I am the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University's Stern School of Business. I am a social psychologist who studies morality, emotion, and culture.
My CV (download)
My Approach to Ethical Systems:
My research examines the intuitive foundations of morality. I have found that moral reasoning is generally done post-hoc, to search for confirmation of our fast, automatic intuitive responses. I am therefore skeptical of the power of reasoning to bring us to the right conclusions, particularly when self-interest or reputational concerns are in play. I therefore became skeptical of direct approaches to fostering ethical behavior -- particularly direct teaching in the classroom. We can't just put moral knowledge into our students' heads, and expect them to implement that knowledge after they leave the classroom.
One of the heroes of my book The Righteous Mind is Glaucon. He's the guy in Plato's Republic who challenges Socrates with the story of the Ring of Gyges, which makes a man invisible at will. He says that a man with such a ring would behave abominably, once freed from concerns about detection and reputation. I think Glaucon was right, and so we must design "ethical systems" for Glauconian creatures like ourselves. That's what this site is all about.
My Major Relevant Publications:
- The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (2012) (public library). This book offers a comprehensive account of moral psychology from a social intuitionist perspective. It explains why it's probably not possible to improve ethical behavior just by teaching students to reason more carefully about ethical dilemmas. Such courses appeal only to the "rider." We need to train the elephant, and change the path. That's what ethical systems design is all about.
- The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom (2006) (public library). This book lays out the "Rider and Elephant" analogy, which is the basis of my approach to ethical systems. The rider is our conscious, controlled mental processes (mainly conscious reasoning). The elephant is the other 99% of what goes on in your mind -- its the automatic processes, such as intuition and emotion.
- The business case for business ethics. Aspen Ideas Festival (2015).
- The three stories of capitalism. Zurich Minds Festival (2015).
- Hive psychology and the moral life of organizations. Authors@Google lecture (2012). This talk introduces hive psychology.
- Conversation with Bill Moyers, about morality, politics, and society (2012)
- The moral roots of liberals and conservatives. TED (2008). This talk introduces moral foundations theory.
- Business Friendly Ethics. Guide in Ethisphere, written with Jeffrey Kaplan, on how companies can begin using our site to create a workplace with higher levels of trust among colleagues and leadership. (2014)
- Jonathan Haidt: He knows why we fight. Interview in Wall St. Journal (2012)
- Why won't they listen? Book review in The New York Times (2012)
- "Moral foundations theory: The pragmatic validity of moral pluralism," article in Advances in Experimental Social Psychology (2013).
- "The new synthesis in moral psychology", article in Science (2007).
- "The emotional dog and its rational tail: A social intuitionist approach to moral judgment," article in Psychological Review (2001).