Morality binds people into groups. It gives us tribalism, it gives us genocide, war, and politics. But it also gives us heroism, altruism, and sainthood.
When you hear someone criticize a policy on the other side, that's fine. But when you start hearing motive-mongering and demonization, stand up to it just as you would if it were something that was racist or sexist. If we avoid the demonization, disagreements can be positive.
It really is a fact that liberals are much higher than conservatives on a major personality trait called 'openness to experience.' People who are high on openness to experience just crave novelty, variety, diversity, new ideas, travel. People low on it like things that are familiar, that are safe and dependable.
I think Republicans need to take income inequality more seriously. Not because I favor equality of outcomes. I do not. I think the Right is correct to stress merit and earned rewards, not handouts and forced equality. But I think what Republicans are blind to is that power corrupts.
Trying to run Congress without human relationships is like trying to run a car without motor oil. Should we be surprised when the whole thing freezes up?
People can believe pretty much whatever they want to believe about moral and political issues, as long as some other people near them believe it, so you have to focus on indirect methods to change what people want to believe.
Liberals tend to be much more concerned about business and corporations as the oppressors. They look to government as the solution. On the Right it's the opposite. They see business as good, as what generates wealth in society, and they see government as the oppressor, which makes it hard for especially small businesspeople.
Anytime we're interacting with someone, we're judging them, we're sharing expectations, we think they didn't live up to those expectations.
My early research - I'm a social psychologist, and my early research was on how people make moral judgments. When I entered the field in 1987, everybody was looking at moral reasoning - how do kids reason about a moral dilemma? Should a guy steal a drug to save his wife's life?
In accounts of men in battle, there is an incredible adrenaline rush from group-versus-group conflict. The fervor and passion of partisans is clearly rewarding; and if it's rewarding, it involves dopamine; and if it involves dopamine, then it is potentially addictive.
The most important thing to realize is we're not blank slates at birth. We don't start off with nothing in our heads, and then get imprinted entirely by our environment. There's something in our heads on the day we're born, and then we grow up and make choices.
When I think about life on Earth, there should not be a species like us. And if there was, we should be out in the jungle killing each other in small groups. That's what you should expect.
While it is useful to rebut charges and get your arguments out in circulation, you have to understand that arguments and evidence have little impact on people as long as their feelings tilt them against you.
When I began my work on how morality varies across the political spectrum, there was a partisan, manipulative element to it. I wanted to help the Democrats win.
Even if you have a brain predisposed to liberalism, you might end up with some conservative friends or find inspiring conservative role models who could be very influential on you, and that could send you down a different track in life.
I began graduate school in the late 1980s, and my goal was to understand how morality varied across cultures and nations. I did some research comparing moral judgment in India and the U.S.A.
Liberals have difficulty understanding the Tea Party because they think it is a bunch of selfish racists. But I think the Tea Party is driven in large part by concerns about fairness.
Social conservatives are very focused on strengthening the family, and I think they are right to do so. One of the worst blind spots of the Left has been its reluctance to say that marriage matters for children.
On the religious Right and religious people in general have the feeling that the world is not just material, the world is not just there for us to do what we want with. That our bodies, things have an immaterial essence, a spiritual essence that God is in all of us.
Conservatives tend to see the world more in terms of good-versus-evil and, for some of them, the nightmare is a disarmed citizenry that can be preyed upon by criminals. They know that having a gun in the house would increase the risk of an accident for a member of their family, but they're willing to take that risk.