Jonathan Haidt
Jonathan Haidt 2012 03.jpg
Haidt in 2012
Jonathan David Haidt

(1963-10-19) October 19, 1963 (age 59)
EducationYale University (BA)
University of Pennsylvania (MA, PhD)
Known for
Scientific career
FieldsSocial psychology, moral psychology, positive psychology, cultural psychology
InstitutionsUniversity of Chicago (1992-1995)
University of Virginia (1995–2011)
Stern School of Business, New York University (current)
ThesisMoral Judgment, Affect, and Culture, or, Is it Wrong to Eat Your Dog? (1992)
Doctoral advisorJonathan Baron, Alan Fiske

Jonathan David Haidt (/ht/; born October 19, 1963) is an American social psychologist and author. He is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at the New York University Stern School of Business.[1] His main areas of study are the psychology of morality and moral emotions.

Haidt's main scientific contributions come from the psychological field of moral foundations theory,[2] which attempts to explain the evolutionary origins of human moral reasoning on the basis of innate, gut feelings rather than logic and reason.[3] The theory was later extended to explain the different moral reasoning and how they relate to political ideology, with different political orientations prioritizing different sets of morals.[4] The research served as a foundation for future books on various topics.

Haidt has written three books for general audiences: The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) explores the relationship between ancient philosophies and modern science;[5] The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) examines how morality is shaped by emotion and intuition more than by reasoning, and why differing political groups have different notions of right and wrong;[6] and The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), co-written with Greg Lukianoff, explores the rising political polarization and changing culture on college campuses, and its effects on mental health.

Haidt has attracted both support and criticism for his critique of the current state of universities and his interpretation of progressive values.[7] He has been named one of the "top global thinkers" by Foreign Policy magazine, and one of the "top world thinkers" by Prospect magazine.[8][9] He is among the most cited researchers in political and moral psychology, and is considered among the top 25 most influential living psychologists.[10][11]


Haidt is Jewish and was born in New York City, and raised in Scarsdale, New York.[12][13][14] His grandparents were immigrants from Russia and Poland.[15]

Education and career

Haidt received a BA in philosophy from Yale University in 1985, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He then studied cultural psychology at the University of Chicago as a postdoctoral fellow, supervised by Jonathan Baron and Alan Fiske (at the University of Pennsylvania), and cultural anthropologist Richard Shweder (University of Chicago). At Shweder's suggestion, he visited Orissa, India, to continue his research.[16] In 1995, Haidt was hired as an assistant professor at the University of Virginia, where he worked until 2011, winning four awards for teaching, including a statewide award conferred by the Governor of Virginia.[17]

In 1999, Haidt became active in the new field of positive psychology, studying positive moral emotions. This work led to the publication of an edited volume, titled Flourishing, in 2003. In 2004, Haidt began to apply moral psychology to the study of politics, doing research on the psychological foundations of ideology. This work led to the publication in 2012 of The Righteous Mind. Haidt spent the 2007–2008 academic year at Princeton University as the Visiting Professor for Distinguished Teaching.[18]

In 2011, Haidt moved to New York University Stern School of Business as the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership.[19] In 2013, he co-founded Ethical Systems, a non-profit collaboration dedicated to making academic research on ethics widely available to businesses.[20] In 2015, Haidt co-founded Heterodox Academy, a non-profit organization that works to increase viewpoint diversity, mutual understanding, and productive disagreement.[21][self-published source] In 2018, Haidt and Richard Reeves co-edited an illustrated edition of John Stuart Mill's On Liberty, titled All Minus One: John Stuart Mill’s Ideas on Free Speech Illustrated (illustrated by Dave Cicirelli). Haidt's current research applies moral psychology to business ethics.[22]

Research contributions

Haidt speaking at the Miller Center of Public Affairs in Charlottesville (March 19, 2012).
Haidt speaking at the Miller Center of Public Affairs in Charlottesville (March 19, 2012).

Haidt's research on morality has led to publications and theoretical advances in four key areas.[23]

Moral disgust

Main article: Disgust § Morality

Together with Paul Rozin and Clark McCauley, Haidt developed the Disgust Scale,[24] which has been widely used to measure individual differences in sensitivity to disgust.[25] Haidt, Rozin, and McCauley have written on the psychology of disgust as an emotion that began as a guardian of the mouth (against pathogens), but then expanded during biological and cultural evolution to become a guardian of the body more generally, and of the social and moral order.[26]

Moral elevation

Main article: Elevation (emotion)

With Sara Algoe, Haidt argued that exposure to stories about moral beauty (the opposite of moral disgust) cause a common set of responses, including warm, loving feelings, calmness, and a desire to become a better person.[27] Haidt called the emotion moral elevation,[28] as a tribute to Thomas Jefferson, who had described the emotion in detail in a letter discussing the benefits of reading great literature.[29] Feelings of moral elevation cause increases in milk produced during lactation in breastfeeding mothers,[30] suggesting the involvement of the hormone oxytocin. There is now a large body of research on elevation and related emotions.[citation needed]

Social intuitionism

Main article: Social intuitionism

Haidt's principal line of research has been on the nature and mechanisms of moral judgment. In the 1990s, he developed the social intuitionist model, which posits that moral judgment is mostly based on automatic processes—moral intuitions—rather than on conscious reasoning.[31] People engage in reasoning largely to find evidence to support their initial intuitions. Haidt's main paper on the social intuitionist model, "The Emotional Dog and its Rational Tail", has been cited over 7,800 times.[32]

Moral foundations theory

Main article: Moral foundations theory

A simple graphic depicting survey data from the United States intended to support moral foundations theory.
A simple graphic depicting survey data from the United States intended to support moral foundations theory.

In 2004, Haidt began to extend the social intuitionist model to identify what he considered to be the most important categories of moral intuition.[33] The resulting moral foundations theory, co-developed with Craig Joseph and Jesse Graham, and based in part on the writings of Richard Shweder, was intended to explain cross-cultural differences in morality. The theory posited that there are at least five innate moral foundations, upon which cultures develop their various moralities, just as there are five innate taste receptors on the tongue, which cultures have used to create many different cuisines. The five values are:[34]

  1. Care/harm
  2. Fairness/cheating
  3. Loyalty/betrayal
  4. Authority/subversion
  5. Sanctity/degradation.

Haidt and his collaborators asserted that the theory also works well to explain political differences. According to Haidt, liberals tend to endorse primarily the care and fairness foundations, whereas conservatives tend to endorse all foundations more equally.[34] Later, in The Righteous Mind, a sixth foundation, Liberty/oppression, was presented.

"The Elephant and the Rider"

One widely cited metaphor throughout Haidt's books is that of the elephant and the rider. His observations of social intuitionism, the notion that intuitions come first and rationalization second, led to the metaphor described in his work.[35] The rider represents consciously controlled processes, and the elephant represents automatic processes. The metaphor corresponds to Systems 1 and 2 described in Daniel Kahneman's Thinking, Fast and Slow.[36] This metaphor is used extensively in both The Happiness Hypothesis and The Righteous Mind.

Non-academic works

Haidt has authored the following non-academic books for general audiences, related to various subjects in psychology and politics.

The Happiness Hypothesis

Main article: The Happiness Hypothesis

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) draws on ancient philosophical ideas in light of contemporary scientific research to extract potential lessons and how they may apply to everyday life.[37] The book poses "ten Great Ideas" on happiness espoused by philosophers and thinkers of the past — Plato, Marcus Aurelius, Buddha, Jesus, and others — and then considers what modern scientific research has to say regarding these ideas.[38]

The Righteous Mind

Main article: The Righteous Mind

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) draws on Haidt's previous research on moral foundations theory. It argues that moral judgments arise not from logical reason, but from gut feelings, asserting that liberals, conservatives, and libertarians have different intuitions about right and wrong because they prioritize different values.

The Coddling of the American Mind

Main article: The Coddling of the American Mind

The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure (2018), co-written with Greg Lukianoff, expands on an essay the authors wrote for The Atlantic in 2015.[39] The book explores the rising political polarization and changing culture on college campuses and its effects on mental health. It also explores changes in childhood, including the rise of "fearful parenting," the decline of unsupervised play, and the effects of social media in the last decade.[40]

Political views

Haidt describes how he began to study political psychology in order to help the Democratic Party win more elections, and argues that each of the major political groups—conservatives, progressives, and libertarians—have valuable insights and that truth and good policy emerge from the contest of ideas.[41] Since 2012, Haidt has referred to himself as a political centrist.[42][43][44]

Haidt is involved with several efforts to help bridge the political divide and reduce political polarization in the United States. In 2007, he founded the website, a clearinghouse for research on political civility.[45] He serves on the advisory boards of Represent.Us., a non-partisan anti-corruption organization; the Acumen Fund, which invests in companies, leaders, and ideas that are changing the way the world tackles poverty; and, a bipartisan group working to reduce political polarization.

In 2019, Haidt argued that there is a "very good chance American democracy will fail, that in the next 30 years we will have a catastrophic failure of our democracy."[46]


While himself an atheist, Haidt has argued that religion contains psychological wisdom that can promote human flourishing, and that the New Atheists have themselves succumbed to moralistic dogma. These contentions elicited a variety of responses in a 2007 online debate sponsored by the website Edge. PZ Myers praised the first part of Haidt's essay while disagreeing with his criticism of the New Atheists; Sam Harris criticized Haidt for his perceived obfuscation of harms caused by religion; Michael Shermer praised Haidt; and biologist David Sloan Wilson joined Haidt in criticizing the New Atheists for dismissing the notion that religion is an evolutionary adaptation.[47]

David Mikics of Tablet magazine profiled Haidt as "the high priest of heterodoxy" and praised his work to increase intellectual diversity at universities through Heterodox Academy.[48]

In 2020, Peter Wehner wrote in The Atlantic, "Over the past decade, no one has added more to my understanding of how we think about, discuss, and debate politics and religion than Jonathan Haidt." He added that, "In his own field, in his own way, Jonathan Haidt is trying to heal our divisions and temper some of the hate, to increase our wisdom and understanding, and to urge us to show a bit more compassion toward one another."[49]



Selected articles


  1. ^ "Jonathan Haidt – Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership". NYU Stern.
  2. ^ McNerney, Samuel. "Jonathan Haidt and the Moral Matrix: Breaking Out of Our Righteous Minds". Scientific American. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  3. ^ "The moral matrix that influences the way people vote". The Guardian. November 14, 2016. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  4. ^ Winerman, Lea. "Civil discourse in an uncivil world". American Psychological Association. Retrieved July 25, 2019.
  5. ^ Ott, Jan (February 20, 2007). "Jonathan Haidt, The Happiness Hypothesis; Putting Ancient Wisdom to the Test of Modern Science". Journal of Happiness Studies. 8 (2): 297. doi:10.1007/s10902-007-9049-2.
  6. ^ Saletan, William (March 23, 2012). "'The Righteous Mind,' by Jonathan Haidt". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  7. ^ Henriques, Gregg (January 1, 2012). "Jonathan Haidt's Moral-Political Psychology". Psychology Today. Retrieved December 20, 2018.
  8. ^ "The FP Top 100 Global Thinkers". Foreign Policy. November 26, 2012.
  9. ^ "World Thinkers 2013". Prospect. April 24, 2013.
  10. ^ "The 50 Most Influential Living Psychologists in the World". January 8, 2018. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  11. ^ "Citations – Jonathan Haidt". Google Scholar. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  12. ^ By George Eaton 2 January 2019 New Statesman
  13. ^ Jenkins Jr, Holman W. (June 29, 2012). "Jonathan Haidt: He Knows Why We Fight" – via
  14. ^ "Transcript for Jonathan Haidt – The Psychology Behind Morality". On Being. June 12, 2014. Archived from the original on June 17, 2015.
  15. ^ "Jonathan Haidt — The Psychology of Self-Righteousness". The On Being Project. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  16. ^ Wade, Nicholas (September 18, 2007). "Is 'Do Unto Others' Written Into Our Genes?". New York Times. Retrieved July 21, 2019.
  17. ^ "Governor Warner Announces TIAA-CREF Virginia Outstanding Faculty Awards Recipients for 2004". State Council of Higher Education for Virginia. January 21, 2004. Archived from the original on May 1, 2007. Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People, Particularly Intellectuals, Are Divided by Politics – An America's Founding and Future Lecture". Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  19. ^ "NYU Stern – Jonathan Haidt – Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership". Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  20. ^ Brockman, John. "Jonathan Haidt, Biography". Edge. Retrieved July 20, 2019.
  21. ^ "Our Story". Heterodox Academy. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  22. ^ Leadership, -Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical. "NYU Stern - Jonathan Haidt - Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership". Retrieved June 18, 2021.
  23. ^ Caldow, Stephanie (January 28, 2019). "Jonathan Haidt: The Contributions of a Moral Psychologist". Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  24. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; McCauley, Clark; Rozin, Paul (1994). "Individual Differences In Sensitivity To Disgust: A Scale Sampling Seven Domains Of Disgust Elicitors" (PDF). Personality and Individual Differences. 16 (5): 7111–713. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(94)90212-7. Retrieved July 15, 2019.
  25. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; McCauley, Clark; Rozin, Paul (May 1, 1994). "Individual differences in sensitivity to disgust: A scale sampling seven domains of disgust elicitors". Personality and Individual Differences. 16 (5): 701–713. doi:10.1016/0191-8869(94)90212-7. ISSN 0191-8869.
  26. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Rozin, Paul; McCauley, Clark; Imada, Sumio (1997). "Body, Psyche, and Culture: The Relationship Between Disgust and Morality". Psychology & Developing Societies. 9 (1): 107–131. doi:10.1177/097133369700900105. S2CID 144762306.
  27. ^ Algoe, Sara B. and Jonathan Haidt. 2009. "Witnessing excellence in action: The 'other-praising' emotions of elevation, gratitude, and admiration." Journal of Positive Psychology 4:105–27.
  28. ^ Haidt, Jonathan. 2003. "Elevation and the positive psychology of morality." Pp. 275–89 in Flourishing: Positive Psychology and the Life Well-lived, edited by C. L. M. Keyes and J. Haidt. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
  29. ^ Jefferson, Thomas. [1771] 1975. "Letter to Robert Skipwith." Pp. 349–51 in The Portable Thomas Jefferson, edited by M. D. Peterson. New York: Penguin.
  30. ^ Silvers, J., and Jonathan Haidt. 2008. "Moral elevation causes lactation." Emotion 8:291–95.
  31. ^ Liao, Matthew (2011). Liao S.M. (2011) Bias and Reasoning: Haidt's Theory of Moral Judgment. Palgrave Macmillan, London. pp. 108–127. doi:10.1057/9780230305885_7. ISBN 978-0-230-30588-5. S2CID 146369020.
  32. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (2001). "The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment" (PDF). Psychological Review. 4 (108): 814–34. doi:10.1037/0033-295X.108.4.814. PMID 11699120. S2CID 2252549.
  33. ^ Haidt, Jonathan; Joseph, Craig (2004). "Intuitive ethics: How innately prepared intuitions generate culturally variable virtues". Daedalus. 133 (4): 55–66. doi:10.1162/0011526042365555. JSTOR 20027945. S2CID 1574243.
  34. ^ a b Graham, Jesse; Haidt, Jonathan; Nosek, Brian A. (2009). "Liberals and conservatives rely on different sets of moral foundations". Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. American Psychological Association. 96 (5): 1029–46. doi:10.1037/a0015141. ISSN 1939-1315. PMID 19379034. S2CID 2715121.
  35. ^ McNerney, Samuel. "Jonathan Haidt and the Moral Matrix: Breaking Out of Our Righteous Minds". Scientific American (blogs). Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  36. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (October 7, 2012). "Reasons Matter (When Intuitions Don't Object)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 2, 2013.
  37. ^ Flint, James (July 22, 2006). "Don't worry, be happy". The Guardian. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  38. ^ Carter, Christine. "Book Review: The Happiness Hypothesis". Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  39. ^ Lukianoff, Greg; Haidt, Jonathan (September 2015). "The Coddling of the American Mind". The Atlantic. Retrieved October 18, 2022.((cite web)): CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  40. ^ Singal, Jesse (September 26, 2018). "How 'Coddled' Are American College Students, Anyway?". New York Magazine. Retrieved July 18, 2019.
  41. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. Pantheon Books. pp. 343–361. ISBN 978-0307455772.
  42. ^ Jonathan Haidt [@JonHaidt] (January 23, 2018). "huh? I have never been right of center. I have never voted for a republican, nor given a dollar to a conservative candidate or cause. I am a centrist, a JS Mill liberal, who is now politically homeless" (Tweet). Retrieved July 27, 2020 – via Twitter.
  43. ^ Goldman, Andrew, interviewer. July 27, 2012. "A Liberal Learns To Compete." The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2020.
  44. ^ Weiss, Bari (April 1, 2017). "Jonathan Haidt on The Cultural Roots of Campus Rage". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved July 7, 2017.
  45. ^ Saletan, William (March 23, 2012). "'The Righteous Mind,' by Jonathan Haidt". The New York Times. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  46. ^ Kelly, Paul. "America's Uncivil War on Democracy". The Australian. Retrieved July 20, 2019. Access by subscription only (February 2021).
  47. ^ Haidt, Jonathan (September 21, 2007). "Moral Psychology and the Misunderstanding of Religion". Retrieved July 19, 2019.
  48. ^ Mikics, David (July 21, 2019). "The High Priest of Heterodoxy". The Tablet. Retrieved October 30, 2019.
  49. ^ Wehner, Peter (May 24, 2020). "Jonathan Haidt Is Trying to Heal America's Divisions". The Atlantic. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  50. ^ Aaronovitch, David (August 18, 2018). "Review: The Coddling of the American Mind by Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt – how we raised Generation Snowflake". The Times. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  51. ^ Iyer, Ravi, Spassena Koleva, Jesse Graham, Peter Ditto, and Jonathan Haidt. 2012. "Understanding Libertarian morality: The psychological dispositions of self-identified libertarians." PLoS ONE 7(8):e42366. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0042366.
  52. ^ Duarte, José L., Jarret T. Crawford, Charlotta Stern, Jonathan Haidt, Lee Jussim, and Philip E. Tetlock. 2015. "Ideological diversity will improve psychological science." Behavioral and Brain Sciences 38:e130. doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000430.