Last week, Centrist Project Founding Members from across the country gathered together on an exclusive conference call with the renowned social psychologist and author Jonathan Haidt.
Dr. Haidt’s pioneering work in the field of moral psychology has never been more relevant than it is today, and it was fascinating to hear the insights of his research first-hand. By viewing current events through the lens of a social psychologist some of the partisan nonsense we have seen lately begins to make sense.
Take for instance the surge in “fake news” that has occurred over the past few years. How is it possible that people, on both the right and left, believe and share articles on social media that have no basis in reality or facts?
As Haidt explained on the call, the first principal of moral psychology is that “intuition comes first, strategic reasoning comes second...basically meaning that if we want to believe something we will use all of our reasoning abilities to find supporting evidence.”
We all have an inherent confirmation bias that leads us to seek out blogs/videos/speakers that support what we already think. This becomes dangerous when combined with another one of Haidt’s principles that states: “morality binds and blinds.”
Being that humans spent the early years of our evolution in tribal societies it is easy to see how the instinct to find a “tribe” will often manifest itself as a strong identification with a country, sports team, or even a political party. In politics this tribal identification can often bind us to a rigid ideology and blind us to the fact that both sides can have good people that can make good points.
After hearing Haidt explain the foundation of his work, it became clear how America has become so polarized. This begged the question that many Founding Members asked in different forms: how do we fix it ?
Haidt admitted that it won’t be easy, citing numerous data and megatrends. However, he added: “I also know that it’s always been wrong to bet against America, it’s always been a losing proposition.There will be surprises. Even trends such as overpopulation, all sorts of trends that were seen so certain to be baked in, turned out to have been wrong.”
One Member calling from New York asked how we can hope to galvanize a Centrist movement. Dr. Haidt replied “I would just urge you to think beyond mobilizing a large mass movement of passionate people.”
He went on to say about The Centrist Project: “I love the idea of this hack, this way of playing with the system is kind of a jujitsu thing about how you don’t have to have a lot of strength to be able to change the way the system works. So I’d encourage you to keep thinking of ways to make the system work better without having to rival say the Women’s March on Washington or the Tea Party in terms of mobilizing millions and millions of people who are angry and passionate.”
When asked for any parting thoughts towards the end of the call Dr. Haidt left us with: “Just that centrists rule, or at least I wish they did.”
Don’t we all.
To join monthly calls with future guest speakers, join us as a Founding Member today.