Hello everyone! My name is Arielle Ais and I am a psychology student here at UMASS. Today I want to talk about some elements of chapter 5 “The WEIRD Morality”. In this chapter, Haidt talks about how we put morality on a scale and the WEIRD morality. One thing I thought was really cool was when he explained what WEIRD stood for: Western, educated, industrialized, rich and democratic (112). We as Americans tend to think of the world as full of separate objects instead of relationships whereas Eastern Asians think of it as the opposite (113). When Haidt talks about how Americans were most likely to list their internal characteristics compared to East Asians who would list their roles and relationships, it reminded me of a podcast I listened to a few days ago. In the podcast, the question was: What do you want to be when you grow up? The woman on the podcast explained how she went to her son’s preschool class and every kid said that they wanted to be an astronaut, doctor, nurse or even a rockstar. She talked about how they didn’t really answer the question. It wasn’t who do you want to be when you grow up, it was what.
It made me think about WEIRD culture. We live in such an autonomous society that we don’t see the bigger picture. We aren’t asked “When you grow up, what will you do to help your neighbor, country, society, the world?” We are already told to think autonomously when we’re asked the original question: What do you want to be when you grow up? We don’t get asked the other question until we hit college and then we’re confused because our entire lives we’ve been asked the first question. We are in such an “I” mentality that we don’t think about the “we”. Haidt says “The WEIRDer you are, the more you see a world full of separate objects, rather than relationships” (113). So my questions for this part is: Do you think this is true for you personally? Why do you think we think this way? Is it because we’ve grown up in the WEIRD culture? Do you think it’s the same in other cultures like if children are asked the same question? How would an East Asian respond to this question?
Another thing that stood out to me in this chapter was the scale on moral disgust. Haidt says “[M]oral disgust is felt whenever we see or hear about people whose behavior shows them to be low on this vertical dimension. People feel degraded when they think about such things, just as they feel elevated by hearing about virtuous actions” (121). He then gives us the example of the man who robs a bank versus the man who betrays his parents or who enslaves children for the sex trade. In the first situation he says that we would want to see the bank robber punished but the second guy who sells children into the sex trade triggers us a disgust in us and we see that guy as a monster. It reminds me of what he says about who we think of morality on a vertical scale. At the top is God or moral perfections through angels, humans, other animals, monsters, demons and then the devil, or perfect evil,at the bottom (121). Why is the guy who robs the bank not as “bad” as the second guy? They are both humans who are doing something wrong and both of their crimes involve taking something that is not theirs. The money that the bank robber takes belongs to people in that bank, the children being sold belong to parents. So why are we disgusted by one crime but not the other? Another question is we all start off as humans on the scale, what determines how we become monsters or perfect evil?