14
Aug

The Roots of Extremism in Your Brain


Hello everyone, I am very excited to be here
for a panel that I hope will be interesting, provocative, thought provoking, and we have
some amazing panelists for you today. So our first participant is an associate professor
of psychology and neuroscience at New York University and he conducts research on how
group identities, moral values and political beliefs shape the mind and brain. Please welcome Jay Van Bavel. Our next participant is a clinical psychologist
at the Bellevue NYU Program for Survivors of Torture where she provides clinical care
to individuals and families who have survived torture and refugee trauma. Please welcome Katherine Porterfield. And our final guest today is a social psychologist
also at New York University’s Stern School of Business, whose research examines the intuitive
foundations of morality and how morality varies across cultural and political divides. Please welcome Jonathan Haidt. Thank you guys all for being here today. Um, I think we are in for a fascinating conversation
and I wanted to begin by kind of setting the parameters of the discussion. So in your mind and I’d like all three of
you to address this, what is extremism? You know, what, when you say extremism, when
you think of extremism in your work, what does it mean to you? Maybe we can start with Jay. Yeah. I would just say it means to me that someone
has a very rigid dogmatic belief system and they’ve started to see the world in black
and white and lost any sense of shades of gray. Okay. Kate?’ Yeah, I mean I think we probably all anchor
to our own thing that we do in the world. And so I work a lot with people who have been
subject to extremist acts or themselves have attempted to or done extremist acts. So I think of it as sort of enacting or thinking
about enacting behavior that reflects very rigid black and white viewpoints. And I do tend to usually think it that veers
towards ideas about violence or at least oppressing the rights of others. Um, so as, as a social psychologist my, my
test for what social psychology studies I like to start with homo economicus, is imagine
a person who only does things that are in his or her self interest and then everything
about what we people actually do that is beyond that, that social psychology and to the extent
that sometimes we do things that seem possibly incredibly self destructive. People are willing to face arrest, people
are willing to face violence. People are willing to sometimes even blow
themselves up. Those are acts so far beyond our self interest,
we tend to label those as extremisms. Just building onto Jay’s definition. I would just caution that we can’t identify
just the patterns of thought because we all feel passionate about certain things. So extremism to some extent is what your enemies
do. Where we ourselves are never extremists. I think that’s. I think that’s a really interesting point. Jay, would would your work actually back some
of that up because I know you’ve done some work on what we ourselves see ourselves as,
versus… So to Jon’s point, I have a paper on the psychology
of hate, which there’s a lot of different theories floating around that are several
thousands of years old. They back to Aristotle and very little research
on the psychology of hate in part because it’s hard to put it in a bottle and study
it in the lab. And so one thing we did is we ran some experiments
trying to figure out how people think about hate differently from other forms of dislike
that are extreme and it seems like it’s more negative for sure. There’s a difference of degree, but there’s
also a difference of kind. And the additional ingredient, Jon, is morality. And so to take that to the real world, and
this might address where Kate’s interests are, we analyze the content on hate websites
from 50 different hate groups. And those of you on the panel might know this. Some of the very first groups to take advantage
of the Internet were hate groups. And so if you look at the content of their
language on their websites, it is moralized. That’s one thing that makes it truly different
from other types of complaint forums or negative types of websites and if you actually read
it carefully, it’s not just that it has moral content. They see themselves as virtuous defenders
of some set of values and so these are the people that we think of as the most reprehensible
members of our society, but they certainly don’t see themselves that way. So one of my favorite metaphors for understanding
weird things in society is the headline. I think it actually appeared in a British
newspaper: fog in channel continent cut off. And you know, because obviously Britain to
say that the continent was cut off that’s looking at it from their perspective. Okay. Maybe you didn’t find it as funny as I did,
but it’s a good metaphor for a lot of things because here we are in this extraordinary
advanced western secular civilization, which you know, really just sort of came up in the
last 100, 200 years, however you want to count it, and we’re talking about what those extremists
do when actually I think the better way to look at is to flip the lens around and say,
as a species, human beings, for as long as we have an anthro archaeological record, human
beings have painted their skins, danced around a campfire, worshipped various animate objects,
engaged in violent intergroup competition, and lived a very, very intense ritual groupish
life. That’s what we do. That’s who we are. Now, what we need to explain is why did that
stop? Why did that stop for us, for our cultural
ancestors? And there’s a wonderful book by Barbara Ehrenreich,
the woman who wrote “Nickel and Dimed”. She has this fantastic book I don’t hear people
talk about called “Dancing In the Streets”, A history of collective joy, and she starts
from reading all the explorer, like the European explorers. When they went out all around the world, despite
all the variety of civilizations, they went to, pretty much everyone everywhere. They danced around the campfire to rhythmic
music. They had all kinds of rites and rituals and
this stuff started a lot of the great sociologists like Durkheim and Weber and others, this is
what we do and then for some reason and a lot of it has to do with an advanced commercial
society in which we’re all focused on making money and trade. That dampens down the extremism you might
say, that makes us secular creatures more homo economicus is really focused on advancing
our self interests and so sometimes we lose that and we go back to our normal extremist
and that’s the way I would reframe this. So almost right now going back to some of
our roots. Yes, absolutely. Yeah. And so this actually makes me wonder kind
of if we look at extremism over time, not just kind of ebbs and flows, but also the
definitions of what is and isn’t seen as extreme. Is there also kind of a component of that
that as society evolves that we actually start seeing different behaviors as extreme? Or is it something that’s always, you know,
this has always been extreme in any society. Um, I think that some of it might be a little
bit more context determined? What would you guys say about that? Yeah, I would say that culture and context
play a huge role in what we define as appropriate or inappropriate. So one example in our lifetimes, a moral issue
that’s changed a lot, is attitudes towards homosexuality, same sex marriage, gay rights,
LGBT rights in the last decade. They’ve completely reversed in terms of approval
versus disapproval. And so what was objectionable in fact, illegal
not that long ago is legal and celebrated and New York’s going to be having a huge pride
parade in the near future. And so what was considered an extreme event,
so it’s always a, it’s a minority of the population who is gay. So it’s always been outside of the majority,
but what, how we’ve defined it and acceptance of those types of behaviors has changed dramatically. And this is something that is a highly moralized,
uh, has historically for a lot of people and so things change pretty quickly about what
is illegal behavior and unethical behavior or immoral behavior to something that is accepted
and embraced and celebrated. I was just going to say that the flip side
of it unfortunately too though, is that like if you look after 9/11 where sort of normal
practice of Islam became very frequently labeled extremist by a lot of regular Americans who
got scared and reacted to a lot of the rhetoric. And so the flip side I think is that what’s
called extremist now is actually sometimes of pathologizing of normal, you know, faith
based practice or, or you know, wearing hijab or you know, whatever. And so now that’s been labeled extremist whereas,
you know, you sort of look at white supremacy, which has always been, always been. It’s always been that white supremacists have
been looked at as extremists. But. But you do. Yeah? Well…ok always. The Klan was not an extremist organization
when it was founded. It was, but… No, no, no, I, I, good point. I sort of meant in the last, like maybe I
was reaching… …In our lives… Even that’s probably…anyway, but you look
at last year where then sort of that group’s behavior got normalized a bit and less and
sort of viewed less as extremist and brought into the mainstream. So it’s, it’s definitely culturally, um, what’s
the word sort of normed by what cultural responses are. So I think just the very word extremist in
the word itself, it tells us that it’s a statistical term. It’s so, it’s just relative to what most people
are doing, that’s extremist. So I think we need to keep in mind that by
definition there’s always extremes. And then we can also as a separate or related
conversation, we can talk about the willingness to use violence and force to get your way. That is something that can be defined more
objectively, in some societies that’s the norm. And in American society, for the in the post
war years, that was very much not the norm. We had a burst of it in the sixties and we’re
getting a little bit more of it in the last couple of years on campus. Not a lot, but so, so I would urge us to maybe
even focus on that because that’s really what’s a problem for society. It’s not that there are people far away, it’s
that there are people willing to use violence and force to get their way. And do you think that that’s. Do you think that we need to differentiate
between kind of that definition in different domains? So like, you know, we have obviously religious
extremism, but there’s also political extremism which you just alluded to. There’s cultural extremism and you know, we
have all of these different kind of domain specific areas and in some of them you might
say you have very negative kind of pernicious social effects without any violence. Like if the extremism is something about First
Amendment for instance. Um, so that’s, that can be extremism, but
without violence. So do we, are we talking, does it always have
to be physical violence? Does it depend on domain? You know, is there differences, you know,
in, in the work that you’ve done with these sorts of different types of extremism? I’m just curious to hear all of your, all
of your thoughts on, on kind of that. Well, I tend to focus on process. I think the miracle of our modern secular
societies is that we develop processes. I often say, thank God we were settled by
the British rather than the Spanish. My friends in Latin America say that to me
too. If only we were settled by the British. The British give us really good institutions. The Spanish had colonial institutions of extraction,
terrible for setting up a secular liberal democracy. So the British did a fantastic job giving
institutions, you see this in many former British colonies. But then sometimes those process, the willingness
to abide by process and rule of law, sometimes people violate that because that’s not really
who we are as a species or basic nature is much more prone to to saying the ends justify
the means and if I’m sure that my side is right and the courts have ruled that I’m wrong
to hell with the courts. That’s normal human psychology and if we have
certain parameters, we end up following the rules. We have procedural justice, we don’t have
violent extremism and what’s breaking down now, that we have fallen off a cliff, support
for democratic norms and faith in democracy. Falling off a cliff with each new generation
is that this can be a lot less willingness to respect democratic process. It’s going to get a lot worse in the next
couple of decades is my prediction. I guess I feel like the only place I’d sort
of counter that a bit though is in my experience working with people who really have gone over
to the fringe of being willing to enact violence. So whether, you know, planning an attack or
engaging in something or trying to fly to a place where they could do that, I guess
to, to a person, these have all been people who’ve suffered really extreme trauma and
marginalization in their lives. And so systems are not something that they
were raised to experience as beneficent, life giving, nurturing, you know, fill in the blank. So to them the system is a joke and it’s not
unlike, I think what you see sometimes in gang membership, which is another kind of
extremism we haven’t really talked about. But so the idea, I think there’s a lot of
people who when they get raised in, you know, good enough home with enough resources and
a decent enough community in school, they follow the rules and they you know they abide
by stuff and they believe in the system. You know what I mean? When I get a traffic ticket I get annoyed,
but I usually pay it or if I dispute it and I lose, I’m annoyed even more. But I still say, okay, well I lost. In other words, I accept that that is the
system and that’s probably because I had a decent enough life growing up that I believe
in systems. You see what I mean? No I do and I’m sure that there are, there
are people that may be, especially with white supremacy groups, there are people like there’s
a guy who’s Picciolini? There’s a guy who has a book now out now,
he was a neo Nazi and he left, but there certainly are ways in which people are sort of part
of the underclass under culture, on the margins legally, drugs and petty crime and then they
move on to other things. So that would be the process you’re talking
about. But there’s been a huge amount of research
on terrorist org, like formal organized terrorist organizations that generally finds they’re
educated middle class people. So there’s a lot of psychological research
on the Baader-Meinhof Gang in Germany in west Germany. A lot of research on the background of 9/11
terrorists. These were middle class college educated people. There was no psychopathology and so the general
route that social psychologists have taken here, I’m talking about especially a Clark
McCauley and Scott Atran are two of the ones that I know, I know their work. What they both came to the conclusion is this
has nothing to do with psychopathology. These are people who get in because of small
groups and attachment to groups. It’s, it’s a, it’s a real…Atran’s work shows
that especially the Islamic terrorists, or or Al Qaeda in particular recruited through
soccer groups in Europe. So if you have immigrants from Muslim country
in Spain, they’ll be in a soccer league and it’s a team. It’s the men of a team. They’re the ones who get radicalized by one
guy and before you know it, they’re going to different places for training. So it’s, you have to look at the small groups,
I would say as a social psychologist. Yeah. And Jay, some of your work actually talks
about that. Do you want to address this point? Yeah. So I’m nodding with from Jon’s perspective
in that group identity and the psychology behind that is I think like the first ingredient
when I think of these types of issues in society and then I think the second ingredient is
maybe competition with another group or the clear enemy. So then you get an us versus them and then. The third ingredient and this cuts to Atran’s
work and yours is morality. Once it becomes a sacred domain and you’re
fighting over land or some ideology, then you have the kind of, to me the three ingredients
that lead to people being willing to engage in violent behavior. So if you want to anchor on that definition. I think you got to put in there though…I’m
always the clinical psychologist, I’m always going to like, to the unit of one, which is
for me, there’s always sense of self, like you know, and again I have a small and I haven’t
researched stuff, but you know, I’ve, I’ve seen a fair number of people who’ve done things
or tried to do things and you know, for me the pathology as it were, has usually rested
in sense of self and sense of meaning making about other people. Let me push on that and I think that maybe
there’s a way for us to blend our ideas together. So this also connects to Atran’s work with
terrorists. If you measure their overlap with their group,
so some people have a very distinct sense of self that’s different from the groups they
belong to and so they’re non overlapping circles. People in terrorist groups from his research
anyways finds that those circles are perfectly overlapping, well, he calls it identity fusion. Their sense of self is the group. And that’s why it’s easy to engage in things
like self-sacrifice. Yeah. I’d like to build on that. The idea of identity fusion. So it may start with a construct from an individual
pathology, could start from a small group, but what you often get when people work together
is you get a complete loss of the sense of self. And what really clued me into this is a wonderful
book I read by a man named William McNeill who wrote a book called “Keeping Together
in Time”. And it starts where he, he goes to basic training
in Texas. This is 1940 or 41 just before the war starts. The US is gearing up and it’s very under equipped. They don’t have real guns, so they just march
up and down all day in the hot Texas sun with sticks and it seems stupid. But by two or three days of marching, he has
these self transcending experiences and he describes what is it like when the men get
it? When you are moving as a unit, it’s thrilling. You lose yourself. And so he wrote, he quotes all these other
books. I read all these other wonderful books and
I took a quote from one of them that really describes the loss of self that men feel in
battle, and that is a…anyway, we have a video. I hired some people to make a video, we have
like a 90 second video. This is from a book by Jesse Glenn Gray called
Men and War, I think it was. Anyway, so this is a quote from Gray describing
interviews he did with men in World War Two. [Video] 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, an individual fate loses 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. So the, uh, the conclusion I came to in writing
my book, “The Righteous Mind”, is that human beings are products of multilevel selection,
which is probably setting off alarms in some vi who read Richard Dawkins and believed that,
Oh multilevel selection, that’s a heresy that’s totally wrong. Our human nature is overwhelmingly the product
of individual level selection. Our ancestors were good at competing with
other people in their group. That’s individual level selection. It makes us largely selfish, we’re generous
to the extent that it ends up helping us in the long run. But, but I believe we have a period of several
hundred thousand years in human evolution from anywhere from a million years ago to
actually the present in which there was a lot of group versus group violence or just
competition and all of us in this room are descended from the groups that didn’t get
wiped out by other groups. The groups that had combinations of genetic
and especially cultural adaptations, especially religion that bound them together, made them
work as a unit, made them fierce in war, made them able to cooperate to in bad times. Um, so I believe that a phrase I use in the
book is that human beings are 90 percent chimp and 10 percent bee. It’s not that our ancestors had sex with a
bee, it’s that they went through a little bit of a process of group level selection
which gave us this tribal or groupish overlay. And that’s what I was trying to illustrate
in that video. Um, and Jay, you’ve actually done some work
on tribalism and kind of what, what happens and how that develops. Do you want to talk a little about your research? So I’ll, I’ll say this is one of the things
that fascinates me. And Jon, I think you called this the hive
switch. And so there’s classic research in psychology
that I’ve followed up on where basically you flip a coin. If I was a flip a coin and decide that this
group is going to be in one group and this side of the room is gonna be another group. So that’s gonna be the red team and the blue
team. We can ask each other by the end of the session
how much you like and identify through group versus other group. And I do this in my classes all the time and
just without exception, people start to say they like members of their own group more. Even if they don’t interact with them. In these studies, they find that they like
their own group members more even if they don’t see them or know who they are and humans
are distinct among primates in that we will be prosocial and cooperate with in group members
who are anonymous, we’ve never met. No other primate will do that. And so there’s something about the human mind
that allows us to shift into this sense of identity and draw these boundaries with other
groups. And what we found is in the scanner, so we
bring people in and measured their brain activation and you start to see differences emerge within
a few minutes after you do this and people’s brains even very low level automatic responses
in their brain, in their amygdala, which is basically detecting things that are important,
start to shift from ways of chunking up the world that we’re used to like black and white
to ingroup and outgroup on the basis of how we flipped a coin. The other thing we found in a recent paper
is the same patterns of activation in the brain when you flip this coin and create these
groups, predict how you’re seeing the world politically. So when we think of Democrats and Republicans,
we think, well, they have very different policies and platforms and we’ve thought about the
world in several decades thinking about our politics and certainly that plays a role,
but there’s also this foundation of groupishness and that the same patterns of the brain that
respond to red team and blue team based on a coin flip are active when you’re thinking
of red team and blue team in terms of Democrats and Republicans. And so kind of a core root of political divides
and divides and all kinds of other groupish domains, nationality, soccer teams, religious
differences have, are grounded in this kind of basic psychology. The willingness to do violence part of the
group psychology becomes for me, um, it just, it often I think roots into individual development
through childhood. And so for instance, if we divide the group
up and then said, okay, now start fighting each other, probably a couple of you would
refrain, right? Most of you wouldn’t do violence because of
this group, but. So the willingness to do that for me starts
going back to that developmental experience that that kid had, you know, what was, what,
what did other people mean to that kid, you know, were they a source of fear were they
a source of degradation and humiliation because then what you’re starting to do is wire in
to that kid’s brain a sense that other people are dangerous and other people are a source
of humiliation. And then meanings about that are much easier
attached onto that kid, is sort of how I think of the kids I’ve seen who’ve gotten into extreme
stuff. It’s like, you know, as they start reading,
it’s like barnacles that can just attach onto them easier. You know, I’ve got teenagers who have all
kinds of crazy ideas, but I don’t think you could convince them that they should go out
and kill people because I hope, you know, they’ve had a good enough upbringing that
that doesn’t attach to meanings that they feel in their body and in their mind from
having been degraded, been marginalized, been humiliated. So I just feel like I always have to pull
towards that individual psychology part, you know. I’ll defer to Jon and then I have a comment
about that as well. Okay. So the question is, given what you just said
about red team, blue team and how quickly we divide up this minimal groups research. I’d like to ask your opinion of what we’re
doing in high schools and colleges as we teach kids identity identity politics, how we encourage
them. For much of the 20th century, we’re headed
towards a regime of minimizing racial identity and maximizing the sense of shared identity
and trying to get beyond racial divisions and the last few years there’s been a huge
surge in programming and efforts to directly teach various theories and it’s a lot of initiate,
a lot of orientation in universities now and a lot of high school programs are encouraging
kids to be more identified and to see each other in terms of their category memberships. What do you think of this? So I don’t know the specifics of this program
and, and this is going to be a whole minefield I’ll walk into now… Never been happier that I work in prisons
by the way. I can be like no idea, Okay. So I’m not familiar with how this is happening
in high school, so I’m just going to express ignorance about that. What I would say is this, so I’ve studied
this many times in the context of race. If you create mixed race teams, people start
to show positive attitudes to whoever’s in their team, whether they’re black or white. And so that’s a positive benefit of these
superordinate identities. And that’s been shown over and over again
by many other labs and research teams other than than my own. So that’s a robust finding and and a really
positive element of groupishness and identity that we could. It has this dark side, but also has a bright
side that we can come together to accomplish it. That’s right. The more we emphasize superordinate identities
and common goals, the more you can get past any kind of race and bigotry. Yeah. But then there’s one qualification of that
in the literature, which is that when minority groups are expected to subsume into the majority
group, that can cause tension because they feel like they’re having to adopt all the
values of the majority group. And so it turns out it works best for them
if they can retain their identity and celebrate their identity. So this is, I’m Canadian and so this is part
of multiculturalism in Canada, which is that you have a broader Canadian identity when
the Olympics are on everybody’s cheering for the Canadian hockey teams. But at the same time that you celebrate the
subordinate identities that you have and that we celebrate difference and so if you can,
I think that it works best, there’s a couple labs who have found this, it works best if
you can do both well. But I think if you’re just focusing on the
lower order identities without nourishing the higher order one, that would be a direction
I wouldn’t recommend. That’s right, and that’s the direction we’re
heading. That’s one of the reasons I think things are
going to get a lot worse in this country. Yeah, but I think if you can do both and if
the leaders in the country can promote both than I think that that the research would
suggest that’s a better pathway to success. I agree. Well, it’s not unlike what we do when. I mean, when you have a kid in front of you,
when, when I do that, I’m working with who’s thought about going and joining an extreme
organization and doing something violent. I mean, the way I work usually with a team
towards helping him or her think about another option is not to try to talk him or her out
of his, their beliefs, you know? Don’t think that, that’s not the way your,
you know, your faith really wants that never works. But what we usually do is work to build relationships,
build true engagement on other kinds of, you know, what we call plurality, right. So, so thinking about the world as a world
that’s better with multiple points of view by showing it and living it with the kid,
with um, you know, by showing them that, hey, I’m a, I’m a Brooklyn, New York, you know,
mom of three kids and I really care about hearing about your ideas and your thoughts,
let’s engage. That. That’s sort of more a way towards, I think,
breaking that, the ingroup rigidity too, you know. So it’s interesting parallel. Yeah. I wonder if we can segue, do we have an image
of the two echo chambers online from the. So this is a study that I ran with Billy Brady
and Julian Wills and John Jost in my lab here at NYU. We analyzed over a half a million tweets of
regular people discussing hot button political issues like the ones we’re talking about here,
same sex marriage, climate change, um, gun control, online. And what we found is when they were using
moral emotional words like anger, hate, disgust, in their tweets for every additional moral,
emotional word in a tweet, it was about 15 to 20 percent more likely to be retweeted. So that’s how things get contagious online,
at least what we found in our data. And the other thing though, so that’s a positive,
if you ever want to have a successful social media campaign for your next book? You can find some moral, emotional language
about the poker table. Excellent. So that spreads information that’s more likely
to be reshared by others, but we can figure out what your political leaning is based on
who you follow and who follows you. So if you follow Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton, we can infer that you’re probably pretty liberal. You Follow Donald Trump and George Bush, you’re
more likely to be conservative. And so you can plot people based on their
political beliefs and what you find is when they’re using this moral emotional language,
this is what you see is that it’s going viral, but only within these echo chambers and so
you get people just talking to themselves and you get what looks like a division and
so we don’t know if this is the moral emotional language is causing this or or what. That’s one thing you don’t get from social
media, but it’s kind of the exact pathology that we’re talking about. And so in another study I ran with Mina Cikara,
she was the first author. We actually showed people social networks
that looked like the one you just saw and then measured their empathy for ingroup members
and outgroup members. And if they saw that the two groups look like
that, they suddenly showed very little empathy for the outgroup. If you show them a social network that looks
integrated and overlapping, their empathy suddenly increases for the outgroup. And this was not in a political context. This is with flipping a coin and creating
two teams, but I feel kind of bad because that image that I just showed you actually
went viral when we published this paper, but if anything it perpetuates the problem because
people start to see the groups as more divided than they than they maybe really are, and
that it makes them less likely to empathize with the other groups because they start to
think we’re not connected in any way. We don’t have shared social networks or friends
and so it’s kind of we’re in, maybe this is why Jon thinks it’s getting worse. I’d love to be in a virtuous cycle, but we’re
in a negative spiral and it’s just mutually reinforcing. No, that’s right. I think this is a really nice connection back
to the point about, uh, about process. If you think about a democratic society and
this amazing thing we’ve done of building an ethnically and religiously and racially
diverse democratic society, that was the envy of the world for much of the 20th century,
and you have this really complex system and then you reach in, you change a couple of
the parameters, so it’s sort of like imagine like the whole universe is held together and
there’s 25 constants in physics, and imagine if you reached in and you suddenly just like
you took the gravitational constant and you just multiplied it by a thousand, like what
would happen to the universe, like, I don’t know, let’s find out? Well, what would happen if you…what if we
connected everybody? Let’s connect everybody. Say everyone can talk to everyone and we’ll
just multiply, increase the constant of relatance by a thousandfold. What could, what could go wrong? I don’t know. Let’s find out…lots can go right. So like Facebook. I mean they’re very idealistic and there’s
a lot of good that happened, so I think. I think they didn’t because they had this
very optimistic view of what if we just, you know, connect everybody and if only there
was no, you know, only there were no nations, no religions too, fill it all the people…You
know, so. But yeah, I think that because human nature
is prone to this violent tribalism, I think social media on net has been a huge negative. Okay. We don’t know. I’m not confident in that judgment, but I
fear that it has been a huge… So it just amplifies because I, this is what
I hear all the time when I’m talking to these kids and they’re telling me how they became
interested and you know, radicalized essentially. And it’s just so sad. I mean because what they talk about is sitting
in their room and these are kids with emotional problems. They’ve, you know, they have usually, as I
said, had childhood trauma. They have trouble with empathy, they have
trouble feeling good about themselves, and so they sit in their room and they have a
constant feed of language that enhances their sense of grievance and that the failures that
they have are related to a larger mission and they are alienated then from a, from a
group that might say, yes, there’s grievance, yes, there’s things that have been wrong,
but let’s, let’s do something to fight. Let’s do something to fix it. Let’s, you know, they get alienated from that
and they become, you know, echo chambered into this very, very malignant language and
it’s an ultimately it fuels a lot of what they decide to do and it’s really…and then
they actually have contact with real people. It’s not just websites and videos which are
very, very disturbing, but there’s people out there who will communicate and say, yeah,
yeah, do stuff. That’s right. So I think we’re probably as psychologists
I think we’ll all agree that a really important thing in everyone’s life and especially adolescents
is prestige, is what people think of you and your peer group. And there’s a really useful concept to quote
an externality in a, you know, economists talking externalities where, you know, if
I buy something but I don’t pay the full cost, I’m actually, every time I buy it I’m actually
imposing costs on others. And so pollution is like that…Well, social
media has set up vast, vast externalities in which, in my group I want to get prestige
and I can get prestige by saying hateful things about her. And I don’t know her, I don’t care about her,
but let’s just all attack her and whoever can attack her most viciously, most creatively
with the most nasty names, that person gets more prestige and none of us care what happens
to her. And so this I think is what most alarms me
about social media, is that it used to be that a lot of our conversations were to the
person that we were talking to, but a whole generation is being raised online where they’re
not really talking to each other. They’re talking to display to others and their
talk has all kinds of bad effects, but they’re not responsible for that. So there’s a gigantic market failure in this
sort of the social communication market. One thing I’ll tell teenagers who I work with
is including my own children, is if you’re having a strong emotion about a person or
about yourself and you’re looking at a screen, you need to get up and walk away from the
screen and deal with another human. Because a strong emotion and screens are rarely
a good combination. I’m not talking about watching a movie and
you feel something. I’m talking about you’re feeling rage or you’re
feeling humiliated and small and you just keep at it. You stay in that loop. That’s never a good thing. Especially for teenagers. They’re not developed. Their frontal lobe is not there yet in the,
hmm, maybe this is not the worst, you know, the worst moment of my life and I should go
do, you know, maybe there’s actually going to be some improvement here. Now my daughter is eight, and last month it
was a crazy thing happened. She was sitting on the sofa and she said,
Daddy, can you come take my iPad away? I can’t take my eyes off it. That’s really sad. So this actually reminds me of some of the
work you’ve done, Jay, on depersonalization and outgroups. Um, can you talk a little bit about that and
about how kind of those two areas of your research might actually end up overlapping
and amplifying each other? Yeah, so thanks for yeah. So one thing, as I’m hearing these conversations,
one reason I love to have these debates in person on a panel like this is because you
can contextualize what you’re saying with richer language, but also with your body language
and smiling and nodding and so you can agree with somebody in as we’ve been doing in a
comfortable way that you move the conversation forward and you identify where you share reality
and where you disagree. Whereas online I hate debating people on Twitter
and I’m on Twitter a lot and I like sharing stuff and having scientific discussion. And you’re very gracious. You should follow him. What is it…Jay Van Bave…what is it? Yeah, Jay Van Bavel. He’s, he’s a great science tweeter. But I will not debate people on Twitter, and
here’s why. Because you lose all the context. There’s not enough characters to add nuance
and to say, well, I agree with you on this part, Jon, but I disagree here. There’s just not the space for it. The other thing is it’s happening in public
and so reputation management and status is on the line in a way that is especially in
view if you think of thousands of people or if something gets taken out of context and
retweeted by a lot of people, it’s horrifying if it’s happened, you and it’s happened to
me. I’m sure that’s happened to you and I’ve had
lots of friends and they’re just horrified and they want to unplug or they shut down
their account after and it’s the worst possible context and you also don’t get the human emotion. You can’t see their face and see if they’re
joking or being sarcastic or trying to attack you. Whereas you can sense that in person and bridge
the gap much easier. And so as we’ve moved our human interactions
around hot button issues like politics and morality online, you’ve gotten rid of all
the things that help us deescalate conflict and have civility or most of them I think. Um, and then the other thing I want to speak
to, and this is my main concern with social media is, um, if you go to the Wall Street
Journal, they have this great page called red feed blue feed. You can pick a topic like immigration or gun
control and it will show you what’s being seen by somebody on the extreme left or the
extreme right in this country. And it’s horrific the feeds and how different
they are, but also the types of news that are drawing from are not the Associated Press. Um, it’s from obscure news sites that are
hyperpartisan. And, and part of it is because there’s an
incentive structure built into the money that social media companies make, which is you
get a lot of clicks for things that are extreme and people are more glued to their screen. Like your poor child. If you feed them back stuff that fits with
their belief system, ideology, and so my hope actually, and I think that this is, there’s
more research going on and I’m hoping that they find a solution is for companies like
Facebook to update their algorithms in ways that feed people quality information and deescalate
the partitioning of society into these extreme chambers. Yeah that worked really well for Pepsi when
they tried to create healthier foods. Didn’t last long. They had to stop. I’m an optimist. So. Well I was also thinking about your work,
um, which, which is very scary to me that when, we see someone as an outgroup member,
we don’t see them as having a mind. And could you talk a little bit about how
we actually, and because I’m what I’m worried about hearing what you guys are saying about
social media, is that this might actually amplify some of those propensities to not
see the other as even human. Okay. So do we have the video or the image for this? Of the morphing between a human and a doll? So this was a study that I ran in my lab,
Leor Hackel was the first author and we got all these great morphs from Christine Looser,
a colleague of ours, and she had found dolls that look like human and match them up and
then use computer software to morph them across the spectrum from 100 percent human to zero
percent human, 100 percent doll. And you could go from 100 percent human to
90 percent human, 80 percent human along the spectrum. And what we found is that the moment people
are part of a team or a group, again, you can flip a coin and create groups that the
point at which they start to see a face look human takes more humanness. And so if it’s an out group member, you start
to see the person looking human around 60 percent humanness. But if they’re an in group member, it’s like
55 percent. So in other words, it takes less humanness
to see somebody as having a mind if they’re an in group member. And we found this also with NYU students,
and this is really only among the students who are highly identified. So if they don’t care about their group and
at NYU you have some students who could care less about NYU. They’re here because they want to be in New
York. So for them they don’t show this effect, but
the moment you start to identify your group, the fact actually looks quite big. And so what we think is happening is part
of this broader literature on dehumanization, which has been in the news a lot lately about
how we talk about other groups. If you don’t see another group as having a,
you know, experience or emotions, that’s tends to be if you look at really horrible experiences
in human history like the genocide in Rwanda or Nazi Germany, what you see as propaganda
that tells you this group is, is a rats or this group is cockroaches. And what that is doing is dehumanizing people
and that allows you to harm somebody. And this goes to a point I just want to bridge,
you made earlier, Kate, which is that a lot of people, we flip a coin here, we can create
groups. There’s not gonna be any violence. You’re totally right. Violence is really hard. And so in World War One, when they looked
at the weapons and trench warfare that were fired, very few people actually fired their
gun. They stood there over the trench and made
it look like they were shooting, but they were staring at somebody across the trenches. And when you see somebody’s face, it’s very
hard for normal humans to pull the trigger and harm somebody. So our military has got really good at training
people to shoot to kill people. But it took a lot of work because it does
not come naturally to most people. And so if you have some existing pathology
or background of trauma, you’re going to be the subset of people who are likely to use
these cues to then do something bad. But this is part of when you see propaganda
and these things, it’s setting the stage, if you start to dehumanize a group to allow
you to be more comfortable harming them. Yeah, yeah. I mean the, the other psychological concept
that links up for me regarding the kids and young people I’ve worked with who tended to
make these terrible decisions is a sense of what we call, in in clinical psych we call
emotional dysregulation and that is sort of not being able to deal with your feelings,
not being able to recognize them, not being able to name them not being able to process
them, not being able to then recognize them in others. So now obviously we’re, you know, the emotional
dysregulation leads very clearly into empathy issues. And so the idea of kids who are raised in
a, if you raise a kid, you know, abusing them, humiliating them, I mean, I’m talking about
kids who’ve watched their fathers just viciously brutalize their mothers in the home. Um, and this little kid is cowering literally
in the corner. So he’s, he’s being traumatized by the most,
the closest people in his life, his parents, especially the father. You know, that kid develops an emotional regulation
problem, most likely, I mean, the, the, the, the couple of kids I’m thinking of as I put
that example together, um, you know, what they develop, what he develops is an inability
to handle his feelings and therefore feelings become very, very overwhelming and frightening
to him. And so when he has a feeling he’s going to
be less likely to be able to deal with it. And so then again, put him in that echo chamber
where where the kinds of things that are being stoked are anger and rage and you know, we’re
being humiliated, you know, us white people, us, whoever, fill in the blanks and you have
then a kid who doesn’t have anything to do with it. It’s confusing. It’s upsetting, you know. So, so to me that emotional dysregulation
that comes out of a bad childhood is a really critical piece usually to understanding kids
who grow up and are willing to do violence. Yeah, for sure. For sure. Um, so, so right now we’re kind of talking
about a lot of the, the negative issues here, even though Jay said he was an optimist, but… Not by the end of this panel… Well let’s try to harness some of that optimism. Jon, you, you seem the most pessimistic. Can you, so can you kind of elaborate a little
bit on that, sorry guys, but also then kind of challenge yourself and say, is there any
reason for optimism right now or are we, or are we actually being stupid if we’re being
optimistic? There are reasons for optimism in that, if
you just read Steve Pinker’s book, Johan Norberg has another book. Ron Bailey has written about this. The long term trends for human history are
amazingly positive and getting better very, very fast. And so if I were looking at the human race
or things for humanity in general, it’s incredibly good how, how, how quickly things are getting
better and war is dropping, violence is dropping. So there’s a lot of reasons for optimism. Many of the big indicators about the United
States, obviously violence is, is way down a lot of other things are good. Furthermore, if I, if you asked me a hundred
years from now, are things going to be better or worse for people in the United States,
I would say better, 100 years from now, they’re almost certain to be better, probably a lot
better. But if you asked me about the health of our
political system and what are the odds that there will still be a single country called
the United States with the same 50 states and the same US constitution revised only
through an amendment process, three years ago I would’ve said 99 point something percent. I mean 50 years from now it’s gonna be the
same country and now I would say maybe 80 percent, 70 percent. Like I would bet that we’ll still be here,
but it’s quite conceivable that we won’t because things can go bad very quickly. And what I mean by that is, you know, it is,
if you accept the picture I gave of human nature that we evolved to be small group tribalists
and that’s the way we evolved, we’re able to live in different ways. We’re able to live in a large, multiethnic,
secular democracy. We know that because we did it, but it may
be that the margin of error for that might be very small and there was a, nobody is old
enough now to remember before the 1940’s, late thirties, um, but the postwar world in
America had a huge surplus of centripetal forces. Things binding us together. It was historically unprecedented. I mean, even the media that we’ve never had
a media environment that really pulled us all onto the same page except for the postwar
several decades. Um, uh, we, we reduced immigration in the
twenties. Immigration does many good things for the
economy, but it makes it harder to have a shared set of norms. So everything was lined up from maximum centripetal
force for about 40 years after the war. And then gradually those things started drifting
away And so when I look at the, when I look at
how much young people trust trust democratic institutions, trust the government, trust
each other. When you look at what they think about America,
is it a good country? Is it something they’re proud of? And I look at all these things. It’s quite possible that the founding fathers
fear that this whole thing could blow up like every previous democracy had, that, the founding
fathers fears, if you read the federalist papers in federalist 10, um, that those fears,
I think were quite warranted and it’s possible that we’re now operating outside of the parameter
zone in which this is a stable democracy. I’m not saying that we are, I’m just saying
it’s really possible that we are. Small countries, if you have a small country
where people have a sense of shared fate and there, but for the grace of God, go I, and
if you need help, I’ll help you because if I need help, you’ll help me. Well, that’s why Scandinavian countries are
able to have these amazing welfare states. So small, there’s just an article in the New
York Times this week, Neil Gross, about is, are big countries harder to have democracies
in. And I agree with him, the answer is yes. So if you have a very large, very diverse,
um, um, uh, country, um, what holds it together? What leads people to accept the process? What leads people to accept that, Oh, the
other side won the election. Okay, let’s go, you know, rule of law. Let’s go with it. And now we’re still, we’re still holding it
together. There was a while after the Trump election
where it looked as though things could that many people might not accept it. So there are a lot of ways that things could
go bad if the economy were to tank, if there were to be any sort of, of a nuclear exchange
or even just the grid going down if things got really bad. There are a lot of ways in which things might
be more fragile than we think. Yeah. Kate, what about you from an individual level? I’m, I’m pretty darn pessimistic. Sorry, I think we’re going to move our negative
chairs over here. But my problem, I mean, I, I really toil in
the world of human cruelty. I mean that’s kind of what I do and because
I work at a clinic for people who are fleeing war zones and fleeing situations of frank
torture. And so I spent a lot of time looking at the
cost of, of really incredible dehumanization and cruelty. Let me say one optimistic thing, so they don’t
all go running, screaming out of the room. I mean, I, I have great faith in us as beings. I think humans are amazing. I also think that that. I actually think that recovery from a virulent
extremism and virulent hate is possible. I mean, I’ve seen it. I’ve worked with guys who have turned it around
and changed and it’s a beautiful thing when you see a person link their hate-filled ideas
that they used to have. When you see them understand that that came
from their hurt, it really is an amazing thing because you watch the person kind of break
it down and say, you know, I don’t want to be this way. Why did this, why did this happen to me? So that’s the good stuff. But, but my problem is that I do believe that
the connectivity of the human race is a problem and that there was, there was something better
when you couldn’t be 24 hours a day having contact with strangers all over the world
and anything goes. I think that really is bad for the human psyche
because there are dark corners of the psyche that are best left either to oneself or maybe
whoever your people are or maybe hopefully your shrink, but now there’s no dark corner
that you can’t find a mirror to on, on the Internet. And then, and as one of you guys were saying,
it starts amplifying. And so for, for my work, you know that these
are kids who would have been. The kids who I work with often are young. I say kids, they’re often young people in
their twenties, but who, you know, they probably would have not done great in life and if there
wasn’t an internet and maybe you know, not had a great career and maybe used drugs and
alcohol and, but they wouldn’t have been able to glom onto something so toxic that then
ruined their lives essentially if there hadn’t been internet. I’m not talking about canceling the Internet,
but I’m just saying that for me, the human connectivity, it’s. I think it’s too much for, for the psyche
when there’s so much vulnerability and cruelty out there. So I’m not too optimistic myself. Jay, save us. Come on, bring it home. I’m dispositionally optimistic. I’m also Canadian. You’re Canadian! You’re Canadian, Jay is Canadian, everyone. So, I will say that that’s a larger country
than the United States and they have a functioning liberal democracy. Um, there’s obviously some important differences. But we just had the prime minister here a
couple of days ago giving a talk at our graduation and he was encouraging debate and discourse
and civil discussion between people who disagree and I feel like that is part of it can be
part of the norm in countries that care to preserve it. Um, and that it’s actually been fascinating
to watch because I’ve been studying fake news and, and this kind of weird echo chambers
and the belief systems that are impervious to logic and argument in the last year, couple
years. And I, I agree that those are part of human
nature and that we’ve inherited from our ancestors in part because they serve solve certain problems
that allowed them to survive. And so we carried that around with us. But I also wonder if our pessimism comes from
observing a small number of extreme people who get a lot of attention… …I definitely have that problem… So those are the people you see at your clinic
and those are the people that Jon sees, who respond to you in social media or we observe
talking about. We’re constantly holding up people who have
the most extreme attitudes rather than looking at where the median is and what the consensus
is and what the distribution is. We don’t see the people in the middle, even
though that’s 60 to 70 percent of the population, what we see are the people on the extremes
making the most noise or engaging in the most outrageous behavior. And we point to them as examples of what the
other side is all like. But the other side is not actually that homogenous. And so I do believe that we might have a misperception
of what the consensus belief is on a lot of these types of issues that are divisive. Um, and so I end up finding the data from
Pinker fairly compelling that we’re on a good trajectory and we build stronger institutions. And I know like the people at Facebook are
hard at work, like right now, trying to fix their algorithms to promote better interactions. And 2.3, 2.34 billion people are on social
media now. And, and, and Molly Crockett has this great
research showing, most of us get our moral outrage from social media now, so we’re, that’s
true as opposed to the real world. So almost a third to almost half of the world
on social media and that’s where they’re getting outraged. So that’s happening, but it’s within our power
to tweak the technology that we’ve built that’s divided us. And um, so I, again, I’m optimistic and I
know people who are working on that problem and they’re serious about trying to fix it. And so to me that’s a problem that’s solvable
and that’s an institution that we can construct and tweak and build in better ways to promote
interests that we actually share and values that we all care about. I mean, one of the things that I’m hearing
from all of you is that, you know, human nature is not all rosy, you know, we have, yeah,
we, we kind of suck in a lot of ways. A lot of where we come from sucks and these
are forces to be countered that and that things like social media are almost bringing us back
to some of our more primal moments in a way, even though, you know, they bring us together
and yet they’ve also torn us apart by, by kind of doing this. So, um, so I guess then the question is, and
you’ve done some work on kind of increasing empathy among people, you know, how do we
given this new landscape, you know, I don’t, I honestly, I’m not optimistic about getting,
you know, the social media companies to subtly tweak algorithms because you’ve done the work
that shows why not, you know, they want clicks and they want money and they want, they want
moral contagion. It’s actually good for social media and I
don’t see, you know, we live in a capitalist society. I don’t see them going against their self
interest in that way. So let’s assume that we can’t do that. Then what do we, what do we do, how do we
kind of acknowledge this kind of dark side of human nature that’s not going anywhere
and that’s kind of being amplified. And how do you then kind of start working
on some of the things that you’ve tried to find in a lab on creating empathy and trying
to kind of counter some of those negative forces. Yeah. So again, I think that we, instead of retreating
from technology, so you want to, your instinct that your kid had was your daughter, Jon who
said, shut this down, and you were saying maybe it’s we just unplug the Internet. I would lean into those technologies and think
carefully about how do we create better discourse, um, what are the. So when we think right now, so here’s the
thing that I think that Facebook and Twitter have done that backfired. The only thing you can really do his favorite
something or, or like it, um, and then you can express those specific emotions. But even if you express anger, people I think
assume that you’re expressing it in solidarity with them. And so what that means is if Jon posts something
extreme, uh, he gets 100 likes but no dislikes. Well because that’s unavailable to them. But imagine that he posts something extreme
and you got 100 likes and 200 dislikes. He probably wouldn’t post something along
those lines again. But we’re, we’ve obscured all that information
from Jon. So all he sees is, Man, when I post something
extreme I get way more likes than when I post something very reasonable and tame. And so when people are getting the reinforcement
signals and and basically learning that’s classic reinforcement learning from their
interaction on social media and it’s social reinforcement, which we care about more because
it’s signal status and being valued in your community. Imagine if we just added back in a dislike
and so you can see when you’re doing something that’s divisive, you actually see you at instantaneous
feedback from everybody in your network. Don’t post any of that stuff again because
you’re really obnoxious to the rest of us and so I think that would be a disincentive
to post divisive things. Right now we don’t have that. Well, Youtube has it and boy does it encourage… Okay. Okay, so another thing… The audiences homogeneous. Yeah, so Youtube has it. Yeah, but I mean I don’t know how that’s playing
out with people who are posting on Youtube, but the comments section is terrible on Youtube,
I’ll agree so, so well. Who knows if that could work, we will see,
but I, I would place my money that that would help at least a little bit. It might not solve the problem. Another thing you could do is they made retweeting
really easy on on Twitter, so now it’s a click and now if I, if you post something, Kate,
and I’m like, Oh man, that gets me so worked up. I’m gonna share this. It takes me one second. There is no friction there and also what they’ve
done technologically is gotten rid of my capacity for the likelihood that I engage in reasoning
about what I ought to do in this situation. Because I’m on my iPhone, I see it. It’s a click. It used to be harder to retweet something
and so you had to engage in more effort, go through two steps to do that and so it would,
it would take very little for them to put a friction back in to force people to rely
on something less than they’re kind of intuition about what to send out or their emotional
automatic gut response. So those are the smallest things, but it would
take next to nothing to do those. And here’s what I would say to do, Jon, and
maybe this would convince you more, is these companies can pilot, they can pick one out
of 100 people to update their technology on, see the effects of it and then if it works,
scale it. And so they do this stuff all the time with
ab testing. And so if my ideas, my intuitions are wrong,
my hunches are wrong, don’t do them, but at least be testing out a bunch of different
strategies and when something works then then pilot, pilot it and then scale it. So that’s why I think that these are actually
more solvable than we think that. Sorry. That’s all I got. Yeah, Kate, I’m a believer in you know very micro. So I’m, I’m all about, I’m, I’m analog and
micro, which is like get in a room with people where there is enormous hurt and humiliation
and pain and get people in front of each other. I mean, and, and start to find ways to rebuild
trust and to build empathy. I mean, it sounds really cornball, but um,
but you know, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s a little bit the, if you only have a hammer, everything
looks like a nail. I mean, a lot of things to me are about the
dehumanization that we’re really able to do very easily in current times. And so I’m a big believer that you can break,
you can rehumanize people by putting them in front of each other, whether it’s across
faith or gender or race or sexuality or God forbid politics, you know, it, it’s, it’s
for me, one of the, one of my only ways I can envision things happening that changed
because I’ve seen it happen. So. Yeah. And on that note about the importance of personalization,
I actually would like to welcome someone else on stage. So there’s someone in the audience today who
has an, a little bit too a personal experience with extremism, um, we have a journalist,
Jere Van Dyk, and he was held captive by the Taliban for 45 days in 2008. So Jere, if you could please join us for a
few minutes to… So Jere, if you wouldn’t mind just starting
off by telling us a little bit about your experience. I’ll give you a brief background. Initially in the early 1980’s I went to Afghanistan
as a reporter for the New York Times and I lived with then called the mujahideen who
are today, the leaders of the Taliban. And so in, I was hired by CBS after a day
after 9/11 and I was actually, I was teaching a class here on political Islam in 2006 and
then got hired away or I chose to leave because they were making a movie in Hollywood called
Charlie Wilson’s War and I remember spending time up in the mountains in Morocco with Charlie
Wilson and we were talking about a man named Jalaluddin Haqqani. And Jalaluddin Haqqani today is the, arguably
the, he’s certainly the head, arguably the head of what is. And this includes Isis, the most devastatingly
effective, certainly the most politically powerful anti-Western Jihadist group in the
world and I lived with them in the 1980’s and Charlie Wilson refused to say a bad thing
about them. He could not leave the time in the past when
they were all one group. And so after finishing that, a New York Times
books division contacted me and said the tribal areas of Pakistan are like a blank space on
the map and the CIA does not seem to know where Bin Laden is. Can you go there? And it was what I had been wanting to do because
I wanted to go back and find Ha Koni. I wanted to find the man I lived with before
who saved my life three times. And I wanted to find out because I knew it
was when I lived with him. There was an Egyptian army major who came
one day and stayed with us. It’s 1981 when I was a very young man. And I am positive today because somebody from
West Point once came to me after a book I wrote a, in 2010 about my experiences come
out. And he said, um, we’re still trying to find
this man, one of the absolute first leaders and we don’t know him. I don’t know, He used the code name when I
was with him of Al Qaeda, who they still haven’t been able to find, but the point I’m trying
to make is to get your point, was I wanted to do what they asked me to do because they
didn’t, they thought it was, and uh, many people have said to me it was suicidal, that
I was going to go back and find the men who are once our friends who are today our enemies. And so in doing so, I went up. I was long hair and beard and living along
the Afghan Pakistani border as I had done when I was a kid wanting to return to the
romance, the excitement, sense of purpose. Clearly the romance of that time and romance
will kill you. And it was on my fifth trip across, I broke
the law as the FBI told me when I got out, uh, because I crossed the border living with,
I would go with the Taliban and every single time they kept their word every single time
they said they would take me from point A to point B or do this or do that. And they did that until they didn’t, when
I was betrayed. And so in, on February 16th, I crossed the
border, uh, with my, with my, just before we crossed my guide, asked me, or told me,
he said, pay the driver who took us there, you owe him money. And I said, yes, I haven’t paid him for the
last week. And I went up to him to give him the money
and first time, and I’ve had experience in Afghanistan over many years. Uh first time an Afghan hugged me and kissed
me on the cheek. And he said, go with God. I didn’t realize then it was a judas guess
that I was being betrayed by people who are once our friends and the fact in, in. I had a, an FBI psychiatrist. I’m, I don’t want to go into longer. I’m trying to do this real quickly. An FBI psychiatrist that was imposed upon
me when I got out said one of the principle reasons for what today we call it PTSD, is
betrayal. That why do some men and people in war over
centuries, why do only some people have trouble with PTSD, what we now call PTSD, more World
War One shell shock and so forth. It’s betrayal. And so I was, um, we went up into the mountains
and took many hours and um, we’re walking through a valley and I saw a small tinge of
black and the, uh, I knew it wasn’t a black sheep, I saw it move behind a rock and I knew
it was what it became. Within about 30 seconds it was a black turban. Mohammed wore black turban, the Taliban were
black turbans and Taliban mean by the way, Taliban is the plural of tali–tali ban seeker
in Persian or Pashto, Arabic, a plural Taliban seekers, students secrets of God. And so I was, um, sat down on a rock. They were, they came screaming down the mountain,
kene, kene, get down and watched my body guards, rifles come down on them. I said, I’m dead dead. Put me on a ridge. Tied me blindfolded me when you’re blindfolded,
all your sense of masculinity, all your sense of power gone. I waited for their, I heard their rifle cock,
but I was like a sheep. I was too much in shock. And then they took us down a mountain, put
me in a car. A couple hours later we arrived, way up in
the mountains, brought me into a room and they separated me from the others and I got
into the room. They took off the blindfold and I realized
that I was not alone. My two bodyguards and my interpreter who in
who, uh, my guide who had betrayed me, were still there. I was still part of a group. And the first question they asked me was,
who is your father? My father. I was always trying to pretend I was one of
them. Not Different, but I had to. Well, my father’s name is. I was in a deep tribal culture in the most
important thing. And most important question in Afghanistan
was and always will be in a tribal nation, is who is your father? Who is your grandfather? That today the Pakistani government has assassinated
up to a thousand tribal leaders trying to create and what their Jay and Jon and Kate
were talking about, is a brand new uma, a brand new community, a brand new tribe, separate
from a blood tribe, which Al Qaeda is a part of, the Taliban are a part of, which Al Qaeda
throughout the Middle East are all a part of, and I’ve been spending the last few years
writing a book about this is the sense of solidarity away from your, your your tribe
to create a brand new tribe. And they wanted me ultimately to join that
tribe. But during that time, the hardest part, no,
get to this in this real quickly. The hardest part, and it’s very interesting
that I talked with a guy named Terry Waite, who some of you may recall was kidnapped in
1980 by Hezbollah captivity for four years and he wanted to know about mock executions
and that’s what we talked about was mock executions. It’s the what bothered me more than anything. What frightened me more than anything was
the fact that the, the men behind me. Ah, yeah. Yeah. Um, I was the next person kidnapped after
Daniel Pearl. Why was I not slaughtered when Daniel Pearl
was slaughtered because they gave me. I took my camera and the small CBS, Sony camera
and I, and they of course took everything and then they came in and the room that one
night and the men went behind me and sunglasses and Kalashnikovs and banana clips in their
fatigue jackets and the lead commander took his, took my small Sony camera and he said,
how do I turn this on? I said, Oh, you’re going to want me to help
you fill my own execution. And then they took the knife out that long. No, they use it to slaughter sheep and slaughter
water buffalo. And only difference between. It’s all the difference in the world. I’d have, should not even say it between me
and Jim Foley and Steven Sotloff, they put my knife back down. The hardest thing was for me to lift my back
up. Jim Foley, Steven Sotloff, Peter Caustic kept
their heads up, their chins high, their back straight, and they looked their killers, they
looked us in the eye. It is a, what I gained more than anything
else from that time was, and I think the reason I was not killed was because I looked him
in the eye and I said, ultimately, okay, it’s between, you and me go. Jim Foley was gone. Steven Sotloff. They had all left us. When you’re in a situation like that, everything
becomes primal. You live in a reptilian world. You fight over food, you fight over space,
you fight over. You don’t fight actually, but you. You become very territorial and you don’t
engage in fist fights, but you do not have any sense of solidarity, it’s every man for
himself to survive. Um the FBI psychiatrist also said to me, there
are two types of torture, mental and physical. Mental last longer does it? I don’t know. Is it better to get your fingernails taken
out or is it, is it the long term psychological battle that goes on? I think for someone like the president, it
was a draft dodger who who had like vice president before him or two before him, Cheney, both
of whom are draft dodgers, supporting torture is, and to criticize a man, who went through
torture and have his people stand up and praise that, it’s, it’s, it’s a need to try, in my
view, to try and impress upon us how tough they are because the one thing that I learned,
the one thing I learned about that is humility. The gratitude that I’m alive. And
I had a, I was eventually released and I was brought out, came back and the FBI took over
my life. Psychiatrists in the FBI took over my life. I was not allowed to say anything for two
years. Couldn’t talk to anybody, had to keep it quiet. The poison deeper and deeper and deeper. And then in 2012 and I still worked with CBS
and they would not let me go east to Turkey and I knew I had to come back and try to make
myself viable. So I got a contract from a publisher in, and
from a National Security Policy Foundation, gave me some money and I went back to do a
study on the Haqqani network. He’s killed more people than Isis 40 years
now, they’ve been at it throughout the Greater Middle East. During that time I watched Steven Sotloff
and Jim Foley be executed and I decided to go back and find out who really kidnapped
me and why, and I wrote a book about it and it came out last October. But during that time going back through various
strange and unknown ways I still haven’t quite put together, became known and the door was
open for me to meet with the Haqqani network. And I went back to see them in April 2015
secretly. And I went alone and I was scared and he said
to me, Haqqani, don’t worry. You were with us during jihad, if you have
no friends in the world, you can always come and stay with us. We are your friends. And then he told me a story about one time
coming to the US and he said he went to Texas. I said, Texas? Did you go to see Charlie Wilson? Said yeah. How is Wilson Charlie? I said he died. Oh God rest his soul. The bond was still there. Today I’m the interlocutor to a degree between
the hostages they are holding and the United States. And I gone back and seen them again. So I’m somewhere in between. I cannot give up my fondness for them, that
they saved my life because I used Haqqani’s name constantly with my kidnappers to try
and stay alive. So which group do I belong to? I’m American, but I don’t hate them. One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom
fighter. So. And so Haqqani said to me one day, we haven’t
changed. Only you have changed. Thank you so much, Jere. Let’s give Jere a round of applause. And we now are going to open it up. We only have a few minutes, but we want to
open it to questions from the audience for any of the panelists or Jere. So going back to that video that you showed
with the World War Two veterans, do you think, uh, the military, do you think we trained
the military to become extremists? And do you think that’s moral? No, I don’t think we trained the military
to become extremists. I think that there. I’ve spoken a couple times at West Point,
that’s the service that I know best. There’s, there’s a really intense moral culture
of service and honor. That doesn’t mean that there’s not also cheating
scandals. They’re human. But I think if you look at, if you look at
soldiers and think, wow, they kill people, they must be extremists. I think that really misunderstands what it’s
about from the inside. So no, I think the military is definitely
a way of taking people who are very diverse psychologically and in terms of identities
and giving them an overarching identity, giving them a sense of one for all, all for one. And I think the military is interesting. It should be especially interesting to us
now because A, it’s one of the only institutions for which there is still high regard and B
or two, whatever I said the first time. Secondly is it’s one of the most successful
at, uh, at addressing racial problems and disparities. So I think they’ve been much more successful
in the academic world. And there’s a wonderful book by two military
sociologists called All That We Can Be, where they explain how the military did it because
they had terrible racism up through the seventies. And once they realized, wow, this is a serious
command problem. This is a serious readiness or operational
problem that are, that were divided by race and racism and they really addressed in an
intelligent way and they specifically contrast what they did with what we do with the universities. And thank God we didn’t do it that way. If I may say one thing, I was in the army
and I recall during basic training one time where you had to put your rifle over, your
head and you had to shout, kill, kill, kill. And I didn’t want to kill anybody because
I didn’t hit anybody. And so did others. And they choose people based upon how they
responded to that. Those who did not were not sent to combat. But the solidarity that Jon talked about is
I saw the same thing with the Taliban. And the same thing with the Mujahideen, um,
that you found that I found in the military group solidarity. And the other is the enemy. During, in Vietnam era, American soldiers
called them gooks and slant heads. And in Afghanistan I noticed they called them
hajis and ragheads. Um, so there was this sense that the united,
that the military had to differentiate them. Differentiate themselves from people who were
once our very close allies in one way they did it inadvertently accidentally was by same
thing that soldiers did during my era, in Vietnam… But did the training encourage them to see
them as subhuman or is that something that emerges as people are in combat? Oh I’m convinced it emerged. Yeah, it merged. Yeah. Thank you. We can do one last question Someone said early on that this group, we
probably won’t examine our own extremism, our own sides, and I found that to be tremendously
important that when I look at when, when I talk about the behaviors that you guys are
talking about, the patterns that you’re talking about.. Is that something that people are working
on, I mean our own ingroup? Is that something people are working on? Is that something we didn’t, you guys said
we wouldn’t do it and we didn’t. Yeah, I mean I’ll, I’ll say two things. One is, um, I have a close collaborator who
studies things like dissent and groupthink and the people who are willing to speak up
within their own group when it’s going wrong…are the people who identify actually most of the
group and they think they can see that it’s heading in a direction that it’s going to
be damaging to the group in the long run. There was a study that came out on this last
week. It was covered in the Washington Post that
people treat ingroup dissenters just as bad as outgroup members. And this study was done in the political domain. Um, and this is why, so you referenced, you
alluded to John McCain, you know, when he spoke out against, got in conflict with Donald
Trump or pop, a lot of republicans treated him very badly and his approval plummeted,
same with Jeff Flake in Arizona and this is a problem that is a deeper psychological problem,
which is that we have to think carefully about embracing constructive ingroup dissenters
more wholly to avoid from going astray and whatever level we define our identity at,
whether that’s at the national level or at the university level or political party level. So I think that self examination is a critical
part of it, but it turns out it’s really hard. We don’t treat people who are self examining
our group very well. Thank you. Well, on that note, I would like to just say
thank you to Jay, to Kate, to Jonathan, to Jere. This has been one of the most interesting
panels I’ve had the privilege of ever moderating, so thank you guys so much.

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47 Comments

  • Aurélien Carnoy says:

    Oh, i can't believe they are going to talk about fondamentalis Christian! Such a good news.

  • R S says:

    It's all Trump's fault! Orange man bad! Stand up to hate! We're better than this. Zombies unite against the far right!

  • hard rock says:

    I am super hyped about this one

  • So ein Spast says:

    here goes the propaganda

  • Mickey Thomas says:

    Groupthink, and mob mentality are at the root of most forms of extremism.
    "An individual is smart, a group of individuals formed into a mob are dumb"

  • RoGeorgeRoGeorge says:

    "THE ROOTS OF EXTREMISM IN YOUR BRAIN"
    What? Maybe in YOUR BRAIN, not mine!

    Oh, and for the all caps title genius, I have only one message:
    UNSUBSCRIBED

  • Muralidharan Balasubramanyam says:

    Has 'Confirmation Bias' become so much easier with social media. Two, has it removed the 'Skin in the Game'?

  • THE 73RD POWER says:

    The time right now is 1:24pm

  • The Don of Truth Seekers says:

    This discussion seems extreme. The World just is. You guys just want your thoughts in our heads for mind control. Peace.

  • Abundant Life says:

    Fundamentalism can be a great force for good or evil, just depends on the ideology.

  • Bob Smith says:

    I'm embarrassed to admit that I was extremely skeptical of this talk, but was pleasantly surprised to hear the speakers assign blame to the system as a whole and not one ideological camp. Everyone should watch this.

  • xWiRuZu says:

    Yup, people are fucked up

  • Paul Howard says:

    Fundamentalism comes from believing P≠NP. It's an attempt to verify a claim about the ultimate reality, which is arguably the only possible way to discover what's ultimately true. It just depends on making a good choice about what fundamentalist claims to follow.

  • Jack Martinelli says:

    ppl join groups because there is power in a group & safety in numbers.

  • Marrs101 says:

    As it has been mentioned in the video, facebook and youtube will not change their algorythm for the betterment of humanity, out of the goodness of their heart. They are here for the profit. And the evolution of the profit oriented companies is simple: who generates ever higher profit survives. Everything else is secondary. Whatever it costs.

  • INERT says:

    Just draw a Venn diagram of mental illness, religious zealotry and conspiracy theory and the overlap is where extremism lives.

  • Patrick Aycock says:

    Tape on face…. tape…on…face…

  • VSEPR T says:

    Lion has nail, whole lion is not nails.
    Elephant has tooth whole elephant is not tooth.
    Country have army, whole country is not army.
    Some are more extrem than other, but everyone has small part extrem.

    Some uses extremistic element for defance(elephant), some use extrem element for attack(Lion).

    Animals might view human attitude very extreme!, especially those on food plater.

  • Dillard Worthen says:

    that dude talking about his death is a hero!

  • RG says:

    THE ROOTS OF EXTREMISM IN YOUR BRAIN… aka sociologist that don't like Facebook.

    very poor choice of title or panelist from another wise awesome channel.

  • emu says:

    good discussion. would have probably been better without the woman though. she couldn't keep up with the others and some of her input was simply derailing the conversation.

  • Lost Cause says:

    It's so wonderful to see Jonathan Haidt on the World Science Festival. I hope we can watch more discussions of him in the future!

  • zerooskul says:

    Every person in any civilized society needs to watch this.

  • Sebo Kron says:

    Holds a panel about Extremism
    > only invites psychologists

  • doug pug says:

    socialogy is junk science

  • markkil says:

    I'm disliking this one for several reasons: The title "THE ROOTS OF EXTREMISM IN YOUR BRAIN " is rather misleading. It wouldn't hurt to be more thoughtful and honest in the production of your seminar titles. I was expecting some discussion about cognitive structure and how fundamentalism may be rooted in it and this was barely touched. I would have like to have seen more of a perspective from cognitive science and discussion of the role and evolution of the brain to counterbalance the psychological bias and the focus on social and behavioural issues. Given that, I come to the World Science Festival to be enriched in my knowledge – in that respect I was peddled familiar psychological terrain. No doubt insightful for those unfamiliar or new to the discourses but I feel rather obvious to many others. It seems like the point about the structuring of social media and comments section was a missed opportunity in the actual comments section. Personally I have mixed feelings about comment sections in social media. Part of me wants to use the opportunity as an opportunity for real discourse but the other part of me is often seduced by the pull of a snappy witticism or glib remark. Of course both facebook and youtube provide the opportunity to like or dislike something, the concern for me is how this polarisation of like/dislike smothers the potential for discourse. and the valuing of disagreement. Social etiquette seems to tell us and reinforce something along the lines "if you haven't got anything nice to say then don't say anything at all" or "if you don't like it go elsewhere" which reduces our reasons to simple likes and dislikes, and rewards people for liking content, but persecutes those who might be critical or disagreeing of content. This creates a culture for me that tells us that we are not allowed to disagree or dislike, and suppresses the voicing of those reasons that would be the foundation of a real discourse. It is actually OK: one does not have to like everything. And here are my reasons.

  • olivierschannel says:

    What about paying for our social media so their incentive is to make a good social media, not addictive, strong negative emotion-generating click baits to get us to buy more from the advertisers that otherwise finance them?

  • 00000000 000000000000000000000000 says:

    Sounds like black & white need to seperate

  • R S says:

    groupthink + ideology + moralizing -> extremism. upbringing plays a factor.

  • Barkis Maximus says:

    Climate change is going to end the world in 12 years. Gender and sexuality are choices. I make my living of off other people's taxes.

  • Barkis Maximus says:

    Trump threatens my grant money flow so Trump bad.

  • thewiseturtle says:

    Maslow tried to help humanity understand how to transcend the emotionally and physically based mindset, and that was to give humans their "deficiency" needs, starting with the biological inputs, and the biological outputs that the body needs for homeostasis, and moving up to a sense of being a part of a loving relationship with at least some others, and of being able to work with collaborators on doing something interesting in their lives. Once all of these needs are provided, then the self transcends it's desperation (which easily leads to violence as a defensive technique for meeting one's basic needs), and moves into a more creative goal of serving the larger society in some meaningful way.

  • danubuska says:

    Not balanced between left and right. In other words the panel is left. I got no probs with this. As a man who exists in the centre, I think this is not worth the time to watch.

  • Tareq Khan says:

    Tribalism by this definition has been rejected by Islam in the harshest terms. Tribalism is a form of “blind following” whose adherents live in “ignorance,” an allusion to the pre-Islamic worship of idols.

    Jundab ibn Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:

    مَنْ قُتِلَ تَحْتَ رَايَةٍ عِمِّيَّةٍ يَدْعُو عَصَبِيَّةً أَوْ يَنْصُرُ عَصَبِيَّةً فَقِتْلَةٌ جَاهِلِيَّةٌ

    Whoever is killed under the banner of blind following, who calls to tribalism or supports tribalism, then he has died upon ignorance.

    Source: Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1850

  • fernando marshall says:

    The title needs to be changed to reflect the fact that it has nothing to do with cognitive science

  • Nancy Pontius says:

    there needs to be another term to discuss groups with shared rigid belief systems than "tribalism." this seems derogatory

  • Nancy Pontius says:

    good discussion, thank you.

  • Nancy Pontius says:

    Jere Van Dyk, much strength and love to you

  • r lima says:

    I used to be a great fan of the WSF, but now, look at the moment 11:13. That's a nice way of spreading out prejudices about other peoples. That's why the UK still has a colony in Europe: Gibraltar, which is acknowledge as a colony by the United Nations, if that means something to Jonathan Haidt. And that's why Britain has been repeatedly urged unsuccessfully to do justice to the Chagos' people, who were deported from their own country and abandoned. And that's why British colonialism has left so many artificial borders, conflicts and dictatorships around the world. He could also have replied to his Latin American friends that after so long they have had time to do something for themselves instead of blaming others, which is much easier, no doubt. But Mr Haidt seem to be as pleased with himself as biased his view is.

  • Tim A says:

    this is the only WSF video i've watched that sounds like church.

  • Максим Щербань says:

    8:20 "Sort of normal practice of Islam" lol 🙂

  • Guy Booth says:

    Sounds like one chap is trying to see how many words he can say in a minute?

  • ataur rahman says:

    Fuck you

  • mechtheist says:

    I'm a real fan of Haid's work but, one thing I don't understand, is how he doesn't see how the conservative mindset as he describes it is really prone to all the worst aspects of human behaviour that could easily undo all the gains Pinker documents. These gains came about because we suppressed precisely those behaviours exemplified by those of a conservative mindset.

  • Eric Taylor says:

    I think an extremest can be defined very simply: They refuse to consider the possibility they are wrong. It is any person who refuses to consider that their world view may not perfectly fit the real world. So that no matter what evidence they encounter that would require a change in their world view they will not change that would view.
    But of course, this may be wrong. I'm willing to change this view should I be convinced it is wrong.
    Boiled down to simple terms the extremist thinks that if reality contradicts his or her faith, then reality must be wrong.
    Extremism has nothing to do with hate. It can (and usually does) lead to hate, but it is not hateful in itself.
    We usually see extremism in religion, but it is not exclusively religious.

  • d3g3n3r4t3 says:

    so extremist is seeing in black and white…so those who attack those who question mandatory vaccination or humanities role in climate change are extremists? 8)

  • Kakto Tak says:

    27:40 Notice that there are blue dots in the red blob, but there aren't any red dots in the blue blob.

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