Jonathan Haidt Amends Moral Foundations Theory to Include Hamilton
Influential social psychologist Dr. Jonathan Haidt gave a Ted Talk last Friday in which he discussed a new addition to his moral foundations theory.
Moral foundations theory, as Dr. Haidt describes it, is a theory which postulates that morality is made up of several foundations and that there are individual differences in how these foundations inform our ethics and politics. In the past, Dr. Haidt has argued for the existence of six foundations: care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty. But towards the end of his Ted Talk, he proposed a radical seventh foundation.
“We cannot hope to understand the complexity of human morality unless we include Hamilton as one of our moral foundations,” said Dr. Haidt. “Previously, we believed that liberals were most sensitive to the care, fairness, and liberty foundations, while conservatives cared about all foundations more or less equally. But our recent anthropological field research has shown that not care, fairness, or liberty, but Hamilton is the greatest predictor of liberal morality.”
Dr. Haidt went on to describe how he has been able to apply this finding in his moral psychology lab.
“Up until recently, when I wanted to see whether someone was a liberal or conservative I would ask them if they considered incest permissible. But now I just ask them what their favourite song from Hamilton is, and if they can answer that question their political orientation is obvious.”
To end his talk, Dr. Haidt told the audience he had recently received a major research grant which he would put toward studying whether recognizing songs from Billy Elliot is predictive of support for the British Labour party.
NOTES: Moral foundations theory is a theory of morality that says there are multiple foundations of morality (care, fairness, loyalty, authority, sanctity, and liberty). Hamilton is a popular rap-musical about the American Revolution.