37 pages 1 hour read

Jonathan Haidt

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

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2012

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Symbols & Motifs

The Rider

Haidt describes the rational part of the individual mind as “the rider.” The rider can steer the elephant (the feeling part of the brain) that it sits atop in certain directions. It is capable of offering complex explanations. More than anything, the rider exists to serve the elephant.

The Elephant

Haidt envisions the instinctual part of the human mind as an elephant. It is larger than a horse and intelligent in its own right. This part of the brain has been hardwired to respond to certain moral triggers. The elephant makes judgments in a flash, based on the activation of these triggers. The elephant decides. The rider explains.

The Press Secretary

Because the elephant part of the mind makes the decisions, the rider must explain them. Oftentimes, this can be accomplished easily enough by tapping into commonplace rational arguments. Other times, the rider is stuck inventing reasons that support the elephant. The rider then is like a press secretary who must explain a president’s actions or decisions no matter how the press secretary feels about them.