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Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt to Deliver 53rd Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture

February 27th, 2019 by 

Hanify Howland 2019 speaker Jonathan Haidt
Hanify Howland 2019 speaker Jonathan Haidt

The 53rd Hanify-Howland Memorial Lecture will be given by the renowned social psychologist Jonathan Haidt, one of the world’s leading experts on the psychology of morality, at 8 p.m. on Tuesday, April 2nd in the Hogan Campus Center Ballroom at the College of the Holy Cross. The Hanify-Howland lecture series recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves in the realm of public service in honor of Edward Hanify, a member of the graduating class of 1904, and Weston Howland.

Haidt’s talk, titled “Politics and Polarization,” is free and open to the public.

Haidt’s early research radically transformed the field of social psychology, pulling it away from its earlier focus on moral reasoning. Haidt showed that moral intuitions and emotions come first — flashes of gut feelings that people then strive to justify, after the fact. This explains why it is so difficult to win a moral argument with good reasoning. Haidt’s research has helped people to understand those who differ from them morally — not just across nations but across the political divide within each nation. In his latest work, he is applying his research on moral psychology to the study of business ethics. He is developing tools and techniques that leaders can use to improve the ethical functioning, trust and ultimately profitability of their companies.

Haidt earned his B.A. from Yale University in 1985 and his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. He then did postdoctoral research at the University of Chicago and in Orissa, India. He was a professor in the psychology department at the University of Virginia from 1995 until 2011, when he joined the NYU Stern School of Business. Haidt has excelled as a teacher and public speaker. He won three teaching awards from the University of Virginia, and one from the governor of Virginia. His three TED talks have been viewed more than 3 million times. He has presented his work at the World Economic Forum, the Aspen Ideas Festival, the British Academy, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts. He was named a “Top 100 Global Thinker” by Foreign Policy magazine in 2012, and one of the 65 “World Thinkers of 2013” by Prospect magazine.

Haidt is the author of more than 90 academic articles and two books. In addition to “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion”, Haidt is the author of “The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom,” about which The Guardian (UK) wrote: “A marvelous book… I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that laid out the contemporary understanding of the human condition with such simple clarity and sense.”

Since 1965, the Hanify-Howland lecture series has brought a host of distinguished speakers to Holy Cross who have exemplified in their work the spirit of public service that the series was established to encourage. Past speakers include astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson; retired Lieutenant General Brent Scowcroft, U.S. Air Force; Clarence Thomas ’71, associate justice of the United States; Ruth Wedgwood, director of the Program in International Law and Organizations at Johns Hopkins University; investigative journalist Bob Woodward; Steven D. Levitt, co-author of the bestselling books “Freakonomics” (Harper, 2009) and “Superfreakonomics” (Harper, 2011); award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien; Governor Jon Huntsman; Pulitzer Prize-winning couple Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power.

In keeping with the traditional practice of the Hanify-Howland lecture series, Haidt will conduct a seminar on campus, which will allow students to interact with the speaker in an intimate and intellectually stimulating environment. He will also be signing copies of his book, “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure,” after the lecture.

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