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  • Suppose that two American friends are traveling together in Italy.

  • They go to see Michelangelo's "David,"

  • and when they finally come face to face with the statue,

  • they both freeze dead in their tracks.

  • The first guy -- we'll call him Adam --

  • is transfixed by the beauty of the perfect human form.

  • The second guy -- we'll call him Bill --

  • is transfixed by embarrassment, at staring at the thing there in the center.

  • So here's my question for you:

  • which one of these two guys was more likely to have voted for George Bush,

  • which for Al Gore?

  • I don't need a show of hands

  • because we all have the same political stereotypes.

  • We all know that it's Bill.

  • And in this case, the stereotype corresponds to reality.

  • 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 in 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.

  • If you know about this trait,

  • you can understand a lot of puzzles about human behavior.

  • You can understand why artists are so different from accountants.

  • You can actually predict what kinds of books they like to read,

  • what kinds of places they like to travel to,

  • and what kinds of food they like to eat.

  • Once you understand this trait, you can understand

  • why anybody would eat at Applebee's, but not anybody that you know.

  • (Laughter)

  • This trait also tells us a lot about politics.

  • The main researcher of this trait, Robert McCrae says that,

  • "Open individuals have an affinity for liberal, progressive, left-wing political views" --

  • they like a society which is open and changing --

  • "whereas closed individuals prefer conservative, traditional, right-wing views."

  • This trait also tells us a lot about the kinds of groups people join.

  • So here's the description of a group I found on the Web.

  • What kinds of people would join a global community

  • welcoming people from every discipline and culture,

  • who seek a deeper understanding of the world,

  • and who hope to turn that understanding into a better future for us all?

  • This is from some guy named Ted.

  • (Laughter)

  • Well, let's see now, if openness predicts who becomes liberal,

  • and openness predicts who becomes a TEDster,

  • then might we predict that most TEDsters are liberal?

  • Let's find out.

  • I'm going to ask you to raise your hand, whether you are liberal, left of center --

  • on social issues, we're talking about, primarily --

  • or conservative, and I'll give a third option,

  • because I know there are a number of libertarians in the audience.

  • So, right now, please raise your hand --

  • down in the simulcast rooms, too,

  • let's let everybody see who's here --

  • please raise your hand if you would say that you are liberal or left of center.

  • Please raise your hand high right now. OK.

  • Please raise your hand if you'd say you're libertarian.

  • OK, about a -- two dozen.

  • And please raise your hand if you'd say you are right of center or conservative.

  • One, two, three, four, five -- about eight or 10.

  • OK. This is a bit of a problem.

  • Because if our goal is to understand the world,

  • to seek a deeper understanding of the world,

  • our general lack of moral diversity here is going to make it harder.

  • Because when people all share values, when people all share morals,

  • they become a team, and once you engage the psychology of teams,

  • it shuts down open-minded thinking.

  • When the liberal team loses, as it did in 2004,

  • and as it almost did in 2000, we comfort ourselves.

  • (Laughter)

  • We try to explain why half of America voted for the other team.

  • We think they must be blinded by religion, or by simple stupidity.

  • (Laughter)

  • (Applause)

  • So, if you think that half of America votes Republican

  • because they are blinded in this way,

  • then my message to you is that you're trapped in a moral matrix,

  • in a particular moral matrix.

  • And by the matrix, I mean literally the matrix, like the movie "The Matrix."

  • But I'm here today to give you a choice.

  • You can either take the blue pill and stick to your comforting delusions,

  • or you can take the red pill,

  • learn some moral psychology and step outside the moral matrix.

  • Now, because I know --

  • (Applause) --

  • OK, I assume that answers my question.

  • I was going to ask you which one you picked, but no need.

  • You're all high in openness to experience, and besides,

  • it looks like it might even taste good, and you're all epicures.

  • So anyway, let's go with the red pill.

  • Let's study some moral psychology and see where it takes us.

  • Let's start at the beginning.

  • What is morality and where does it come from?

  • The worst idea in all of psychology

  • is the idea that the mind is a blank slate at birth.

  • Developmental psychology has shown

  • that kids come into the world already knowing so much

  • about the physical and social worlds,

  • and programmed to make it really easy for them to learn certain things

  • and hard to learn others.

  • The best definition of innateness I've ever seen --

  • this just clarifies so many things for me --

  • is from the brain scientist Gary Marcus.

  • He says, "The initial organization of the brain does not depend that much on experience.

  • Nature provides a first draft, which experience then revises.

  • Built-in doesn't mean unmalleable;

  • it means organized in advance of experience."

  • OK, so what's on the first draft of the moral mind?

  • To find out, my colleague, Craig Joseph, and I

  • read through the literature on anthropology,

  • on culture variation in morality

  • and also on evolutionary psychology, looking for matches.

  • What are the sorts of things that people talk about across disciplines?

  • That you find across cultures and even across species?

  • We found five -- five best matches,

  • which we call the five foundations of morality.

  • The first one is harm/care.

  • We're all mammals here, we all have a lot of neural and hormonal programming

  • that makes us really bond with others, care for others,

  • feel compassion for others, especially the weak and vulnerable.

  • It gives us very strong feelings about those who cause harm.

  • This moral foundation underlies about 70 percent

  • of the moral statements I've heard here at TED.

  • The second foundation is fairness/reciprocity.

  • There's actually ambiguous evidence

  • as to whether you find reciprocity in other animals,

  • but the evidence for people could not be clearer.

  • This Norman Rockwell painting is called "The Golden Rule,"

  • and we heard about this from Karen Armstrong, of course,

  • as the foundation of so many religions.

  • That second foundation underlies the other 30 percent

  • of the moral statements I've heard here at TED.

  • The third foundation is in-group/loyalty.

  • You do find groups in the animal kingdom --

  • you do find cooperative groups --

  • but these groups are always either very small or they're all siblings.

  • It's only among humans that you find very large groups of people

  • who are able to cooperate, join together into groups,

  • but in this case, groups that are united to fight other groups.

  • This probably comes from our long history of tribal living, of tribal psychology.

  • And this tribal psychology is so deeply pleasurable

  • that even when we don't have tribes,

  • we go ahead and make them, because it's fun.

  • (Laughter)

  • Sports is to war as pornography is to sex.

  • We get to exercise some ancient, ancient drives.

  • The fourth foundation is authority/respect.

  • Here you see submissive gestures from two members of very closely related species.

  • But authority in humans is not so closely based on power and brutality,

  • as it is in other primates.

  • It's based on more voluntary deference,

  • and even elements of love, at times.

  • The fifth foundation is purity/sanctity.

  • This painting is called "The Allegory Of Chastity,"

  • but purity's not just about suppressing female sexuality.

  • It's about any kind of ideology, any kind of idea

  • that tells you that you can attain virtue

  • by controlling what you do with your body,

  • by controlling what you put into your body.

  • And while the political right may moralize sex much more,

  • the political left is really doing a lot of it with food.

  • Food is becoming extremely moralized nowadays,

  • and a lot of it is ideas about purity,

  • about what you're willing to touch, or put into your body.

  • I believe these are the five best candidates

  • for what's written on the first draft of the moral mind.

  • I think this is what we come with, at least

  • a preparedness to learn all of these things.

  • But as my son, Max, grows up in a liberal college town,

  • how is this first draft going to get revised?

  • And how will it end up being different

  • from a kid born 60 miles south of us in Lynchburg, Virginia?

  • To think about culture variation, let's try a different metaphor.

  • If there really are five systems at work in the mind --

  • five sources of intuitions and emotions --

  • then we can think of the moral mind

  • as being like one of those audio equalizers that has five channels,

  • where you can set it to a different setting on every channel.

  • And my colleagues, Brian Nosek and Jesse Graham, and I,

  • made a questionnaire, which we put up on the Web at www.YourMorals.org.

  • And so far, 30,000 people have taken this questionnaire, and you can too.

  • Here are the results.

  • Here are the results from about 23,000 American citizens.

  • On the left, I've plotted the scores for liberals;

  • on the right, those for conservatives; in the middle, the moderates.

  • The blue line shows you people's responses

  • on the average of all the harm questions.

  • So, as you see, people care about harm and care issues.

  • They give high endorsement of these sorts of statements

  • all across the board, but as you also see,

  • liberals care about it a little more than conservatives -- the line slopes down.

  • Same story for fairness.

  • But look at the other three lines.

  • For liberals, the scores are very low.

  • Liberals are basically saying, "No, this is not morality.

  • In-group, authority, purity -- this stuff has nothing to do with morality. I reject it."

  • But as people get more conservative, the values rise.

  • We can say that liberals have a kind of a two-channel,

  • or two-foundation morality.

  • Conservatives have more of a five-foundation,

  • or five-channel morality.

  • We find this in every country we look at.

  • Here's the data for 1,100 Canadians.

  • I'll just flip through a few other slides.

  • The U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe, Eastern Europe,

  • Latin America, the Middle East, East Asia and South Asia.

  • Notice also that on all of these graphs,

  • the slope is steeper on in-group, authority, purity.

  • Which shows that within any country,

  • the disagreement isn't over harm and fairness.

  • Everybody -- I mean, we debate over what's fair --

  • but everybody agrees that harm and fairness matter.

  • Moral arguments within cultures

  • are especially about issues of in-group, authority, purity.

  • This effect is so robust that we find it no matter how we ask the question.

  • In one recent study,

  • we asked people to suppose you're about to get a dog.

  • You picked a particular breed,

  • you learned some new information about the breed.

  • Suppose you learn that this particular breed is independent-minded,

  • and relates to its owner as a friend and an equal?

  • Well, if you are a liberal, you say, "Hey, that's great!"

  • Because liberals like to say, "Fetch, please."

  • (Laughter)

  • But if you're conservative, that's not so attractive.

  • If you're conservative, and you learn that a dog's extremely loyal

  • to its home and family, and doesn't warm up quickly to strangers,

  • for conservatives, well, loyalty is good -- dogs ought to be loyal.

  • But to a liberal, it sounds like this dog

  • is running for the Republican nomination.

  • (Laughter)

  • So, you might say, OK,

  • there are these differences between liberals and conservatives,

  • but what makes those three other foundations moral?

  • Aren't those just the foundations of xenophobia

  • and authoritarianism and Puritanism?

  • What makes them moral?

  • The answer, I think, is contained in this incredible triptych from Hieronymus Bosch,

  • "The Garden of Earthly Delights."

  • In the first panel, we see the moment of creation.

  • All is ordered, all is beautiful, all the people and animals

  • are doing what they're supposed to be doing, where they're supposed to be.

  • But then, given the way of the world, things change.

  • We get every person doing whatever he wants,

  • with every aperture of every other person and every other animal.

  • Some of you might recognize this as the '60s.

  • (Laughter)

  • But the '60s inevitably gives way to the '70s,

  • where the cuttings of the apertures hurt a little bit more.

  • Of course, Bosch ca