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

Reviewed by:
Ed Albertson, Partner, Carew International
At first glance, it might seem like a stretch to recommend to a business audience this book by a liberal social scientist and psychology professor. But author Johnathan Haidt is not a partisan with an agenda, and his book, The Righteous Mind, simply uses American politics to illustrate much broader insights about the nature of morality and its profound impact on our motivations and behaviors. The parallels between political processes and the business of sales, marketing, branding and buying are all too striking (and fascinating) to ignore.

On the surface, The Righteous Mind appears to explain how and why people can possess such divided views on politics and religion despite their shared cultural foundations. However, upon exploring the chapters and sections of the book, business readers will recognize illuminating research and unexpected findings that help explain 1) basic human behavior and decision-making, including how much we all rely on self-deceiving intuition over rational strategies, 2) diverse perspectives and the barriers that can subvert understanding and hinder cooperation, and 3) how we can transcend self-interest and achieve cooperation through awareness of our differences and a search for our common ground.

An example of Haidt’s contribution to business practitioners: “Intuitions come first: strategic reasoning second.” Understanding the dynamic tension between our conscious reasoning and our gut reactions provides us with new and valuable insight on how we can better persuade others who seem unresponsive to facts and logic. Imagine what a productive talent this is for sales professionals, negotiators and business leaders!

There is great potential to readers to improve communication skills, increase negotiating effectiveness, and enhance leadership strategies through Haidt’s informative and entertaining road-map of moral psychology. The Righteous Mind is a righteous read!

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