We read over 900 submissions and came up with ten finalists for your consideration.
Now you get to help us decide the winners!
Keep scrolling down to see our ten finalists.
After you have read each of the ten essays below, vote once for your favorite essay (using the “poll” feature above).
We’ll announce the winners in two weeks.
1st Place: $250 Bookstore Gift Certificate
2nd Place: $150 Bookstore Gift Certificate
3rd Place: $100 Bookstore Gift Certificate
Elephants and their Riders: A Symbiotic Relationship that Shapes Human Judgement
The Righteous Mind’s initial metaphor that our minds are like an elephant and a rider was the section in this book that I agreed with the most. Haidt described the metaphorical relationship as one where the mind is separated into two sections “the rider (controlled processes, including “reasoning-why) and the elephant (automatic processes, including emotion, intuition, and all forms of “seeing-that).” (53) This leaves the elephant (gut feelings) to control our judgement while the rider (reasoning and justifying) would then find evidence to back up the elephant’s decision. The elephant is the master of the mind but the rider is crucial in separating humans from any other animal in the planet. It allows us to provide reasoning to our actions and helps our initial reactions to be smarter based on past experiences. Riders also explain the elephants actions if they are questioned by providing evidence as to why the elephants actions were justified. This metaphor connected to me more than the others because it made me think about how people continuously argue and never get anywhere. Haidt’s metaphor showed me that it’s not as difficult to argue a point as I had once thought. Often people will justify their arguments with information that makes sense to their personal beliefs that were formed from their experiences. When in reality “If you want to change people’s minds, you’ve got to talk to their elephants.” This made perfect sense to me because thinking back to a philosophy class I took last year the majority of the time spent in class was people trying to prove their points by talking to one another’s riders. The result of which was everyone sticking to their initial belief and each side seeing the opposition as ignorant and hardheaded. On very few occasions did anyone attempt to sway the immediate reaction to a topic which according to Haidt, and I agree, is the way to make people see an issue through your eyes providing the opportunity to justify your argument to a more willing audience. This metaphor has changed the way I’ll carry out justifying my beliefs and open my own beliefs to being changed.
While reading “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt, I found myself nearly lost, my mind wondering in a whirlwind of random thoughts until one of the chief metaphors snapped me back to reality. As a light bulb flickered above my head, I could immediately relate to the metaphor “The mind is divided, like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant.” Haidt expands on this metaphor by describing your brain as the rider, the rational, more conscious system. He then elaborates on the elephant, the part of you that is instinctive; the part feels pleasure and pain. This part he is referring to your body itself.
As this metaphor clicked in my head, I could relate it to the recent and important event in my life of moving away to college. I made the intuitive decision to live at school rather than commute. I knew that living on campus would not only help me thrive at school, but help me network with new people and also help me flourish from a young man to a responsible adult. As I packed my bags, I heard small footsteps approaching my door. The faint sound of sobbing grew louder. As I looked up, I saw my nine-year-old brother weeping uncontrollably. My elephant felt immediate pain and regret for leaving him and wanted to disconnect from the rider, to tum around and abandon the college journey. I then offered to go out and participate in his favorite activity, jumping on the trampoline. I felt that doing this would put him in a happy state of mind and help him to be open-minded, and absorb my explanation for leaving. Although he was now happy, I realized I was unable to justify my decision to him. I couldn’t explain to him how living at school is not only a fun experience, but also it helps you grow and mature as a human being. Unable to convey my thoughts, he finally accepted this fact and was able to cope with his emotions, only after I promised to return home on the weekends. Although he couldn’t see it, I was just as emotional as he was but I was able to rationalize my decision to myself and regain my self-control. While my initial response was to abandon my decision, I realized that to complete any journey, your body and mind need to work in unison, as do a rider and an elephant.
The Righteous Mind
In “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt readers are challenged to try and understand why we judge things the way we do. Haidt uses three metaphors throughout the book to explain how our minds work. All three metaphors apply to our everyday lives as our minds solve puzzles and make decisions. For myself, metaphor one stands out the most, and I feel that it applies to my life more so than the other two.
‘The mind is divided like a rider on an elephant, and the rider’s job is to serve the elephant,” (Haidt 7). Haidt describes the rider as our conscious reasoning, and the elephant as our intuition. The point he tries to make in part one of the book is that intuition comes first and reasoning follows. This metaphor is used to explain why everyone seems like such a hypocrite. From what I understood, this metaphor explains why we feel the way we feel about things, and how we make judgments based on what we as individuals know to be right or wrong.
The metaphor I chose applies to my everyday thinking. Working in a grocery store for the past three years I have seen many things my intuition would deem as wrong, but I’ve never thought about the what ifs before I make that judgment. I learned right from wrong when I was young, as most of us do, and I know that stealing is wrong. Stealing is one of the most common things I see customers do wrong at work, and I can’t help but jump to the conclusion of it’s just wrong. Can never explain why it’s wrong though, it just is. After reading this book, I now pause before rushing to make a judgment on another person’s actions. We aren’t having their story read to us. They could very well be stealing the food because of financial reasons to feed their starving children. I wouldn’t consider that wrong. Our intuitions sometimes get the better of us in making quick judgments, but sometimes things our intuitions see as wrong, aren’t really wrong at all.
Intuition comes first and reasoning follows. Our moral beliefs are what make us believe our intuitions are always right, but everyone has different moral. Right and wrong is different for everyone and some wrongs can be right under different circumstances. Our intuitions don’t take the time to listen to the moral of everyone’s story, just the actions taking place. We live in a society that can’t help but judge a book by its cover.
I vividly remember the day that man had asked my sister out. It was a clear, sunny, and beautiful day. But in the blink of an eye it all turned dark. I had always hated him. He was snobby, rude, cruel, and had no passion whatsoever. He wasn’t right for her. I was blinded by hatred, and I told my sister and her new boyfriend how I hoped they wouldn’t last long. I let my emotions get the best of me, when in reality, I should have seen that my sister was happy and it was her decision to be with her new boyfriend, not mine.
In the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion, Jonathan Haidt, the author of the book, explains to the reader how the mind isn’t all one thing, it’s divided, just like a rider on an elephant, where the rider serves the elephant. In my case, my emotions were the elephant, and my reasoning was the rider. My reasoning was serving my emotions, to the point where I couldn’t make a clear choice in what I should say or do. I’m nervous this may impact my future college life, for I am a very emotional person. I let my emotions get the best of me, and, if given a bad situation at school, I could prove to be disastrous.
On top of my awful emotional decision, I later tried to convince myself that what I had done was alright. I couldn’t explain exactly why I had out of the blue yelled at my sister and her new boyfriend. I knew I hated the guy, but why was it any of my business what my older sister did with her life? I couldn’t understand my own reactions to the situation. It became clear I was very impulsive with my actions, and my emotions were out of control. I wasn’t able to calm down and reason with myself that it isn’t my life, I wasn’t stuck with the guy, so I should let my sister learn her own mistakes. I hope that from now on, my reasoning won’t be serving my emotions. And I think Jonathan Haidt’s book will help me in the future with my thinking process.