>>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.
>> 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.
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
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
>> 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
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.
Raise your hand if the description I've just given you describes what it's like to work
at Google. OK, I thought not. Of course, if you did raise your hand I'm sure there are
cameras everywhere and who knows what would happen to you. [laughter] But, for you, I
think you would resonate more towards the third alternative which is hives. Only a few
kinds of species live in hives, it's only been discovered a few times in the evolution
of life on earth. A few dozen times actually. The Hymenoptera were the main discoverers
of this way of living. The bees, wasps and ants and they are able to live in gigantic
colonies with massive division of labor, and they are able to do it because they are all
sisters. They suppress breeding, so they're really all in the same boat, all in the same
hive. It's one for all, all for one. There was a species of cockroach that discovered
this form of living and their bodies morphed into those that we now call termites. And
there's one species of mammal that did, the naked mole rat. In all five of these cases,
it's the same trick. Suppress breeding, so that you have just one queen who lays all
the eggs or gives birth to all the babies and now everybody's interest, their biological
interest is one for all, all for one. Keep the queen alive, keep the babies alive. And
so they're able to cooperate, massively build gigantic nests, thousands of times larger
than any individual. It's really quite extraordinary what they can do, but it's not hard to explain
because it's straight kinship.
Now, once you get hive living, you can get this amazing division of labor and you can
the group functioning as a super organism. This is an image of giant Asian honey bees
that do this behavior. And what scientists have figured out is that they do this when
there is a wasp, a larger predatory insect, there's a wasp trying to get in. Trying to
attack them, to get in, trying to get the honey. So, they're able to flick their tails
and their bodies in unison, in a pattern that basically flicks the wasp off. It's an amazing
feat of coordination possible because they live in this way, one for all, all for one.
And these emergent behaviors have evolved, quite extraordinary. This yields massive efficiency;
you have massive division of labor and trust. Is this an analogy or even a homology for
anything in the corporate world? Are there any businesses that work this way? Well, there's
no business that has no competition, in which people are truly perfect hive members, where
there's no politics, no competition. But there are many businesses that come close.
I've visited a couple times at zappos.com and they pride themselves in being like this,
and my sense is that they really are. If you put Zappos into Google image search, this
was one of the first images that came up when I did this. And it is them forming this symbol
of one for all, all for one and when they do this love to spin around like those bees.
So, some companies, I think, are like this. Now, I want to tell you about this little
bit of research that has been done on hive psychology recently. It's been discovered
that synchronous movement, moving together, seems to change our minds, chance our physiology
in ways that make us extra good hive members. So, many religions use synchronous movement
well. Scott Wiltermuth and Chip Heath at the Stanford Business School, brought people into
the lab, had them basically sing a drinking song. They didn't actually give them alcohol
but they had them wave mugs around while singing 'O Canada'. They wanted a song that people
wouldn't have any particular emotional attachment to.
>> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: They had them sing 'O Canada' while listening on headphones to
the song so that they could either be singing or moving in unison or not quite in unison.
And then they had them play various games and dilemmas to see how well they could cooperate.
And after moving together in synchrony, they were better able, they could go further in
these games that required extreme cooperation. Something that has very direct relevance to
any sort of collective effort, certainly in the business world. Moving together in time
increases cooperation and trust.
Another study found that when you take rowers, college level rowers and you have them row
either in synchrony or not in synchrony, they did it in a rowing tank so they could measure
exactly how much force was being applied. They actually were able to deliver the same
amount of force, but then when they gave them the pain tolerance test afterwards. Those
that had rowed in synchrony were able to withstand more pain. In other words, it changes the
endorphin system which would be adaptive if this is a reflex for battle. Groups that move
together in time can fight together better, they can trust each other better. So we're
changing some relatively low level aspects of brain chemistry that would prepare individuals
to be a part of a team in combat. Now in case you want any evidence that this
can be used in the corporate world, Japanese companies have long used synchronous movement
in the morning to bind the group together. The Japanese corporate structure is very much
based on a hive model, a family model, not so much competition within the group, but
fiercely competitive across companies. Synchrony has been used in the business world for exactly
this purpose. And actually, how many people have ever done any sort of like team building
exercise or corporate retreat where they had you move in synchrony, is this commonly done?
OK, ya it is often used, it's not studied very much so we need to do better research
to find out if it really works. But I suspect that it does.
So, here's one dramatic example of how, again, how it's just people [unintelligible] this
is the All Blacks, New Zealand, one of the premiere rugby teams. The All Blacks.
>> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Watch their poor opponents in the end.
[crowd cheers][rugby players chant the Haka] >> Jonathan Haidt: So it's fun, it feels good
and there are reasons to believe that it actually works to bind teams together more closely.
So I want to make the point now that while a corporation is always a super organism.
In fact, the legal definition of a corporation, going back to eighteenth century Dutch and
British law, is a group of people united into one body. The word corporation literally means
body. So Mitt Romney is not entirely wrong when he says corporations are people, although
of course, it they are people they are a certain kind of person that does not have much in
the way of moral sentiments in and of itself. But we won't go there.
Alright, so, a corporation is always a super organism, it is a kind of emergent entity.
But I want to make it clear, I'm not saying that they are hives, most are not. Very few
are hives. There's a dimension of hivishness and even within the same industry. So, here
are some companies just from my limited experience in the business world around or rather just
teaching courses to people in the business world. I hear from the students that some
companies are very much hivish; these are places where they really feel one for all,
all for one. I asked David on the way in, whether this is really true about Google,
what I've heard. Oh absolutely, right away from my first day here it was clear that I
could call up somebody if I needed help and no matter how busy he was, he would just help
me. Even though there was nothing in it for him, it wasn't his project. But everyone just
has this sense that you know, you help, you do what's needed. You do whatever another
fellow employee needs. So like those bees, you function as an organism, division of labor,
but you're all in it together.
So here are some companies that are known for not quite being that way. So competition
even, of course Amazon bought Zappos and people at Zappos were concerned that their corporate
cultures would be very different. But so far it seems as though Amazon has respected their
very, very different culture at Zappos.
So, I think that there are some obvious benefits of hivishness, just on its face now, I just
signed on at the Business School at NYU, so I haven't done the front line research on
this directly but there are reasons to think that hivishness is going to have these two
major, major benefits. The first is almost, by definition, higher social capital. Social
capital is an important concept from sociology, popularized in the 1990s. It refers to the
trust that is found in relationships. So if two companies have, if one company has more
financial capital than another, but everything else is equal, more money in the bank is going
to let them beat out the other company. Similarly, if two companies are identical and identical
in financial capital, but one has more social capital, that is, people can do as David said
you need help, you ask for it, you get it. There's no backstabbing or there's no turf
guarding, that's social capital. If everything else is equal, that company is going to beat
out the other company. They're more efficient.
So hivishness by definition is going to give you higher social capital, which should generally
translate into higher productivity and flexibility. Management can make changes and assume that
people will trust them, go along with it, not fight over well, should we change. You're
a team, you're like one body. When I say move to the left, my right hand doesn't say "wait
a second, what's in it for me?" Secondly, hivishness is going to give you employee morale.
It's just a lot more fun to work in a place where everybody likes and trusts each other
and works as a team. So you get lower turnover. Turnover is extremely expensive for companies.
And when people are fired, or when they leave for any reason, they're much less likely to
sue if it's a hivish organization, were there was much more trust. It makes it much easier
to recruit, and once people are here, it makes it harder to lure them away. So hivishness
has obvious benefits for companies.
Now it also surely has downsides and it depends how you do it, so I'm not standing here saying
"Oh, every company should become more hivish." I have no idea if that's true. But I do want
to introduce these terms. I think it's helpful for people in the business world to think
about. So possible risks or downsides are at a certain point you spend so much time
playing drinking games and charades and other things that they do in some of these hivish
companies. Billiards, what else do I see here Ping-Pong, scooters, pogo sticks. At a certain
point you spend so much time that it will lower productivity. Secondly, if you have
that really hivish feeling of love of the group, that could become sort of toxic for
outsiders. You could no longer care about other stake holders, other people outside
the company. Of course, if you have more group loyalty then there might be more pressure
to cover up misdeeds, it would be harder to be a whistle blower, perhaps. And lastly you
could have more group think if everybody is sort of on the same wave length and people
are emphasizing their similarity. On the other hand, at least what I heard at Zappos, and
what I've also heard from a student of mine, Jesse Kluver who is a Marine, is that when
you have a really hivish group, there is such trust and everybody values the mission that
actually, often what you have is it's easier to speak up because everyone trusts that you're
not grandstanding, you really have the interest of the group at heart. So, it's an open question
when hivishness will have a profile of benefits and when it will have costs.
Now, some advice on what one can do if you have an organization, this is not just true
in the corporate world, this is any organization any non-profit a soccer team, anything. Well,
some of the basic ideas from classic social psychology are that when people have a sense
of shared fate, and especially a sense of shared sacrifice. We're all pulling together;
we're all in the same boat. That really brings out the bee in us; it really brings out the
cooperator in us. It's very important in any organization to suppress free riders if there's
a sense, because in such an organization there's so much freedom. Anybody who wanted to could
stock up on all these snacks and go sell them on the street corner if you wanted to. And
anybody who did that would be violating the group's trust. Any organization that lets
free riders do such things then suddenly activates more negative psychology in everybody else,
people don't feel that they can trust each other. So free riders are really poisonous.
It's crucial that free riders be punished and punished quickly. But punishment doesn't
have to involve spanking or firing or anything else. Gossip is the normal human form of punishment.
Gossip is actually, generally speaking a good thing, especially in a hivish organization.
Gossip gets a bad name because in junior high school people tend to use it to destroy their
rivals. So that's ugly. But, what's been found, a study by Naft and Wilson, looked at gossip
on a crew team. And when you have a group working together like that, most of the gossip
was actually who's shirking, who's not working out hard enough. When people really care about
the mission of the group they tend to gossip in way that's will shame and punish those
who are drifting off and sort of pull them back in. So gossip is the front line of defense
for a healthy organization.
Third, heightened similarity, anything that makes you feel like you are all one will help
this feeling. So of course many companies emphasize diversity. It's important to emphasize
diversity for justice reasons and diversity especially of perspectives, has many benefits
for creativity. But I want to emphasize that to get trust and cohesion, you don't want
to tell everyone oh, we're all so different and that's great, you want to say we're all
the same. And when you do that race stops mattering because so many other things link
you together. So, just think about emphasizing similarity not diversity.
Fourth point, synchrony moving together to the extent possible, has been shown to have
these effects. Healthy competition is good. When you divide people into groups, they tend
to trust the people in their group more and interestingly, they don't dislike the people
in the other group. So, are there any intramural competitions here? Is there any time where
you do group versus group or division versus division here at Google? Do you ever do that?
I assume you don't then hate the people on the other team? It's playful, it's fun. You
get to work together more closely. So this is the classic social psych finding, in-group
love is not purchased at the cost of out-group hate. Unless the competition gets really nasty,
and then it gets viciously tribal and that's where we are in the US Congress. But within
a healthy company that's not what happens.
Lastly, to the extent that you can say your company is pursuing a noble mission, it's
much easier to inspire people. So at Zappos, for example, they don't talk about selling
shoes, they talk about their mission is delivering happiness. They're a service company. And
Google is organizing the world's information. Google is making our lives easier. Google
is doing all these wonderful things. So, to the extent that one is thinking about the
culture of one's team or organization, these are some pointers for how to make it more
hivish and cooperative. There are some specific things that leaders can do, behaving in particular
with integrity and charisma. A leader must be worth of respect, admiration and perhaps
even awe. Not necessarily but these things do help. Great leaders, such as Julius Caesar,
inspired their men because their followers could trust them. They looked up to them.
One of the most important things about being a leader or a boss is that people are willing
to cede you authority and to follow you as long as they trust that you really are out
for the good of the group. As soon as they get the sense that you're a self-aggrandizer,
that you're out for yourself or you've got your favorites and you're out for your faction
and not going to help the other members of team, then they'll turn against you very,
So an important part of leadership is impartiality, fairness, people really have to trust you,
that you're really impartial. And then they will accept decisions from you that work against
their self-interest. Self-sacrifice is crucial, that leaders sacrifice when times are tough.
I was at a, there was a positive psychology conference, a month after 9/11 and corporate
CEO got up and said to this room of 300 psychologists "We, the business community, we are on the
front line in the fight against terror." Which seems to me to be incredibly pompous when
we are sending troops over to Afghanistan to actually fight and face bullets, but anyway.
So, "we CEOs are on the front line of the fight against terror, and we need ideas from
you as to what we can do and how we can win this fight" So I stood up and I said "Well,
we've just gone through the 90s when CEO pay skyrocketed as profits were going up. Now
the economies turned and 9/11's pushed us down further, profits are dropping, pay is
dropping. So, I would think if CEOs would take a massive cut in pay on the way down,
that would inspire more cooperation and help you win the fight against terror."
>> Dr. Jonathan Haidt: He says "That isn't helpful, any other suggestions?" [laughter]
So anyway, shared sacrifice.
And lastly eloquence, history books are full of times when a battle turned or the history
of the world turned on one person giving an inspiring and eloquent speech that rallied
others to work or fight their hardest.
So to conclude, we have this story about human beings being fundamentally selfish. And certainly
businesses and business people being fundamentally selfish and while I think there is a little
bit of truth to this, this story does work in some corners of the business world. And
right now we're all trying to figure out whether the finance business, the finance industry
is different from the rest of the corporate world where they actually make things that
are of use to people. Finance does seem to be plagued by many more problems than other
areas of the business world. But I'd like to replace this idea of human nature with
this idea: that we are both selfish and cooperative, we are selfish and groupish, and I think this
is not just a more inspiring of what we are but I think it's actually a true vision.
Thank you very much.
>>Male Presenter: We have time for questions, so if you're interested come up to the microphone
and ask away.
>>male #1: So you've made some pretty compelling arguments about the benefits of hivishness
and the human propensity for hivishness. And given those benefits, it seems reasonable
that people would have this psychological propensity. But we all know that evolution
is not a teleological mechanism that seeks long term global optimization-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Not at all.
>>male #1: -and in fact you cited the fact that a lot of the insects have to adopt these
very strange genetic patterns into their hives in order to make it evolutionarily stable
strategy for them to behave that way. You said at the beginning you didn't really want
to dive into the whole issue about individual versus group selectionism, but I just have
one sort of top-level question-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Sure. >>male #1: -which is, do you think it's necessary
to invoke group selectionism to explain the human propensity for hivish behavior?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Well yes, a great question. Is it necessary to invoke group selection?
I think it's not necessary. There are some very clever explanations as to why we're so
groupish, that rely on individual level selection. That is individuals who could show off that
they were good team players would be rewarded and trusted more and therefore they would
benefit. But part of the reason why I'm attracted to ideas about multi-level selection that
is: human nature was shaped in part by group versus group competition, is that there's
all this weird stuff we do that's very hard to explain as something that will redound
to my personal benefit. For example, after 9/11 there was sort of the 'rally around the
flag' effect. And it's kind of hard to explain that people who rally around the flag and
had this urge to support the leader that they beat out the other ones who had less of that
urge. A better example I think would be the urge to kill traitors and apostates. So what
you do with it. A traitor is worse than an enemy, in many religious books and in many
societies. A traitor, there's only thing you have to do with a traitor, you have to kill
Now, do we suppose this urge to kill traitors came about because long ago individuals who
killed their traitorous neighbors had more children than individuals who hung back and
didn't kill their traitorous neighbors? There's just a lot of really tribal groupish stuff,
initiation rites, a lot of weird stuff we do that makes perfect sense if you think that
our genes came down to us in part by being lodged in successful groups. It's being currently
fought out, nobody has a knock down argument but I think the total picture of human nature
is more consilient with group selection than with individual selection.
>>male #2: You mentioned searching out and destroying traitors just now and that kind
of gets at what I was going to ask. What about when the hive sort of goes off track and I
was sitting there thinking a little about like Salem witch trials. You mentioned bullies
in school, what happens when you have a mob? A hive turns into a mob?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Right, right. So I take an ecological view of human evolution. That
is if you think about a total ecosystem and there's lots of niches then there all these
creatures in the niches. Most of those creatures are individual animals but some of them are
groups. So if we think about religion, so in my book I developed at great lengths ideas
from David Sloan Wilson and others. That religion is an adaptation for binding groups together
for intergroup conflict. That means that religion in its original tribal form is very much about
getting people to trust each other, develop virtues that will help maximize their productivity
and especially make them more fit, or at least wipe out or, at least, out compete neighboring
groups. Not a very pretty picture. And in many parts of the world, as the new atheists
love to document, religions look sort of that way. But in the American ecosystem, things
are very, very different. In America, we've had a free market in religion since the beginning.
And especially for Protestants who shift around quite a lot, between sects. So they all have
to be good at marketing and they all have to be appealing and if you go to a church,
and I'm a Jewish atheist but I assign my students to go to various, you know far right or far
left churches. I had to do it myself. You go in there and everyone is so welcoming,
so nice wherever you go. In the American ecosystem, nasty tribal religions don't propagate. But
nicer ones do. So in our ecology, religion actually turns out to be a great benefit overall.
So there's a book called "American Grace" by Putnam and Campbell where they just look
at whether religions have a net benefit to society. And they conclude that in America
at least, they really, really do.
So even though this stuff emerged in ways that could have all kinds of negative externalities,
depending on the ecosystem, it can actually be quite positive. There are lots of externalities.
>>female #1: Hi. So when Steven Pinker was here, he was talking about his theory about
the history of violence and it's declining in human society-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: -yes-
>>female #1: - and he brought up this idea of moral circles-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: -yes-
>>female #1:- like that us has sort of expanded outward in time. It used to be maybe just
our family, then just our tribe then our nation and then the groups get bigger and bigger.
And I'm sorry, I'm blanking on the philosopher-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: -Peter Singer-
>>female #1: - Peter Singer. So how do you think that dovetails with your idea about
groupishness and hivishness?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Yes. So, groupishness. We get more groupish when we're attacked.
And after 9/11 we got a lot more groupish, I think everybody thought there's going to
be anti-Muslim violence and there wasn't, to the credit of Americans' generally tolerant
nature. But, war and intergroup conflict shrinks the circle and makes us more competitive whereas
peace and prosperity lets that sort fade away. Also, intergroup contact trade and travel,
which keep going up, thin that out. So I think that Pinker is absolutely right, violence
is declining. There are many reasons for that and one of the reasons he cites is actually
trade and commerce.
Because trade and commerce makes you not care at all what those people eat or how they have
sex. Just, do they have the goods and will they honor their contract? And this is why,
to this day, Amsterdam is one of the most tolerant places on earth. Because it was the
origin of this kind of new modern global trade. So, I think Pinker is right and as the internet
has helped us see more interact with people more globally, it is thinning this stuff out.
The other piece of the story that Pinker mentions is strengthening institutions. This groupishness,
this hivishness, works well to structure groups when there is no police forces, no courts
but as you get stronger institutions, you can weaken this tribalism, this hivishness.
And the Scandinavian countries are the forefront in world history of having effective civil
institutions and ever decreasing groupishness. So it's possible to have a very humane society
without it. But, people need groups, people thrive in groups and so it remains to be seen
whether you can healthier or less healthy forms in America.
>>male #3: There's been some research that suggests that there's sort of an inbuilt limit
in the number of other primates that we can consider part of our group. Dunbar's Number?
Do you think there's a similar limit for how large we can find our hive to be?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Right, that's a good question. So the Dunbar Number is one hundred
fifty, there's not been any firm research on it but the basic idea is that there's a
certain number of people that we can know personally. But not just know personally,
because you can know a thousand people personally, but know how everybody is connected to everybody
else. And once you get above one hundred and fifty, that's very hard. So that's kind of
a natural break point for human groups.
But one of the cool things about human social cognition is that it's recursive. So there's
this Arab proverb: "Me against my brother, me and my brother against our cousin, me and
my brother and cousin against the stranger." And, the US military uses this beautifully.
There's competition at every level. Everybody is competing with everybody. But within the
lowest level, you know they'll compete within a patrol; they'll then cooperate to compete
against the next patrol and all the way up until the Marines are competing against the
And then of course in war, the whole US Military is competing against another military organization.
So, there is no limit to how high we can go as long as there's someone on the other side.
So there will never be a human hive until either we're attacked by Mars or we get serious
and declare war on those goddamn mosquitoes.
>>Male #4: I'm interested in the same topic, the scale at which this groupishness can operate.
I just joined Google a few weeks ago and I'd be surprised if I knew somebody in this room.
And so you showed slides of people moving together, so I wonder if I signed up for like
an aerobics class here at Google, but I didn't happen to know anybody else in the class and
after I was done and I came back to my group, is that gonna foster groupishness? In me,
or do I have to actually know the people I'm moving with?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Thank you, that is exactly the experiment I would like to run, I will
credit you when I run it, that is something that we need to do. But my hypothesis would
be, that if you simply exercise with people that you don't know and don't see again, that
would be enough to foster or facilitate your integration into this company. So it should
work at that very minimal level.
Secondly, if you do at least recognize the people that you're moving with and then you
see them in some other context, or at a party, you would be able to strike up a conversation
more easily. And third, if you took one division of Google and sort of encouraged it, you can't
force people or you'll get reactance, but you encourage one division to do a lot of
this stuff and another one to not do it. My prediction would be that you would see a measurable
bump up, depends on the outcome measure, but for certain tasks that require trust and ability
to work together, you would see it.
So that's the hypothesis, we don't know yet whether it's true.
>>Male#5: Hi, thanks for coming. I sort of have two questions, about intention and consciously
doing, consciously acting. So both when you're looking at sort of selfish actions or groupish
actions. How much does it matter whether those are, you're trying to be selfish or trying
to be groupish versus it just being the subconscious? Like, does that even come into play?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Right.
>>Male#6: And sort of semi-relatedly for groups or hives, what is intention? Previous question
about when the hive starts to drift away, you know, that's sort of the hives will is
sort of drifting. You were talking about a leader sort of having a role in sort of defining
the direction of a group. How much is sort of emergent, no one's really trying to apply
a direction versus how much is really just an individual applying their own will.
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: OK, thank you. That's given us two good questions. So the first,
I deliberately said 90% chimp 10% bee, not 50/50. Because we are very, very concerned
with our self-interests and especially our reputation. So a lot of cooperation is for
show. A lot of cooperation is because people are watching. And if there's no monitoring
and you're relying only on people's team spirit and they can get away with anything they want,
research shows that most people tend to cheat more than they even realize that they are
doing. So some of it is for show and a well set up organization is one in which people
will do good and get credit for it. To the reputation you want, to harness reputational
concerns as much as you can.
As for the extent to which a leader is making it happen versus letting it happening organically,
I think a good metaphor is gardening or maybe more like forestry. You can manage an ecosystem,
but it's very hard to just create one from scratch. You have to let it grow to some extent.
And this to the extent that I'm very interested in liberal and conservative ideas. I am dispositionally
a liberal, I think there are problems, we can solve them. But I've been very persuaded
by conservative critiques that say that liberal efforts to just come in and impose a new system
tend to fail.
And I think the way to think about social engineering is more like ecosystem management.
If you come in and say well, we're going to have a whole new way of supporting children
or marriage or anything and you put something new in place, you get all kinds of invasive
species as it were. You get all kinds of things you didn't expect. But yet you can still influence
Yellowstone Park, you just can't raze it to the ground and plant it from scratch. So I
think a good leader is someone who is a little modest about what can be done but sort of
tries to get organic processes growing and then you can still direct them to some extent.
Where are we on time? Oh, it's been almost an hour; I guess we have time for one or two
more questions? We've got 5 more minutes.
>> Male#7: I guess more along those lines – Can you have a hive without a leader?
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Can you have a hive without a leader? Yes, I think you can. Bees
certainly do, there's no leader in a beehive. The queen is just the ovary, she's not the
leader. In a street gang or any group of friends, yes, they can definitely be hivish, if they're
small. I think it'd be very hard to have a large hive without a leader. [cellphone rings]
And this is one difficulty I see with Occupy Wall Street, it's very, it's an intensely
idealistic group, very committed to horizontality. That's where their emphasis on horizontality,
very afraid, very opposed to having leaders. So it can happen but it makes it very, very
hard for them to get anything done. I was at a Occupy Wall Street meeting where they
were trying to draft their vision statement. And you know they had to do it by consensus,
and consensus means unanimous. And it just goes on month after month because it's very
hard to get a unanimous statement. So yes, you can have a hive without a leader but if
you want to get things done, good leadership helps. And especially if it's a large group,
yeah, I think you have to.
>>Female#2: So thank you for coming here. Talking about leadership, I'm just reading
a Steve Jobs' biography and there is repetitive mention of his reality distortion and how
finicky he was, so I'd like to hear your views about his leadership and the psychology you
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: So I haven't read the book, I don't know much about Steve Jobs but
I do want to reiterate the point – that a company can be extremely good and extremely
profitable without being a hive. And you know, apparently Jobs was not a very nice guy. Does
anybody know whether Apple was a hivish place like Google, where there's very little backstabbing,
or politics? Does anyone know? Yeah? What is it? No? OK.
[Audience laughter] >>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: No. OK Alright, so.
Their trick was incredible devotion to good design. And that made them the most profitable,
one of the most profitable companies in history. You don't have to be a hive to be successful.
You don't have to be a hive to change the world. But it's a lot nicer to work in a place
where people are hivish.
>>Female#2: Yeah, but how does a leadership like that work? Where there is a lack of trust,
there is a lack of you know-
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: mmm hmm. Yeah.
>>Female#2: - there is a lot of favoritism. [computer beeps]
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: Yes, that's right. Well, so I don't know much. There's a gigantic field
of leadership studies – ahh, oh my computer just shut off – but one of, it's a vast
field, I don't know much about it. But the terms – oh, here it is, there we are, my
computer somehow knew what I wanted to show.
>>Dr. Jonathan Haidt: One of the pair of terms is transactional leadership versus transformational
leadership. Transactional leadership basically says: let's align interests, I want you to
do X and I will pay you more to do X. So you can have a very effective company if you align
incentives and pay people for it. You're sort of leaving money on the table, as it were,
in that people are actually willing to do a lot of stuff, not just for pay if they get
a sense of meaning and connection and happiness from it.
So it can work, and most companies, as I said most companies are wolf packs, not hives.
So think about what you're doing and what style is right for your organization. And
there are many ways to run a successful organization.
OK, I think that's 1 o'clock. Thank you all for your attention.