NYU social psychologist Jonathan Haidt points out that there are six foundations of human morality, all rooted in evolutionary history, all based on intuition:
- Care/harm — rooted in our attachment systems as mammals.
- Fairness/cheating — rooted in the psychology of reciprocal altruism.
- Loyalty/betrayal — rooted in our tribal history.
- Authority/subversion — rooted in primate hierarchy.
- Sanctity/degradation — rooted in our psychology of disgust.
- Liberty/oppression — similar to Care/harm, but specifically describes our psychology of resentment.
This is how our brains were shaped by evolution, but people and societies vary in which moral foundations they resonate with. Self-described political liberals strongly resonate with Care/harm and Liberty/oppression, while political conservatives tend to resonate with all six, including Loyalty/betrayal. A liberal is strongly offended when individual rights are repressed; a conservative is strongly offended when a nation is betrayed.
And so at this point in our history we’re utterly confused about what our National Anthem is for. It means different things to people depending on how their brains are structured, and social media lets us each create a tribe of people who have similarly-structured brains.
In our current political climate it’s nearly impossible to have a nuanced conversation about this; it’s much easier to pick sides, even though those sides are talking past one another.
[The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team plays England today at 3 p.m. in a historic semifinal match in the World Cup.]