their different sets of genes gave them different first drafts of their minds, which led them down different paths, through different life experiences, and into different moral subcultures. By the time they reach adulthood they have become very different people whose one point of political agreement is that they must not talk about politics when the sister comes home for the holidays.

When asked to account for the development of their own religious faith and moral beliefs, conservatives underscored deep feelings about respect for authority, allegiance to one’s group, and purity of the self, whereas liberals emphasized their deep feelings regarding human suffering and social fairness.

When I speak to liberal audiences about the three “binding” foundations—Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity—I find that many in the audience don’t just fail to resonate; they actively reject these concerns as immoral. Loyalty to a group shrinks the moral circle; it is the basis of racism and exclusion, they say. Authority is oppression. Sanctity is religious mumbo-jumbo whose only function is to suppress female sexuality and justify homophobia.

The results were clear and consistent. Moderates and conservatives were most accurate in their predictions, whether they were pretending to be liberals or conservatives. Liberals were the least accurate, especially those who described themselves as “very liberal.” The biggest errors in the whole study came when liberals answered the Care and Fairness questions while pretending to be conservatives. When faced with questions such as “One of the worst things a person could do is hurt a defenseless animal” or “Justice is the most important requirement for a society,” liberals assumed that conservatives would disagree.

But modern conservatism, Muller asserts, finds its origins within the main currents of Enlightenment thinking, when men such as David Hume and Edmund Burke tried to develop a reasoned, pragmatic, and essentially utilitarian critique of the Enlightenment project. Here’s the line that quite literally floored me: What makes social and political arguments conservative as opposed to orthodox is that the critique of liberal or progressive arguments takes place on the enlightened grounds of the search for human happiness based on the use of reason.

In fact, we can define moral capital as the resources that sustain a moral community. More specifically, moral capital refers to the degree to which a community possesses interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, and technologies that mesh well with evolved psychological mechanisms and thereby enable the community to suppress or regulate selfishness and make cooperation possible.

A commune that valued self-expression over conformity and that prized the virtue of tolerance over the virtue of loyalty might be more attractive to outsiders, and this could indeed be an advantage in recruiting new members, but it would have lower moral capital than a commune that valued conformity and loyalty. The stricter commune would be better able to suppress or regulate selfishness, and would therefore be more likely to endure.

You can see this fork in the road by looking at the liberal moral matrix (figure 12.2).

But liberals in 1900 who relied more heavily on the Liberty foundation—those who felt the bite of restrictions on their liberty most keenly—refused to follow (see figure 12.3).

At, we have found that social conservatives have the broadest set of moral concerns, valuing all six foundations relatively equally (figure 12.4)

On issue after issue, it’s as though liberals are trying to help a subset of bees (which really does need help) even if doing so damages the hive. Such “reforms” may lower the overall welfare of a society, and sometimes they even hurt the very victims liberals were trying to help.

Other structural changes that might reduce Manichaeism include changing the ways that primary elections are run, the ways that electoral districts are drawn, and the ways that candidates raise money for their campaigns.

Morality binds and blinds. This is not just something that happens to people on the other side. We all get sucked into tribal moral communities. We circle around sacred values and then share post hoc arguments about why we are so right and they are so wrong. We think the other side is blind to truth, reason, science, and common sense, but in fact everyone goes blind when talking about their sacred objects.

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