Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at NYU Stern Business School. His bestselling books focus on the causes of political polarisation and the pernicious effects of social media on children.

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Jonathan Haidt's Biography

Jonathan Haidt is one of the world's leading social psychologists. His recent work focuses on cancel culture and declining mental health in Gen Z and Millennial demographics.

Haidt's first big contribution to the field was his 2012 book The Righteous MindHe argues moral judgements arise from gut feelings rather than rational thought. Instead of grappling with an issue and arriving at an opinion, we seek to justify what we already instinctively believe. It helps explains why modern political debate is often futile with conservatives and liberals already entrenched in their respective camps.

This political theme continued in his 2015 book The Coddling of the American Mindwhich Haidt co-authored with Greg Lukianoff. They wrote the book in response to increasing incidences of no-platforming on US college campuses. This involved guest speakers being shouted down for holding what students deemed unacceptable viewpoints. Haidt and Lukianoff argue it's a result of changing education that emphasises feelings and protects children from anything that challenges those feelings. Nefarious cultural developments have also seen political positions framed as moral ones, turning debate into a battle between good and evil.

Seeking to protect children and students with so-called safe spaces produces adults lacking resilience. Haidt attacks this culture of safetyism in his latest work The Anxious Generation. In the 2024 book he argues that it's given way to phone-based childhoods. We've grown increasingly afraid of children's autonomy in the real world while giving them free reign in this new virtual world. Haidt argues that parents and schools need to entrust children with greater independence while being much tougher on smartphone usage.

Jonathan Haidt is actively engaged in putting this philosophy into practice. He is a founding member of LetGrow, which advocates for freeing children from overprotection and fostering resilience in the face of adversity. A compelling speaker, his highly popular TED talks have tackled topics such as political polarisation, religion and healing fractured societies.

Aside from his writing, teaching and speaking, Haidt is also co-founder of HeterodoxAcademy, an initiative aimed at promoting viewpoint diversity in universities. He works with Alison Taylor on EthicalSystems, which explores the intersection of capitalism and morality.

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