Jonathan Haidt is the American social psychologist, author, and Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions, and he is the author of more than 90 academic articles, and three books, including “The Happiness Hypothesis.” Jonathan Haidt has been named one of the world’s “Top 50 Thinkers” and his latest work “The Coddling of the American Mind” is already a New York Times best-seller which explains how good intentions and bad ideas are setting up a generation for failure.
Born on October 19, 1963, in New York City, Jonathan Haidt’s academic journey laid the foundation for his groundbreaking work in psychology. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy from Yale University in 1985 and went on to complete his Ph.D. in Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Haidt’s academic pursuits have taken him to various institutions, and he currently holds the position of Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business.
One of Jonathan Haidt’s most influential contributions to the field of psychology is the development of the Moral Foundations Theory. Alongside Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, Haidt proposed that morality is not solely based on harm and fairness, as traditionally believed, but is instead shaped by multiple innate and culturally influenced moral foundations. These foundations include harm/care, fairness/reciprocity, in-group loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity.
This theory has provided a more comprehensive framework for understanding the diversity of moral values across cultures and individuals. Haidt argues that these foundations shape our moral intuitions and guide our judgments, shedding light on the deep-seated psychological underpinnings of human morality.
Jonathan Haidt’s influential book, “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion” (2012), expands on the Moral Foundations Theory and delves into the psychological underpinnings of moral and political divides. In the book, Haidt explores how moral intuitions drive political and religious convictions, leading individuals to perceive the world through different moral lenses. He emphasises the importance of understanding diverse moral foundations to bridge the gap between people with differing ideologies.
In addition to his work on morality, Jonathan Haidt has engaged in political psychology, examining the psychological factors that contribute to political polarisation and ideological conflicts. Through research and writings, he has explored the role of moral psychology in shaping political attitudes and behaviours.Haidt’s approach is characterised by a commitment to understanding and respecting diverse perspectives, even those that differ from his own. His efforts to promote intellectual humility and bridge ideological gaps have earned him recognition for his contributions to fostering constructive dialogue in a divided society.
Beyond his academic contributions, Jonathan Haidt is actively involved in advocacy for open inquiry and viewpoint diversity within academic institutions. He co-founded the Heterodox Academy, an organisation dedicated to promoting intellectual diversity in academia and creating an environment where a variety of perspectives can be freely expressed and debated.
Haidt’s engagement extends to the public sphere through speaking engagements, podcasts, and media appearances where he shares his insights on moral psychology, ethics, and the challenges of navigating contemporary societal issues.
Jonathan Haidt’s work has reshaped the landscape of moral psychology and our understanding of human behaviour. Through the Moral Foundations Theory and his exploration of the roots of moral and political divisions, Haidt has provided valuable insights that extend beyond the realms of academia into public discourse. As a scholar, author, and advocate for intellectual diversity, Haidt continues to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about morality, ethics, and the complexities of the human mind.