Finalist Andrew Rada

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.


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