Before Claire Ranit spoke to her local Rotary Club, she needed to know if her listeners would be elephants or riders.
Ranit, MARC project director for the Columbia River Gorge, was referring to a model of behavioral psychology outlined by psychologist Jonathan Haidt in his book, The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom. In Haidt’s metaphor the conscious mind is a rider on the back of an elephant, while the elephant galumphs along on instinct and impulse.
“The elephant is a big, powerful animal—the emotional side of things,” Ranit explains. “The rider is the analytical piece that makes decisions and guides the elephant where it needs to go.”