Skip to content

On Hive Switches

2 min
The Culture Code, Daniel Boyle In 2005, a Panther named Dragan Mikic escaped from a French prison when a group of men—presumably fellow Panthers—used ladders, rifles, and wire cutters to break into the prison and free him. As one prosecutor said, “These guys don’t care about being put in jail. They know they are going to escape.” As another observer put it, “They think with one brain.”

"They think with one brain".

Is it even possible for such a phenomenon to happen?

Let's investigate.

What's a hive mind?

Jonathan Haidt defines the hive switch as “an adaptation for making groups more cohesive, and therefore more successful in competition.” A hive switch is a phenomenon that occurs when individuals realize they have become part of and fused within a collective; they transcend self-interest and invest in something larger than themselves.

Psychologists like Haidt have studied phenomena like “muscular bonding”—how armies, for example, forge bonds by physically moving together in time. When humans engage in synchronous or rhythmic movements, their hierarchies, borders and rigid delineations temporarily dissolve.

Group rituals such as flash mob dances, festivals and carnivals incite "collective effervescence" —

The Righteous Mind, Jonathan Haidt a feeling of electricity and elation that can make people less selfish, more caring and increasingly focused on communal fusion rather than individuality. When these experiences of “interlocking” flip on the hive switch, we momentarily forget ourselves, trust others and coalesce.

This definition of collective effervescence reminds me of my own hive-mind moments —

90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee

Individuals compete with individuals who are competing. This is a natural trait of us, as primates. We have excelled in this level of competition.

However, as we could see some instances from the hive-mind, we are also shaped as groups competing with other groups. As Charles Darwin said long ago, the most cohesive and co-operative groups generally beat the groups of selfish individualists.

Darwinian idea of group selection fell out of place in the 1960s, and Jonathan Haidt has tried to resurface this idea again with various other contexts and backdrops. Haidt mentions that there have been various circumstances in which we act to contribute towards the larger group, and less towards our individual selves.

Altruism. Heroism. War. Genocide.

These are various instances where the hive-mind trumps the individual self. In this point of view, religion is nothing but an evolutionary adaptation for binding groups together. It helps communities to come together with a shared morality.

Natural selection is working both at an individual level, AND the group level too.

In that sense, we are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. The hive-mind and the self-mind are both a part of us.

On that note, what were those instances in which your own hive-mind was activated?


On Self Marketing

On Self Marketing

On Janusian Thinking

On Janusian Thinking

Subscribe to receive the latest posts in your inbox.