04 March 2015

On Hattie's revised Top Ten

As I mentioned in “Items to Share” a couple of weeks ago, John Hattie has informally reported on the latest developments in his long-standing quest to discover “what works best” in education through meta-analyses of the research in the field. This has resulted in something of a shake-up of the top ten effect-sizes.

I've been through the previous listing from Hattie (2009: 297) and inserted the new items in rank order according to effect size (new ones in red, and without a former rank). This is not an exact science, first because the report is of an interview with Hattie which originally appeared in a Swedish magazine, and it is not always clear whether—as in the case of the former no. 1—there has simply been a slight re-labelling of the category (which is very likely given that the database has grown by about half since Visible Learning was written); or whether a completely new candidate has made an entrance, which seems to be the case with “Change Programs for conceptual understanding”.

I comment on some thoughts arising from the listing below: I'll leave “Collective Self-efficacy” to the last.

Former
Rank
Domain Influence d. (Effect-size)
Collective self-efficacy 1.57
1
Student

Self-report grades (Self-assessment of ratings / student expectations 1.4)

1.44
2
Student

Piagetian programs

1.28

Change Programs for conceptual understanding

1:15
3
Feedback on intervention
1.07


Teaching

Providing formative evaluation (Formative assessment 0.98)

0.90
Teacher credibility 0.90
4
Teacher

Micro teaching (a.k.a Video analysis of tuition)

0.88
5
School

Acceleration

0.88
Classroom discussion 0.82
6
School

Classroom behavioral

0.80
7
Teaching

Comprehensive interventions for students with Special Educational Needs

0.77
8
Teacher

Teacher clarity

0.75
9
Teaching

Reciprocal teaching

0.74
10
Teaching

Feedback

0.73

The former no. 1 Self-Report Grades remains near the top. As this post from docendo discimus points out, it is not really clear what it means, and indeed why Hattie does not make more of it if the effect-size is so big. Like the self-efficacy point later, is it actually an "influence" or "intervention"? Is it not at least as likely that the ability to point accurately to one's likely level of achievement is simply an artefact of successful learning processes, a kind of meta-learning after the event rather than a condition of routine learning. Given the world-wide scope of the meta-analyses it is also at least possible that culture enters the equation quite a lot—here is my take on it from a while back (unfortunately the Chronicle article no longer seems to be available.)

Piagetian Program[me]s: This is based on a meta-analysis from 1981, and if it is that powerful, it is again quite strange that it (a) does not feature more strongly in VL —it gets just a 13-line paragraph on page 43—and (b) does not appear to have attracted more recent corroboration; there is a 2008 reference cited but that is to a two-page note on "Cognitive load theory and education technology". Docendo discimus also discusses this item here. Depending on the ages of the pupils, of course, there may be something here about the importance of enabling children to make the developmental stage transitions as effectively as possible, but that does depend on the reliability of Piaget's developmental model, and the accuracy with which it can be assessed—not to speak of the differentiation probably required. (See here for an introduction to Piaget.)

Change programs for conceptual understanding: Now this sounds more interesting. It's a new category and I imagine Hattie will locate it in the “curricula” domain. In the previous ranking, curriculum did not appear until 15 (Vocabulary Programmes; d. 0.67). In his 2013 lecture (link in Further Reading) Hattie says:
A major argument in this discussion is that there should be more attention to the narrative of ‘learning’, as it is via developing ‘learning’ for all students that there will be subsequent effects on ‘achievement’. While there are many definitions of ‘learning’, the one that is the basis for this presentation is that learning is the process of developing sufficient surface knowledge to then move to deep or conceptual understanding. (My emphasis)
He goes on to endorse Biggs' SOLO taxonomy as a way of achieving this. This leads me to read “Change programs...” as an instruction, rather than as an endorsement of the packaged nostrums and course designs which purport to develop “thinking skills” and hence conceptual understanding. Indeed, it is interesting that in the quote above he starts with “developing sufficient surface knowledge to [...] move on”. Surface learning is commonly deprecated, but nevertheless provides the foundation for conceptual understanding. (See VL pp.28-9.)

I assume that formative assessment (0.98) is merely a re-wording of formative evaluation (.90). There are several variations on the theme of feedback, of course.

Teacher credibility is a new entrant to the chart. It's a hot topic for me; see blog posts here, here and here. I'm interested to see that the effect-size is as large as it is (0.90); in the brief note on the VL web-site, Hattie treats it as more of a hygiene factor (in Herzberg's sense) than a positive intervention:
According to Hattie teacher credibility is vital to learning, and students are very perceptive about knowing which teachers can make a difference. [...] In an interview Hattie puts it like that: “If a teacher is not perceived as credible, the students just turn off.”
(Do read the full interview linked from the quote.)

Video analysis is probably simply a better term than “micro-teaching”, which is jargon and not self-explanatory.

So in terms of new entrants, that brings us to Collective self-efficacy, entering directly at the top with an amazing effect-size of 1.57. But if micro-teaching is jargon, what on earth is this?

You can't really blame Hattie—he did not invent the term, and it has been around since 1977 (ref. below). It originates with Albert Bandura, the pioneer of social learning theory, who defined it as  “people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (1986: 391). It is more specific and task-focused than general motivation, and of course in this case it is collective; the beliefs concern the team or institution, possibly the class, rather than relating to just an individual.

If all that is a bit of a mouthful, it comes down to President Obama's (and Bob the Builder's) slogan: Yes, we can! (Bob got there first, in 1998.)

But as with Self-reported grades / Student expectations, the direction of causation is still not clear to me. It makes sense that a class with a “Yes, we can!” attitude is more likely to achieve than one without it. But surely the collective self-efficacy is the product of many other smaller effects or influences, such as students' trust in each other as well as the teacher, a sense of prior achievement, high expectations... the list goes on and on. Yes, we can! is a condition and an aspiration for learning rather than something which can be created ex nihilo and applied. It has to be nurtured with an through the class, and certainly cannot be imposed.

  • For a recent short accessible account of Hattie's view of learning; here is his his keynote from the 2013 conference of the Australian Council for Educational Research Understanding Learning; lessons for learning, teaching and research.
  • Bandura A. (1977) “Self-efficacy: toward a unifying theory of behavioral change”, Psychol Rev. 1977 Mar; 84(2): 191-215.
  • Bandura, A. (1986). Social foundations of thought and action: A social cognitive theory. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 
  • For more on self-efficacy: http://www.positivepractices.com/Efficacy/SelfEfficacy.html 
  • Interestingly, Hattie was involved in direct empirical research on self-efficacy and the development of a measurement instrument: Dimmock C and Hattie J (1996) “School Principals’ Self‐Efficacy and its Measurement in a Context of Restructuring” School Effectiveness and School Improvement: An International Journal of Research, Policy and Practice vol 7 no 1, pp 62-75

02 March 2015

Items to Share; 1 March 2015

Education Focus
  • Learning is invisible – my slides from #LEF15 | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'If we want students to truly understand anything more than the superficialities of our teaching then we need to stop trying to rush them through liminal space. The false certainty of easy answers – successful in-lesson performance – might actively be retarding learning. But we have a problem: we’re genetically predisposed to avoid uncertainty. In our primitive ancestors, if it looks like a duck or, more to the point, if it looks like a snake, we’re better off assuming it’s a snake rather than having an ontological debate. It’s easy to see how a preference for dithering might quickly have been selected out of the gene pool.'
  • See also: Landmark: a million thank yous | David Didau: The Learning Spy 'All this reading and thinking has led me to challenge some of the axioms of modern education. If learning is invisible then maybe progress in lessons might also be a myth? And if that’s true, where does that leave assessment for learning? And possibly feedback, long considered the king of all education interventions, might be widely misunderstood and misapplied'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: What can we learn from the Million dollar teacher? 'In terms of learning theory his method could be summed up as the use of a blended learning that includes lots of ‘elaboration’ to improve retention and recall. He is optimising his blend, matching optimal elaboration with the learning outcomes. For simple naming the learners stand and chant the structure using their bodies and arms as cues. For processes, they line up and move around. For chemical interactions, they start to interact with each other in groups.'
  • Expert in a year | Living and teaching in Spain | The Echo Chamber 'An intriguing project that has been getting attention on the Internet recently looks at what is possible in just one year. Under the title “Expert in a year” a table tennis coach by the name of Ben Larcombe has taken a young protege, Sam Priestly, and set off on a twelve month project to try and place that player in the top 250 players in England. The composite video that records the project is compelling viewing. '
  • Teachers show bias to pupils who share their personality 'The more similar the personalities of teachers and their pupils, the more likely the teachers are to grade them highly, according to new research from Germany. The findings again open up the debate around the subtle biases teachers have about their pupils and how important it is to try and minimise their impact on children’s progress through school.'
  • Outcomes, Evidence and Assessment | Sam Shepherd  'Perhaps we need to turn our back on the input/output behaviourism of the learning outcome. Forget SMART and be a little more laid back. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fit in with the prevailing educational wind in post 16 learning in the UK. But then, one of the challenges of teaching ESOL in an FE context that we are a bit of a misfit, lauded and celebrated when colleges want to brag about their diversity, but in terms of funding, time tabling and classroom practice, we are a bit of a pain. But then I wouldn’t have that any other way.'
  • Pedagogical thoughts from the ski trip | Mr Shepstone's Blog '[W]e are often told that students need to be progressing onto more and more challenging work each lesson, or the students won’t be making progress. Yet here was a group who spent 2 days (12 hours!) doing things that they had done before. Surely that isn’t right? Well…by day 6 it absolutely was.'
  • The Ladybird Peter and Jane – A Social History | The Dabbler 'Do the words ‘Peter and Jane’ take you back to a warm, fuzzy, nostalgic place in your memories? The rose-tinted hues of distant childhood? Or do they remind you of the horrors of primary school, of being tortured into reading by the terrible two (and Pat the dog). Apparently over 80 million of us have learnt to read with Ladybird’s Peter and Jane books . And some of the books are still in print; I still see them for sale in my local bookshop. Based on Head Teacher William Murray’s system of teaching reading, the Key Words scheme is founded on a recognition that just 12 words make up one quarter of all the English words we read and write and that 100 words make up a half of those we use in a normal day. Teach children these key words first, and they are well on the way to making some sense of most texts. So, step by step, page by page, these words are introduced and repeated (one might say hammered) to reinforce them as the length and difficulty of the texts increase'
  • Can we teach intelligence? [theconversation.com] '[T]eaching and instruction in the 21st century should focus more on cognitive flexibility, on problem-solving and on those aspects of intelligence that are amenable to change. There are numerous ways to do this. These include teaching students strategies to increase self-monitoring and evaluation during problem-solving, or using teaching methods that facilitate deep rather than shallow understandings of the structure that underlies new problems.'
Other Business
  • The happiness conspiracy: against optimism and the cult of positive thinking (Bryan Appleyard) Optimism is a pressure – it is stress-inducing and intelligence-lowering. Pessimism is a release: it is relaxing and mind-expanding. Read the Book of Ecclesiastes (“To every thing there is a season”) or Edward FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (“The Bird of Time has but a little way/To fly . . .”) to see how beautiful and peaceful zero expectations can be. And remember, when John Lennon wrote “It can’t get much worse” he was, I am sure, being ironic. Of course it can, it always can.' 
  • Bayes' Theorem with Lego — Count Bayesie 'Bayes' Theorem is one of those mathematical ideas that is simultaneously simple and demanding. Its fundamental aim is to formalize how information about one event can give us understanding of another. Let's start with the formula and some lego, then see where it takes us.' 

23 February 2015

Items to Share; 22 February 2015

Education Focus
  • Time to name and shame? | dancing princesses 'Here’s an idea – instead of paying a small number of senior FE managers astonishingly high salaries, why not employ a greater number of specialists on lower salaries to share the load? Perhaps we could remedy the erosion of lecturers’ salaries while we’re at it? There is, in fact, excellent leadership in FE if you know where to look for it – many are lecturers and trade unionists. These professionals retain an ethos of public service, and would, if the opportunity arose, take on greater leadership responsibility in flattened, distributed organisations for the love of FE and their communities, not for the prospect of straw turned to gold.'
  • Get publishing! Crown Copyright and my Ofsted monitoring visit notes | Improving Teaching The author obtained the Ofsted inspector's observation notes of his class, and wants to share them. Which proves to be OK; '"On behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office I can confirm that there are no objections from a Crown copyright point of view to you publishing it and if you, as the sole subject, are content for your personal data to be published then you may do so. All we would ask is that you acknowledge the observation itself as being Crown copyright." I queried further, asking for a statement of principles, to avoid everyone having to go through the same process. Any teacher is free to publish their observation notes.'
  • Why Students Should Be Taking Notes | Faculty Focus 'There is also accumulating evidence [...] that giving students teacher-prepared notes or PowerPoint slides does not improve their performance. Students need to take notes in ways that are meaningful to them. It also helps when notes are restructured. [...] “It makes sense to return to one’s notes and organize them in a way that reflects the connections between ideas rather than simply the chronology of presentation.” [...] But how do we sell students on the value of taking notes for themselves? They might be persuaded if we had evidence that doing so may improve exam scores. And that’s exactly what this study showed. The research design is clever—a good example of the kind of classroom research that teachers can conduct.'
  • Interpretation of the results is more important according to John Hattie - Educator Stockholm Also available on ResearchED here. An interview with John Hattie (Visible Learning) with news of a revised "top ten" list of interventions, based on the ever-growing database of meta-analyses. 'I am now close to 1200 meta-analyses (up from the 800 in VL). What is remarkable since I published the first study (in 1989 based on 134) is that the "story" underlying the data has hardly changed. Some of the more interesting (new) effects include Bullying (-.24), parental employment (.03), sleep (.07), single sex compared to coed schools (.08). Philosophy in schools (.43), Service learning (.58), conceptual change programs (1.15), and collective self-efficacy (1.57).' (With thanks to Sara Hjelm for putting me on to it; I'll blog on it shortly)
  • The rigor of chronology: how knowing dates leads to higher order thinking | Newman's blog '...Additionally, and more importantly, specific and precise dates started to make an appearance in the extended written work of the class and the overall grasp of the chain of chronology was clearly improving. However, the thing that surprised me the most is the conversations they were having when they were completing the task – which, in some ways, took me by surprise. It wasn’t just recall, such as ‘this goes with’, it was language laden with connections and links revealing a developing and deepening chronological awareness.' An excellent show of task-centred reflection related to literature and research.'
  • The Problem with Plenaries | mrbunkeredu 'If group work was the holy grail of my teacher training, effective plenaries were definitely the pedagogical white rabbit – the element of the lesson you always felt was achievable, but nevertheless remained elusive. Running out of time for a plenary during an official observation was almost to be expected, but cramming it in for two minutes was better than nothing. [...] Although there’s bound to be some variation, I think most teachers have a pretty similar idea of what a plenary is, or what it is suppose to be, even if they are sceptical about its efficacy.
  • What goes on in teachers' brains as they help students to learn 'Neuroscientists are beginning to understand how the human brain processes information in learners. Yet very little is known about how the brains works when people are engaged in teaching. Our new research [is] aimed at finding out whether it’s possible to understand the brain processes involved when we monitor how wrong other people are.' 
Other Business
  • Are We Becoming Morally Smarter? - Reason.com 'Given that the moral Flynn effect is cultural, not evolutionary, there are no biological constraints on what we are capable of becoming in centuries and millennia hence, if we apply what we know works to expand the moral sphere: [...] As we're witnessing today the unfolding of a new rights revolution for gays and lesbians, and yet another for animals, there is no reason to limit our thinking of how much better life can be for more people in more places: Freedom and abundance for all is within our reach this century. We can bend that moral arc even more.'
  • Your Brain Is Primed To Reach False Conclusions | FiveThirtyEight 'Explaining the science and helping people understand it are only the first steps. If you want someone to accept information that contradicts what they already know, you have to find a story they can buy into. That requires bridging the narrative they’ve already constructed to a new one that is both true and allows them to remain the kind of person they believe themselves to be.'
  • How a Dog Actually “Sees” the World Through Smell | Brain Pickings Even though smell is the most direct of our senses and the 23,040 breaths we take daily drag in a universe of information — from the danger alert of a burning odor to the sweet nostalgia of an emotionally memorable scent — our olfactory powers are not even mediocre compared to a dog’s.
  • John Ioannidis has dedicated his life to quantifying how science is broken - Vox 'Medical research is in bad shape. Fraud, bias, sloppiness, and inefficiency are everywhere, and we now have studies that quantify the size of the problem. We know that about $200 billion — or the equivalent of 85 percent of global spending on research — is routinely wasted on poorly designed and redundant studies. We know that as much as 30 percent of the most influential original medical research papers later turn out to be wrong or exaggerated. We also know that a lot of medical evidence is contradictory and unreliable, such as those studies that purport to show that just about every food we eat either causes or prevents cancer. (Courtesy of John Ioannidis) What all this means, says Stanford University professor Dr. John Ioannidis, is that most published research findings are false.' 

16 February 2015

Items to Share; 15 February 2015

Education Focus
  • Faith and Stuff | Sam Shepherd 'This is a post about teacher faith. You see, not so long ago I was a keen enthusiastic little trainee on a part time training course and there were all these people telling me stuff. Stuff that would make me a good teacher, stuff that I needed to do to pass the course. That sort of stuff. Then I did DELTA, and learned shitloads of stuff. And I believed every single word, referenced or not. Because they were trainers and they knew their stuff, right? And then later on I started working in the public sector and managers told me stuff, and people said that certain stuff was best practice and that I should do that stuff because OFSTED said it was good stuff. I was a true believer. I listened, I absorbed, I followed the True Path of the Righteous. [...] I can pinpoint, to within a few months, the arrival of my professional scepticism...
  • Is knowledge worth testing anymore? Is testing knowledge ‘Authentic’? | TheOtherDrX's Higher Education blog 'My view of assessment, and in particular ‘authentic assessment’ in science, is that it should rely upon some known facts, and students should be able to apply those facts to conclude or deduce something, like an authentic scientist. As a research scientist, I have had some ideas over the years, and none of them have come about by not knowing anything about the topic. In fact I’d go as far to say that all of what I’d call half-decent project ideas have come from deep understanding two or more disparate topics in great detail, and making some sort of interacting link between the two. So the question is: Am I assessing in a manner that is authentic to science?'
  • Donald Clark Plan B: Only 60% attend lectures & plummets across semester & week – and that’s at Harvard! 'University ranking tables are perhaps the most mendacious form of marketing known to man. They are, quite simply, a lie. Why? They say nothing about ‘teaching’ the reason for most of this marketing effort is to attract students and funding (monetising). The reason they say nothing is that they don’t measure anything. It’s all proxies. The Times rankings are a case in point. They claim that their ranking scores include teaching. In fact, only 30% is based on teaching but they use NO direct metrics. The proxies include student/staff ratios (which is skewed by how much research is done) and, even more absurdly, the ratio of PhDs to BAs. It is therefore a self-fulfilling table, where the elite Universities are bound to rise to the top. '
  • Text Savvy: Intuition and Domain Knowledge 'The clearest takeaway for me is that while knowledge and process are both important, knowledge is more important. Even though each of the tasks was more "intuitive" (non-decomposable) than analytical in nature, and even when the approach taken to the task was "intuitive," knowledge trumped process. Process had no significant effect by itself. Knowing stuff is good.'
  • Beyond Dependency Learning: scaffolding, crutches and stabilisers. | headguruteacher 'One of the challenges we face as teachers is knowing how much help to give. There are so many examples of structured support across a range of learning experiences: arm-bands in swimming, stabilisers on a bicycle… the vocab crib-sheet in language learning. They are all designed to provide support in the early phases of learning, with the explicit goal of removing them later on. The question is when. My feeling is that, too often, we leave the support structure in place for too long and students develop a dependency; an over-reliance on the support and a mutually reinforcing fear of failure.'
  • Leaving care is hard enough without the system favouring those who are fostered 'The Office for National Statistics reported that the age at which young people leave home has shifted in recent years. The average age of young people leaving home is now 25 and the number of 20 to 34-year-olds living at home has gone up by 24%. So even with “staying put” until the age of 21, fostered young people are still leaving home earlier than their non-fostered peers. But this age extension does buy more time for foster carers and social workers to best support care leavers as they move into adulthood. It also allows individuals to do things we all begin to do at this age – get a job, consider university, all with a continuation of support and shelter. [...] Reports that highlight the outcomes of care leavers show just how vulnerable this group is during the transition to independence and how much support they need.'
  • Who will stand up for adult education? | The Learning Age '[T]he ongoing cull of qualifications is indicative of a really remarkable narrowing of the educational offer to adults – one which began in earnest under the previous government as it became increasingly fixated on a funding model based on boosting employability and vocational skills. It’s not that employment and vocational training aren’t important it’s just that they aren’t everything. Among the qualifications considered of no or low value will be many that adults have found hugely valuable, in giving them a foothold in learning again, building their confidence, broadening their horizons or simply offering them a second chance. [...] [I]t can make them more flexible, more resilient, more rounded and civilised, helping them become better people as well as better employees. The wider public value of adult education is far too infrequently asserted.'
  • Professionalism: FE’s Rolling Stone | dancing princesses 'What follows is a proposed alternative take on professionalism. To paraphrase The Rolling Stones: you can’t always get what you want from professionalism; but if you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need: a collective democratic voice…'
  • 3quarksdaily: The Changing Idea of ‘Knowledge' 'In line with the criticisms of IQ tests, one must ask who determines general knowledge? What is relevant to whom? Today, when ‘do research' means ‘Google it', when we're bombarded with more information than we ever have been before, when our short-term memories are suffering from the lack of micro-moments, where does the Lowest Common Denominator of information lie?'
Other Business
  • Rethinking One of Psychology's Most Infamous Experiments - The Atlantic (On Milgram's obedience experiments) 'But as with human memory, the study [...] is malleable. And in the past few years, a new wave of researchers have dedicated themselves to reshaping it, arguing that Milgram’s lessons on human obedience are, in fact, misremembered—that his work doesn’t prove what he claimed it does. [...] The problem is, no one can really agree on what it proves instead.' 
  • BPS Research Digest: Accepting help can be difficult. You'll find it easier if you help others '[The researchers] went on to show how recipients of help can bounce back. In a second stage of the study, participants tackled another set of puzzles and were invited to write help cards for three they had answered correctly, for the benefit of future participants. With this shift from help-receiver to helper, all participants reported an increase in confidence, as well as more affinity for their previous helper.'

10 February 2015

On the moral basis of bangers and mash

This is not a rant about processed food! Bear with me...

For years, I have bemused dining companions in restaurants by ordering sausage and mash, when it was on the menu. I have explained that S. does not like sausages, and so we never have it at home. I have invariably been disappointed in the restaurant, because unlike that other great classic—fish and chips, which relatively upmarket places pride themselves in presenting in an "authentic" form—they can't resist messing with it, such as presenting venison sausages with "onion jam"...

It was when I was grumbling about a restaurant version recently, as one does, that S. revealed (after many years of the subject being off the agenda) that she quite liked sausage and mash—just not the "posh sausages" I insisted on buying and cooking (and I don't cook the potatoes long enough...)

We tested (well, I tested on her) several kinds of sausage.

My reference point was the "home-made" ones from Harry Ramsbottom's of Davenham, Cheshire of the late '50s-early '60s. Nowadays they would be called "Cumberland" (style)—then they were just his "best". There's no way of telling what the meat content was—it wasn't recorded in those days—but it was high, if fatty. I've never found any to quite match them, since the fat content would not be acceptable nowadays (despite this latest bit of revisionism), but premium brands do approximate to them.

So I started there. No. Then—I'm making this sound more systematic than it was—I tried smoked sausages; OK for her, and for me (minimax solution in game theory terms?) but that's all. Toulouse sausages? Chorizo? ... Broadly, if I liked them, she didn't, and vice versa. Eventually, I went to the sausage section of the supermarket and just picked up a brand name I recognised. Bingo!

For me, 90% meat content is what it's all about. A touch of seasoning and necessary binder, and that's it. I like the filler coarse ground.

S's preferred brand is 42% meat. The filler is homogenised gloop. Sorry!
...water, pork fat (10%), wheat, starch (potato,wheat), vegetable protein (pea,soya). Less than 2%....
It tastes perfectly acceptable. Of course. It is the sausage of her childhood and it is still going strong half-a-century on. You don't survive without something special.
(As far as I know, Ramsbottom's recipe died with him. His son became an accountant. [We were in the same class at secondary school])
So?

I've just finished:
Haidt J (2013) The Righteous Mind: why good people are divided by politics and religion London; Penguin Books 
It's an excellent and thought-provoking read. One of its major arguments is that what we can in broad-brush terms call liberal and conservative moral positions are characterised by different sets of what Haidt calls “moral foundations”*.

The liberal position he traces back to John Stuart Mill (On Liberty, 1859) having its foundations in two principles;
1) Care/harm: This foundation is related to our long evolution as mammals with attachment systems and an ability to feel (and dislike) the pain of others. It underlies virtues of kindness, gentleness, and nurturance.
2) Fairness/cheating: This foundation is related to the evolutionary process of reciprocal altruism. It generates ideas of justice, rights, and autonomy.
But interestingly he argues (based on empirical research introduced here) that more conservative positions embrace also at least three and probably four other foundations:
3) Loyalty/betrayal: This foundation is related to our long history as tribal creatures able to form shifting coalitions. It underlies virtues of patriotism and self-sacrifice for the group. It is active anytime people feel that it's "one for all, and all for one."
4) Authority/subversion: This foundation was shaped by our long primate history of hierarchical social interactions. It underlies virtues of leadership and followership, including deference to legitimate authority and respect for traditions.
5) Sanctity/degradation: This foundation was shaped by the psychology of disgust and contamination. It underlies religious notions of striving to live in an elevated, less carnal, more noble way. It underlies the widespread idea that the body is a temple which can be desecrated by immoral activities and contaminants (an idea not unique to religious traditions).
and probably:
6) Liberty/oppression: This foundation is about the feelings of reactance and resentment people feel toward those who dominate them and restrict their liberty. Its intuitions are often in tension with those of the authority foundation. The hatred of bullies and dominators motivates people to come together, in solidarity, to oppose or take down the oppressor.
He represents the traditions and their foundations thus:


(Images sourced from here)

This is only part of the argument, of course. But in getting to this formulation, Haidt discusses interestingly the default intellectual liberal assumption that conservatism is characterised by less commitment to moral foundations, whereas the research suggests that instead the conservative position embraces more dimensions. Haidt is open about how this realisation has challenged his own thinking.

What has that got to do with sausages? Well, perhaps it doesn't do always to be quite as patronising as even moderates foodies often are. Jamie?
 


* Some caveats are necessary here;
  • Haidt acknowledges that liberal and conservative mean different things in the USA from their meanings in Europe, so one has to be careful about generalising. 
  • And despite the apparent fit with political beliefs, he is insistent that it is moral positions he is addressing. He is not entirely consistent in keeping up the distinction.
  • And while I am mentioning the political angle, he does not discuss the authoritarianism dimension, although he makes quite a lot of libertarianism, which he tends to identify largely with liberalism, as understood over the pond. Although it is about politics (rather than the broader area of morals) see the two-factor model used by the Political Compass site for more on this.