Collective Consciousness, with Sarah Rose Cavanagh

In this episode, Turi is joined by Sarah Rose Cavanagh, to discuss the concept of “Hivemind” - do humans share a collective consciousness, the science of tribal thinking, and how we build our consensus of reality together.

S2 E9: Collective Consciousness

“We synchronise together through processes of emotional contagion and social conformity… This helps produce a shared experience of the world.”

Human beings are social creatures. But is this social nature more than just a desire to be connected? Do we actually form one collective consciousness? Are humans more a ‘We’ than an ‘I’?

In her book Hivemind: the New Science of Tribalism in our Divided World, Sarah Rose Cavanagh speaks to biologists, historians and psychologists to explore these questions and better understand our “collective self.”

But what can we learn from the Hivemind? How has it polarised us? How does it impact our sense of ‘Us’ and what does it do to our feelings about ‘Them’? And what has social media done to our social consciousness?

“I think taking our ultra sociality online has led to some group polarisation and this tendency for people with different viewpoints to polarise on opposite ends of the spectrum.”

Listen to Sarah Rose and Turi discuss how our sense of self is derived collectively.

  • How we experience the world as a collective
  • The science that proves Emotional Contagion
  • The threat of conspiracy theories to our consensus reality
  • The role stories play in our making sense of the world
  • Synchrony, and the warm buzz of ‘sharing’
  • How stories improve our theory of mind
  • Whether our relationships shape our likes and dislikes
  • The danger of dehumanisation of our out-groups
  • How loneliness affects health
  • And what we humans can learn from bees…

“I think that where we need to go is not to avoid our collective social cells, but to make sure that we have human beings as our in-group, rather than this nation or this ethnic group or this religion…”

Works cited include:

Read the Full Transcript

Sarah Rose Cavanagh

Sarah Rose Cavanagh is a psychologist, professor, and Associate Director of the D’Amour Center for Teaching Excellence at Assumption College. Her research considers the contribution of emotions and emotion regulation to quality of life. She is the author of Hivemind: the New Science of Tribalism in our Divided World.

This page was last edited on Wednesday, 3 Mar 2021 at 11:30 UTC