Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles >>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. So that works, that works throughout most of the business world.