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Hive psychology, group selection, and leadership Sage Lecture #4 Dec. 1, 2008 Jonathan Haidt University of Virginia.

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Presentation on theme: "Hive psychology, group selection, and leadership Sage Lecture #4 Dec. 1, 2008 Jonathan Haidt University of Virginia."— Presentation transcript:

1 Hive psychology, group selection, and leadership Sage Lecture #4 Dec. 1, 2008 Jonathan Haidt University of Virginia

2 6 Lectures on Morality 11/10: What is morality and how does it work? 11/17: The righteous mind: Why good people are divided by politics and religion 11/24: The positive moral emotions: Elevation, awe, admiration, and gratitude 12/1: Hive psychology, group selection, and leadership 12/8: The dark side: Why moral psychology is the greatest source of evil 12/15: The light side: How to pursue happiness using ancient wisdom and modern psychology ppt files available at, at

3 Hive Psychology

4 Humans evolved to be contingent ultra-socialists, able to operate at any point from.... to... We are partway through a major transition in evolutionary history. We are apes, but with a recent “slider switch” that makes us temporarily hive-like. Synchronous activities are among the activators of that switch. Hive Psychology

5 I) The function of music and dance II) Ecstatic loss of self III) Synchronous movement IV) Multi-level selection V) Why haven’t psychologists seen this? VI) Application: leadership VII) Application: positive psychology Hive Psychology

6 I) The Function of Music and Dance Hagen & Bryant (2003) Music and dance as a coalition signaling system. Brain seems to contain neural specialization for music. Why? 1) Sexual selection 2) Group cohesion 3) coalition signaling

7 Sexual Selection? Talented singers are attractive, but: --in small-scale societies, music and dance are especially frequent in war and politics --Humans commonly perform music in groups --Rhythm is uniquely human; seems designed to coordinate multiple people --Adolescents favor same-sex musicians

8 Group cohesion? Obvious hypoth: music & dance help groups cohere; cohesive groups outcompete other groups. Individualistic definition of cohesion: group members perceive they can provide and get valuable benefits; and/or perceive that they share fitness interests served by collective action Reject this because: --music and dance are not effective at conveying info to ingroup members about the benefits you can provide, or about your shared interests

9 Coalition Signaling? Look at human history as longstanding intergroup conflict AND alliance. Music and dance are honest signals of your coalition’s quality. “Note that music and dance do not cause social cohesion, they signal social cohesion” (p. 30) Yes, they certainly signal cohesion: --New Zealand Rugby team: All Blacks --North Korea Mass Games

10 But They Also Cause Cohesion! Wiltemuth & Heath, in press (Psych Science) Study 1: walking in step vs not Study 2 & 3: move cups around to music, and sing “O Canada,” in sync or not In all 3 studies, synchronous movement improved later performance on coordination task or common goods game; also improved liking and trust.

11 II) The Ecstatic loss of self William James on conversion: “the process... by which a self hitherto divided, and consciously wrong inferior and unhappy, becomes unified and consciously right superior and happy.” Involves: --Loss of worry, sense of peace --Joy: a “higher happiness” that lasts months or years --World looks new and beautiful --Moral commitment, desire to serve

12 "I thought I saw the Saviour, by faith, in human shape, for about one second in the room, with arms extended, appearing to say to me, Come. The next day I rejoiced with trembling; soon after, my happiness was so great that I said that I wanted to die; this world had no place in my affections, as I knew of, and every day appeared as solemn to me as the Sabbath. I had an ardent desire that all mankind might feel as I did; I wanted to have them all love God supremely. Previous to this time I was very selfish and self-righteous; but now I desired the welfare of all mankind, and could with a feeling heart forgive my worst enemies, and I felt as if I should be willing to bear the scoffs and sneers of any person, and suffer anything for His sake, if I could be the means in the hands of God, of the conversion of one soul.“ --Stephen Bradley, 1820

13 1) Nature: Standing on the bare ground, -- my head bathed by the blithe air and uplifted into infinite space, -- all mean egotism vanishes... I am nothing; I see all; the currents of the Universal Being circulate through me; I am part or parcel of God. (Emerson) So many routes to self-loss!

14 2) Spontaneous peak experiences (Maslow) including --“unitive consciousness” --transcendence of dualities --disorientation in space and time So many routes to self-loss!

15 3) Meditation Samadhi: “the subject-object distinction and one’s sense of an individual self disappear...” So many routes to self-loss! Newberg et al. (2001), Why God Won’t Go Away --Meditators show big drop in “orientation association areas” in parietal lobe; lose map of self, in space; have self-transcendent experience

16 4) Brain stimulation or malfunction --Ramachandran on the “god spot” in the temporal lobe So many routes to self-loss!

17 5) Psychedelic drugs (Leary; Huxley; Pahnke) So many routes to self-loss!

18 6) Repetitive movements, especially in a group So many routes to self-loss! "The ability of human ritual to produce transcendent unitary states is the result, we believe, of the effect of rhythmic ritualized behavior upon the hypothalamus and the autonomic nervous system and, eventually, the rest of the brain.“ –Newberg, p. 86

19 III) Synchrony

20 Keeping together in time "Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective ritual.” --W. McNeill

21 Keeping together in time, religious

22 Keeping together in time, fascist

23 Keeping together in time, just for fun The Wave The Macarena The YMCA

24 Answer: “Muscular bonding” is an evolved mechanism to shut down “I” and call together “we.” --Creates OFA-AFO --Creates “communitas” (Turner, 1969), intense feelings of social togetherness and belonging, often in connection with rituals McNeill’s Question: Why do all societies have collective dance, singing, ritual, or marching?

25 Communitas of Warriors "I" passes insensibly into a "we," "my" becomes "our," and individual fate loses its central importance... I believe that it is nothing less than the assurance of immortality that makes self sacrifice at these moments so relatively easy... I may fall, but I do not die, for that which is real in me goes forward and lives on in the comrades for whom I gave up my life. --Gray (1973), The Warriors

26 Communitas of Ecstatic Dancers “As the dancer loses himself in the dance, he reaches a state of elation in which he feels himself filled with an energy beyond his ordinary state…at the same time finding himself in complete and ecstatic harmony with all of the fellow members of his community.” --Radcliffe-Brown (1922, p.251-252) See also: --Collective effervescence (Durkheim) --Techniques of ecstasy (Eliade)

27 --Ecstatic dance was the norm in traditional societies --Met with disgust by Europeans at time of first contact --Long battle of Dionysian and Apollonian tendencies in West --Apollo won; ecstatic dance stamped out in Christianity beginning 13 th C. --Psychology is now poorly equipped to understand this portion of human nature

28 “We lack any way of describing and understanding the ‘love’ that may exist among dozens of people at a time… If homosexual attraction is the love that ‘dares not speak its name,’ the love that binds people to the collective has no name at all to speak.”

29 Or is the name “ecstasy”? “an example of me on ecstasy”

30 IV) Multi-level Selection Many animals are social: live in groups, work together on hunt, have affection for specific others…. But only 6 kinds of animal are ULTRA-social: massive division of labor, pervasive altruism, willingness to die for the group

31 The 6 Ultrasocial Animals Hymenoptera: Bees wasps and ants Also: termites… and naked mole rats… Reproduce only through queen; OFA-AFO

32 The 6 th Ultrasocial: Not kinship; Massive in- group cooperation for the purpose of cross-group competition. Held together by norms and emotions.

33 Multi-Level Selection Evolution = variation + selection + inheritance What are the units that get selected? --Groups of animals in an ecological niche --Individual animals in a group --Cells in body --Sub-cellular units (e.g., genes) Competition occurs at multiple levels simultaneously. Selection pressure at one level favors adaptations that suppress competition at lower level.

34 Major Transitions in Evolution Independent genes  Chromosomes 

35 Major Transitions in Evolution Bacterial cells  Eukaryotic cells 

36 Major Transitions in Evolution Eukaryotic cells  multi-cellular organisms 

37 Major Transitions in Evolution Multi-cell organisms  colonies 

38 Major Transitions in Evolution Multi-cell organisms  armies, nations, empires 

39 Cohesion and Competition “Drill, dance, and battle belong together. All three create and sustain group cohesion; and the creation and maintenance of social groups -- together with resulting rivalries among groups -- constitute the warp and weft of human history” --McNeill

40 Darwin: Morality was the Binder A tribe including many members who, from possessing in a high degree the spirit of patriotism, fidelity, obedience, courage, and sympathy, were always ready to aid one another, and to sacrifice themselves for the common good, would be victorious over most other tribes; and this would be natural selection. At all times throughout the world tribes have supplanted other tribes; and … morality is one important element in their success --Descent of Man, Ch. V

41 Um, isn’t group selection totally discredited?

42 The Gospel, 1976-2007 Cooperation caused by: 1) Kin selection 2) Reciprocal altruism (extended by indirect reciprocity) Free rider problem dooms group selection

43 Multi-level Selection Blessed --When free rider problems are solved at one level, selection at next level becomes important --Culture enabled many solutions, caused a “major transition”

44 “In a thread woven throughout the narrative, they argue that colonies of social insects should be seen and studied as super- organisms, a naturally selected level of organization a step above individual organisms.... They hold that ‘[t]he principal target of natural selection in the social evolution of insects is the colony, while the unit of selection is the gene.’" --James Hunt, in Science

45 V) Why Haven’t Psychologists Seen This? --They did, long ago: Spencer, Wundt, McDougall... The psychological crowd is a provisional being formed of heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their reunion a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly (Le Bon, 1896, p.30).

46 Blinded by Individualism There is no psychology of groups which is not essentially and entirely a psychology of individuals. Social psychology must not be placed in contradistinction to the psychology of the individual; it is a part of the psychology of the individual, whose behavior it studies in relation to that sector of his environment comprised by his fellows (Allport, 1924, p. 4).

47 “Methodological individualism dominates our neighboring fields of economics, much of sociology, and all of psychology’s excursions into organizational theory. This is the dogma that all human social group processes are to be explained by laws of individual behavior” (Campbell 1994, p. 23). Blinded by Individualism

48 Blinded by Liberalism too? --Universalism: nations are bad --Anti-racism as central identity, sacred value: groupishness = racism --Knee-jerk distrust of tight groups: fascism

49 Liberals 2 channels, Conservatives 5 Endorsement Harm Fairness Ingroup Authority Purity

50 Liberals are often anti-I,A,P Science writers John Horgan & George Johnson, talking about 5 foundations on

51 Corporation: "a collection of many individuals united into one body, under a special denomination, having perpetual succession under an artificial form, and vested, by policy of the law, with the capacity of acting, in several respects, as an individual… “ (Stewart Kyd, 1794) VI) Application: Leadership

52 Major transitions in commercial history 1) Production by families (kinship) 2) Specialization by guilds (fraternity, caste) 3) Industrial revolution, assembly line (self-interest, synchrony?) 4) Modern corporation: thousands of people, massive division of labor, held together by….

53 Japanese model: --Fictive kinship --Fraternity --Self interest --Synchrony American model: --Self interest --weak corporate culture?

54 The moral psychology of leadership means… understanding our ultrasociality and using it wisely and honorably to structure environments, rhetoric, and action to move one’s team closer to OFA-AFO

55 How to grow a hive: A) Institutional Design: --Shared fate (all in the same boat) --Heightened similarity (e.g., uniforms, not diversity) --Moving together in time (drill, ritual) --Outgroup competition --Noble goals, noble means

56 How to grow a hive: B) Leader Behavior: Integrity + charisma --Must be worthy of respect, admiration, and awe --impartiality: followers can trust, and cede control --self-sacrifice: shows shared fate, commitment --eloquence: noble words uplift and inspire

57 The “slider switch” of selflessness Perfect Selfishness Perfect Selflessness --Am I working for myself, or for others? --Is my teamwork just for my own benefit, or would I really “take a bullet” for these guys? --We can all function at all points on the continuum.

58 VII) Application: Positive Psych

59 Relatedness Hypotheses: 1) The Dyadic hypothesis: People need relationships to flourish. 2) The Moral Community hypothesis: People need to be bound in to a community that shares norms and values in order to flourish.

60 Moral-communal capital: Social capital, plus institutions, traditions, and norms that guarantee that contributions and hard work will be rewarded, and that free-riders, exploiters, and criminals will be punished.

61 Traditional Morality: Uses every tool in the toolbox to increase MCC

62 Relatedness Hypotheses: 1) The Dyadic hypothesis: People need relationships to flourish. 2) The Moral Community hypothesis: People need to be bound in to a community that shares norms and values in order to flourish. 3) The Hive-Psych hypothesis: The self can be an obstacle to happiness, so people need to lose their selves occasionally by becoming part of an emergent social organism (like bees in a hive) in order to reach the highest levels of human flourishing

63 The Mute Button? "Had the human self been installed with a mute button or off switch, the self would not be the curse to happiness that it often is" (Leary, 2004; The Curse of the Self, p. 46). Does the self have a button? The “biotechnology of dance”? Synchronous movement, within cultural institutions and traditions that suppress “I” and bring out “we”?

64 VII) How to study hive psych empirically?

65 Synchrony & self-loss in IVE Research question: Does moving in synchrony push the slider switch? Make us hivish and cohesive? Self-loss, and OFA-OFA? Pleasure? Liking for peers, persuadability by peers? Basic Method: IV:P moves in synch (or not) with 12 (or 1) agents DVs: enjoyment of task, openness to persuasion from agents, willingness to sacrifice for agents

66 The New Synthesis in Moral Psych 1) Intuitive primacy (but not dictatorship) --so look at the moral emotions 2) Moral thinking is for social doing --moral emotions change relationships 3) Morality binds and builds --pos moral emotions are about self- transcendence; I becomes WE 4) Morality is about more than harm and fairness --look to the ancients, and traditional morality, to broaden the narrow modern imagination

67 The New Synthesis in Moral Psych 1) Intuitive primacy (but not dictatorship) --so look at the moral emotions, and embodied methods of creating shared morality 2) Moral thinking is for social doing --Often functional for GROUP, not just for individ. 3) Morality binds and builds --pos moral emotions, and synchrony, are about self-transcendence; I becomes WE 4) Morality is about more than harm and fairness --it is about making groups possible...

68 Morality re-defined: “Moral systems are interlocking sets of values, virtues, norms, practices, identities, institutions, technologies, and evolved psychological mechanisms that work together to suppress or regulate selfishness and make social life possible” (Haidt, in press, Handbook of social psych)

69 More information at

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