Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
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Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

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3.65 of 5 stars 3.65  ·  rating details  ·  762 ratings  ·  115 reviews
A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone.

From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates.Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopathsint...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published November 12th 2013 by Crown (first published January 1st 2013)
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Susan
I started reading this book just after 12-year old and 14-year old children were accused of killing teachers in two separate incidents. I so much want to understand such behavior, but I still don't have all the answers I want.

Although much of this book is about babies and their innate morality, it also relates to those of us who are well beyond that stage. It is written at a level easily readable by a lay person, such as I am, who is interested but not highly educated on the subject.

There were e...more
Larry Bassett
I took a coursera.org MOOC taught by Paul Bloom in January 2014. MOOC stands for massive open online course, free lecture and online discussion classes that are offered on the internet. The course was Moralities of Everyday Life. Bloom is a psychology professor at Yale University in New Haven, CT. This book was suggested but not required for the course. I enjoyed taking the course beginning in January 2014 but am just getting around to reading the book. It is pretty repetitious of the course but...more
Caroline
***NO SPOILERS***

Is a sense of right and wrong programmed into the human psyche at birth, or is the psyche blank and totally pliable, able to be fashioned just as easily into that of a conscionable being as into that of a psychopath? That is the question at the heart of Just Babies. Author Paul Bloom refers to our sense of right and wrong as “morality,” while at the same time acknowledging that that word can be hard to define: “Even moral philosophers don’t agree about what morality really is, a...more
Mark

Well, first things first. This is not just about babies. While Yale psychologist Paul Bloom has done some of the most interesting work on the moral intuitions and behaviors of infants and toddlers, there isn't enough of that work to sustain a whole book.

Instead, he uses those experiments to launch a wide-ranging look at how we develop a moral sense. For those who study social psychology, much of this is well-trod ground, but Bloom is a good writer -- clear, succinct, with many good study example...more
Orsolya
Morality. Justice. Empathy. Compassion. Good vs. Evil. These terms represent norms that grease the wheels of society. The question amongst evolutionary psychologists is whether these concepts are purely created by nurture or are they foundations one is born with (and then is insulated through nurture). Paul Bloom, an acclaimed psychologist, presents his latter views in, “Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil”.

“Just Babies” combines developmental and cognitive sciences, psychology, philosoph...more
Pete Welter
Blooms starts out this book where you might expect from the title, discussing morality experiments he and other have done with babies. Even before they have any capacity for verbalization, or even much movement, one can discover babies' expectations by monitoring what they look at and for how long. For object or situations they don't expect, they tend to look longer.

Using this technique, Bloom shows that certain kinds of morality, such as rewarding helpful behavior and punishing selfish or nasty...more
Jeanette
Excellent. Concise research and fabulous defining! I read this in one night instead of watching Monday Night Football and sleeping- that's how good it was. In the middle and late '90's while getting an MS I did attending, tracking, children's aversion, crowd interest trials of like manner to his baby exercises - all kinds of Cognitive Psychology research. So this was just up my alley and easy read. And yet I am a hard audience for excluding the variables and a most difficult marker on these kind...more
Jeanne Mixon
A terrific book that unfortunately couldn't live up to its incredibly disturbing cover and title but that's okay. The only thing I didn't like were the blanket assumptions about liberals are like this and conservatives are like that. Many liberals support a strong government and many conservatives are racially aware.

The best chapters were "Bodies" and "How to be Good." I liked the idea that scientists looked to see if God had rewired our brains to be altruistic and concluded that He didn't. I'm...more
Nazbanou Nozari
Started off great, then derailed. The first few chapters review very interesting empirical findings about what's innate in children and how it gives rise to morality, but the later pages become more about Paul Bloom thinking outloud, and stating, in my opinion, the obvious.
Elyse
How do we look at moral reasoning? Across societies? Within a single society? Liberals versus conservatives? Cold blooded psychopaths? Environment: encourage kindness or cruelty. Neuroscientist can look at parts of the brain involved in moral reasoning.

I liked the beginning of this book. The author talked about contemporary moral differences.... Such as homosexuality. masturbation, religion, marriages, long hair etc. he talked about natural reactions people have towards lying. He talked about u...more
Laura Brown
For an academic piece on moral psychology, this book held my attention all the way to the end, which I wasn't expecting it to do. In a pondering on whether or not we are born with a moral compass, Paul Bloom (researcher/professor at Yale) explores the various realms of psychological study that have been conducted and what they teach us about how the human mind has evolved, how we relate to fellow humans and why, and what the implications are in our ability to control our own actions, regardless...more
Vlad
Nice distinction between empathy and compassion. It appears we are not born moral consequentialists.
Renee Hauge
Great read. Bloom wrote this book in a way that is accessible to lay readers without dumbing it down. He backs up his claims with lots of research and well-explained experiments. Thought provoking. Definitely worth reading if you have an interest in morality or psychology (developmental, cognitive or moral).
Nikki
I've read one of Paul Bloom's books already ( How Pleasure Works ) as well as being part of his Moralities of Everyday Life MOOC on Coursera, so a lot of the psychology experiments and arguments were not at all new to me.

Just Babies is, like Bloom's other work, accessible to the lay reader, written without frills and complications. Bloom sets out his argument quite simply, without over-complicating anything. Overall, I find it hard to say what I think about this book specifically, since I was alr...more
Mishehu
Great food for thought. Confirmed my suspicion that babies are pure evil. Wouldn't trust a baby as far as she could throw me...;). Seriously, read this book (especially if you're into moral philosophy and developmental psychology [but even if you're not; it's a terrific read]).
Alison
So here is my problem with this book - it never actually discusses the origins of "good" or "evil". In fact, it really feels like a hodgepodge of different theories on morality in general. While Bloom discusses morality in babies, he has a bad habit of jumping to conclusions in regards to the actual thought processes of the babies themselves based on the results of experiments. As a psychologist, and scientist, I feel that he should not be making any arbitrary conclusions, which he does several...more
Mara
Before I go into a TL;DR-style review I'll give you my summary thoughts: interesting book if you're someone who is curious about developmental and/or moral psychology and experimental methods. I happen to be one of those people, but if reading the names of the grad students involved in qualitative methods studies is a big turn off for you, then you might want to skip this one.

I read this in tandem with Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience which, I think, really enhanced my enjoyment...more
Don LaFountaine
This was an insightful book, and if it was possible, I would rate this 3 1/2 stars.

The main idea was about how humans develop into people with values and how those values are part of how we interact with others. Others in this case include family, friends, strangers, and even animals, and much of the book describes how our actions are determined by how familiar we are with the people we are engaging.

Morals is a word used often in the book, but as the author says, it's not so much about our moral...more
Aseem Kaul
The problem with Paul Bloom's Just Babies is that it isn't just about babies. What starts of as a fascinating introduction to cutting-edge research in development psychology, quickly devolves into a series of undergraduate-level lectures on ethics and morality that are broad without being deep, and whose connection to the baby studies Bloom starts off with seems tenuous.

It doesn't help that the research on moral sense in babies - their ability to distinguish helping from hindering, their tenden...more
Gerard
This is a mind opening book. A book about the psyche of the human mind and how it develops, but in an accessible way.
I have always been interested in the human beings morals and values, living a secular live and always having to defend myself that you can indeed have morals and values without the aid of religion.
Ultimately I agree with the premise of the book, morals are something we are born with however they get shaped a lot during the experiences in your life.

If the author could liven it up a...more
Marc Cooper
I learned from this book that people who read non-fiction generally have less social skills than people who read fiction. Gee, thanks. But that is just an aside, some of the other science the book presents was very interesting and made me question how I think about morality. In general the view of the book was balanced. At an evolutionary level and as evident in infants and young children we tend not to trust outsiders, but can define that many ways, and young children are actually more weary of...more
Nabeeha Feroze
More Than Just Babies would have been a more accurate title for a book in which the author argues for babies being born with the ability to judge right actions from wrong ones—an ability that, Bloom says, is refined through the development of one’s capacity for imagination and reason, through human interactions, and through the evolution of humans in history. It’s not book about the origins of good and evil in babies. Instead, it’s about how babies have an innate and flawed moral foundation, and...more
Jean
Are people born good - or evil? Are good and evil able to be taught? Are religious people better, more altruistic, than atheists? How do people see justice? Are people greedy or sharing? The book is a series of discussions of moral subjects, with fascinating studies by Bloom and others of babies and children and college students. These studies show things about humans that we may not want to know.

Bloom explores many moral issues, including
• Religious belief and altruism
• Evil and good
• Fairness...more
Simone

I found this book because I heard Paul Bloom talking about it on This American Life (http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio...). I thought the book was interesting, it's really about the development of morality - is it ingrained from birth or is it something we develop socially. I like Bloom's reasoning - it's a little bit of both. But the thing that will really stick with me is the chapter on disgust - there are some things that disgust us, and disgust everyone equally - incest for example, some...more
Ira Therebel
The book talks about morality and its roots in our society. What influences it and mainly when it develops in babies. Paul Bloom is a developmental psychologist and brings a lot of great studies which he discusses in great details.

I have watched the online course of this professor and loved the lectures. He is great at presenting the subject clearly and make it even more interesting than expected. When it comes to the book he did just as great of a job here. The subject itself is fascinating and...more
Annamaria
Fantastic reading! Pleasant, interesting, eye-opener and mind-opener... does not give final answer, lets you decide what you think about daily questions on morality. It gives you the tools to understand fellow humans better... I loved this book!
Karen
I read this book as part of the reading list for a course called "The origins of morality" which I'm currently taking at Yale. The Proff is the author of the book. It was fantastic reading and very well written. Paul Bloom has a good sense of humour which made the textbook (kind of a text book) really interesting and easy to read.
Chase
Read in connection with Morality in Everyday Life a class at Coursera. Not a lot of different information in the book than what was covered in the class lectures and other required reading. However I would recommend this book if you don't have time to take the class, as reading it is probably faster :)
Merrikay
Dr. Bloom is a professor of psychology at Yale University. He posits in his latest book that babies are born with a moral sense, although it may not manifest before four or five months, just as other physical qualities take time to develop. He also believes that humans are born with empathy, compassion, and the wish to make suffering in others go away. Additionally, we have a sense of fairness and justice, including the desire to see both good behavior rewarded and bad behavior punished. I reco...more
Arbogast Holmskragga
Very interesting and quite thought-provoking, but not the most engaging book of this sort I have ever read. Part of the problem is the implication that the entirety of it will be concerning the origins of morality in a context limiting itself solely to babies--which it does do at first--but then expanding into a wider discussion of the nature of origins and definitions of good and evil with a significantly larger scope. This, in turn, places the aspects of babies further in the background than w...more
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Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on morality, religion, fiction, and art. He has published more than a hundred scientific articles in journals such as Science and Nature, and his popular writing has appeared in the Ne...more
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“The serial killer Gary Gilmore summed up the attitude of someone without moral feelings: “I was always capable of murder.… I can become totally devoid of feelings of others, unemotional. I know I’m doing something grossly fucking wrong. I can still go ahead and do it.” 1 likes
“In 1999, the anthropologist Christopher Boehm addressed this issue in Hierarchy in the Forest, which reviewed the lifestyles of dozens of small-scale human groups. Perhaps surprisingly, he found that they are egalitarian. Material inequality is kept to a minimum; goods are distributed to everyone. The old and sick are cared for. There are leaders, but their power is kept in check; and the social structure is flexible and nonhierarchical. It looks less like Stalin’s Russia and more like Occupy Wall Street.” 0 likes
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