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Jonathan Haidt      

Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University, Stern School of Business; Author of NYT Bestseller "The Righteous Mind"

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist who is widely considered to be one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of morality. His early research radically transformed the field, pulling it away from its earlier focus on moral reasoning. Haidt showed that moral intuitions and emotions come first—flashes of gut feelings that people then strive to justify, after the fact. This explains why it is so difficult to win a moral argument with good reasoning. Haidt’s research has helped people to understand those who differ from them morally—not just across nations, but across the political divide within each nation (see In his latest work, he is applying his research on moral psychology to the study of business ethics. He is developing tools and techniques that leaders can use to improve the ethical functioning, trust and ultimately profitability of their companies (see

Haidt earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale University in 1985 and his Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He then did postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India. He was a professor in the department of Psychology at the University of Virginia from 1995 until 2011, when he joined the NYU Stern School of Business.

Haidt has excelled as a teacher and public speaker. He won three teaching awards from the University of Virginia, and one from the governor of Virginia. His three TED talks have been viewed more than 3 million times. He has presented his work at the World Economic Forum, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the British Academy, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts. He was named a “Top 100 Global Thinker” by Foreign Policy magazine in 2012, and one of the 65 “World Thinkers of 2013” by Prospect magazine.

Haidt is the author of more than 90 academic articles and two books. In addition to The Righteous Mind, Haidt is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, about which The Guardian (UK) wrote: “A marvelous book... I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that laid out the contemporary understanding of the human condition with such simple clarity and sense.”

Speech Topics

The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion

Since the "culture wars" began in the 1960's, American politics have been characterized by two sides bitterly and stubbornly locked in a stalemate—Liberals on the left, Republicans on the right. Why does it seem impossible to find bi-partisan solutions? Why do both sides seem more entrenched in their worldviews and policy decisions than ever before. For Jonathan Haidt, the only way to understand the modern political landscape is through the lens of morality. Haidt draws on his extensive research in human morality to reach new conclusions about the struggle between conservatives and liberals. The most important differences aren't about political issues—rather, it is each side's respective understanding of morality. With a timely, optimistic message, Haidt cuts through the rhetoric and presents a fascinating and engaging interpretation of modern politics at this crucial moment.

The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom

What is happiness, and how can you achieve it? We have all asked this question at one time or another. But Jonathan Haidt may have finally answered it. In The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt outlines what he calls "ten great ideas" —strategies, mantras, and concepts originating from several of the world's great civilizations that help us to understand happiness and how to attain it. Analyzing these ideas through scientific research, Haidt breaks down human morality and gives us a look inside our own minds. How can we find ways to overcome our natural self-righteousness? Why is it important to learn from moralities that differ from our own? Haidt answers these questions, and more, in this smart and uplifting talk.

How to Work with Righteous Minds

Why is it so difficult to persuade people, change their minds, or otherwise get them to see things your way? Because the human mind is fundamentally intuitive, not logical. In this talk, Jonathan Haidt presents the three basic principles of moral psychology and shows how they can be used to strengthen relationships, prepare the ground for persuasion, and then persuade. Haidt offers a map of the moral mind, including his research on the six psychological foundations upon which all moral arguments must rest—care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. He teaches you not only how to persuade others, but how to see the faults and flaws in your own views, which is necessary for moral growth.

Politics and Polarization

Why is America so divided and politically dysfunctional? Why are American institutions and religious organizations increasingly torn apart over “culture war” issues such as gay marriage? In this talk, Jonathan Haidt shows how the moral mind is prepared and pre-structured to bind people together into teams that then go blind to the ideas and virtues of their opponents. Haidt presents his own research, based on data from over 300,000 people, to show how liberals (progressives), conservatives and libertarians construct radically different moral “matrices”—networks of values and beliefs—that lead them to radically different views on policy and social issues. This talk can be customized to focus on A) how organizations or countries can reduce moral polarization, B) how to improve political appeals across moral matrices, or C) the unique and nearly unstudied psychology and ideology of libertarians.

Ethical Leadership

It is commonly said that good ethics is good business, but how can a leader put that advice into action—and assure shareholders that he or she is creating long-term value? Jonathan Haidt’s job as the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU Stern is to answer such questions. To do so, he became one of the founding members of the largest collaboration in the world of researchers who study ethics in organizations (visit The researchers at that site have put their minds together to offer advice on everything from ethical leadership to reducing conflicts of interest and accounting fraud. In this talk, Haidt starts by making the business case for a strong commitment to ethics, and then shows you how you can do “ethical systems design”—you can make small changes and “nudges” that will have a big impact on ethical behavior and, in the long run, on trust, cooperation and profitability.

Finding Happiness Using Ancient Wisdom and Modern Psychology

In addition to his work in moral psychology, Jonathan Haidt is one of the leading researchers in the field of positive psychology—the scientific study of human flourishing. His first book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom, is a classic in that field. In this crowd-pleasing talk, Haidt lays out the ideas of the ancients on the causes of human happiness and then applies modern research to identify where the ancients were right, and where they went wrong. It turns out that happiness doesn’t just come from within, or from reducing attachments to the world, as many ancient philosophers advised. For modern people, happiness comes from deep attachments and engagements—with other people, with work and with something larger than themselves.

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