Act: Inspiration

Jonathan Haidt: “Social Psychology in an Age of Social Fragmentation”

February 23, 2023

(Conversation recorded on January 10th, 2023)

Show Summary

Today, Nate is joined by social psychologist Jonathan Haidt. Professor Haidt is one of the leaders in the understanding of human biases and predispositions, and how they affect cooperation, communication, and change-making. Human psychology and behavior is at the root of the larger predicament that humanity faces. Is it possible to use a better understanding of our own psychology to change our behavior and the behavior of future generations? Is social media hijacking the vulnerabilities of our social-psychological nature? How can we redesign systems technologies and systems to bring out the better sides of our natures, instead of amplifying the worst?

About Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1992. Haidt’s research examines the intuitive foundations of morality, and how morality varies across cultural and political divisions. Haidt is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis (2006) and of The New York Times bestsellers The Righteous Mind (2012) and The Coddling of the American Mind (2018, with Greg Lukianoff). In 2019 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Since 2018 he has been studying the contributions of social media to the decline of teen mental health and the rise of political dysfunction. He is currently writing two books: Kids In Space: Why teen mental health is collapsing, and Life After Babel: Adapting to a world we can no longer share.

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Show Notes and Links to learn more:

PDF Transcript

00:20 – Jonathan Haidt Works, Info, Books

01:07 Robert Sapolsky, E.O. Wilson

02:10David Sloan Wilson + TGS Podcast

03:25The Happiness Hypothesis

03:39The Ancients

03:45Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

03:50Hamlet scene

05:22 Limbic System and Neo-cortex

07:02 The Hobbit, Ishmael

07:10 The Righteous Mind

07:28Moral PsychologyCognitive Development (Lawrence Colberg)

07:50Richard Shweder

08:02 Alan Fiske

08:30 Most social scientists are left leaning

09:07National Review, Thomas Sowell, Friedrich Hayek

09:36John Staurt Mill

11:23Group Selection

12:10The Coddling of the American Mind

14:53Millennials, Gen Z

15:10 Gen Z twice the rate of mental illness than millennials

15:43How Trigger Warnings Are Hurting Mental Health on Campus – The Atlantic

16:05 Life After BabelWhy the Past 10 Years of American Life Have Been Uniquely Stupid – The Atlantic

18:02 Don Peck, Jeff Goldberg

19:45Huge spikes in mental health rates between 2012 and 2013especially for girls

20:48Kids in Space: Why Teen Mental Health is Collapsing 

23:20PISA Study

24:45 Timeline of social media development, teen adoption curve

28:29 Hamline University Incident

29:18 – Schools that have banned Mark Twain, To Kill a Mockingbird


31:10Nature is inherently unequal

31:58Jean Jacques Rousseau – idea that humans are malleable

32:27Daniel Schmachtenberger + TGS Series

33:58Ibn Khaldun

38:31 Odes from Ovid

40:13 Francis Haugen Whistleblower

40:13Mark Zuckerberg has complete control over Facebook

40:49Tristan Harris + TGS Episode

42:15Consilience E.O. Wilson

44:51Ilya Prigogine


48:031984 (Newspeak)

48:48Social Media Amplifies the loudest in the room

50:20Call-out/cancel culture

54:08 More extreme candidates from the two parties being elected

55:48Representatives disincentivized from cooperating with the other side

57:15Anonymity with identity-authentication techniques

58:45Social Media Structural reforms that aren’t content monitoring


1:01:30Collective Action Problem


1:08:49Dynamism and Decency

1:09:10Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher

1:11:13Sociocentric vs individualistic societies

1:11:30Joseph HenrichThe WEIRDest People in the World

1:12:35Sosis – 19th Century Intentional Communities, those with lots of sacrifice lasted longer


1:16:30Steven Pinker

1:17:32Joseph CampbellHero’s Journey


Teaser photo credit: (Ed. note: Photo of members of Gen Z). Two young women taking a selfie at the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille, France (2016). By User:PBA Lille © Palais des Beaux-Arts, Photo J.M.Dautel. – PBA LILLE, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.

Tags: American politics, building resilient societies, mental health, polarization, social cohesion