Hello incoming students! My name is Arielle Ais and I’m a junior here at UMASS Dartmouth and a psychology major. I’d just like to talk about Chapter 3 of The Righteous Mind and the things that stood out to me that maybe stood out to you as well. The two sections that stood out to me were the sections called “Psychopaths Reason but Don’t Feel” and “Babies Feel but Don’t Reason”.
In the section “Psychopaths Reason but Don’t Feel”, Haidt says that “psychopathy is a genetically heritable condition that creates brains that are unmoved by the needs, suffering, or dignity of others” (73). He also says that psychopaths do not show emotions that indicate that they care about other people. He mentions earlier in section one, “Brains Evaluate Instantly and Constantly” about how our brains process and evaluate everything. He says, “Brains evaluate everything in terms of potential threat or benefit to the self, and then adjust behavior to get more of the good stuff and less of the bad” (64). Since the brain of a psychopath evaluates differently, they are not concerned about everyone else’s feelings. They are probably not seeing you as a threat; typically, psychopaths are very into themselves.
It really blew my mind that psychopaths can be born with this condition. I always felt that we developed from mostly our environment. It reminds me of the nature vs nurture debate. The book makes it seem like psychopathy comes only from genetics but it can’t be for every psychopath. What do you guys think? Do you think that when it comes to our development that it is mostly from our genetics (nature) or the environment we live in (nurture)?
In the next section about the babies, Haidt says that “psychologists have found that by six months of age, infants are watching how people behave toward other people and they are developing a preference for those who are nice rather than those who are mean” (75). My question is if psychopathy is a genetic condition that someone is born with and by six months of age we are learning how to feel, at what point does a psychopath lose that ability? Empathy is a part of our emotions and if psychopaths lack emotions, does this develop after the six month mark or before? How do you think this relates to Haidt’s analogy about the elephant and the rider and our morals? What do you think Haidt means when he says “But the rider’s job is to serve the elephant, not to act as a moral compass”(73) in relation to these sections of the chapter?