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To like each other, sing and dance in synchrony

19 Post author: Kaj_Sotala 23 April 2012 01:30PM

For the How to Run a Successful Less Wrong Meetup booklet, I'm looking for information about how to better build a social group and foster a feeling of community. Since this bit is probably of general interest, I'm posting it here.

If you want to make the members of the group like each other more and feel more like a group, synchronized actions may be one of the easiest ways of achieving this goal. Anthropologists have long known the community-building effect of dancing:

As the dancer loses himself in the dance, as he becomes absorbed in the unified community, he reaches a state of elation in which he feels himself filled with an energy of force immensely beyond his ordinary state . . . finding himself in complete and ecstatic harmony with all the fellow-members of his community, experiences a great increase in his feelings of amity and attachment towards them. (Radcliffe-Brown 1933/1948, quoted in Kesebir 2011)

Armies around the world utilize the same effect to foster a feeling of unison through repeated drills:

Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective ritual. (McNeill 1995, quoted in Kesebir 2011)

Wiltermuth & Heath (2009) summarize some of the research on the topic:

The idea that synchronous movement improves group cohesion has old roots. As historian William H. McNeill suggests, armies, churches, and communities may have all benefited, intentionally or unintentionally, from cultural practices that draw on ‘‘muscular bonding,’’ or physical synchrony, to solidify ties between members (McNeill, 1995). This physical synchrony, which occurs when people move in time with one another, has been argued to produce positive emotions that weaken the boundaries between the self and the group (Ehrenreich, 2006; Hannah, 1977), leading to feelings of collective effervescence that enable groups to remain cohesive (Durkheim, 1915/1965; Haidt, Seder, & Kesebir, in press; Turner, 1969/1995). Andaman Islanders have been said to become ‘‘absorbed in the unified community’’ through dance (Radcliffe-Brown, 1922, p. 252). Similar observations have been made of Carnival revelers (Ehrenreich, 2006), and ravers dancing to beat-heavy music (Olaveson, 2004). Moreover, Haidt et al. (in press) have argued that people must occasionally lose themselves in a larger social organism to achieve the highest levels of individual well-being.

Some recent findings on the topic include:

Wiltermuth & Heath (2009): Synchronous activity in the form of walking around a campus in step causes people to be more likely to make decisions requiring trust and to self-report stronger feelings of trust and connectedness with others. Singing in synchrony, even if the song is an out-group anthem ("O Canada", when the subjects were USA residents), causes more trust and and greater feelings of being on the same team, as well as an increased willingness to cooperate in a public goods game.

Kirschner & Tomasello (2010): "Given that in traditional cultures music making and dancing are often integral parts of important group ceremonies such as initiation rites, weddings or preparations for battle, one hypothesis is that music evolved into a tool that fosters social bonding and group cohesion, ultimately increasing prosocial ingroup behavior and cooperation. Here we provide support for this hypothesis by showing that joint music making among 4-year-old children increases subsequent spontaneous cooperative and helpful behavior, relative to a carefully matched control condition with the same level of social and linguistic interaction but no music."

Valdesolo, Ouyang & DeSteno (2010): Synchronous rocking increases perceptions of similarity and connectedness. The subjects were given the task of holding the opposite ends of a 12 × 14 wooden labyrinth with both hands and guiding a steel ball through it together. The subjects in the synchronous rocking condition performed better than the subjects in the asynchronous rocking condition.

Valdesolo & DeSteno (2011): Subjects who are told to tap the beats they hear in an audio clip, and are paired with a confederate who has been instructed to synchronize his tapping with the participant’s, tend to find like the confederate more and consider him more similar to themselves. The confederate being assigned an unfair task then evokes more feelings of compassion, and the subjects are more likely to help him, even at a cost to themselves.

The implication for meetup groups, as well as any other groups that might want to make their members like each other more, seems clear: spend some time singing and dancing together, possibly in the form of drinking songs if people are too self-conscious to sing while sober. Just make sure that any non-drinkers don't feel excluded. If all else fails, you can always march around the city while chanting "doom doom DOOM DOOM". (If anybody asks, you can say that you're testing a scientific hypothesis about group bonding, and ask if they'd want to join in.)

References

Kesebir, S. (2011) The Superorganism Account of Human Sociality: How and When Human Groups Are Like Beehives (ungated version). Personality and Social Psychology Review.

Kirchner, S. & Tomasello, M. (2010) Joint music making promotes prosocial behavior in 4-year-old children. Evolution and Human Behavior 31, 354–364. 

McNeill, W.H. (1995) Keeping together in time: Dance and drill in human history. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Radcliffe-Brown, A. R. (1948) The Andaman Islanders. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

Valdesolo, P. & DeSteno, D. (2011) Synchrony and the Social Tuning of Compassion. Emotion, vol. 11, no. 2, 262–266. 

Valdesolo, P. & Ouyang, J. & DeSteno, D. (2010) The rhythm of joint action: Synchrony promotes cooperative ability. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 46, no. 4, 693–695.

Wiltermuth, S.S. & Heath, C. (2009): Synchrony and Cooperation. Psychological Science, vol. 20, no. 1.

Comments (105)

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 23 April 2012 06:47:23PM *  12 points [-]

I don't know if I'm typical, but I tend to resist that sort of unity-building exercise (with something of an exception for neo-pagan ritual). It's possible that I don't trust people that much. Unity-building exercises (especially if explicitly so) strike me as the moral equivalent of someone saying "Trust me".

I might tolerate it at a meet-up, but it wouldn't be a plus.

It's possibly a problem that LW people have a wide range of skill at movement.

Comment author: Nisan 24 April 2012 04:49:32AM 12 points [-]

Unity-building exercises (especially if explicitly so)

For better or for worse, now that this post exists, all singing/dancing/chanting/jumprope games that occur in Less Wrong meetups will be laden with the awareness that they are group bonding exercises.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 24 April 2012 06:43:27AM *  7 points [-]

So? People frequently do all sorts of social things — from parties, to fraternity initiations, to sex — out of a conscious desire to feel closer to someone.

Comment author: Nisan 24 April 2012 10:22:37AM *  2 points [-]

I'm aware of this and I wasn't trying to make a value judgment or a broader point.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 24 April 2012 06:08:52PM -1 points [-]

Nor was I. It seemed to me that your phrasing implied that this was uncommon. I'm curious what you expect in the way of consequences of this.

Comment author: Nisan 25 April 2012 06:39:53AM 2 points [-]

Oh I see. Well, maybe I'm generalizing from one example here, but usually when I dance or sing with people, my only conscious purpose is to have fun. That means that I participate in such activities when I feel like having fun. I think I had all the information necessary to come to the conclusion "singing and dancing is a way to get closer to people" before I read this post, but I never executed on it. Now that I've read this post, I can choose to seek out the people I want to be closer to and get them to dance or sing with me. Also, if I'm already dancing or singing with people, I will notice what's going on and consciously decide to grow closer to them or to keep my distance. (And if I don't consciously decide, I might unconsciously decide that I must want to be closer to them since I'm singing with them, via cognitive dissonance resolution.)

I believe we've both been to meetups that involved chanting. If other people are like me, more extensive chanting will be an easier sell for some. (And others will realize that they don't really want to grow closer.) But maybe I'm wrong and I was the only one at that meetup who hadn't had this epiphany yet.

Comment author: fubarobfusco 25 April 2012 08:52:49AM -1 points [-]

Clues. Let's do that. :)

Comment author: juliawise 23 April 2012 09:11:36PM *  10 points [-]

We've never tried something like this at an actual meetup, but contra dancing has become kind of a thing among Boston-area LWers. Two of us were avid dancers to start with, a few more had tried it in the past, and one recently got into it. So now I see a couple of LWers at dances at least once a month.

Advantages: easy to learn, no dance skills needed beyond ability to walk on-beat. The caller tells you what move to do next, so you don't have to improvise if you don't want to. Live music, reasonable cost for an evening (~$7). Lots of eye contact and opportunities for flirting, but not an overtly sexual atmosphere. Find dances near you.

Comment author: lavalamp 24 April 2012 03:12:45AM 3 points [-]

Contradancing: it's like dancing but it has rules!

Comment author: juliawise 24 April 2012 10:55:07AM *  2 points [-]

Which is a good thing for people who dislike completely improvved dance forms like club dancing. There's room for adding your own style once you want to.

Comment author: maia 24 April 2012 01:55:22PM 2 points [-]

As a contra dancer who later become a LWer, I'm heavily in favor of this.

Comment author: [deleted] 23 April 2012 11:29:13PM 1 point [-]

I've also gotten a handful of the local LW types into swing dancing. Not exactly a "synchrony" dance (big group all doing the same thing), but a similar effect MAY hold for partner dances (at least towards the people you partner with).

Comment author: JQuinton 28 August 2012 07:22:45PM 0 points [-]

There's a swing dance called "The Big Apple" that's a big group all doing the same thing. At least, for the first 2/3rds of the song. The last part of the song everyone breaks into normal partner dancing.

Comment author: realitygrill 07 May 2012 01:23:33AM 0 points [-]

I dance tango a bit and there's definitely people you have affinity for dancing with and not. There's a fair correlation to whom you actually like hanging out with.

Comment author: Gastogh 24 April 2012 09:22:51AM 6 points [-]

Armies around the world utilize the same effect to foster a feeling of unison through repeated drills:

Words are inadequate to describe the emotion aroused by the prolonged movement in unison that drilling involved. A sense of pervasive well-being is what I recall; more specifically, a strange sense of personal enlargement; a sort of swelling out, becoming bigger than life, thanks to participation in collective ritual. (McNeill 1995, quoted in Kesebir 2011)

I'll counter a personal anecdote with a personal anecdote: I've been to the military, and though drilling can foster group bonding, it did so at the expense of the activity itself. Marching around the plaza or dashing around in the woods was the common enemy that most everyone hated. It works if the law requires you all to do it, but doing stuff people hate probably won't work for a voluntary assembly.

Synchronized actions may be good for building a sense of communality, and a particular activity may be a synchronized action, but there are still going to be people who don't like it; I'd much rather play board games than sing or dance. I'm unlikely to be attending any meetups, but I imagine the best thing to do (at least for a first meeting) would be to simply ask the people what they want to do (in advance, of course). Get the people together first and don't set to work on saving the world until a couple of conventions down the line, as it were.

Comment author: khafra 23 April 2012 05:31:13PM 15 points [-]

Note to self: Cooperate on prisoner's dilemma with anybody I've danced or sung alongside.

Comment author: TCB 24 April 2012 08:09:48AM 13 points [-]

I'm all for community-building activities, and I'd love to learn to dance, so I think this is an awesome idea. That said, something about the way this post and its comments are worded rubs me the wrong way entirely, and makes me want to avoid rationalist dance meetups and the LessWrong community in general. Since it seems that your goal is to recruit more rationalists, and I've been a long-time lurker on the outskirts of the rationalist community, I figured that it might be helpful if I explained my negative reaction. I've had similar negative reactions to many LessWrong posts, and it's part of why, although I consider myself a staunch Bayesian, I am reluctant to identify as a rationalist.

One of my problems with this post is the academic and impersonal wording used to describe the studies cited. (This complaint does not apply to the first two quoted passages.) Because of the detached and dispassionate wording, I imagine participants entering the rationalist dance meetup thinking "Tonight I'm going to manipulate System 1 into having good feelings about the rationalist community!" To me, this mindset seems incredibly fake: the eternal detachment and third-person analysis of our own experiences prevents us from fully engaging with the events at hand. If I were to attend such an event for community-building purposes, I would instead go into it thinking "Tonight I'm going to meet a bunch of cool people and have a really great time learning to dance!"

On a related note, I dislike the manipulative nature of this post. The opening paragraphs in particular suggest that a meetup organizer should be thinking "I am going to plan activities that will trick participants into bonding socially, in order to lure more people into joining the rationalist community." I think that a better perspective would be "I am going to plan activities which are fun, and which make people feel at home in the rationalist community; they will enjoy this meetup so much that they'll want to become rationalists!" Of course, these two statements are saying roughly the same thing, but the former treats people as pawns to be manipulated, while the latter treats people as... people. Really, if you're going to lead a meetup, you need to have empathy and treat the other participants as human beings with feelings. Otherwise, people are going to think you're a jerk and stop showing up. I don't mean to say that the meetup leaders are actually failing in this regard; rather, I'm claiming that the wording of this post fosters attitudes that are counterproductive to community-building.

Again, I really like this idea. The reason I am replying to this post is because the recent call for contrarians has given me the courage to speak up; it is not because I consider this post a particularly egregious offender of either of my complaints.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 April 2012 01:35:40PM 4 points [-]

Thanks - this is good feedback, and now that you've put it that way, I actually agree with your criticisms.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 05 May 2012 12:17:03PM 2 points [-]

I wrote the following for the meetup booklet - would you say it avoids giving a manipulative impression?

Anything that involves working smoothly together can feel pleasant. It can be an especially welcome change for people who experience a lot of conflict in their lives, or simply don’t often get a chance to cooperate with others. Synchronized behaviors, like singing, dancing or even just walking to the same beat, are a surprisingly easy way to experience the feeling of cooperating with somebody else. It might sound silly, but people often find these activities enjoyable and feel closer to each other afterwards. If people feel self-conscious, many might regardless appreciate playing dancing- or rhythm-based video games such as Dance Dance Revolution, Stepmania, or Rock Band together. If you have the space and equipment, you can try putting several monitors and dance mats side by side, and starting the same song at the same time in each game. Instant easy line dancing. Singing together is also fun, and it’s often enough if one person knows how to sing the song well, as others can just join in. Drinking songs also work for people who feel more at ease when less sober, but make sure that any non-drinkers don't feel excluded.

Comment author: TCB 06 May 2012 11:34:51PM 0 points [-]

That sounds awesome and not manipulative at all. =)

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 23 April 2012 03:12:34PM 7 points [-]

Singing in synchrony, even if the song is an out-group anthem ("O Canada", when the subjects were USA residents), causes more trust and and greater feelings of being on the same team, as well as an increased willingness to cooperate in a public goods game.

Not that I disagree with the conclusion, but I would hazard that a lot of US residents consider Canada a part of 'us' - not the USA, but very friendly. Try substituting a national anthem for a country that typical US citizens aren't really aware of - Bhutan, say. For bonus points, use the anthem of the international communist party.

Comment author: Nornagest 23 April 2012 08:25:11PM 11 points [-]

I'd suspect that singing outgroup anthems would have a significantly stronger group-bonding effect than singing the local national anthem or something like it, by way of implicitly setting the group against the larger society. A group of Americans singing the Internationale has a lot more to bond over than the same Americans singing along to the Star-Spangled Banner at a baseball game, and I'd expect people's emotional regulation to pick up this distinction even if it isn't borne out by explicit preferences.

Comment author: Luke_A_Somers 24 April 2012 02:06:43PM 0 points [-]

Yes, it would be a very interesting experiment. It could mess things up by taking people out of the singing. How the two effects balance out could vary wildly across individuals.

Comment author: bramflakes 23 April 2012 05:20:05PM 6 points [-]

Aren't national anthems designed from the ground-up to trigger this sort of emotional reaction anyway?

Comment author: CronoDAS 02 May 2012 04:22:53AM 3 points [-]

Possibly related: Mark Rosewater and the "meerkat pose" - scroll down until you see the red "Warning" block.

Comment author: JenniferRM 23 April 2012 09:23:33PM 11 points [-]

To allow people to log in to your server and make helpful changes without hassle, change all the passwords to "password": this is technically true, but applied in the wrong context it could lead to various problems. The hard part is figuring out which contexts have this safety property, and which don't, especially keeping in mind that contexts change over time.

Comment author: SkyDK 23 April 2012 10:36:20PM 6 points [-]

If the context loses the safety property, sing out of tune, miss the beat and do some negative association exercises. In other words I regard it as overtly cautious to fear a cult sensation before the community is even at a community level.

But for those of us that are risk-averse (which should be none of us, but probably is the majority): Do you know of any community building exercises that do not have a potential negative backlash?

[... or is our kind doomed to be one of a kind? insert ominous music of own choice]

Comment author: JenniferRM 24 April 2012 04:01:55PM *  11 points [-]

First: Singing out of tune would be defecting on other people's community building practices, which is what I feared I might be doing by posting my comment in the first place. If a context loses the safety property and I can't fix the context, why on earth would I stick around clogging up other people's attempts at semi-random socially bonding? (Its not like I'm a seven year old being dragged to church against my will.) If a context works for others but seems bad to me, I can just exit the context rather than doing something to passive aggressively thwart it...

The reason I've brought this up here is that this community is notionally aimed at not being crazy, and I like the idea of a community of non-crazy people, and want to help with that project. My understanding is that I'm commenting in a way that advances the deep interests of the community, rather than injecting noise. If I'm wrong, that's worth knowing, but I don't think I'm wrong here.

More directly... did you understand the metaphor from computer security I was suggesting? If someone roots your server then one option is to format the drive and rebuild from scratch (after patching the security hole). Another is to do some kind of complicated sifting to filter the new malware out of your previously trustably valuable system... using external tools to handle the newly untrusted content safely, because the system itself has become potentially deeply unstrustworthy. Rebuilding from modified backups is vastly preferable in terms of time and efficiency.

However, it is a tragic fact about our souls, that they are currently implemented in a single piece of lipid and protein which can neither be backed up, nor restored, nor significantly manipulated by a separately secured exoself. As near as I can tell, in practice, all humans are regularly being hacked and mostly erased over and over again each day, with a small amount of stuff that "seems good" saved in long term storage. But much of what we think of as "our declarative selves" is, in some sense, just half-broken viral leftovers, especially (if you'll permit me to switch metaphors) if we don't cultivate our minds they way we'd cultivate a garden: planting things that are good, making sure it gets plenty of sunshine, regularly eliminating weeds, and generally practicing good husbandry. Ultimately, if you hope to do very much of significance with your mind, it will take months or years of intentional practice, information foraging, environmental selection, etc.

If someone's mind was already full of weeds then they could do much worse than to throw a bunch of random heirloom seeds from well cultivated minds into their own mind to see what happens. What have they got to lose? However, I suspect that my mind is less overrun with weeds than is normally the case, so I take a measure of care with it. It makes sense to me that some people here would be "seeking heirloom seeds" and some people here would be "careful mind gardeners".

For myself at this time, I'm more interested in "mental weeds as an object of study" because sometimes they sometimes have interesting features (especially related to survival characteristics like transmissible robustness) that are worth experimentally crossing with other thoughts to see if the results are better than what I started with, but this process is much much less haphazard than engaging in ecstatic dancing with people I don't know very well. If someone with a head full of weeds wanted to learn from me, it seems like teaching might be better than dancing :-P

Do you know of any community building exercises that do not have a potential negative backlash?

A community building exercise that doesn't have a potential negative backlash would be one that induces justified trust in the benevolence and sanity of other members of the community, while revealing real expertise that can be shared or leveraged for community benefit. Such a process might eliminate people who didn't meet both criteria (benevolence and sanity) on some level or another. Conditioning on that kind of thing happening first, then... um... sure, break out some ecstatic dancing maybe? Preferably in smallish groups full of thoughtful people with multiple weak cross-links to other people in similar groups?

But if you're proposing a cultural process that accepts everyone, and gets everyone to believe whatever is in everyone else's heads at the beginning, that would trigger one of my heuristic detectors for mental malware. A novel meme-package that included content that induced such practices would probably spread faster than otherwise while picking up a bunch of parasitic elements in the process... to the detriment of the hosts.

Comment author: SkyDK 24 April 2012 04:59:31PM *  2 points [-]

I just lost a long response, because I was naive enough not to check if the "More Help" link in formatting was an in-tab link. It was. Hence a short answer (my self-allowed free-wheeling time is almost up)

First of all. Thank you for your more fulfilling answer.

First admission: In the bright light of hindsight I see that my reply was unnecessarily snide.

Second admission: Yes, I actually saw your first as being slightly noisy. Perhaps because the post on "Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate" was so fresh in my mind. Your post fit very well into the self-sabotaging conducted by rationalists attempting communities that I perceived Eliezer to have described in that post.

Now I see that of course the interjection is valid. I just think our opinions differ on following points:

  • (1). The effectiveness of dancing and singing. Like you I've gone through quite a lot of years of mental gardening (around 7). With my current weed-out techniques, I do not think that the proposed exercises have an effect I couldn't effectively undermine with ½-1 hour worth of auto-hypnosis. Hence my cost-benefit says (potentially) low cost and probable high benefit (low transaction cost of knowledge between me and rational-striving people who have tested approaches to subjects, or gained knowledge about subjects, I'm curious about, but have yet to explore myself).

  • (2). How profound the effect is. I'm obviously not a(n internet) network expert or I wouldn't just have lost my entire post, but I wouldn't liken dancing and singing together as root access. Nor as:

    a cultural process that accepts everyone, and gets everyone to believe whatever is in everyone else's heads at the beginning

More like opening a few ports perhaps (or allowing more bandwidth? - again I'm not nearly as tech-savvy as I have been, which means a lot less than most LW-members).

  • (3). Teaching creates more of a power division than a community feeling. Learning/exploring a new subject together, on the other hand, can be a quite powerful bond creation mechanism. My deepest bond of friendship has grown through learning a wide array of skills together and sharing insights on the way to the attainment of said skills.

  • (4). Your proposed ritual strikes me as being way more cultish than that of the post. The process mentioned strikes me as being very close to an initiation ritual. Furthermore: benevolence criteria is dubious: that means that we should agree on an ethical code (or at least points), which I'm not sure we do.

  • (5a). I do not personally consider it a minus to feel connected to strangers. Quite the opposite; my ethical position actually endorses that actively. Hence:

  • (5b). I'm slightly saddened by you likening a strong unity feeling to a parasitic disease.

PS. I tried reading the article on smallish groups (my best social structure for learning), but it was unfortunately a paid article and I'm not currently enjoying free access to the publication. If you have a way of enlightening me that does not require 35$ for me upfront, I'll be more than willing to check it out.

PPS. When I format to use lines, is it normal that the formatting resets every number to one? IE: "* 1" "* 2" became "* 1" and "* 1". I didn't in the sandbox, and I didn't immediately find something about it in the guide (and hence ran out of patience).

Comment author: james_edwards 27 April 2012 05:29:58AM 2 points [-]

PS. I tried reading the article on smallish groups (my best social structure for learning), but it was unfortunately a paid article and I'm not currently enjoying free access to the publication. If you have a way of enlightening me that does not require 35$ for me upfront, I'll be more than willing to check it out.

Here's a free link for the small groups article

Comment author: Manfred 24 April 2012 09:11:08AM 0 points [-]

The hard part is figuring out which contexts have this safety property, and which don't

Hm. And yet, we're not so great at the other stuff either. I think it's likely that individuals sorting whether it's a net benefit to do group activities isn't the hard part at all, for typical LW members at least.

Comment author: thomblake 23 April 2012 10:25:24PM *  0 points [-]

Beautifully insightful.

Comment author: drethelin 23 April 2012 04:33:39PM 5 points [-]

While I love the idea I think you're missing the problem that most of our in-group view themselves as people who don't dance.

Comment author: juliawise 23 April 2012 08:55:16PM *  12 points [-]

A few months ago I suggested as a fun activity to do after a meetup. One person scoffed, "I don't think Less Wrong is a likely place to find people who like social dancing!"

We took a poll. 4 of the 6 people present had tried and liked contra dancing (and a fifth recently got hooked).

Comment author: SkyDK 23 April 2012 05:16:30PM 4 points [-]

How is that rational?

Comment author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 23 April 2012 06:34:45PM 12 points [-]

It's not, but then LW group members can't be presumed rational. What sort of synchronized group movement or synchronized group voice or both would bypass the Cthulhulian-horror-of-conformity filters?

Comment author: HonoreDB 23 April 2012 07:00:43PM 14 points [-]

N-player rock-paper-scissors variants. They generally involve everybody standing in a circle facing inward shaking their fists three times and chanting in unison, and looking back I feel like they do have a community-building effect. But they bypass the filter because they're competitive, and are presumably appealing to LW people because they involve memorizing a large ruleset and then trying to game it.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 23 April 2012 08:09:33PM 9 points [-]

In a similar group of my acquaintance, DDR (Dance Dance Revolution, not the former East Germany) serves this role fairly well, albeit only pairwise.

I imagine yoga can work this way for people who don't also have a horror of the reference class they file yoga in.

Comment author: ciphergoth 24 April 2012 11:59:56AM 4 points [-]

How hard would it be to hack pydance to synchronize multiple computers? A few Raspberry Pis, a few monitors... mass DDR-off!

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 24 April 2012 01:37:01PM 8 points [-]

You wouldn't necessarily even need any hacking - just have lots of computers / dance mats side by side, and start the same song at the same time in all of them.

Which actually sounds rather awesome.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2012 03:22:02PM 11 points [-]

You've just invented Geek Line Dancing.

Comment author: fiddlemath 04 May 2012 04:37:56AM 1 point [-]

Large-pattern juggling. Takes a lot of practice from everybody, though - well more than most social dance.

Comment author: Douglas_Reay 29 April 2012 09:02:05AM 1 point [-]

What sort of synchronized group movement or synchronized group voice or both would bypass the Cthulhulian-horror-of-conformity filters?

Something sufficiently geeky.

for example

Comment author: SkyDK 23 April 2012 06:43:57PM *  1 point [-]

I'd have a hard time presuming anyone to be completely rational. But I'd have an even harder time understanding why I shouldn't point that out to someone who (presumably; due to them being here and all) wants to be more rational.

About your second point: I'm probably a bad choice for identifying your conformity filters due to the rather big amount of time I've spent at salsa and tango courses. Time which takes gargantuan proportions when contrasted to the awfully little time I've spent in Cthulhulian sects.

Comment author: Mercurial 25 April 2012 04:48:05PM 0 points [-]

The minister's cat might play this role, although people do get kind of frustrated with it.

Comment author: army1987 23 April 2012 06:39:34PM 2 points [-]

I don't, FWIW.

Comment author: paper-machine 23 April 2012 04:45:38PM 2 points [-]

Whatever, man. My hips remember the original dance.

Comment author: Mercurial 25 April 2012 04:51:05PM 1 point [-]

I definitely dance. I met my wife doing ballroom dancing. I picked up social dancing after breaking up with a long-term girlfriend because I knew I'd fare better if I were to make a bunch of friends and have a new hobby that wasn't moping or being lonely.

Comment author: orthonormal 24 April 2012 03:24:55AM 1 point [-]

You might be surprised.

Comment author: Emile 23 April 2012 08:47:12PM 1 point [-]

I dance. Very badly though.

Comment author: jpulgarin 29 April 2012 10:49:11AM 0 points [-]

I go out social dancing 2-5 times a week.

Comment author: Manfred 24 April 2012 09:56:29AM 2 points [-]

Singing songs with instrumental accompaniment sounds fun. But if you don't have an instrument, or if you don't have a songbook, a better option would be simple vowel and harmony exercises, if you can get to that magical point where everyone's listening to everyone else.

There's also a cool rhythm exercise you could do. The basic idea is to sway to the beat, actually turning your body and taking a step on the beat, and clapping to the beat as well, with your hands moving even more than your body. Once everyone's into the groove, you can start subdividing - into half of the beat, and thirds of the beat, and fourths and fifths. Then you can play follow the leader (TEH CULT INDUCTION!!). And for extra challenge you can have some people do 2 while other people do 3 (the rhythm is "george washington"), and then swap every few measures. When you do this, the people clapping "2" will get lost - one trick to help get un-lost is to go back to clapping 1 for a few beats when you recognize you've been seduced by those 3-clappers.

Comment author: Rhwawn 23 April 2012 05:30:09PM 4 points [-]

Downvoted, not very rationality-related.

Comment author: SkyDK 23 April 2012 05:35:55PM 25 points [-]

I disagree. Techniques for spreading rationality are highly rational to learn. Considering subjects such as Why Our Kind Can't Cooperate I dare say that it's almost essential for the project of disseminating rationality that LessWrong as a group learns how group dynamics work and how successful communities are built. If we consider being rational a good thing then we ought to make it as attractive as possible to feel as part of the rationalist group.

Comment author: woodchuck64 23 April 2012 07:53:41PM *  5 points [-]

Strong agreement with your disagreement. I just finished Haidt's The Righteous Mind and observe that rationalists seem to gravitate towards a liberal, individualistic moral foundation, while the rest seem to automatically balance that with, or favor, group binding moral foundations. Thus, we rationalists (and liberals in general) are seen as immoral because of our tendency to disregard others' crucial moral foundations of ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity. Thus, this has never been a disagreement over facts at all, but rather, a moral loathing of our very kind.

Comment author: Viliam_Bur 24 April 2012 11:19:04AM *  8 points [-]

rationalists seem to gravitate towards a liberal, individualistic moral foundation, while the rest seem to automatically balance that with, or favor, group binding moral foundations

Unfortunately, once this effect becomes known, it is further exaggerated for signalling purposes. Reversing stupidity is not intelligence, but it is frequently used to signal intelligence or independence.

If most people agree with any group opinion, then I shall signal my intellectual superiority by disagreeing with the group even when the group suggests something useful (a smart person is able to find some error or at least an analogy with some error everywhere). If I agree with someone at 99%, it is an opportunity to gain karma points by pointing out the 1% of difference, even if the cost is ruining a good idea and starting a pattern of mutual defection (next time when I come with an idea the other person agrees at 99% and disagrees with 1%, what is the chance they would support me: epsilon? great, so now instead of two successful projects we have two failed plans).

Thus, we rationalists (and liberals in general) are seen as immoral because of our tendency to disregard others' crucial moral foundations of ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity. Thus, this has never been a disagreement over facts at all, but rather, a moral loathing of our very kind.

I guess even greater loathing is at the inability for cooperation and loyalty and basically efficient following of any values in general.

People with other moral foundations and loyalty to other groups can be percieved, in evolutionary terms, as enemies. But people with no moral foundations, no loyalty, no ability to cooperate, are simply... worthless. They are at the bottom of the pecking order. They are annoying, a waste of resources. With a reasonable enemy, you can sometimes have a truce, a cooperation based on game-theoretical mutual advantage. With a person who defects habitually, you can't have even this.

If someone suggests: "let's dance together, because it's (scientifically proved to be) fun" is it really a rational thing to say: "no, that would be like Hitler or something"? Because some comments seem like a diplomatic way to express this.

On a more meta level: Perhaps human brains work differently in a "thinking mode" and "doing mode". What helps you in one mode, may harm you in the other mode. Independent thinking is good for the thinking mode. (And even this has limits! You should study science instead of reinventing the wheel.) But in doing mode, ambition to do everything alone is detrimental. (Again, it depends. Some things are OK to be done by one person. But other things are too big for this. Yet other things are somewhere between; they can possibly be done by one person, but doing them by group is far more efficient.) It is good to rationally decide whether to join a group or not. It is also good to sometimes review this decision, alone. However if the group is supposed to ever do anything, we can't all stay 24 hours a day in the paranoid mindset. No, it does not make us more rational, it just makes us losers, and in long-term it leads to sour-grapes philosophy about how the world is biased against intelligent people.

Comment author: Dorikka 24 April 2012 02:20:53AM 6 points [-]

Thus, this has never been a disagreement over facts at all, but rather, a moral loathing of our very kind.

This sounds unnecessarily hyperbolic. On what grounds do you claim that this difference causes 'loathing' often enough for it to be termed generally as such?

Comment author: woodchuck64 24 April 2012 07:51:22PM 3 points [-]

I think the dislike is visceral, coming from the same place that makes incest feel icky. Haidt's research seems to show people feel moral conclusions first, then rationalize them. I think it possible that a fairly large percentage of conservatives experience an intense visceral disgust for any blatant disregard of group binding moral foundations.

But my conclusion from that is not that conservatives should be vilified; just that we need to understand that the issue of group --vs- individual moral emphasis is a lot more than just a friendly disagreement over facts. The OP is making the point that we need to take group-binding dynamics seriously, both in understanding and using them to our advantage.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 23 April 2012 08:18:32PM 2 points [-]

Trivia note: I found some of those papers via the references in The Righteous Mind.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 April 2012 01:32:50PM *  4 points [-]

I'm definitely a "liberal" (among other things), but I'm by no means excluding group values and group interests from my ethics. I see the question of individual rights vs group-ism, cooperation, etc as a 90% false dichotomy of the worst and most damaging kind. Liberals are silly and near-sighted enough for letting this shit go on, but hard-line conservatives are arguably even worse (and more guilty) for stirring up the hostility and moving the focus from entirely solvable, compromise-accepting practical issues (e.g. abortion) to some metaphysical conflict of responsibility vs selfishness.

I do not deny the essentially adversarial nature of differing values' and attitudes' interaction in society, but it doesn't mean we should escalate the inevitable debate to an all-out war.

(Sorry for blatant meta-politics, but I'm trying to call out mind-killing here, not increase it.)

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 April 2012 03:00:23PM 3 points [-]

(Sorry for blatant meta-politics, but I'm trying to call out mind-killing here, not increase it.)

I do kind of agree that the statement was mindkilling because it was (and this is pretty ironic considering its content) rather tribal in nature. At the very least I pretty much felt excluded from the intended audience.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 April 2012 03:10:36PM 2 points [-]

Hey, dude, I'm 100% cool with what you are saying! My criticism relates to those benighted heathens who engage in mainstream political debate, and not to anyone who has joined the wise and glorious LW community and adopted our enlightened ways!

;)

Comment author: Konkvistador 26 April 2012 03:23:29PM 2 points [-]

The funny thing is that this actually makes it better.

Comment author: woodchuck64 26 April 2012 07:45:44PM *  0 points [-]

The dichotomies are always rationally solvable, but we are hardwired to loathe compromise on moral issues.

I think it is possible to interpret my comment is saying something bad about conservatives and good about liberals. However, what I wanted, rather, was to make the point that we (as liberals or liberal rationalists) need to think about taking group binding moral foundations as seriously as conservatives do, because if we dismiss them as outdated evolutionary vestige, that will definitely not solve social and political polarization (which in the US, at least, is at record levels).

What "taking seriously" should mean I'm not completely sure. But I think it starts at understanding and using what is known to work while attempting to avoid the known pitfalls (much like the OP suggests). And as this comment thread demonstrates, that seems to be a bit of a tightrope.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 24 April 2012 01:22:39AM *  2 points [-]

While some of that may be true, it may well be that the solution is to get other's to adopt a morality that has less emphasis on ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity. It may be possible to hijack them somewhat (transferring respect for authority to respect for subject matter experts who have a history of making correct predictions, and transferring purity to a distaste for poor reasoning), but to a large extent these moral inclinations are part of the problem, not a solution. Ingroup loyalty is why politics are the mindkiller and why many wars and similar events occur. That said, I think your point may have a core of truth, and I've upvoted your remark.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 24 April 2012 06:40:47PM *  16 points [-]

While some of that may be true, it may well be that the solution is to get other's to adopt a morality that has less emphasis on ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, purity/sanctity

The trouble is, these things are indispensable for any large-scale (and possibly even small-scale) cooperation and coordination between people. Of course, it's possible to masquerade them, but it's always easy to see them in operation among the kinds of people who loudly deny them and insist they're bad. In particular, this certainly holds for the modern intellectual elites, and it's particularly notable in Haidt's own evident (though likely not intentional) bias in the criteria by which he detects expressions of loyalty, authority, and purity/sacredness so as to maximize them on the right side of the political spectrum and minimize them on the left one.

Now, when making this point, it's always tempting to engage in an attack on this blindness and hypocrisy, but at the same time, we are lucky that they exist. An actual disappearance of loyalty, authority, and sanctity in the moral calculus of people would mean literally the end of organized society, so we're certainly much better off if they're negated only in a false and hypocritical way than if they were truly absent.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 24 April 2012 07:06:38PM *  7 points [-]

Haidt's own evident (though likely not intentional) rigging of the criteria by which he detects expressions of loyalty, authority, and purity/sacredness so as to maximize them on the right side of the political spectrum and minimize them on the left one.

Can you expand on this? I've thought for a while that he underemphasizes purity/sacredness on the left (in particular that he essentially ignores things like caring about organic food or vegetarianism which fit classic food taboo forms) but I'm not sure I've seen anything that looked like rigging in his studies.

Comment author: Vladimir_M 27 April 2012 06:28:57AM *  19 points [-]

"Rigged" was a bad choice of word on my part, since it suggests intentional manipulation, and as I've already written, I'm not suggesting anything like that in Haidt's case. Rather, it's a matter of deeply internalized biases. More specifically, the problem is that with enough motivation, almost anything can be rationalized in terms of harm and fairness, and people whose favored ideology emphasizes these elements are likely to invent such rationalizations for their own specific norms of purity, sacredness, group loyalty, and authority. Haidt's approach ends up heavily biased because it correctly recognizes these latter elements in those cases where they are more or less explicit (which happen to be mostly on the political right), while at the same time failing to uncover them when they exist under a veneer of rationalizations in terms of harm and fairness.

Now, the concrete examples of leftist purity manifested in nutritionist and environmentalist ways are recognized by Haidt, as another commenter has already noted. (Though, in my opinion, he is certainly biased in underplaying their overall importance.) However, I believe there are other examples that illustrate the problem even better.

Take for example the norms about sexual matters. One puzzle I've always found fascinating is why, for modern liberals, support for laissez-faire in matters of sex is so strikingly correlated with opposition to laissez-faire in economic matters and support for paternalistic government regulation in pretty much everything else. After all, most of the standard arguments of liberals against economic laissez-faire and in favor of government paternalism hold just as well for sexual matters. (Arguably, they are even stronger in the latter case -- just consider how much it involves in terms of zero- and negative-sum games, tremendous inequalities, common patterns of irrational behavior, health concerns, discrimination across protected categories, etc., etc.) Yet an attempt to apply these arguments to sex immediately triggers a strong negative reaction that can't be justified by any reasonable argument based on harm or fairness.

From this, it seems pretty clear that modern liberalism incorporates a strong element of sacredness associated with individual autonomy in matters of sex. This, of course, is nothing very surprising, considering that strong norms of sacredness regulating sex are a human universal. Yet even if he had a perfectly unbiased view of the matter, how could Haidt possibly reveal this element in his questionnaires without violating the associated norms of sacredness as they apply to the public discourse about sex-related topics?

Another fascinating topic is the peculiar way in which in-group morality is commonly manifested on the left. What I have in mind is the phenomenon that was discussed recently on LW in a thread about Orwell's essay "Notes on Nationalism," which Orwell termed "transferred nationalism." See this subthread, in which I made some points whose relevance in this context should be clear. Again, this is something highly relevant in the real world, whose discussion however requires much more subtlety and de-biasing than anything within the reach of Haidt's questionnaires.

I'd like to elaborate on some examples of authority norms that are common on the left too, but right now I'm short on time. I'll get back to it if this thread remains active in the next few days.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 April 2012 05:13:52AM 4 points [-]

I'm definitely interested in what you want to say on the subject.

It looks to me as though a lot of people internalize age of consent laws as sacred.

More generally, does Haidt address sacredness in re patriotism and/or law-abidingness?

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 25 April 2012 07:19:28AM 7 points [-]

(in particular that he essentially ignores things like caring about organic food or vegetarianism which fit classic food taboo forms)

He does mention those. E.g. The Righteous Mind, page 254:

The Sanctity foundation is used most heavily by the religious right, but it is also used on the spiritual left. You can see the foundation’s original impurity-avoidance function in New Age grocery stores, where you’ll find a variety of products that promise to cleanse you of “toxins.” And you’ll find the Sanctity foundation underlying some of the moral passions of the environmental movement. Many environmentalists revile industrialism, capitalism, and automobiles not just for the physical pollution they create but also for a more symbolic kind of pollution—a degradation of nature, and of humanity’s original nature, before it was corrupted by industrial capitalism.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 April 2012 04:50:17AM 4 points [-]

Here is a decent description of the liberal version of tribalism/loyality. You can also get more details in the article Konkvistador excerpts.

Comment author: JoshuaZ 25 April 2012 05:11:07AM *  1 point [-]

I've seen both of those before. They don't answer the issue in question which concerns Haidt's studies being rigged. Whether there's other evidence in the same direction is a distinct question.

Comment author: Eugine_Nier 25 April 2012 05:35:26AM 5 points [-]

It's rigged in the sense that his "sacredness/purity" questions are about things conservatives tend to consider pure/sacred and not about the things liberals consider pure/sacred. Similarly, for his loyalty and authority questions. Furthermore, a large part of the identity of modern liberals (especially non-hippie liberals in the case of sacredness) is that they're above such old fashioned things as tribalism, superstition, and blind obedience thus they tend to have a blind spot for the places where they engage in these things.

True this rigging wasn't intetional on Haidt's part, but then Vladimir said as much.

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 April 2012 01:54:19PM *  3 points [-]

Similarly, for his loyalty and authority questions. Furthermore, a large part of the identity of modern liberals (especially non-hippie liberals in the case of sacredness) is that they're above such old fashioned things as tribalism, superstition, and blind obedience thus they tend to have a blind spot for the places where they engage in these things.

I agree that this is a really acute and progress-blocking problem for liberals (some more radical leftists, e.g. Zizek, are at least more reflexive about these things). However, as I was saying before, what really unnerves me is the alt-right variant of this very meme, which is, if possible, even more proud and blinded. Just see any typical blogging fan of Moldbug, especially one talking about pragmatism, "ideology-free" approaches to social studies, Austrian economics and such. That's the vibe I get from this crowd.

Also, it's the key reason for my tolerance of mainstream conservatism despite my numerous disagreements with it, as IMO it scores better than the alternatives on this problem.

Comment author: Kaj_Sotala 25 April 2012 07:32:41AM 5 points [-]

This isn't evidence of rigging as such, but I should note that some of my psychologist friends are rather skeptical about the methodology of Moral Foundations Theory. E.g. in his 2009 paper, Haidt reports the Cronbach's alphas for the three MFT studies:

Study 1 [...] Cronbach’s alphas for the three-item measures of each foundation were .62 (Harm), .67 (Fairness), .59 (Ingroup), .39 (Authority), and .70 (Purity).

Study 2 [...] Cronbach’s alphas for each foundation were .71 (Harm), .70 (Fairness), .71 (Ingroup), .64 (Authority), and .76 (Purity)."

Study 3 [...] Cronbach’s alphas for each foundation were .69 (Harm), .69 (Fairness), .69 (Ingroup), .67 (Authority), and .58 (Purity).

I'm no expert in statistics myself, but I'm told that an alpha of .70 indicates a measure for which half of the result is just noise/error and half something real, while alphas of less than .7 are composed more of noise than anything else. As can be seen in the above numbers, Haidt's measures occasionally reach that minimum level, but more frequently (at least in that paper) they don't. Which implies that the MFT questions may not really be measuring what Haidt thinks they're measuring.

(Still, many of Haidt's claims seem intuitively right, so I'm inclined to believe that he's roughly on the right track.)

Comment author: Vladimir_M 28 April 2012 06:45:36PM *  13 points [-]

Looking again at the questions listed in this paper, I remembered a blog post by Bryan Caplan in which he proposed some skillfully thought up alternative questions that make Haidt's biases especially apparent:
http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2010/03/do_liberals_use.html

(Here is Haidt's response, which I find rather unconvincing.)

In fact, the more I think about Haidt's questions, the more heavily biased they seem. For example, one of his "authority" questions asks for how much money you'd curse your parents in their face, and have to wait for a year to explain and apologize. Imagine if he instead asked for how much money you'd yell racial insults at a black person. Now, Haidt would presumably say that the latter falls properly under "harm," since it would be greatly emotionally hurtful to this person. But how does this same argument not apply to someone being cursed by their own child?!

Comment author: yew 24 April 2012 07:10:16PM *  3 points [-]

Totally eliminating group identification precludes most forms of cooperation (or at least makes them very much more difficult), but supporting a group identity isn't quite the same thing as making that identity a central part of your personal identity. The latter is demonstrably dangerous (to the group as well as the individual) for all that it's usually an effective way to get things done.

Do you disagree?

Comment author: Multiheaded 26 April 2012 01:47:18PM *  0 points [-]

Now, when making this point, it's always tempting to engage in an attack on this blindness and hypocrisy, but at the same time, we are lucky that they exist. An actual disappearance of loyalty, authority, and sanctity in the moral calculus of people would mean literally the end of organized society, so we're certainly much better off if they're negated only in a false and hypocritical way than if they were truly absent.

Please keep in mind that what allows much of the hypocrisy and denial in this area is that alternate "definitions" or "variants" of loyalty and authority that are closer to the liberal rather than conservative mindset ("liberal sancity" is at least called out sometimes, like below) are so poorly explored and accepted at this time. And yes, that's the liberal theorists' job.

For example, we've got some practical evidence that decentralized "authority" systems built on rational respect, voluntary trust or affection can work, overcoming challenges - from anarcho-syndicalist experiments to today's crowdsourcing projects. Yet most societies still stick to the old farmer-type ways in this regard, and still the very word carries the connotations of "conservatism", "inflexibility", "tradition", (I'm not saying those are automatically bad, just one-sided) while the term should really be accepted for any such social function that's any good for maintaining peace and sustainability. The same goes for other value categories.

Comment author: CronoDAS 02 May 2012 04:21:43AM 1 point [-]

When I took that test, I gave answers consistent with what he described as the liberal pattern; I saw what you called the group-binding moral foundations as means to ends, not as ends in themselves, so I answered accordingly. Loyalty and respect are usually good things, but the loyalty of a soldier bravely fighting for the wrong side isn't moral.

Comment author: [deleted] 24 April 2012 01:17:20AM *  20 points [-]

Courtesy notice- When you downvote people who claim their downvotes (i.e. they say that they downvoted and give the reason why) you don't discourage downvoting, you discourage the claiming of downvotes.

Personally, I appreciate people claiming downvotes even when I disagree with them, because I know that whenever I see the little number on the upper-right of my page go down, I always wish I knew why. I'm sure that there are others that dislike the claiming of downvotes, but I get the feeling that some people might just not have thought about it too hard before they downvoted (hence this notice).

So even though I disagreed with zir, I upvoted Rhwawn's claiming of a downvote (Edit: Currently sitting at -3), but also upvoted SkyDK's rebuttal (which I DO agree with). I would like to encourage other people who appreciate people claiming downvotes to do the same.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2012 01:36:44AM 4 points [-]

When the primary purpose of a comment is a criticism, adding "Downvoted, " doesn't improve the comment, it makes it worse.

Comments that give an explanation of a downvote when it is requested are a different matter entirely.

Comment author: TheOtherDave 24 April 2012 02:09:17AM 2 points [-]

The thing is, if someone does two things A and B with the same post, and I endorse A and reject B, I need to decide which matters more. If wanting less B is more important to me than wanting more A, I should downvote. The fact that I endorse A and want more of it doesn't change that.

Comment author: philh 24 April 2012 05:29:11AM 3 points [-]

If a downvote will discourage A more than it discourages B, maybe not.

I assume here A is "explaining downvotes" and B is "downvoting something I like", and I agree with daenerys that downvoting Rhawn's post will just encourage future downvotes to be silent.

Comment author: timtyler 23 April 2012 05:58:40PM *  2 points [-]

If all else fails, you can always march around the city while chanting "doom doom DOOM DOOM".

Here's the corresponding melody for those who want to have a go.

Comment author: thelittledoctor 23 April 2012 08:02:28PM 1 point [-]

And here I always thought it was set to the Imperial March.

Comment author: Spurlock 23 April 2012 08:27:30PM *  6 points [-]

It is.

The tune was what a Muggle would have identified as John Williams's Imperial March, also known as "Darth Vader's Theme"

Chapter 30

Comment author: beberly37 24 May 2012 03:34:46PM 1 point [-]

From a purely practical side, fostering an environment in which people who are not comfortable dancing will feel comfortable is not an easy thing to do, especially for one who has no experience fostering such an environment.

I base this on eight years of personal experience as an active member in a dance community. It is hard enough to make people who showed up to dance feel comfortable let alone people who showed up to discuss Bayes' Theorem :)

Though as someone who went social dancing up to 5 times a week and a least once a week for the better part of a decade, I could get behind a LW+dancing event.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 24 May 2012 04:07:20PM 1 point [-]

What methods do you use to get people more comfortable with dancing?

Comment author: beberly37 25 May 2012 04:55:15PM 2 points [-]

I should state that none of this is based on per reviewed research, just personal experience and practices learned from others with more experience than myself, which apparently have merit.

I should also state that some of these may be specific to partner dancing activities (I do Lindy Hop, which is a type of swing dance)

There are, IMO, two incredibly important aspects of a good dance activity: 1) Whoever is teaching the step/lesson/whatever avoids, at all cost, adopting an "I'm a dance teacher" air. How precisely to do this is probably specific to individual personalities. 2) Rule number 1 is to have fun. That has to be the primary and perhaps sole purpose for dancing. In the right crowd I often word it as "If you are not having fun, then you are doing it wrong." Much more laughs and smiles come from non-catastrophic errors than from business as usual "doing it right".

Some other practices for making people comfortable dancing:

-If there is an existing core of experienced dancers, have it be part of the culture to engage newcomers (ie ask new, inexperienced people to dance. I'm not sure what this would look like for line type dances) -The converse, build a culture where newcomers will self-engage (ie ask experienced people to dance). This can be done by saying "feel free to ask anyone to dance" as often as possible and by having a culture where saying "no" without good reason is taboo. It is general etiquette in my circle that if you say no to someone, you are either injured, tired, need a drink/breather, or don't like this song, as such if your favorite partner comes up and asks you to dance right after you said no to someone else, you are still injured, tired, need a drink, etc and should sit out the song. -When giving a lesson or teaching the step, avoid "[Random Learner], you are doing this wrong" instead, say "I am seeing a few people doing this wrong." Even though I (and others like me) like it when given direct correction, I don't have issues with feeling comfortable in these situation, but people who get embarrassed easily will be by "Hey you shy girl blushing, you the one blushing even more now, don't do it that way." -As with any teaching/learning, everyone is different. Some like to count, some need music, music makes it harder for some, counting confuses some, some don't need to see the move from multiple angles, some will never get it without seeing it from multiple angles, some will get confused if they see it multiple angles. You have to constantly update your model of the group and encourage feedback.

I hope this is helpful, I'll update if I think of anything else useful.

Comment author: Alicorn 25 May 2012 06:33:19PM 2 points [-]

saying "no" without good reason is taboo.

One of the reasons I have not tried social dancing is because I think I would be expected to touch strangers. I would like to go with someone I know and just dance with them, to see if I like the dancing itself, and I might or might not become more comfortable later; but I'm pretty sure I would be subjected to smarmy encouragement, cannot-take-a-hint repeated inquiries, or stern norm-announcing about that. So I don't go at all.

Is there a solution to this problem?

Comment author: beberly37 25 May 2012 07:23:41PM *  1 point [-]

Expected to touch strangers, probably. But it is not uncommon for couples to go dancing and not dance with anyone else (if my wife and I had our way, thats probably what we would do). Though in the application of a lesson, not practicing with other people makes it more difficult to learn, however I have been to lessons where half the room rotates partners and the other half does not. However know that "not comfortable touching strangers" is a good reason to say "no".

In practice, if you went dancing with a friend (who presumably would not only dance with you) you can always say, "I'm sitting out this song" if asked and if they "say what about the next?", you can say "I've already said I would dance the next one with my friend."(probably not really a lie if you plan on only dancing with them) The vast majority of the dancers that I know are really nice and understanding, the vast majority of the minor that are not are "superstars", at least in their mind, and would not ask a newbie in a million songs, so the fraction of people who would ask a newbie to dance that are not nice and understanding is really small.

Besides, if you are new, everyone will know(it is usually pretty obvious) and not expect you to know the taboo. It is more of a taboo of saying "no" because "you are not good enough to dance with me". And it is definitely not an announced policy, just part of the culture you absorb via osmosis that I have discuss a handful of times with (for lack of a better term) "high-level" members of the scene.

As for smarmy encouragement: smarmy is subjective but there will be coddling in any scene that values new comers, I say soak it up, because when you get good enough to not need it anymore, it goes away.

A solution? Go out dancing, after a short period of time it will all be moot. Either you like dancing enough to touch strangers, they will quickly cease to be strangers, or you will be known as the couple that doesn't dance with anyone else (those do exist) and no one will ask you anymore. Or I guess you could also find out that you don't like dancing, in which case it is also moot.

Admittedly, I am biased on the subject of the merits of dancing, but I encourage almost everyone to get into it, I know many people whose lives were changed for the better by dancing and none that I can says whose lives were destroyed by it.

Comment author: [deleted] 07 May 2012 04:27:42PM *  1 point [-]

No, i don't think shouting "doom doom doom" will work. Neither am i convinced that singing and dancing in general will yield better effects than other fun group activities – and even if they do, there are probably methods that are far more effective than some kind of singing or dancing that is picked at random or for fun.

Why do i think so?
1) Personal experience: I have experienced my share of singing, dancing and more or less synchronous movement; some of it caused some feeling of beeing part of the group or a larger social beeing in me, but most didn't.
2) The examples for strong effects seem all to occur under some very specific conditions: techno, ritual tribal dance, military marches. Very different from the usual singing and dancing.

The question is: What are the conditions that cause strong feelings of group bonding? So far i have come up with:

  • The activity has a strong symbolic connection to the group identity

  • The activity is connected with the pursue of a common goal (example: shouting slogans on political demonstations)

  • a short, simple rythm ("Ho, ho, ho chi minh!")

  • Drums

  • connection of movement with shouting or clapping or some other kind of noise.

  • Each participant makes the sound (instead of just some drummers in the mass)

  • the more participants, the stronger the effect (there is probably a critical mass)

In addition, the singing and dancing needs to be part of a system that integrates different methods of building group bonding.

Moreover, all of this is nearly worthless, unless the group has some real substance, such as common goals, a group identity, solidarity.

Which leads to the question: What kind of solidarity, unity, group identity do we want to create? Why?

Comment author: Nisan 07 May 2012 03:15:55PM 1 point [-]

I wonder if this is a generalization of the phenomenon whereby our brain identifies various things as part of its body.

Comment author: chaosmosis 24 April 2012 04:38:54AM 0 points [-]

I love the idea of dancing on aesthetic and philosophical as well as pragmatic grounds.

I can't execute at all.

:(

Comment author: maia 24 April 2012 02:01:43PM 2 points [-]

As someone who felt this way and now is an avid dancer: The hardest part of learning to dance is ignoring your self-conscious urges to go sit in the corner. And it's a lot of fun once you get better at that.

Also, some varieties of dance are more welcoming to newbies and easy to get started in than others. See the comments on contra dancing, above.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2012 03:19:13PM *  3 points [-]

The hardest part of learning to dance is ignoring your self-conscious urges to go sit in the corner. And it's a lot of fun once you get better at that.

It turned out that way for you, but it has not for me. I've done that (yes, really done that), and it doesn't do much for me.

Comment author: maia 24 April 2012 06:35:04PM 0 points [-]

That's fair. My prior probability on "person who says they can't dance, actually cannot physically dance" is pretty low, that's all...

I do find it somewhat hard to believe that you can't do any kind of dancing, however. Contra dancing, for example, is basically just walking in the pattern you're told to. I'm finding it hard to imagine a person for whom that would be impossible.

What have your experiences been like? If you don't mind talking about it, that is.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2012 07:20:56PM 1 point [-]

Oh, I can do it, I'm fit and well coordinated. I just don't find it an enjoyable thing to do, not even in private without an audience. I've done unstructured writhing to disco music, and I once tried this for a few months, but...well, no. These have been the sort of learning experiences where what is learned is "this is something I do not want to do".

Comment author: maia 24 April 2012 07:47:26PM 1 point [-]

Oh, okay. I misunderstood. Thought you meant "dancing was too difficult," not "dancing was not enjoyable."

(I'm still tempted to say, "You could try another kind of dancing! Your experience probably doesn't generalize to other types," but even if that's the case, it might not be worth your time to try.)

Comment author: khafra 24 April 2012 07:52:25PM 0 points [-]

Perhaps doing tai chi forms in a group has a similar effect.

Comment author: NancyLebovitz 29 April 2012 05:18:18AM 0 points [-]

Not that I've noticed for myself, but I'm more likely to bond to people if I can get some sort of synchrony in conversation with them.

Comment author: wedrifid 24 April 2012 10:26:41PM 0 points [-]

Perhaps doing tai chi forms in a group has a similar effect.

I think of most 'stretching' exercises done at team sports training in about the same way. From what I understand they are of themselves problem slightly harmful on net but do serve a 'group bonding' role.

Comment author: juliawise 25 April 2012 02:34:00AM 1 point [-]

Or warmups that drama kids do before plays.

Comment author: RichardKennaway 24 April 2012 08:14:52PM *  0 points [-]

I've done quite a lot of tai chi, although not currently (combination of having taken it as far as I think I'm going to and my teacher having moved abroad), and some yoga. But for me these aren't group activities, they're things I practice for personal development, and went to classes for because that's where teaching happens. What I currently do in a class is Japanese drumming, but again, that's for the drumming, not the social bonding.