Haidt's Surveys

Dr. Jonathan Haidt has a new book out, which Cassandra has recommended to me highly -- I have not had time as yet! -- and which is beginning to make ripples in the community.  You may have seen the Hot Air piece on how conservatives understand liberals better than liberals understand conservatives; or the New York magazine piece with the amusing illustrations that was featured on the always-interesting Arts & Letters Daily.

Dr. Haidt has updated his online quizzes, which you may enjoy taking for fun or edification; or just to help see the point he's trying to make.  I was pleased to score perfectly on the scientific knowledge quiz, for example; it's not hard, and I expect all of you will do likewise.  Both liberals and conservatives average over six out of seven total points.

The point he is making that gets the most attention comes from his "Sacredness Survey," where he's pushing the argument that conservatives and liberals share three value systems (fairness, avoidance of harm, and purity), but that conservatives have two more (authority and in-group loyalty).

I learn from this survey that Haidt's model ranks me as considering all but one of these values considerably more sacred than is normal for either liberals or conservatives; the exception is authority, for which I apparently have almost no respect whatsoever.

That helps me to understand Dr. Haidt's point, but it shows me that he doesn't quite understand my way of thinking about things.  I have a great deal of respect for legitimate authority; but I run it in with in-group loyalty. That is to say, my view of legitimate authority is that it arises from a mutual and reciprocal bond of loyalty.  Lacking such a bond, there is no legitimate authority.  This is because authority must be earned and deserved.

You'll find the surveys interesting, and perhaps illuminating.  I also have it on good authority that Cassandra will be writing about this book soon, so you'll get a head start on your homework!


Texan99 said...

I was amused by this in the New York piece: "Such thinking would threaten the pieties of both left and right. Conservatives might have to adjust to a world in which few human failings could be fully blamed on cultural decline. At the same time, the liberal mind would be forced to rethink its posture toward ­cultural backwardness, and decide whether it ought to treat illiberal attributes like intolerance and racism as part of human nature." That sounds like a liberal's summing up of his own peculiar view of the pieties that motivate liberals and conservatives. For myself, at least, I don't blame human failings on cultural decline. I blame cultural decline for aspects of our society that are putting needless roadblocks between us and success, but (being a conservative) I blame human failings on the humans who failed; as a result, I'm inclined to let them live with the consequences of failure, within limits. As for the idea that liberals are engaged in a grand struggle to eliminate "cultural backwardness" in the form of intolerance and racism, I just scoff.

A conservative would be more likely to sum up the characteristic pieties like this. Conservatives want people to be as free as possible to make their own choices, but to be required to live with their consequences (as Cass was saying). Liberals are more inclined to believe that circumstances beyond our control are more important determinants of our results than are our own choices, so society should pitch in and help out whenever those results aren't optimal.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

I love Haidt, but have been railing against a couple of his points for at least two years. Here's the thing: he has changed one of them, more to my way of thinking. (I would love to think I had something to do with that, but the odds are remote.) He did not formerly have purity as a liberal value, but has become convinced over time that it is (see environmentalism, for example.) The man can learn and change, which is frankly, better than most of us can say about ourselves.

Cass said...

He doesn't completely understand conservatism, but he gets closest to it of anyone I've seen on the prog side.

I also think he's dead on right about the need for balance. Both world views have blind spots.

Conservatives look at modern society and take for granted that aspects fought for by liberals would somehow have spontaneously occurred without their efforts. I think that's arrant nonsense.

Liberals do the same thing in reverse: they look at aspects attributable to conservative values and efforts and assume that if we just didn't worry about those things, we'd still enjoy the benefits.

More and more, I'm seeing that both sides tie themselves into rhetorical pretzels trying to justify their positions or score points on the other side. But arguments that do violence to the values we claim (on either side) to revere are suspect on the merits.

Ymar Sakar said...

It's not hard to understand the enemy when the enemy's own rank and file generals and spies defect and explain what has been really going on.