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Jonathan Haidt: The Psychology of Partisanship & Ethical Leadership

To understand America’s widening partisan divide, it is critical to understand how human psychology is shaped by a sense of tribalism, says Jonathan Haidt, social psychologist and professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU Stern School of Business. In this discussion, Haidt explains how confirmation bias contributes to political divisiveness from Capitol Hill to college campuses, as winning arguments is prioritized over finding common ground.

On explaining confirmation bias behind the political divide: “We don't look to disconfirm. We always look to confirm what we believe and that's the case when there's no real motive. There's no real benefit. But now when you have political disagreements and our team is fighting your team and we can't give you an inch, we are all incredibly motivated to confirm our beliefs and to disconfirm yours.”   

On using social psychology to bring people together: “If you want to change people's minds, you have to speak to their ‘elephant first’ is the metaphor. If you think about the mind as a little rider, which conscious reasoning, on top of a gigantic elephant, which is all the other stuff going on in your mind. If you're just giving your argument to the rider, you're not going to change anybody, but if you can reach in and change someone's heart, you can touch their heart, then they change.”  

On building an ethical corporate culture: “Are we thinking long term or is our incentive system pushing people to go short term? Almost all of us are ethical. We want to be ethical and if you get people thinking long term with pride in their group then it’s actually quite easy.”