Saturday, May 19, 2012

Collective Phenomena

“It is inconceivable that you would ever see two chimpanzees carrying a log together.” -- Michael Tomasello, expert in Chimp cognition.

Haidt, Jonathan (2012-03-13). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion (p. 204). Random House, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Collective phenomena in micro physics are a property mainly of bosons, which can share the same quantum state. On a larger scale, collective phenomena like galaxies and ocean waves depend on longer range forces like gravity or viscosity which unify the motions of components otherwise disposed to go every which way. The sociological equivalent of bosonization is shared intentionality, the ability of different people to share a common purpose and communicate it to each other. This ability is not shared by any other primate.

Shared intentionality is key to any kind of cooperative work, and it plays the fundamental role in Haidt's theory of morality. There is persuasive evidence that there are triggers for turning on our latent "groupish" sentiments. Outstanding examples include collective motions like dancing or marching, rock concerts, and religious ceremonies, especially those that include music and/or dancing. Most of these have been systematically devalued in our Western and radically individualistic societies, but if dancing is pushed out of religion, then it's not surprising that it pops up in clubs, parties, and raves.