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  • >>Male Presenter: Glad to see you all here today. A few months ago I got into the car

  • and turn on NPR and the program that was on the air immediately captured my full attention.

  • The guest was commenting about how we've gotten to a point where America's different ideological

  • factions could no longer even understand each other at all, let alone work together constructively

  • for the common good. He pointed out that while it maybe convenient for us to look at our

  • opponents as evil or stupid, they're not evil or stupid, they believe in making a better

  • world, just like we do. The guest was Jonathan Haidt who's here to talk to us at Google today.

  • He mentioned to me that he's sick of talking about politics, so he's not going to be talking

  • about that subject. Instead he's going to talk about the group dynamics and psychology

  • that make effective organizations like Google function as well as they do. He's been a professor

  • of psychology at the University of Virginia for 16 years. In the summer, he moved to NYU

  • where he's starting a program to study complex social systems. He's the author of "The Happiness--

  • >>Jonathan Haidt: Hypothesis

  • >>Male Presenter: Hypothesis" and

  • >>Jonathan: Righteous Mind

  • >>Male Presenter: "The Righteous Mind" which opened up at number 6 on the New York Times

  • bestseller list. By the way, the book is for sale over in the corner here, Nadine from

  • Books, Inc. has the book for $10, which is heavily subsidized courtesy of Google. So

  • grab a copy and get it autographed at the end. Now, fresh from an interview with Michael

  • Krasny on Forum, please welcome Dr. Jonathan Haidt.

  • [Applause]

  • >> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Thanks so much, David. So, Hive Psychology, bees. That's kind of

  • creepy and gross. Why would I come here and give you guys a lecture about hives and bees?

  • Well, as David mentioned, my last book was "The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern

  • Truth in Ancient Wisdom" and I reviewed great ideas from across cultures, across the eras

  • and evaluated them in terms of what we now know in modern psychology. And chapter 10

  • reviewed ideas about happiness, where it comes from. And how really, the deepest forms of

  • happiness come from between, from getting the right kinds of connection and embeddedness.

  • There wasn't that much research to review, just a lot of claims from people long dead,

  • but the way I summarized it was "Mystical experience is an off button for the self.

  • When the self is turned off, people become just a cell in a larger body, a bee in a larger

  • hive." And I reviewed religious experiences, all kinds of awe experiences and I've long

  • been an awe junkie myself. I would do almost anything to get experiences of awe. So, I

  • really was kind of proud of this sentence. I thought, "Oh great, this is one of the things

  • that I care most about". But there wasn't much more to say about it. Well, I went on

  • to then write this new book "The Righteous Mind" and in the interim, there has been a

  • little bit of research around this and thinking about morality and where it comes from helped

  • me think through this hivishness, this groupishness, that is one of the most important facts and

  • features of human nature.

  • So, this is the cover of my book in the United States, where the slash, I think, perfectly

  • captures what it feels like to be an American these days, something is torn, something is

  • ripped, something is wrong. In the UK, they have a different cover which I think works

  • just as well as in the United States. It looks like that.

  • [laughter]

  • Now the book is, in a sense, very simple, in that it's really just about 3 ideas. If

  • you get these 3 ideas, you get moral psychology. So the three ideas are first: intuitions come

  • first, strategic reasoning second, that's what my early research was on. And if you've

  • read Malcolm Gladwell and Blink, and know about all the research on implicit cognition,

  • you're familiar with some of that work.

  • The second part is on the principle that there is more to morality than harm and fairness.

  • This is about how liberals and conservatives build their moral worlds on different sets

  • of moral foundations. This is what every newspaper and radio station that interviews me wants

  • to talk about because of the election year and as David said, I'm sick and tired of talking

  • about it. And I'd much rather talk to you about hivishness and awe. So that comes out

  • of part 3 of the book, mortality binds and blinds. That's where it comes from. It comes

  • in part from this novel ability we humans have, to be bound together into teams that

  • are not kin. That can work together towards higher goals. And one particular chapter is

  • on hive psychology and I thought it'd be fun since I'm here talking to one of the most

  • novel and interesting companies in the world, to talk about hive psychology and let's see

  • in our discussion afterwards how well these ideas apply to what you experience here at

  • Google.

  • So, perhaps the most over-rated or over-hyped idea in the social sciences in the last 70

  • years has been the idea that people are basically selfish. That our fundamental nature is selfish.

  • Economists have told us that for decades. Political scientists have told us that people

  • vote for their self-interest. Evolutionists, such as Richard Dawkins told us about selfish

  • genes. Which, they can make us cooperate with our kin in cases of reciprocity. But by and

  • large as Dawkins said, "let us try to teach generosity and altruism because we are born

  • selfish." George Williams, one of the greatest evolutionary biologists, said it even more

  • bluntly. "Morality is an accidental capability produced, in its boundless stupidity, by a

  • biological process that is normally opposed to the expression of such a capability." So

  • the view is, human nature is selfish. We can transcend it, we can act in ways that go against

  • our fundamental nature, but our fundamental nature is selfish.

  • Now, this view has been widely embraced in business schools and the business community

  • and it's been embraced even more strongly by people who hate business. Here's an essay

  • that was published in The New York Times last week, "Capitalists and Other Psychopaths".

  • It reported, down at the bottom you can see it reported when it came out in paper it said

  • "2010 study found that 10% of a sample of corporate managers met a clinical threshold

  • for being labeled 'psychopaths'". I read that and I said "that's nonsense, it can't possibly

  • be true". And I was right, the guy just made up that number. The actual study that he was

  • quoting said 4% which is even still probably too high. But the point is that there's a

  • narrative out there about business which is that it is a bunch of psychopaths and that

  • explains why businesses act the way they act. It's because of that narrative, that long

  • standing narrative which I suppose goes back to the 19th century that Google, of course,

  • came up with its identity, its brand. Which is "Don't be evil", but then of course, people

  • being what they are, there are many cynics on the web who think that Google is evil.

  • [laughter] So, now my talk today is about how our nature

  • is other than this. Our nature is not entirely selfish. There's been a kind of a little boomlet

  • in the last 10 years or so on altruism. A lot of people reject this idea and want to

  • prove no people are deeply altruistic. And there are cases like Mother Theresa, although

  • from her biography, as I understand it, even Mother Theresa wasn't exactly like Mother

  • Theresa. But there are cases of people who devote themselves to helping others. That's

  • interesting but I think actually that's not really where the action is. If you wanna understand

  • what's so amazing about human beings, don't go looking for all the cases where we do extreme

  • acts of altruism for strangers. Rather, what's really remarkable about us is our extraordinary

  • cooperation. We're just really cooperative, you guys have all cooperated more than a hundred

  • times since breakfast. It's just when you walk in the hallway, when you drive on the

  • road, we are all cooperating all the time.

  • There's a particular kind of cooperation I'll focus on which I'll call "groupishness" and

  • I'm calling it this to be able to make a very precise comparison to selfishness. Because

  • when I say, as a psychologist, that we are selfish, that our nature is in part selfish,

  • what I mean is that the human mind contains a variety of mental mechanisms that make us

  • adept at promoting our own interests in competition with our peers. Of course, we're good at that.

  • Of course, we evolved these complex minds that make us selfish very often. I'm not arguing

  • that. What I'm arguing is that's not the whole story. We are also groupish, by which I mean

  • our minds contain a variety of mental mechanisms that make us adept at promoting our group's

  • interests in competition with other groups. I'm arguing that we focus too much, in the

  • social sciences, on the competition of individual versus individual and not enough on the competition

  • of group versus group. Which I believe has also shaped our mind. That's a side story

  • about multi-level selection, group selection versus individual selection. We don't need

  • to get into that today. But that's the background to part of what I'm saying here. [clears throat]

  • So, the reason I believe this, the reason I began studying groupishness as a moral psychologist

  • that is I'm a social psychologist, but I specialize in the study of morality. The reason I study

  • this is because I was studying the moral emotions, like moral elevation and I just found there

  • are so many ways that people have found to shut down their selves, shut down self-interest,

  • transcend the self. The metaphor that I'll use is that it's as though there's a staircase

  • in our minds and there's a kind of a door that sometimes opens, very rarely, but most

  • of us have had it open. There's a kind of door that opens, it's as though there is kind

  • of a secret staircase, and when this door opens, it invites us to go up, we climb the

  • stair case and we emerge into a different realm. A realm in which we are fundamentally

  • different. We transcend ourselves and it isn't just different, it's ecstatic, it feels wonderful.

  • Most of us are familiar with these experiences in nature. Raise your hand if you have ever

  • climbed a mountain or gone out in nature specifically to experience some sort of an altered state

  • of consciousness, a state of self-transcendence, please raise your hand. OK, so right, especially

  • here in Northern California, you kind of stumble out to get the milk and that seems to happen

  • to you. But anyway. Most of us are familiar with this kind of experience. Ralph Waldo

  • Emerson described it, I think, in the most eloquent way that it has even been described.

  • Just describing what it's like to go for a walk in the woods in New England. And I've

  • had some animators animate his words, these are from an essay from, I think, 1839 and

  • again, it's as though this staircase opens, the door opens, you go up the staircase and

  • here's what he said about it.

  • >>male narrator: In the woods these plantations of God, a decorum and sanctity reign. Standing

  • on the bare ground, my head bathed by the blithe air, and uplifted into infinite space,

  • all mean egotism vanishes. I become a transparent eyeball, I am nothing, I see all. The currents

  • of the Universal Being circulate through me. I am the lover of uncontained and immortal

  • beauty.

  • >> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: So, he had lines like "all mean egotism vanishes" again, this self-transcendent

  • nature of nature experiences. William James, one of the founders of American psychology,

  • wrote a book called "Varieties of Religious Experience" were he cataloged all these sorts

  • of experiences and he noted that they don't just make us happy; they don't just make us

  • feel good. They make us feel different. That our self is fundamentally changed. People

  • don't come back from these experiences saying "I can do anything. Now I'm going to make

  • as much money as I can as quickly as I can." Rather, they come back experiencing a moral

  • commitment and a desire to serve, to be part of something larger. Many of the world's religions

  • have developed techniques and technologies to foster these self-transcendent experiences.

  • Meditation is one developed especially in most of the eastern religions. Many of the

  • world's religions discovered psychedelic drugs. Substances that can, within 30 minutes, attain

  • the kind of self-transcendence that takes years of study through meditation to achieve.

  • This is from a sixteenth century scroll showing a mushroom eater about to consume a mushroom.

  • And as soon as he eats it, this god is going to yank him up the staircase into the other

  • world. We don't know much about the Aztec's religion and to what degree it was a moral

  • transformation. But in the '60s there was a great deal of interest in psychedelic drugs,

  • there was research on it.

  • A famous study by Walter Pahnke, in conjunction with Timothy Leary, gave psilocybin or niacin

  • pills. It was a placebo controlled study. They gave the pills to divinity students in

  • a basement in a chapel at Boston University. And all 10 of the students who took psilocybin

  • had religious experiences and those who took niacin, they first felt a flush, you feel

  • like something is happening, they were really psyched. They said "Yes, I'm one of those

  • who got the pill." But it was just niacin and that quickly faded and nothing else happened.

  • So the subjects who got psilocybin experienced profound transformations, as one of them put

  • it "feelings of connectedness with everybody and everything".

  • So again, these many many roots of self-transcendence which have a morally transformative effect,

  • this is what I'm interested in. Many of the world's religions use circling, rhythmic movements

  • to create an altered state in which one gets closer to God. And if you put this all together,

  • you put chemicals that alter the brain with movement that also triggers ancient circuits,

  • what you get is a rave. It was discovered in the 1980s that if you put ecstasy and certain

  • kinds of music together you can achieve certain altered states of consciousness and it's not

  • just a celebration of hedonism. Its peace, love, unity and respect. Again, unity, it's

  • a sense of oneness, togetherness, transcending the self. And here's the weirdest place of

  • all, which is war. War is hell of course, but many journalists, when they serve with

  • the men and women down in the trenches, they find that actually war unites people like

  • nothing else. And it gives warriors experiences that they cherish for the rest of their lives.

  • There's an extraordinary book by Glenn Gray who served in the American Army in World War

  • II, and D-Day and came back and wrote a book. He wrote a book in which he interviewed many

  • other veterans and he describes the experience of communal effort in battle. Once again,

  • I've had this animated, I hope we can keep the volume louder this time, here it goes.

  • >>male narrator: Many veterans will admit that the experience of communal effort in

  • battle has been the high point of their lives. I passes insensibly into a we, my becomes

  • our and individual fate lose 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"

  • >> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: "I" passes insensibly into "we", "my" becomes "our" and individual

  • fate lose its central importance. If bees could speak, I think this is the sort of thing

  • that they would say. So it's because of these experiences, they are so ubiquitous; you find

  • them all over the world, across the eons. It's as though we were designed to be able

  • to lose ourselves. At very least there's something in our minds that makes it easy to do so.

  • This is what led me to formulate what I called the hive psychology hypothesis. It's a hypothesis,

  • but my claim is that human nature, alright this parts a metaphor, not a hypothesis. Human

  • nature is 90% chimp, 10% bee. That's the metaphor. The idea is that most of our sociality is

  • strategic or selfish. When you read books on human nature or evolution where they invariably

  • compare to other animals and the author will trace out kin selection, reciprocal altruism.

  • So we're able to cooperate as other animals are but it's ultimately for our own benefit.

  • Just like chimpanzees, but we have the ability to forget our self-interest and lose ourselves

  • in something larger than ourselves, like bees. My claim here is that we are like bees, in

  • part because we went through a parallel process of evolution as bees did. Namely a long period

  • of group versus group competition. Which chimps didn't really go through, or our primate ancestors

  • didn't go through. But group selected species do.

  • So, we're very good in situations that call for every man for himself. This is a photo

  • of a tomato fight in Spain, everybody throws tomatoes at everybody. But, I would note,

  • they had to actually all get together and agree on the rules, get a permit you know

  • they're all having fun. So actually even this isn't every man for himself. But, we're good

  • at it, we can do that. But we are especially good at one for all, all for one. Alright,

  • how does that happen? Well, let's look at sociality, let's step back and look at what

  • forms sociality takes in the animal kingdom. Many many animals are social. Darwin wrote

  • about this and noted that it's often adaptive to hang out with others, not because they

  • work together as a team but because the odds are that you won't be the slowest out of the

  • thousand deer. And so when the lion comes, it will be your neighbor that gets eaten,

  • and not you. So, deer are like this, they live in herds and these herds are not cooperative

  • at all. It's just safety in numbers, there's no team work. So this does not provide a good

  • metaphor for anything in the corporate world. I don't think there are any corporations that

  • are herds.

  • Alright, but let's move up a little bit. A lot of animals live in packs. Now packs are

  • very different. Packs, you especially find them among carnivores because teamwork lets

  • them take down larger prey. Four wolves working together can take down a much larger animal.

  • But, a wolf pack is a rough place to be, there's constant competition for status and resources.

  • Well, now it's beginning to sound more familiar. So familiar in fact that many textbooks of

  • organizational behavior specifically feature wolves. And we train our MBA students to be

  • effective wolves. Most MBA companies can be analogized to wolf packs. Teamwork lets them

  • take down larger prey. They can do things they could not do as individuals but there's

  • constant competition for status and resources.