Jonathan Haidt, a professor in the Business and Society Program at NYU-Stern, is a social psychologist and author of The Righteous Mind and The Happiness Hypothesis. Dr. Haidt discusses how we came to be so politically polarized as a nation and what needs to happen to restore a more cooperative system of governing. “To live virtuously as individuals and as societies, we must understand how our minds are built. We must find ways to overcome our natural self-righteousness. We must respect and even learn from those whose morality differs from our own.”
Though scientific evidence for the existence of global warming continues to mount, in the United States and other countries belief in global warming has stagnated or even decreased in recent years. One possible explanation for this pattern is that information about the potentially dire consequences of global warming threatens deeply held beliefs that the world is just, orderly, and stable. Individuals overcome this threat by denying or discounting the existence of global warming, and this process ultimately results in decreased willingness to counteract climate change. Two experiments provide support for this explanation of the dynamics of belief in global warming, suggesting that less dire messaging could be more effective for promoting public understanding of climate-change research.