HIVEMIND: THINKING ALIKE IN A DIVIDED WORLD (BUY HERE)
At the crossroads between THE SHALLOWS and NUDGE, HIVEMIND is a provocative exploration of our ultrasocial selves during a challenging era.
We have always been a remarkably social species—our moods, ideas, and even our perceptions of reality synchronize without our conscious awareness. The advent of social media and smartphones has amplified these tendencies in ways that spell both promise and peril. Tribes can coalesce around any topic, belief structure, or shared experience. This in-group bonding can be positive, enhancing our well-being and helping us create meaning, but it can also send us down a path of echo chambers, political polarization, and conspiracy theories. Leading a narrative journey from a New England apiary to the site of the Charlottesville riots, from zombies to casinos to the boardrooms of Facebook, Cavanagh leaves no stone unturned in her quest to understand how social technology is reshaping our collective selves—and how we can help each other step back from the polarized brink.
Our emotions and decisions are tremendously influenced by the stories told by our self-selected communities, by the narratives that shape our reality. Cavanagh’s fascinating book samples work from as divergent fields as neuroscience and speculative fiction to find ways to cut through our online tribalism, dial back our moral panic about screens and mental health, and shore up our sense of community. With compelling storytelling and shocking research, Hivemind is a must read for anyone hoping to make sense of the dissonance around us.
Pre-order it here.
THE SPARK OF LEARNING: ENERGIZING THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM WITH THE SCIENCE OF EMOTION
The Spark of Learning can be ordered here or at major booksellers.
If you’d like to hear more or discuss speaker engagements, please do contact me at sarahDOTroseDOTcavanaghATgmailDOTcom.
I sat in my first college class with pen nervously poised, ready to absorb every word my professor had to say. I imagined that he would stand at the front of the class and stiffly, yet drolly – and preferably with an English accent – impart the wisdom of his many years in the field of psychology. Instead, the late, great Michael Fleming of Boston University stalked into the room with all the zeal of a velociraptor. He spent the following semester alternately delighting and terrorizing us – with shocking tales straight from the therapist’s couch; hissed, Mystery Science Theater style psychological commentary on scenes from popular movies; and by gleefully creeping up on sleeping students to startle them awake. It was my favorite class of a very long educational career, and it was a rollercoaster of emotions.
Indeed, many emotion scientists believe that emotions are the most basic, essential motivators – that they evolved in order to drive us toward things that are advantageous for our survival and reproduction (high-calorie foods, attractive sex partners) and repel us from things that are potentially hazardous (rotten meat, venomous spiders). They do so in a way that is often not subject to our insight or control, and emotions can at times be so powerful that they hijack our entire cognitive and motivational systems. Anyone skeptical that emotions can take the driver’s rather than the passenger seat has never been in love, or experienced true grief. This centrality of emotion is what led scientist Elaine Fox to make the bold claim “emotions are at the heart of what it means to be human”.
The field of education is beginning to awaken to the potential power of emotions to fuel learning, informed by contributions from psychology and neuroscience. At the forefront of this charge is Mary Helen Immordino-Yang, educational psychologist and recipient of the Award for Transforming Education through Neuroscience. She argues that we need to consider social and emotional forces even when assigning something as seemingly unemotional as a physics problem. She details how emotions play a role in each step of tackling the problem: spurring motivation to get started, determining persistence, managing anxieties that one may not be able to solve the problem, and finally following a strategy to solve the problem that feels the most rewarding.
Thus, we can enhance the motivation, attention, memory, and productivity of our students by understanding – and then harnessing – the power of emotion. Not only will they learn better, but exploiting emotional power could also yield a truly transformative life experience.