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Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

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3.66 of 5 stars 3.66  ·  rating details  ·  1,046 ratings  ·  151 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
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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
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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 the 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, an
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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 al
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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
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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
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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
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Chuck
Really enjoyed this book. It is similar to a Malcolm Gladwell book in that it is mostly summaries of lots of interesting studies and findings. I didn't agree with ALL of the authors conclusions, but he makes a lot of good points and does so in a very readable way. I highly recommend it if you want to understand people and morality better.
Antoinette
Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil is a fascinating book about the analysis of the morality of children and adults. Bloom’s book is well-executed with research that he explains thoroughly. The main concept of the book is centered around how we, as humans, develop into individuals with morals and values. How we become who we are, and how we interact with others, and the world. I truly enjoyed this book, and will be purchasing Bloom’s other works in the future. It’s a fairly quick read, but ...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
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Mary
I received my copy in a First Reads giveaway. An interesting read. The author shows how babies show from an very early age an appreciation of "good" moral conduct. Research conducted with young babies is explained as well as results, to convince the reader there is a genetic component to morality.

I enjoyed the book, but found it dry in places. While the concepts are easily explained, I found it to be somewhat similar to a textbook, and question it's appeal to a wide audience. The subject matter
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Skye
This was the book my undergraduate senior capstone was centered around (which resulted in a fascinating class), but I just now got around to reading all the way through it.

The beginning of the book centers around Bloom's area of expertise - babies - and is very interesting as a result. Numerous studies are described that indicate that babies and young children are capable of more nuanced "moral" understanding than most would expect. It's fascinating.

The middle section struck me as the weakest.
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Floris Wolswijk
Lessons learnt: Morality is innate. Morality needs to be shaped, strengthened and expanded by your experiences. Put yourself in other people's shoes to expand your moral circle.

Just Babies

Thomas Jefferson once wrote to a friend "The moral sense, or conscience, is as much part of man as his leg or arm. It is given to all human beings, in a stronger or weaker degree, as force of members is given them in a greater or lesser degree." Now, more than 200 years later, Paul Bloom confirms this earlier i
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Patrick Vallely
The book provides a pretty good overview of the current science on the origins of morality--i.e., whether different aspects of morality is innate and hardwired or cultural and learned. The early parts of the book place emphasis on the research attempting to show the extent to which babies have a moral sense, but as the book continues, the book focuses on the broader research topic of morality, while only using the baby studies as part of a larger story. One disappointment with the book was that ...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
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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
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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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