This past weekend, someone tweeted a link for a YouTube video (of a TEDTalk) that I was surprised I hadn’t seen. It was a rather interesting video that claims to isolate the differences between Liberals and Conservatives. Based on research, the presenter related morals to politics. This was different from the way George Lakoff wrote about morals and politics, but similar.
The presenter, Jonathan Haidt, spoke about 5 different channels for moralism: Harm, Fairness, Authority, In-Group, and Purity. The idea is that depending on one’s political leaning, they will rate these 5 different pieces of morality differently. Specifically, those with a liberal-leaning will rate harm and fairness much higher than authority, in-group, or purity. While conservative-leaning folks will rate all five pieces about the same. To differentiate liberals from conservatives then, Haidt distinguishes Liberals as having 2 channels of morality (harm and fairness), while Conservatives have 5.
This is not saying that conservatives are more moral than liberals, no. It is just saying that these two ideologies are channeling their morality to different areas. In fact, when you watch the video, you’ll see that there are even slight difference between nations. The graph that Hadit shows stays relatively the same, except the slope (from liberal to conservative) is slightly steeper (than the US) for different countries.
In giving this presentation to TED, one of Haidt’s main arguments was that we often tend to be around those who think like us. So, if you’re a conservative, you probably have more conservative friends than you do liberal friends (if any at all). Likewise if you’re a liberal. The problem with this is that we could learn so much from each other, especially those that think different from us. It is monumentally important that we have people in our workgroups that can see things differently from us (with some exceptions, of course).
It might not seem easy, but it can really expand your awareness. If your a conservative, I challenge you to have a conversation with your friend who is a liberal about something happening in the world (that you’re pretty sure that your point of view is the “right” one). Likewise, if you’re a liberal, I challenge you to seek out someone who has a conservative ideology and talk to them about something in the news (that you’re pretty sure your point of view is the “right” one). Before you begin your conversation, I’d encourage you to set aside your beliefs about the “other” ideology, but maybe more importantly, suspend your opinion about the topic you’re about to discuss.
If you go in assuming that your answer is the right one, you should know that there’s research that suggests you won’t even hear what the other person has to say. Meaning, when the other person starts talking about things that are contrary to your beliefs, your brain won’t take in what they are saying. Our beliefs can be very powerful and unfortunately, can restrict us from taking in new ideas. Knowing this, I would encourage you to suspend your beliefs. Consider your beliefs, loosely, ideas. It’s much easier to change an idea than it is a belief.