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Introduction to Psychology

Paul Bloom

Lecture 1
Professor Paul Bloom: I'd like to welcome people to this course, Introduction to Psychology. My name is Dr. Paul Bloom.
I'm professor of this course. And what this is going to be is a comprehensive introduction to the study of the human mind. So,
we are going to cover a very, very wide range of topics including brains, children, language, sex, memory, madness, disgust,
racism and love, and many others. We're going to talk about things like the proper explanation for differences between men
and women; the question of whether animals can learn language; the puzzle of what grosses us out; the problem of why
some of us eat too much and what we could do to stop; the question of why people go crazy in groups; research into whether
you could trust your childhood memories; research into why some of us get depressed and others don't.
The style of this is there'll be two lectures a week, as well as course readings. Now, to do well in the course, you
have to attend both the lectures and do the readings. There will be some overlap. In some cases, the lectures will be quite
linked to the readings. But there will be some parts of the readings that will not find their way into the lectures, and some
lectures--some entire lectures that will not connect at all to the readings. So, to pursue this course properly you have to do
both. What this means is that if you miss a class you need to get notes, and so you should get them from a friend or from the
person sitting next to you. The slides are going to be made available online. So, one of the things you don't have to do is you
don't have to write this down. You take notes any way you choose, but if you don't get anything on there it'll be available
online. I'm going to post it in a format which will be black and white and easy to print out so you don't have to worry about
this. But again, attending to the slides is not a substitute for attending class.
There's a textbook, Peter Gray's Psychology, 5th edition, and there's also a collection of short readings, The Norton
Reader edited by Gary Marcus. It's an excellent textbook; it's an excellent collection, and you should get them both. They're
available at Labyrinth bookstore on York Street or you get them online. I should note that last time I taught the course I used
the Marcus Reader, and when Professor Marvin Chun taught his course last semester he used Peter Gray's 5th edition
textbook. So, there may be a lot of used copies floating around. You should feel free to try to get one of those.
The evaluation goes like this. There is a Midterm and there is a Final. The Final will not be held in the exam period,
because I like to take long vacations. It will be held the last day of class. The exams will be multiple choice and short answer,
fill in the blank, that sort of thing. Prior to the exams I will post previous exams online, so you have a feeling for how these
exams work and so on. There will also be review sessions.
Starting at the beginning of the third week of class that is not next week but the week after on each Monday I'm
going to put up a brief question or set of questions, which you have to answer and your answers need to be sent to your
teaching fellow. And you'll be given a teaching fellow, assigned one, by Friday. This is not meant to be difficult. It's not meant
to be more than five, ten minutes of work, but the point of the question--15, 20 minutes of work, but the point of the question
is to motivate people to keep up with the material and do the readings. These questions will be marked pass, fail. I expect
most everybody could pass all of the questions but it's just to keep you on track and keep you going.
There is a book review, a short book review, to be written towards near the end of the class. I'll give details about
that later on in the semester. And there's also an experimental participation requirement, and next week I'll hand out a piece
of paper describing the requirement. The point of the requirement is to give you all experience actually seeing what
psychological research is about as well as to give us hundreds of subjects to do our experiments on.
The issue sometimes comes up as to how to do well in the course. Here's how to do well. Attend all the classes.
Keep up with the readings. Ideally, keep up with the readings before you come to class. And one thing I would strongly
suggest is to form some sort of study groups, either formally or informally. Have people you could talk to when the--prior to
the exams or--she's patting somebody next to her. I hope you know him. And in fact, what I'm going to do, not this class
because it's shopping period. I don't know who's coming next class, or what but I'll set up a few minutes prior, at the
beginning of the class, for people just to introduce themselves to the person next to them so they have some sort of resource
in the class.
Now, this is a large class, and if you don't do anything about it, it can be very anonymous. And some of you may
choose to pursue it that way and that's totally fine. But what I would suggest you do is establish some contact with us, either
with me or with any of the teaching fellows, and I'll introduce the teaching fellows sometime next week. You could talk to us
at the beginning or at the end of class. Unless there are special circumstances, I always try to come at least ten minutes
early, and I am willing to stay late to talk to people. You could come by during my office hours, which are on the syllabus, and
you could send me e-mail and set up an appointment. I'm very willing to talk to students about intellectual ideas, about
course problems and so on. And if you see me at some point just on campus, you could introduce yourself and I'd like to
meet people from this class. So, again, I want to stress you have the option of staying anonymous in this class, but you also
have the option of seeking out and making some sort of contact with us. Okay. That's the formal stuff of the course.

What's this course about? Unlike a lot of other courses, some people come to Intro Psychology with some unusual
motivations. Maybe you're crazy and hope to become less crazy [laugher]. Maybe you want to learn how to study better,
improve your sex life, interpret your dreams, and win friends and influence people [laugher]. Those are not necessarily bad
reasons to take this course and, with the exception of the sex part, this course might actually help you out with some of these
things. The study of scientific psychology has a lot of insights of real world relevance to real problems that we face in our
everyday lives. And I'm going to try--and when these issues come up--I'm going to try to stress them and make you try to
think about the extent to which the laboratory research I'll be talking about can affect your everyday life: how you study, how
you interact with people, how you might try to persuade somebody of something else, what sort of therapy works best for
you. But the general goals of this course are actually I think even more interesting than that.
What I want to do is provide a state of the art introduction to the most important topic that there is: us. How the
human mind works, how we think, what makes us what we are. And we'll be approaching this from a range of directions. So,
traditionally, psychology is often broken up into the following--into five sub-areas: Neuroscience, which is the study of the
mind by looking at the brain; developmental, which is the area which I focus mostly on, which is trying to learn about how
people develop and grow and learn; cognitive, which is the one term of the five that might be unfamiliar to some of you, but it
refers to a sort of computational approach to studying the mind, often viewing the mind on analogy with a computer and
looking at how people do things like understand language, recognize objects, play games, and so on. There is social, which
is the study of how people act in groups, how people act with other people. And there is clinical, which is maybe the aspect
of psychology that people think of immediately when they hear psychology, which is the study of mental health and mental
illness. And we'll be covering all of those areas.
We'll also be covering a set of related areas. I am convinced that you cannot study the mind solely by looking at the
discipline of psychology. The discipline of psychology spills over to issues of how the mind has evolved. Economics and
game theory are now essential tools for understanding human thought and human behavior--those issues connecting to
philosophy, computer science, anthropology, literature, theology, and many, many other domains. So, this course will be
wide ranging in that sense.
At this point I've been speaking in generalities so I want to close this introductory class by giving five examples of
the sorts of topics we'll be covering. And I'll start with the topic that we'll be covering next week on Monday the brain. This
is a brain. In fact, it's a specific person's brain, and what's interesting about the brain is that little white mark there. It's her
brain. It's Terri Schiavo's brain. You recognize her more from pictures like that. And what a case like this, where somebody is
in a coma, is without consciousness as a result of damage to the brain, is a stark illustration of the physical nature of mental
life. The physical basis for everything that we normally hold dear, like free will, consciousness, morality and emotions, and
that's what we'll begin the course with, talking about how a physical thing can give rise to mental life.
We'll talk a lot about children. This is actually a specific child. It's my son, Zachary, my younger son, dressed up as
Spider-Man, but it is Halloween. No, it's not Halloween. Oh. Well, there's more to say about that [laughter]. I study child
development for a living and I'm interested in several questions. So, one question is just the question of development.
Everybody in this room can speak and understand English. Everybody in this room has some understanding of how the
world works, how physical things behave. Everybody in this room has some understanding of other people, and how people
behave. And the question that preoccupies developmental psychologists is how do we come to have this knowledge, and in
particular, how much of it is hard-wired, built-in, innate. And how much of it is the product of culture, of language, of
schooling? And developmental psychologists use many ingenious methods to try to pull these apart and try to figure out what
are the basic components of human nature.
There's also the question of continuity. To what extent is Zachary, at that age, going to be that way forever? To
what extent is your fate sealed? To what extent could--if I were to meet you when you were five years old I could describe
the way you are now? The poet William Wordsworth wrote, "The child is father to the man," and what this means is that you
can see within every child the adult he or she will become. We will look and ask the question whether this is true. Is it true for
your personality? Is it true for your interests? Is it true for your intelligence?
Another question having to do with development is what makes us the way we are? We're different in a lot of ways.
The people in this room differ according to their taste in food. They differ according to their IQs; whether they're aggressive
or shy; whether they're attracted to males, females, both or neither; whether they are good at music; whether they are
politically liberal or conservative. Why are we different? What's the explanation for why we're different? And again, this could
be translated in terms of a question of genes and environment. To what extent are things the result of the genes we
possess? To what extent are our individual natures the result of how we were raised? And to what extent are they best
explained in terms of an interaction? One common theory, for instance, is that we are shaped by our parents. This was best
summarized most famously by the British poet Philip Larkin who wrote,
They mess you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.

Is he right? It's very controversial. You-- It's been a series of--a huge controversy in the popular culture to the extent
of which parents matter and this is an issue which will preoccupy us for much of the course.
A different question: What makes somebody attractive? And this can be asked at all sorts of levels but a simple
level is what makes for a pretty face? So, these are, according to ratings, very attractive faces. They are not the faces of real
people. What's on the screen are computer generated faces of a Caucasian male and a Caucasian female who don't exist in
the real world. But through using this sort of computer generation, and then asking people what they think of this face, what
they think of that face, scientists have come to some sense as to what really makes a face attractive, both within cultures
and across cultures. And that's something which we're going to devote some time to when we talk about social behavior, and
in particular, when we talk about sex. Not all attractiveness, not all beauty of course, is linked to sex. So, pandas for
instance, like this panda, are notoriously cute, and I don't have anything to say about it really. It's just a cute picture
Morality is extremely central to our lives, and a deep question, which we will struggle with throughout most of the
course, is the question of good and evil, evil and good. These three pictures exemplify different sorts of evil. What you could
call institutional evil by somebody behaving cruelly toward somebody else, perhaps not due to malice but because of the
situation that she's in. It has picture of Osama bin Laden, a mass murderer or driven by political cause? And then there's this
guy on the bottom. Anybody know who he is? Ted Bundy. Who got that? Film that man [laughter]. No. Ted Bundy, exactly,
and that's before we get into the technical stuff like crazy-evil, and we're going to have to come to terms with why some
people are like that. And again, the same situation comes up. Is it part of your nature to be good or bad or is it largely due to
the situation that you fall in? And there's a lot of some quite spectacular experiments that try to tease that apart.
If we're going to talk about evil, we should also talk about good. These are pictures of two notoriously good men,
Oskar Schindler and Paul Rusesabagina, each who at different times in history saved the lives of many, many people at
great risk to themselves. Schindler in the Holocaust, and then the other guy, in and I can't pronounce his name
Rusesabagina, in Rwanda. And they both had real good movies made about them. But what's interesting with these cases is
you couldn't have predicted ahead of time that they would be heroes. And one personal issue within any of us is what would
we do in such situations?
Finally, throughout this course we will discuss mental illness. Now, towards the end of the class I want to devote a
full week to discussing major disorders like depression and anxiety, because of their profound social importance. Such
disorders are reasonably common in college students. Many people in this room are currently suffering from a mood
disorder, an anxiety disorder or both, and I won't ask for a show of hands but I know a lot of people in this room are on some
form of medication for this disorder. And we'll discuss the current research and why people get these disorders and what's
the best way to make them better.
But I also have a weakness for the less common mental disorders that I think tell us something really interesting
about mental life. So, when we talk about memory, for instance, we'll talk about disorders in memory, including some
disorders that keep you from forming new memories as well as disorders of amnesia where you forget the past. And these
are extraordinarily interesting for all sorts of reasons. Early in the course, in fact I think next week, we will discuss, no, later
on in the course, in the middle of the semester, we will discuss an amazing case of Phineas Gage.
Phineas Gage was a construction worker about 100 years ago. Due to an explosion, a metal pipe went through his
head like so. Miraculously, he was not killed. In fact, his friends--it went through his head, went--ended up 100 feet away,
covered with brains and blood. And Phineas Gage sat down and went, "uh, oh." And then on the way to the hospital they
stopped by a pub to have some cider. He was not blind, he was not deaf, he was not retarded, but something else happened
to him. He lost his sense of right and wrong. He lost his control. He used to be a hard-working family man. After the accident
he lost all of that. He couldn't hold a job. He couldn't stay faithful to his wife. He couldn't speak for five minutes without
cursing. He got into fights. He got into brawls. He got drunk. He lost his control. He ended up on a circus sideshow traveling
through the country with the big steel pipe that went through his head. And this is again an extraordinary example of how the
brain can give rise to the mind, and how things that go wrong with the brain can affect you in a serious way.
We'll discuss cases of multiple personality disorder, where people have more than one personality. And also,
discuss the debate over whether such cases are true or not; whether they could be taken as a real phenomena or a made-up
phenomena, which is--there is a matter of a lot of controversy. And then, we'll even discuss some rarer cases like Capgras
syndrome. Capgras syndrome is typically there's hundreds of cases, not many hundreds of cases. It's typically the result
of some sort of stroke, and what happens to you is very specific. You develop a particular delusion, like it's getting dark
[lights dim in the room, laughter follows]. And the delusion is that the people you love the most have been replaced. They've
been replaced by aliens or robots [lights go on] thank you by Martians, by CIA agents, by trained actors and actresses.
But the people--But the idea is, the people you care for the most you believe are gone. And this could lead to tragic
Capgras syndrome is associated with a very high level of violence. One man in Australia a couple of years ago was
under the delusion that his father was replaced with a robot and cut off his head. A related disorder involving the very same
parts of the brain is called Cotard's syndrome. And Cotard's syndrome is you believe that you're dead; you are persuaded
that you're dead. You're walking around. You know you're walking around. And you know that there are people around, but

you think that you're dead. And what's striking about these is--it's not--these are not just sort of big, screwy problems of
messed up people. Rather, they're located--they're related at a pinpoint level to certain parts of your brain. And we're going
to talk about the best modern theories as to why these syndromes occur.
Now, the reason to be interested in them, again, is not because they're frequent. They aren't. And it's not because
of some sort of gruesome, morbid curiosity. Rather, by looking at extreme cases, they can help us best understand normal
life. Often by looking at extremes it throws into sharp contrast things we naturally take for granted. The issue of psychopathy,
of people who, either due to brain damage or because they are born that way, have no moral understanding, can help us
cope with questions of free will and responsibility; of the relationship or difference between mental illness and evil. Multiple
personality cases force us to address the question of what is a self. To what extent are all of us composed of multiple people,
and to what extent are we a single unified person over time? Cases like Capgras are important because they tell us about
how we see the world. They tell us for instance that there is a difference between recognizing something in the sense that
you could name it, and knowing what it is. And so, by studying these abnormal cases we could get some insight into regular
life. So, that's the end of the illustration of the example topics. The syllabus lists many more.
I'll end by telling you that there's a lot of stuff that we'll be talking about, that I want to talk about, that I am not expert
in. And fortunately, there is a community at Yale of the best scholars and teachers on the planet. And so, it would be a
shame for me not to use them to cover some of these issues. And so, I'm going to include four guest lecturers. The first one
is Dr. Marvin Chun who teaches the Introduction to Psychology course in the fall and is my competition. And he's going to
give an amazing lecture on cognitive neuroscience, especially the cognitive neuroscience of faces. Dr. Susan NolenHoeksema is the world's authority on depression, and in particular, on sex differences and depression, and she's going to
talk about this towards the end of the course. Kelly Brownell is going to talk--is head of the Rudd Center, focuses on obesity,
eating disorders, dieting, and he'll talk about the psychology of food. And finally, Dr. Peter Salovey, Dean of Yale College, is
going to come to us on Valentine's Day and tell us everything he knows about the mysteries of love. All of these details are in
the syllabus and I'll stick around and answer questions. Hope to see you next week.

Lecture 2
Professor Paul Bloom: We're going to begin the class proper, Introduction to Psychology, with a discussion about the brain.
And, in particular, I want to lead off the class with an idea that the Nobel Prize winning biologist, Francis Crick, described as
"The Astonishing Hypothesis." And The Astonishing Hypothesis is summarized like this. As he writes, The Astonishing
Hypothesis is that:
You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will are in fact
no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might
have phrased it, "you're nothing but a pack of neurons."
It is fair to describe this as astonishing. It is an odd and unnatural view and I don't actually expect people to believe
it at first. It's an open question whether you'll believe it when this class comes to an end, but I'd be surprised if many of you
believe it now. Most people don't. Most people, in fact, hold a different view. Most people are dualists. Now, dualism is a very
different doctrine. It's a doctrine that can be found in every religion and in most philosophical systems throughout history. It
was very explicit in Plato, for instance.
But the most articulate and well-known defender of dualism is the philosopher Rene Descartes, and Rene
Descartes explicitly asked a question, "Are humans merely physical machines, merely physical things?" And he answered,
"no." He agreed that animals are machines. In fact, he called them "beast machines" and said animals, nonhuman animals
are merely robots, but people are different. There's a duality of people. Like animals, we possess physical material bodies,
but unlike animals, what we are is not physical. We are immaterial souls that possess physical bodies, that have physical
bodies, that reside in physical bodies, that connect to physical bodies. So, this is known as dualism because the claim is, for
humans at least, there are two separate things; there's our material bodies and there's our immaterial minds.
Now, Descartes made two arguments for dualism. One argument involved observations of a human action. So,
Descartes lived in a fairly sophisticated time, and his time did have robots. These were not electrical robots, of course. They
were robots powered by hydraulics. So, Descartes would walk around the French Royal Gardens and the French Royal
Gardens were set up like a seventeenth-century Disneyland. They had these characters that would operate according to
water flow and so if you stepped on a certain panel, a swordsman would jump out with a sword. If you stepped somewhere
else, a bathing beauty would cover herself up behind some bushes. And Descartes said, "Boy, these machines respond in
certain ways to certain actions so machines can do certain things and, in fact," he says, "our bodies work that way too. If you
tap somebody on the knee, your leg will jump out. Well, maybe that's what we are." But Descartes said that can't be because
there are things that humans do that no machine could ever do. Humans are not limited to reflexive action. Rather, humans
are capable of coordinated, creative, spontaneous things. We can use language, for instance, and sometimes my use of
language can be reflexive. Somebody says, "How are you?" And I say, "I am fine. How are you?" But sometimes I could say
what I choose to be, "How are you?" "Pretty damn good." I can just choose. And machines, Descartes argued, are incapable
of that sort of choice. Hence, we are not mere machines.
The second argument is, of course, quite famous and this was the method. This he came to using the method of
doubt. So, he started asking himself the question, "What can I be sure of?" And he said, "Well, I believe there's a God, but
honestly, I can't be sure there's a God. I believe I live in a rich country but maybe I've been fooled." He even said, "I believe I
have had friends and family but maybe I am being tricked. Maybe an evil demon, for instance, has tricked me, has deluded
me into thinking I have experiences that aren't real." And, of course, the modern version of this is The Matrix.
The idea of The Matrix is explicitly built upon Cartesian--Descartes' worries about an evil demon. Maybe everything
you're now experiencing is not real, but rather is the product of some other, perhaps malevolent, creature. Descartes,
similarly, could doubt he has a body. In fact, he noticed that madmen sometimes believe they have extra limbs or they
believe they're of different sizes and shapes than they really are and Descartes said, "How do I know I'm not crazy? Crazy
people don't think they're crazy so the fact that I don't think I'm crazy doesn't mean I'm not crazy. How do I know," Descartes
said, "I'm not dreaming right now?" But there is one thing, Descartes concluded, that he cannot doubt, and the answer is he
cannot doubt that he is himself thinking. That would be self-refuting. And so, Descartes used the method of doubt to say
there's something really different about having a body that's always uncertain from having a mind. And he used this
argument as a way to support dualism, as a way to support the idea that bodies and minds are separate. And so he
concluded, "I knew that I was a substance, the whole essence or nature of which is to think, and that for its existence, there
is no need of any place nor does it depend on any material thing. That is to say, the soul by which I am, when I am, is
entirely distinct from body."
Now, I said before that this is common sense and I want to illustrate the common sense nature of this in a few
ways. One thing is our dualism is enmeshed in our language. So, we have a certain mode of talking about things that we
own or things that are close to us my arm, my heart, my child, my car but we also extend that to my body and my brain.
We talk about owning our brains as if we're somehow separate from them. Our dualism shows up in intuitions about personal
identity. And what this means is that common sense tells us that somebody can be the same person even if their body
undergoes radical and profound changes. The best examples of this are fictional. So, we have no problem understanding a

movie where somebody goes to sleep as a teenager and wakes up as Jennifer Garner, as an older person. Now, nobody
says, "Oh, that's a documentary. I believe that thoroughly true" but at the same time nobody, no adult, no teenager, no child
ever leaves and says, "I'm totally conceptually confused." Rather, we follow the story. We can also follow stories which
involve more profound transformations as when a man dies and is reborn into the body of a child.
Now, you might have different views around--People around this room will have different views as to whether
reincarnation really exists, but we can imagine it. We could imagine a person dying and then reemerging in another body.
This is not Hollywood invention. One of the great short stories of the last century begins with a sentence by Franz Kafka: "As
Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect." And
again, Kafka invites us to imagine waking up into a body of a cockroach and we can. This is also not modern. Hundreds of
years before the birth of Christ, Homer described the fate of the companions of Odysseus who were transformed by a witch
into pigs. Actually, that's not quite right. She didn't turn them into pigs. She did something worse. She stuck them in the
bodies of pigs. They had the head and voice and bristles and body of swine but their minds remained unchanged as before,
so they were penned there weeping. And we are invited to imagine the fate of again finding ourselves in the bodies of other
creatures and, if you can imagine this, this is because you are imagining what you are as separate from the body that you
reside in.
We allow for the notion that many people can occupy one body. This is a mainstay of some slapstick humor
including the classic movie, All of Me--Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin highly recommended. But many people think this sort
of thing really happens. One analysis of multiple personality disorder is that you have many people inside a single body
fighting it out for control. Now, we will discuss multiple personality disorder towards the end of the semester and it turns out
things are a good deal more complicated than this, but still my point isn't about how it really is but how we think about it.
Common sense tells us you could have more than one person inside a single body. This shows up in a different context
involving exorcisms where many belief systems allow for the idea that people's behavior, particularly their evil or irrational
behavior, could be because something else has taken over their bodies.
Finally, most people around the world, all religions and most people in most countries at most times, believe that
people can survive the destruction of their bodies. Now, cultures differ according to the fate of the body. Some cultures have
the body going to--sorry--the fate of the soul. Some cultures have you going to Heaven or descending to Hell. Others have
you occupying another body. Still, others have you occupying an amorphous spirit world. But what they share is the idea that
what you are is separable from this physical thing you carry around. And the physical thing that you carry around can be
destroyed while you live on.
These views are particularly common in the United States. In one survey done in Chicago a few years ago, people
were asked their religion and then were asked what would happen to them when they died. Most people in the sample were
Christian and about 96% of Christians said, "When I die I'm going to go to Heaven." Some of the sample was Jewish. Now,
Judaism is actually a religion with a less than clear story about the afterlife. Still, most of the subjects who identified
themselves as Jewish said when they die they will go to Heaven. Some of the sampled denied having any religion at all--said
they have no religion at all. Still, when these people were asked what would happen when they would die, most of them
answered, "I'm going to go to Heaven."
So, dualism is emmeshed. A lot rests on it but, as Crick points out; the scientific consensus now is that dualism is
wrong. There is no "you" separable or separate from your body. In particular, there is no "you" separable from your brain. To
put it the way cognitive scientists and psychologists and neuroscientists like to put it, "the mind is what the brain does." The
mind reflects the workings of the brain just like computation reflects the working of a computer. Now, why would you hold
such an outrageous view? Why would you reject dualism in favor of this alternative? Well, a few reasons. One reason is
dualism has always had its problems. For one thing, it's a profoundly unscientific doctrine. We want to know as curious
people how children learn language, what we find attractive or unattractive, and what's the basis for mental illness. And
dualism simply says, "it's all nonphysical, it's part of the ether," and hence fails to explain it.
More specifically, dualists like Descartes struggle to explain how a physical body connects to an immaterial soul.
What's the conduit? How could this connection be made? After all, Descartes knew full well that there is such a connection.
Your body obeys your commands. If you bang your toe or stub your toe you feel pain. If you drink alcohol it affects your
reasoning, but he could only wave his hands as to how this physical thing in the world could connect to an immaterial mind.
Descartes, when he was alive, was reasonable enough concluding that physical objects cannot do certain things.
He was reasonable enough in concluding, for instance, as he did, that there's no way a merely physical object could ever
play a game of chess because--and that such a capacity is beyond the capacity of the physical world and hence you have to
apply--you have to extend the explanation to an immaterial soul but now we know--we have what scientists call an existence
proof. We know physical objects can do complicated and interesting things. We know, for instance, machines can play
chess. We know machines can manipulate symbols. We know machines have limited capacities to engage in mathematical
and logical reasoning, to recognize things, to do various forms of computations, and this makes it at least possible that we
are such machines. So you can no longer say, "Look. Physical things just can't do that" because we know physical things
can do a lot and this opens up the possibility that humans are physical things, in particular, that humans are brains.

Finally, there is strong evidence that the brain is involved in mental life. Somebody who hold a--held a dualist view
that said that what we do and what we decide and what we think and what we want are all have nothing to do with the
physical world, would be embarrassed by the fact that the brain seems to correspond in intricate and elaborate ways to our
mental life. Now, this has been known for a long time. Philosophers and psychologists knew for a long time that getting
smacked in the head could change your mental faculties; that diseases like syphilis could make you deranged; that
chemicals like caffeine and alcohol can affect how you think. But what's new is we can now in different ways see the direct
effects of mental life.
Somebody with a severe and profound loss of mental faculties--the deficit will be shown correspondingly in her
brain. Studies using imaging techniques like CAT scans, PET, and fMRI, illustrate that different parts of the brain are active
during different parts of mental life. For instance, the difference between seeing words, hearing words, reading words and
generating words can correspond to different aspects of what part of your brain is active. To some extent, if we put you in an
fMRI scanner and observed what you're doing in real time, by looking at the activity patterns in your brain we can tell whether
you are thinking about music or thinking about sex. To some extent we can tell whether you're solving a moral dilemma
versus something else. And this is no surprise if what we are is the workings of our physical brains, but it is extremely difficult
to explain if one is a dualist.
Now, so what you have is--the scientific consensus is that all of mental life including consciousness and emotions
and choice and morality are the products of brain activities. So, you would expect that when you rip open the skull and look
at the brain; you'd see something glorious, you'd see I don't know a big, shiny thing with glass tubes and blinding lights
and sparks and wonderful colors. And actually though, the brain is just disgusting. It looks like an old meat loaf. It's gray
when you take it out of the head. It's called gray matter but that's just because it's out of the head. Inside the head it's bright
red because it's pulsing with blood. It doesn't even taste good. Well, has anybody here ever eaten brain? It's good with
cream sauce but everything's good with cream sauce.
So, the question is, "How can something like this give rise to us?" And you have to have some sympathy for
Descartes. There's another argument Descartes could have made that's a lot less subtle than the ones he did make, which is
"That thing responsible for free will and love and consciousness? Ridiculous." What I want to do, and what the goal of
neuroscience is, is to make it less ridiculous, to try to explain how the brain works, how the brain can give rise to thought,
and what I want to do today is take a first stab at this question but it's something we'll continue to discuss throughout the
course as we talk about different aspects of mental life. What I want to do though now is provide a big picture. So, what I
want to do is start off small, with the smallest interesting part of the brain and then get bigger and bigger and bigger talk
about how the small part of the brain, the neurons, the basic building blocks of thought, combine to other mental structures
and into different subparts of the brain and finally to the whole thing.
So, one of the discoveries of psychology is that the basic unit of the brain appears to be the neuron. The neuron is a
specific sort of cell and the neuron has three major parts, as you could see illustrated here [pointing to the slide]. Neurons
actually look quite different from one another but this is a typical one. There are the dendrites these little tentacles here.
And the dendrites get signals from other neurons. Now, these signals can be either excitatory, which is that they raise the
likelihood the neuron will fire, or inhibitory in that they lower the likelihood that the neuron will fire. The cell body sums it up
and you could view it arithmetically. The excitatory signals are pluses, the inhibitory ones are minuses. And then if you get a
certain number, plus 60 or something, the neuron will fire and it fires along the axon, the thing to the right. The axon is much
longer than the dendrites and, in fact, some axons are many feet long. There's an axon leading from your spinal cord to your
big toe for instance. [the classroom lights accidentally go off] It is so shocking the lights go out.
Surrounded--Surrounding--To complete a mechanical metaphor that would have led Descartes to despair--[the
classroom lights turn on] Thank you, Koleen. Surrounding the axon is a myelin sheath, which is actually just insulation. It
helps the firing work quicker. So, here are some facts about neurons. There are a lot of them about one thousand billion of
them and each neuron can be connected to around thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, other neurons. So, it's an
extraordinarily complicated computing device. Neurons come in three flavors. There are sensory neurons, which take
information from the world so as you see me, for instance, there are neurons firing from your retina sending signals to your
brain. There are motor neurons. If you decide to raise your hand, those are motor neurons telling the muscles what to do.
And there are interneurons which connect the two. And basically, the interneurons do the thinking. They make the
connection between sensation and action.
It used to be believed, and it's the sort of thing I would--when I taught this course many years ago I would lecture
on--that neurons do not grow back once you lose them. You never get them back. This is actually not true. There are parts of
the brain in which neurons can re-grow.
One interesting thing about neurons is a neuron is like a gun. It either fires or it doesn't. It's all or nothing. If you
squeeze the trigger of a gun really hard and really fast, it doesn't fire any faster or harder than if you just squeezed it gently.
Now, this seems to be strange. Why? How could neurons be all or nothing when sensation is very graded? If somebody next
to you pushed on your hand--the degree of pushing--you'd be able to notice it. It's not either pushing or not pushing. You
can--Degrees of pushing, degrees of heat, degrees of brightness. And the answer is, although neurons are all or nothing,
there are ways to code intensity. So, one simple way to code intensity is the number of neurons firing; the more neurons the

more intense. Another way to increase intensity is the frequency of firing. So, I'll just use those two. The first one is the
number of neurons firing. The second one is the frequency of firing in that something is more intense if it's "bang, bang,
bang, bang, bang, bang" then [louder] "bang, bang, bang" and these are two ways through which neurons encode intensity.
Now, neurons are connected and they talk to one another and it used to be thought they were tied to one another
like a computer, like you take wires and you connect wires to each other, you wrap them around and connect them. It turns
out this isn't the case. It turns out that neurons relate to one another chemically in a kind of interesting way. Between any
neurons, between the axon of one neuron and the dendrite of another, there's a tiny gap. The gap could be about one tenthousandths of a millimeter wide. This infinitesimal gap--and this gap is known as a synapse--and what happens is when a
neuron fires, an axon sends chemicals shooting through the gap. These chemicals are known as neurotransmitters and they
affect the dendrites. So, neurons communicate to one another chemically. These--Again, the chemicals could excite the
other neuron (excitatory) bring up the chances it will fire, or inhibit the other neuron (inhibitory).
Now, neurotransmitters become interesting because a lot of psychopharmacology, both of the medical sort and the
recreational sort, consists of fiddling with neurotransmitters and so you could see this through some examples. There are two
sorts of ways you could fiddle with neurotransmitters, and correspondingly two sorts of drugs. There are agonists. And what
an agonist does is increases the effect of neurotransmitters, either by making more neurotransmitters or stopping the
cleanup of neurotransmitters, or in some cases by faking a neurotransmitter, by mimicking its effects. Then, there are
antagonists that slow down the amount of neurotransmitters, either because they destroy neurotransmitters or they make it
hard to create more. Or in some cases they go to the dendrite of the neuron and they kind of put a paste over it so that the
neurotransmitters can't connect. And it's through these clever ways that neurons can affect your mental life.
So, for instance, there is a drug known as Curare and Curare is an antagonist. It's a very particular sort of
antagonist. It blocks motor neurons from affecting muscle fibers. What this does then is it paralyzes you because your motor
neurons--You send the command to your arm to stand, to lift up. It doesn't work. You send the command to your leg to move.
It doesn't work. The motor neurons are deactivated and then, because the way you breathe is through motor neurons, you
then die.
There's alcohol. Alcohol is inhibitory. Now, this may be puzzling to people. It's mildly paradoxical because you may
be thinking, "alcohol is not inhibitory. On the contrary, when I drink a lot of alcohol I lose my inhibitions and become a more
fun person. I become more aggressive and more sexually vibrant and simply more beautiful. And so in what way is alcohol
inhibitory?" Well, the answer is it inhibits the inhibitory parts of your brain. So, you have parts of your brain that are basically
telling you now, largely in the frontal lobes, that are--"Okay. Keep your pants on. Don't hit me, buddy. Don't use bad words."
Alcohol relaxes, shuts down those parts of the brain. If you take enough alcohol, it then goes down to inhibit the excitatory
parts of your brain and then you fall on the floor and pass out.
Amphetamines increase the amount of arousal. In particular, they increase the amount of norepinephrine, a
neurotransmitter that's responsible for just general arousal. And so, amphetamines include drugs like "speed" and "coke."
There are--Prozac works on serotonin. When we discuss clinical psychology and depression we'll learn the extent to which
neurotransmitter disorders are implicated in certain disorders like depression. And one problem is that for depression is
that there's too little of a neurotransmitter known as serotonin. Prozac makes serotonin more prevalent and so in some
extent might help alleviate depression. Parkinson's disease is a disease involving destruction of motor control and loss of
motor control, difficulty moving. And one factor in Parkinson's is too little of a neurotransmitter known as dopamine. The drug
L-DOPA increases the supply of dopamine and so there is something to alleviate, at least temporarily, the symptoms of
So, you have neurons and they're clustered together and they fire and they communicate to one another. So, how
does this all work to give rise to creatures who could do interesting things like talk and think? Well, again, it used to be
believed that the brain is wired up like a computer, like a PC or a Mac or something like that, but we know this can't be true. It
can't be true because there's two ways in which the brain is better than a computer. For one thing, the brain is highly
resistant to damage. If you have a laptop and I persuade you to open it up for me and I take the pliers and kind of snip just
about anywhere, your laptop will be destroyed but the brain is actually more resilient. You can take a lot of brain damage and
still preserve some mental functioning. To some interesting sense, there's some sort of damage resistance built in to the
brain that allows different parts of the brain to take over if some parts are damaged.
A second consideration is the brain is extremely fast. Your computer works on wires and electricity but your brain
uses tissue and tissue is extremely slow. The paradox then is how do you create such a fast computer with such slow stuff?
And you can't. If the brain was wired up like a personal computer, it would take you four hours to recognize a face but, in fact,
we could do things extremely quickly. So, the question then is how is the brain wired up? And the answer is, unlike manys,
unlike commercially generated computers, the brain works through parallel processing, massively parallel distributed
There's a whole lot of research and this is research, some of which takes place outside psychology departments
and in engineering departments and computer science departments, trying to figure out how a computer can do the same
things brains can do. And one way people do this is they take a hint from nature and they try to construct massively
distributed networks to do aspects of reasoning. So, there's a very simple computational network. That is interesting because

it kind of looks to some extent like the way neurons look and this is often known as neural networks. And people who study
this often claim to be studying neural network modeling to try to build smart machines by modeling them after brains. And in
the last 20 years or so, this has been a huge and vibrant area of study where people are trying to wire up machines that can
do brain-like things from components that look a lot like neurons and are wired up together as neurons are. One
consideration in all of this is that this is a very young field and nobody knows how to do it yet. There is no machine yet that
can recognize faces or understand sentences at the level of a two-year-old human. There is no machine yet that can do just
about anything people can do in an interesting way. And this is, in part, because the human brain is wired up in an
extraordinarily more complicated way than any sort of simple neural network. This is a sort of schematic diagram you're not
responsible for this of parts of the visual cortex, and the thing to realize about this is it's extraordinarily simplified. So, the
brain is a complicated system.
Now, so, we've talked a little bit about the basic building blocks of the brain neurons. We've then talked about how
neurons can communicate to one another; then, [we] turned to how neurons are wired up together. Now let's talk a little bit
about different parts of the brain. Now, there's some things you don't actually need your brain to do. The study of what you
don't need your brain to do has often drawn upon this weird methodology where--This was actually done in France a lot
where they would decapitate people and when--After they decapitated people, psychologists would rush to the body of the
headless person and sort of just test out reflexes and stuff like that. It's kind of gruesome but we know there are some things
you don't need your brain for.
You don't need your brain for newborn sucking, limb flexation in withdrawal from pain. Your limbs will pull back even
if your head is gone. Erection of the penis can be done without a brain. Vomiting also is done without a brain. Oh. I need a
volunteer. Very simple. This will not involve any of--excellent--any of the above. Could you stand up just--Okay. This is a new
shirt so I want to stay away. Just--No. This is--If you'll hold out your hand and--one hand flat. [The student holds his hand out
flat] Excellent. [Professor Paul Bloom raises a book above the student's hand] That's the textbook, 5th edition. Now.
[Professor Paul Bloom drops the book onto the student's hand. After succumbing to the weight of the book the student's
hand automatically raises back up] Perfect. What you'll notice is--Thank you very much. What you'll notice is this hit and this
hand went back up. This is something automatic, instinctive, and does not require your brain. So your brain isn't needed for
What does your brain do? Well, some things that your brain does involve very low-level internal structures. And
these are called subcortical structures because they're below the cortex. They're underneath the cortex. So, for instance,
what we have here [gesturing toward the slides] is a diagram of the brain. The way to read this diagram is it's as if it were my
brain and I am facing this way. My head gets cut in half down here and then you could see the brain. So, this is the front over
here. That's the back. Some key parts are illustrated here. The medulla, for instance, is responsible for heart rate and
respiration. It's very deep within the brain and if it gets damaged you could--you are likely to die. The cerebellum is
responsible for body balance and muscular coordination. And to give you, again, a feeling for the complexity of these
systems, the cerebellum contains approximately 30 billion neurons. The hypothalamus is responsible here for feeding,
hunger, thirst, and to some extent sleep. And here is the same brain parts in close-up.
Now, all of these parts of the brains are essential and many of them are implicated in interesting psychological
processes but where the action is is the cortex. Isn't this beautiful? The cortex is the outer layer and the outer layer is all
crumpled up. Do you ever wonder why your brain looks wrinkled? That's because it's all crumpled. If you took out
somebody's cortex and flattened it out, it would be two feet square, sort of like a nice--like a rug. And the cortex is where all
the neat stuff takes place. Fish don't have any of that, so no offense to fish but it's--fish don't have much of a mental life.
Reptiles and birds have a little bit about it--of it--and primates have a lot and humans have a real lot. Eighty percent of the
volume of our brain, about, is cortex. And the cortex can be broken up into different parts or lobes. There is the--And, again,
this is facing in profile forward. There is the frontal lobe, easy to remember. This part in front, the parietal lobe, the occipital
lobe, and the temporal lobe.
And one theme we're going to return to is--this is half the brain. This is, in fact, the left half of the brain. On the other
half, the right half, everything's duplicated with some slight and subtle differences. What's really weird--One really weird
finding about these lobes is that they include topological maps. They include maps of your body. There is a cartoon which
actually illustrates a classic experiment by some physiologists who for some reason had a dog's brain opened up and started
shocking different parts of the brain. You could do brain surgery while fully conscious because the brain itself has no sense
organs to it. And it turns out that the dog--When they zapped part of its brain, its leg would kick up.
And it took Dr. Penfield at McGill University to do the same thing with people. So, they were doing some brain
surgery. He had a little electrical thing just on--I don't know how he thought to do this. He started zapping it and "boom." The
person--Parts of their body would move. More than that, when he zapped other parts of the brain, people would claim to see
colors. And he zapped other parts of the brain; people would claim to hear sounds; and other parts of the brain, people would
claim to experience touch. And through his research and other research, it was found that there are maps in the brain of the
body. There is a map in the motor part of the brain, the motor cortex, of the sort up on the left and the sensory cortex of the
sort that you could see on the right and if you--and you could tell what's what by opening up the brain and shocking different
parts and those parts would correspond to the parts of the body shown in the diagram there.

Now, two things to notice about these maps. The first is they're topographical and what this means is that if two
parts of the--two parts are close together on the body, they'll be close together on the brain. So, your tongue is closer to your
jaw than it is to your hip in the body; so too in both the motor cortex and the somatosensory cortex. Also, you'll notice that the
size of the body part represented in the brain does not correspond to the size of the body part in the real world. Rather, what
determines the size in the brain is the extent to which either they have motor command over it or sensory control. So, there's
a whole lot of sensory organs, for instance, focused along your tongue, and that's why that's so big, and an enormous
amount on your face but your shoulder isn't even--doesn't even make it on there because, although your shoulder might be
bigger than your tongue, there's not much going on. In fact, if you draw a diagram of a person, what their body is
corresponding to the amount of somatosensory cortex, you get something like that [gesturing toward the slide]. That's your
sensory body.
Now, so, you have these maps in your head but the thing to realize is--And these maps are part of your cortex, but
the things to realize is that's an important part of what goes on in your brain but less than one quarter of the cortex contains
these maps or projection areas. The rest is involved in language and reasoning and moral thought and so on. And, in fact,
the proportion as you go from rat, cat, and monkey, humans--less and less of it is devoted to projection and there is more
and more to other things. So, how do we figure out what the other parts of the brain do? Well, there's all sorts of methods.
Typically, these are recent imaging methods like CAT scan and PET scan and fMRI which, as I said before, show parts of
your brain at work. If you want to know which part of your brain is responsible for language, you could put somebody into a
scanner and have them exposed to language or do a linguistic task or talk or something and then see what parts of their
brain are active.
Another way to explore what the brain does is to consider what happens to people when very bad things happen to
their brain. And these bad things could happen through lesions, through tumors, through strokes, through injury. For the most
part, neuropsychologists don't like helmet laws. Neuropsychologists love when motorcyclists drive without helmets because
through their horrible accidents we gain great insights into how the brain works. And the logic is if you find somebody-Crudely, if you find somebody with damage to this part of the brain right here and that person can't recognize faces for
instance, there's some reason to believe that this part of the brain is related to face recognition.
And so, from the study of brain damage and the study of--we can gain some understanding of what different parts of
the brain do. And so, people study brain damages--brain damage that implicates motor control such as apraxia. And what's
interesting about apraxia is it's not paralysis. Somebody with apraxia can move, do simple movements just fine but they can't
coordinate their movements. They can't do something like wave goodbye or light a cigarette.
There is agnosia and agnosia is a disorder which isn't blindness because the person could still see perfectly well.
Their eyes are intact but rather what happens in agnosia is they lose the ability to recognize certain things. Sometimes this is
described as psychic blindness. And so, they may get visual agnosia and lose the ability to recognize objects. They may get
prosopagnosia and lose the ability to recognize faces. There are disorders of sensory neglect, some famous disorders.
Again, it's not paralysis, it's not blindness, but due to certain parts of your--of damaged parts of your brain, you might lose, for
instance, the idea that there's a left side of your body or a left side of the world. And these cases are so interesting I want to
devote some chunk to a class in the next few weeks to discussing them.
There are disorders of language like aphasia. The classic case was discovered by Paul Broca in 1861. A patient
who had damage to part of his brain and can only say one word, "tan," and the person would say, "tan, tan, tan, tan," and
everything else was gone. There's other disorders of language such as receptive aphasia where the person could speak very
fluently but the words don't make any sense and they can't understand anybody else. Other disorders that we'll discuss later
on include acquired psychopathy, where damage to parts of your brain, particularly related to the frontal lobes, rob you of the
ability to tell right from wrong.
The final--I want to end--We're talking about neurons, connection between neurons, how neurons are wired up, the
parts of the brain, what the different parts do. I want to end by talking about the two halves of the brain and ask the question,
"How many minds do you have?" Now, if you look at the brain--If you took the brain out and held it up, it would look pretty
symmetrical, but it actually is not. There are actual differences between the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. How
many people here are right-handed? How many people here are left-handed? How many people here are sort of
complicated, ambidextrous, don't know, "bit of the right, bit of left" people? Okay. Those of you who are right-handed, which
comprises about nine out of ten people, have language in your left hemisphere. And, in fact, we're going to be talking about
right-handed people for the most part, making generalizations in what I'll talk about now. Those of you who are left-handed
are more complicated. Some of you have language in your right hemisphere, some in your left hemisphere, some God knows
where. It's complicated.
Now, the idea is that some things are duplicated. So, if you were to lose half your brain, the other half can actually
do a lot but some things are more prevalent and more powerful in one part of the brain than the other. And I want to show
you a brief film clip from "Scientific American" that illustrates the differences between the hemispheres, but before doing that,
I want to provide some introductory facts. Some functions are lateralized. So, typically, language in the left. Again, this is a
right-handed centric thing but if you're right-handed language on the left, math and music on the right. There is a crossover
and this is important when we think about the studies that will follow but the crossover is that everything you see in the left


visual field goes to the right side of your brain; everything in the right visual field goes to the left side of the brain, and
similarly, there's a crossover in action. So, your right hemisphere controls the left side of the body. Your left hemisphere
controls the right side of the body. Now, finally, the two halves are connected. They're connected by this huge web called the
corpus callosum. And I'm just going to skip this because the movie illustration will go through some of this.
This is an excellent summary of a discussion of Michael Gazzaniga, who's one of the world's top neuroscientists
and the leading expert on the two halves of the brain. The only flaw in this movie is people are just extremely pleased with
themselves, so you have to ignore that while watching it. Is that working? Do you people hear it?
[Professor Bloom plays a short video clip]
Now, I'll end on that happy note. This illustrates certain themes that are discussed in detail in the Gray book,
concerning the lateralization of different parts of different mental capacities, some in the left hemisphere, some in the right
hemisphere. But it also serves as a useful methodological development, which is a nice illustration as to how looking at
people who are incredibly unusual, such as this man who had his brain bisected so his left hemisphere and his right
hemisphere don't communicate with one another--how looking at such people, such extreme cases, can provide us with
some understanding of how we normally do things. And this, again, is a theme we'll return to throughout the course.
This is generally the general introduction of the brain that I wanted to provide, giving the framework for what I'll be
talking about later on throughout the course so that I might later on make reference to neurons or neurotransmitters or the
cortex or the left hemisphere and you'll sort of have the background to understand what I'm talking about. But I want to end
this first real class with a bit of humility as to what psychologists know and don't know. So, the idea behind a lot of
psychology particularly a lot of neuroscience and cognitive psychology is to treat the mind as an information processor,
as an elaborate computer. And so, we study different problems like recognizing faces or language or motor control or logic.
The strategy then often is to figure out how, what sort of program can solve these problems and then we go on to ask, "How
could this program be instantiated in the physical brain?" So, we would solve--We study people much as we'd study a
computer from an alien planet or something. And I think--This strategy is one I'm very enthusiastic about but there still
remains what's sometimes called the "hard problem" of consciousness and this involves subjective experience. What's it
like? So, my computer can play chess. My computer can recognize numbers. It can do math. And maybe it does it kind of the
same way that I do it but my computer doesn't have feelings in the same sense.
These are two classic illustrations. This [pointing at a picture on the slide] is from a very old "Star Trek" episode. It
illustrates angst. I think a starship's about to go into the sun or something. And that's [pointing at a another picture on the
slide] my older kid, Max, who's happy. And so the question is, "How does a thing like that give rise to consciousness and
subjective experience?" And this is a deep puzzle. And although some psychologists and philosophers think they've solved
it, most of us are a lot more skeptical. Most of us think we have so far to go before we can answer questions like Huxley's
question. Huxley points out, "How it is that anything so remarkable as a state of consciousness comes about as a result of
irritating nervous tissue, is just as unaccountable as the appearance of the Djinn" of the genie "when Aladdin rubs
his lamp." It seems like magic that a fleshy lump of gray, disgusting meat can give rise to these feelings.
The second bit of humility we'll end the class on is I am presenting here, and I'll be presenting throughout this
semester, what you can call a mechanistic conception of mental life. I'm not going to be talking about how beautiful it is and
how wonderful it is and how mysterious it is. Rather, I'm going to be trying to explain it. I'm going to be trying to explain
fundamental aspects of ourselves including questions like how do we make decisions, why do we love our children, what
happens when we fall in love, and so on.
Now, you might find this sort of project in the end to be repellant. You might worry about how this, well, this meshes
with humanist values. For instance, when we deal with one another in a legal and a moral setting, we think in terms of free
will and responsibility. If we're driving and you cut me off, you chose to do that. It reflects badly on you. If you save a life at
risk to your own, you're--you deserve praise. You did something wonderful. It might be hard to mesh this with the conception
in which all actions are the result of neurochemical physical processes. It might also be hard to mesh a notion such as the
purported intrinsic value of people. And finally, it might be hard to mesh the mechanistic notion of the mind with the idea that
people have spiritual value.
Faced with this tension, there are three possibilities. You might choose to reject the scientific conception of the
mind. Many people do. You may choose to embrace dualism, reject the idea that the brain is responsible for mental life, and
reject the promise of a scientific psychology. Alternatively, you might choose to embrace the scientific worldview and reject
all these humanist values. And there are some philosophers and psychologists who do just that, who claim that free will and
responsibility and spiritual value and intrinsic value are all illusions; they're pre-scientific notions that get washed away in
modern science or you could try to reconcile them. You could try to figure out how to mesh your scientific view of the mind
with these humanist values you might want to preserve. And this is an issue which we're going to return to throughout the
course. Okay. I'll see you on Wednesday.


Lecture 3
Professor Paul Bloom: Okay. The last class we talked about the brain. Now we're going to talk a little bit about some
foundations. So today and Monday we're going to talk about two very big ideas and these ideas are associated with Sigmund
Freud and B. F. Skinner and are psychoanalysis and behaviorism. And I want to talk about psychoanalysis today and
behaviorism next week.
Now, one of these things--One of the things that makes these theories so interesting is their scope. Most of the
work we're going to talk about in this class--Most of the ideas are narrow. So, we're going to talk about somebody's idea
about racial prejudice but that's not a theory of language acquisition. We'll talk about theories of schizophrenia but they're not
explanations of sexual attractiveness. Most theories are specialized theories but these two views are grand theories. They're
theories of everything, encompassing just about everything that matters, day-to-day life, child development, mental illness,
religion, war, love. Freud and Skinner had explanations of all of these.
Now, this is not a history course. I have zero interest in describing historical figures in psychology just for the sake
of telling you about the history of the field. What I want to tell you about though is--I want to talk about these ideas because
so much rests on them and, even more importantly, a lot of these ideas have critical influence on how we think about the
present. And that's there. [pointing at the slide]
Now, for better or worse, we live in a world profoundly affected by Sigmund Freud. If I had to ask you to choose a-no, name a famous psychologist, the answer of most of you would be Freud. He's the most famous psychologist ever and
he's had a profound influence on the twentieth and twenty-first century. Some biographical information: He was born in the
1850s. He spent most of his life in Vienna, Austria, but he died in London and he escaped to London soon after retreating
there at the beginning of World War II as the Nazis began to occupy where he lived.
He's one of the most famous scholars ever but he's not known for any single discovery. Instead, he's known for the
development of an encompassing theory of mind, one that he developed over the span of many decades. He was in his time
extremely well known, a celebrity recognized on the street, and throughout his life. He was a man of extraordinary energy
and productivity, in part because he was a very serious cocaine addict, but also just in general. He was just a high-energy
sort of person. He was up for the Nobel Prize in medicine and in literature; didn't get either one of them; didn't get the prize in
medicine because Albert Einstein--Everybody loves Albert Einstein. Well, Albert Einstein really wrote a letter because they
asked for opinions of other Nobel Prizes. He wrote a letter saying, "Don't give the prize to Freud. He doesn't deserve a Nobel
Prize. He's just a psychologist." Well, yeah. Okay.
While he's almost universally acclaimed as a profoundly important intellectual figure, he's also the object of
considerable dislike. This is in part because of his character. He was not a very nice man in many ways. He was deeply
ambitious to the cause of promoting psychoanalysis, to the cause of presenting his view and defending it, and he was often
dishonest, extremely brutal to his friends, and terrible to his enemies. He was an interesting character.
My favorite Freud story was as he was leaving Europe during the rise of the Nazis, as he was ready to go to
England from, I think, either Germany or Austria, he had to sign a letter from the Gestapo. Gestapo agents intercepted him
and demanded he sign a letter saying that at no point had he been threatened or harassed by the Gestapo. So he signs the
letter and then he writes underneath it, "The Gestapo has not harmed me in any way. In fact, I highly recommend the
Gestapo to everybody." It's--He had a certain aggression to him. He was also--He's also disliked, often hated, because of his
views. He was seen as a sexual renegade out to destroy the conception of people as good and rational and pure beings.
And when the Nazis rose to power in the 1930s he was identified as a Jew who was devoted to destroying the most sacred
notions of Christianity and to many, to some extent, many people see him this way. And to some extent, this accusation has
some truth to it.
Freud made claims about people that many of us, maybe most of us, would rather not know. Well, okay. What did
he say? Well, if you ask somebody who doesn't like Freud what he said, they'll describe some of the stupider things he said
and, in fact, Freud said a lot of things, some of which were not very rational. For instance, he's well known for his account of
phallic symbols, arguing certain architectural monuments are subconsciously developed as penile representations. And
related to this, he developed the notorious theory of penis envy. And penis envy is an account of a developmental state that
every one of you who is female has gone through, according to Freud. And the idea is that you discovered at some point in
your development that you lacked a penis. This is not--This is a catastrophe. And so, each of you inferred at that point that
you had been castrated. You had once had a penis but somebody had taken it from you. You then turn to your father and
love your father because your father has a penis, so he's a sort of penis substitute. You reject your mother, who's equally
unworthy due to her penis lack, and that shapes your psychosexual development.
Now, if that's the sort of thing you know about Freud, you are not going to have a very high opinion of him or of his
work, but at the core of Freud's declamation, the more interesting ideas, is a set of claims of a man's intellectual importance.
And the two main ones are this. The two main ones involve the existence of an unconscious, unconscious motivation, and
the notion of unconscious dynamics or unconscious conflict which lead to mental illnesses, dreams, slips of the tongue and
so on.


The first idea the idea of unconscious motivation involves rejecting the claim that you know what you're doing.
So, suppose you fall in love with somebody and you decide you want to marry them and then somebody was asked to ask
you why and you'd say something like, "Well, I'm ready to get married this stage of my life; I really love the person; the
person is smart and attractive; I want to have kids" whatever. And maybe this is true. But a Freudian might say that even if
this is your honest answer you're not lying to anybody else still, there are desires and motivations that govern your
behavior that you may not be aware of. So, in fact, you might want to marry John because he reminds you of your father or
because you want to get back at somebody for betraying you.
If somebody was to tell you this, you'd say, "That's total nonsense," but that wouldn't deter a Freudian. The
Freudian would say that these processes are unconscious so of course you just don't know what's happening. So, the radical
idea here is you might not know what--why you do what you do and this is something we accept for things like visual
perception. We accept that you look around the world and you get sensations and you figure out there is a car, there is a
tree, there is a person. And you're just unconscious of how this happens but it's unpleasant and kind of frightening that this
could happen, that this could apply to things like why you're now studying at Yale, why you feel the way you do towards your
friends, towards your family.
Now, the marriage case is extreme but Freud gives a lot of simpler examples where this sort of unconscious
motivation might play a role. So, have you ever liked somebody or disliked them and not known why? Have you ever found
yourself in a situation where you're doing something or you're arguing for something or making a decision for reasons that
you can't fully articulate? Have you ever forgotten somebody's name at exactly the wrong time? Have you ever called out the
wrong name in the throes of passion? This is all the Freudian unconscious. The idea is that we do these things--these things
are explained in terms of cognitive systems that we're not aware of.
Now, all of this would be fine if your unconscious was a reasonable, rational computer, if your unconscious was
really smart and looking out for your best interest. But, according to Freud, that's not the way it works. According to Freud,
there are three distinct processes going on in your head and these are in violent internal conflict. And the way you act and
the way you think are products, not of a singular rational being, but of a set of conflicting creatures. And these three parts are
the id, the ego, and the superego and they emerge developmentally.
The id, according to Freud, is present at birth. It's the animal part of the self. It wants to eat, drink, pee, poop, get
warm, and have sexual satisfaction. It is outrageously stupid. It works on what Freud called, "The Pleasure Principle." It
wants pleasure and it wants it now. And that's, according to Freud, how a human begins pure id. Freud had this wonderful
phrase, "polymorphous perversity," this pure desire for pleasure.
Now, unfortunately, life doesn't work like that. What you want isn't always what you get and this leads to a set of
reactions to cope with the fact that pleasure isn't always there when you want it either by planning how to satisfy your desires
or planning how to suppress them. And this system is known as the ego, or the self. And it works on the "Reality Principle."
And it works on the principle of trying to figure out how to make your way through the world, how to satisfy your pleasures or,
in some cases, how to give up on them. And the ego the emergence of the ego for Freud--symbolizes the origin of
Finally, if this was all there it might be a simpler world, but Freud had a third component, that of the superego. And
the superego is the internalized rules of parents in society. So, what happens in the course of development is, you're just
trying to make your way through the world and satisfy your desires, but sometimes you're punished for them. Some desires
are inappropriate, some actions are wrong, and you're punished for it. The idea is that you come out; you get in your head a
superego, a conscience. In these movies, there'd be a little angel above your head that tells you when things are wrong. And
basically your self, the ego, is in between the id and the superego.
One thing to realize, I told you the id is outrageously stupid. It just says, "Oh, hungry, food, sex, oh, let's get warm,
oh." The superego is also stupid. The superego, point to point, is not some brilliant moral philosopher telling you about right
and wrong. The superego would say, "You should be ashamed of yourself. That's disgusting. Stop doing that. Oh." And in
between these two screaming creatures, one of you; one of them telling you to seek out your desires, the other one telling
you, "you should be ashamed of yourself," is you, is the ego.
Now, according to Freud, most of this is unconscious. So, we see bubbling up to the top, we feel, we experience
ourselves. And the driving of the id, the forces of the id and the forces of the superego, are unconscious in that we cannot
access them. We don't know what--It's like the workings of our kidneys or our stomachs. You can't introspect and find them.
Rather, they do their work without conscious knowledge.
Now, Freud developed this. This is the Freudian theory in broad outline. He extended it and developed it into a
theory of psychosexual development. And so, Freud's theory is, as I said before, a theory of everyday life, of decisions, of
errors, of falling in love, but it's also a theory of child development. So, Freud believed there were five stages of personality
development, and each is associated with a particular erogenous zone. And Freud believed, as well, that if you have a
problem at a certain stage, if something goes wrong, you'll be stuck there. So, according to Freud, there are people in this
room who are what they are because they got stuck in the oral stage or the anal stage. And that's not good.
So, the oral stage is when you start off. The mouth is associated with pleasure. Everything is sucking and chewing
and so on. And the problem for Freud is premature weaning of a child. Depriving him of the breast, could lead to serious


problems in his personality development. It could make him, as the phrase goes, into an oral person. And his orality could be
described literally. Freud uses it as an explanation for why somebody might eat too much or chew gum or smoke. They're
trying to achieve satisfaction through their mouth of a sort they didn't get in this very early stage of development. But it can
also be more abstract. If your roommate is dependent and needy, you could then go to your roommate and say, "You are an
oral person. The first year of your life did not go well."
A phrase even more popular is the anal stage and that happens after the oral stage. And problems can emerge if
toilet training is not handled correctly. If you have problems during those years of life, you could become an anal personality,
according to Freud, and your roommate could say, "Your problem is you're too anal." And, according to Freud, literally, it
meant you are unwilling to part with your own feces. It's written down here. I know it's true. And the way it manifests itself, as
you know from just how people talk, is you're compulsive, you're clean, you're stingy. This is the anal personality.
Then it gets a little bit more complicated. The next stage is the phallic stage. Actually, this is not much more
complicated. The focus of pleasure shifts to the genitals and fixation can lead to excessive masculinity in females or in males
or if you're female a need for attention or domination. Now, at this point something really interesting happens called the
"Oedipus Complex." And this is based on the story, the mythical story of a king who killed his father and married his mother.
And, according to Freud, this happens to all of us in this way. Well, all of us. By "all of us," Freud meant "men."
So, here's the idea. You're three or four years old. You're in the phallic stage. So, what are you interested in? Well,
you're interested in your penis and then you seek an external object. Freud's sort of vague about this, but you seek some
sort of satisfaction. But who is out there who'd be sweet and kind and loving and wonderful? Well, Mom. So the child infers,
"Mom is nice, I love Mom." So far so--And so this is not crazy; a little boy falling in love with his mother. Problem: Dad's in the
Now, this is going to get progressively weirder but I will have to say, as the father of two sons, both sons went
through a phase where they explicitly said they wanted to marry Mommy. And me if something bad happened to me that
wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. So, there's this. But now it gets a little bit aggressive. So, the idea is the child
determines that he's going to kill his father. Every three- and four-year-old boy thinks this. But then because children,
according to Freud, don't have a good sense of the boundary between their mind and the world, which is a problem the
problem is they don't they think their father can tell that they're plotting to kill him and they figure their father is now angry at
them. And then they ask themselves, "What's the worst thing Dad could do to me?" And the answer is castration. So, they
come to the conclusion that their father is going to castrate them because of their illicit love for their Mom. And then they say,
"Dad wins" and then they don't think about sex for several years and that's the latency stage.
The latency stage is they've gone through this huge thing with Mom and Dad, "fell in love with Mom, wanted to kill
my father, Dad was going to castrate me, fell out of love with Mom, out of the sex business." And then, sex is repressed until
you get to the genital stage. And the genital stage is the stage we are all in the healthy adult stage. Now that you're adults
and you've gone through all the developmental stages, where do you stand? You're not out of the woods yet because
unconscious mechanisms are still--Even if you haven't got fixated on anything, there's still this dynamic going on all the time
with your id, your ego and your superego. And the idea is your superego--Remember, your superego is stupid. So, your
superego isn't only telling you not to do bad things, it's telling you not to think bad things. So, what's happening is your id is
sending up all of this weird, sick stuff, all of these crazy sexual and violent desires, "Oh, I'll kill him. I'll have sex with that. I'll
have extra helpings on my dessert." And your superego is saying, "No, no, no." And this stuff is repressed. It doesn't even
make it to consciousness.
The problem is Freud had a very sort of hydraulic theory of what goes on and some of this stuff slips out and it
shows up in dreams and it shows up in slips of the tongue. And in exceptional cases, it shows up in certain clinical
symptoms. So what happens is, Freud described a lot of normal life in terms of different ways we use to keep that horrible
stuff from the id making its way to consciousness. And he called these "defense mechanisms." You're defending yourself
against the horrible parts of yourself and some of these make a little bit of sense.
One way to describe this in a non-technical, non-Freudian way is, there are certain things about ourselves we'd
rather not know. There are certain desires we'd rather not know and we have ways to hide them. So, for instance, there's
sublimation. Sublimation is you might have a lot of energy, maybe sexual energy or aggressive energy, but instead of turning
it to a sexual or aggressive target what you do is you focus it in some other way. So, you can imagine a great artist like
Picasso turning the sexual energy into his artwork.
There is displacement. Displacement is you have certain shameful thoughts or desires and you refocus them more
appropriately. A boy who's bullied by his father may hate his father and want to hurt him but since this would--this is very
shameful and difficult. The boy might instead kick the dog and think he hates the dog because that's a more acceptable
There is projection. Projection is, I have certain impulses I am uncomfortable with, so rather than own them myself, I
project them to somebody else. A classic example for Freud is homosexual desires. The idea is that I feel this tremendous
lust towards you, for instance, and--any of you, all of you, you three, and I'm ashamed of this lust so what I say is, "Hey. Are
you guys looking at me in a sexual manner? Are you lusting after me? How disgusting," because what I do is I take my own


desires and I project it to others. And Freud suggested, perhaps not implausibly, that men who believe other men--who are
obsessed with the sexuality of other men, are themselves projecting away their own sexual desires.
There is rationalization, which is that when you do something or think something bad you rationalize it and you give
it a more socially acceptable explanation. A parent who enjoys smacking his child will typically not say, "I enjoy smacking my
child." Rather he'll say, "It's for the child's own good. I'm being a good parent by doing this."
And finally, there is regression, which is returning to an earlier stage of development. And you actually see this in
children. In times of stress and trauma, they'll become younger, they will act younger. They might cry. They might suck their
thumb, seek out a blanket or so on. Now, these are all mechanisms that for Freud are not the slightest bit pathological. They
are part of normal life. Normally, we do these things to keep an equilibrium among the different systems of the unconscious,
but sometimes it doesn't work. Sometimes things go awry and what happens is a phrase that's not currently used in
psychology but was popular during Freud's time: hysteria.
Hysteria includes phenomena like hysterical blindness and hysterical deafness, which is when you cannot see and
cannot hear even though there's nothing physiologically wrong with you paralysis, trembling, panic attacks, gaps of
memory including amnesia and so on. And the idea is that these are actually symptoms. These are symptoms of
mechanisms going on to keep things unconscious. It's a common enough idea in movies. Often in movies what happens is
that somebody goes to an analyst. They have some horrible problem. They can't remember something or they have some
sort of blackouts and so on. And the analyst tells them something and at one point they get this insight and they realize what-why they've blinded themselves, why they can't remember, and for Freud this is what happens. Freud originally attempted to
get these memories out through hypnosis but then moved to the mechanism of free association and, according to Freud, the
idea is patients offer resistance to this and then the idea of a psychoanalyst is to get over the resistance and help patients
get insight.
The key notion of psychoanalysis is your problems are--actually reflect deeper phenomena. You're hiding
something from yourself, and once you know what's going on to deeper phenomena your problems will go away. I'm going to
give you an example of a therapy session. Now, this is not a Freudian analysis. We'll discuss later on in the course what a
Freudian analysis is, but this is not a pure Freudian analysis. A Freudian analysis, of course, is lying on a couch; does not
see their therapist; their therapist is very nondirective. But I'm going to present this as an example here because it illustrates
so many of the Freudian themes, particularly themes about dreams, the importance of dreams, about repression and about
hidden meaning.
So, this is from a television episode and the character's--Many--Some of you may have seen this. Many of you will
not have. The character is suffering from panic attacks. [Professor Paul Bloom plays a short episode from the Sopranos]
Freud's contributions extend beyond the study of individual psychology and individual pathology. Freud had a lot to
say about dreams as you could see in this illustration. He believed that dreams had a manifest content, meaning; "manifest"
meaning what you experience in your dream. But dreams always had a latent content as well, meaning the hidden
implication of the dream. He viewed all dreams as wish fulfillment. Every dream you have is a certain wish you have even
though it might be a forbidden wish that you wouldn't wish to have, you wouldn't want to have. And dreams had--and this is
an idea that long predated Freud. Dreams had symbolism. Things in dreams were often not what they seemed to be but
rather symbols for other things. Freud believed that literature and fairy tales and stories to children and the like carried
certain universal themes, certain aspects of unconscious struggles, and certain preoccupations of our unconscious mind.
And Freud had a lot to say about religion. For instance, he viewed a large part of our--of the idea of finding a singular, allpowerful god as seeking out a father figure that some of us never had during development.
What I want to spend the rest of the class on is the scientific assessment of Freud. So, what I did so far is I've told
you what Freud had to say in broad outline. I then want to take the time to consider whether or not we should believe this
and how well it fits with our modern science. But before doing so, I'll take questions for a few minutes. Do people have any
questions about Freud or Freud's theories? Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: So, that's some question. The question is: The conflicts in psychosexual development that Freud
describes is--always assumes that a child has a mother and a father, one of each, in a certain sort of familial structure. And
the question then is, "What if a child was raised by a single parent, for example?" What if a child was never breast fed, but
fed from the bottle from the start? And Freudians have had problems with this. Freud's--Freud was very focused on the
family life of the people he interacted with, which is rather upper class Europeans, and these sort of questions would have
been difficult for Freud to answer. I imagine that what a Freudian would have to say is, you would expect systematic
differences. So, you would expect a child who just grew up with a mother or just grew up to be a father--with a father to be in
some sense psychologically damaged by that, failing to go through the normal psychosexual stages. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: The issue--The question is, "Do modern psychoanalysts still believe that women do not have
superegos?" Freud was--As you're pointing out, Freud was notorious for pointing, for suggesting that women were morally
immature relative to men. I think Freud would say that women have superegos, they're just not the sort of sturdy ones that


men have. I think psychoanalysts and psychoanalytic scholars right now would be mixed. Some would maintain that there
really are deep sex differences. Others would want to jettison that aspect of Freudian theory. Yes.
Student: Do you define sublimation as being displacement? Does that make it sort of a subgroup of displacement?
Professor Paul Bloom: Well, what sublimation is--A lot of these--It's a good question. The question is sort of, what is
sublimation? How does it relate to the other defense mechanisms? A lot of defense mechanisms involve taking a desire and
turning it. Now, what displacement does is it takes it from you to her. I'm angry at you but maybe that's forbidden for some
reason, so I'll be angry at her. What projection does is takes a desire from me and then puts it on somebody else heading
outwards. And what sublimation does is it just gives up the details and keeps the energy. So, you stay up--Your roommate
stays up all night working and you say to your roommate, for instance, "That's just because you haven't had sex in a long
time and you want to have sex so you devote all your energy to your math exam." And then you say, "That's sublimation. I
learned that in Intro Psych." And your roommate would be very pleased. One more question. Yes.
Student: What kind of evidence is there for cross-cultural variation?
Professor Paul Bloom: The question is, which is related to the issue--extending the issue of the two-parent versus one-parent
family is, "To what extent are these notions validated cross-culturally?" And that's such a good question I'm going to defer it.
I'm going to talk about it in a few minutes because that's actually--That speaks to the issue of the scientific assessment of
Freud so I'm going to try to get to your question in a little bit.
Freudian theory is now, at this point of time, extremely controversial and there is a lot of well-known criticisms and
attacks on Freud. This is just actually an excellent book on The Memory Wars by Frederick Crews, which--and Frederick
Crews is one of the strongest and most passionate critics of Freud. And the problems with Freud go like this. There are two
ways you could reject a theory. There are two problems with the scientific theory. One way you could reject a theory is that it
could be wrong. So, suppose I have a theory that the reason why some children have autism, a profound developmental
disorder, is because their mothers don't love them enough. This was a popular theory for many years. It's a possible theory.
It just turns out to be wrong but another way--And so one way to attack and address a scientific theory is to view it as just to
see whether or not it works. But there's a different problem a theory could have. A theory could be so vague and all
encompassing that it can't even be tested. And this is one of the main critiques of Freud. The idea could be summed up by a
quotation from the physicist Wolfgang Pauli. And Pauli was asked his opinion about another physicist. And Pauli said this:
"That guy's work is crap. He's not right. He's not even wrong." And the criticism about Freud is that he's not even wrong.
The issue of vagueness is summarized in a more technical way by the philosopher Karl Popper who described-who introduced the term of falsifiability. The idea of falsifiability is that what distinguishes science from non science is that
scientific predictions make strong claims about the world and these claims are of a sort that they could be proven wrong. If
they couldn't be proven wrong, they're not interesting enough to be science. So, for example, within psychology the sort of
claims we'll be entertaining throughout the course include claims like, damage to the hippocampus causes failures of certain
sorts of memory, or everywhere in the world men on average want to have more sexual partners than women, or exposure to
violent television tends to make children themselves more violent. Now, are they true or are they false? Well, we'll talk about
that, but the point here is they can be false. They're interesting enough that they can be tested and as such they go to--they
might be wrong but they graduate to the level of a scientific theory.
This should be contrasted with nonscientific programs and the best example of a nonscientific program is astrology.
So, the problem with astrological predictions is not that they're wrong. It's that they can't be wrong. They're not even wrong. I
did my--I got my horoscope for today on the web. [reading from a slide] "A couple of negative aspects could make you a little
finicky for the next few days." Okay. I'm going to watch for that. "The presence of both Mars and Venus suggests you want to
box everything into a neat, ordered, structured way but keeping a piece of jade or carnelian close will help you keep in touch
with your fun side." And starting this morning I got from my wife a little piece of jade and I have been sort of in touch with my
fun side. The problem is, a few days aren't going to go by and say, "God. That was wrong." It can't be wrong. It's just so
vague. I got a better horoscope from The Onion actually: "Riding in a golf cart with snow cone in hand, you'll be tackled by
two police officers this week after matching a composite caricature of a suspected murderer." Now, that's a good prediction
because "wow." If it turns out to be true, I'm going to say, "Those guys really know something." It's falsifiable.
Arguably, Freud fails the test because Freudian theory is often so vague and flexible that it can't really be tested in
any reliable way. A big problem with this is a lot of Freudian theory is claimed to be validated in the course of
psychoanalysis. So, when you ask people, "Why do you believe in Freud?" they won't say, "Oh, because of this experiment,
that experiment, this data set and that data set." What they'll say is, "It's--The Freudian theory proves itself in the course of
psychoanalysis the success of psychoanalysis." But it's unreliable. The problem is, say, Freud says to a patient, "You hate
your mother." The patient says, "Wow. That makes sense." Freud says, "I'm right." The patient--Freud says, "You hate your
mother," and the patient says, "No, I don't. That's titillating. That's disgusting." Freud says, "Your anger shows this idea is
painful to you. You have repressed it from consciousness. I am right."
And the problem is the same sort of dynamic plays itself out even in the scientific debate back and forth. So Freud-Freudian psychologists--I'm putting Freud here but what I mean is well-known defenders of Freud will make some claims
like: adult personality traits are shaped by the course of psychosexual development; all dreams are disguised wish
fulfillment; psychoanalysis is the best treatment for mental disorders. Scientists will respond, "I disagree. There's little or no


evidence supporting those claims." And the Freudian response is, "Your rejection of my ideas shows that they are distressing
to you. This is because I am right." And this is often followed up, seriously enough. "You have deep psychological problems."
And now, I don't want to caricature Freudians. A lot of Freudians have tried and made a research program of
extending their ideas scientifically, bringing them to robust scientific tests. But the problem is, when you make specific
falsifiable predictions they don't always do that well. So, for instance, there's no evidence that oral and anal characteristics,
the personality characteristics I talked about about being needy versus being stingy relate in any interesting way to
weaning or toilet training.
And there's been some efforts cross-culturally, to go back to the question this young man asked before looking at
cross-cultural differences in toilet training and weaning, which are really big differences, to see if they correspond in any
interesting way to personality differences. And there's been no good evidence supporting that. Similarly, Freud had some
strong claims about sexuality, for why some people are straight and others are gay. These have met with very little empirical
support. And the claim that psychoanalysis proves itself by being--by its tremendous success in curing mental illness is also
almost certainly not true. For most--Maybe not all, but for most psychological disorders, there are quicker and more reliable
treatments than psychoanalysis. And there's considerable controversy as to whether the Tony Soprano method of insight,
where you get this insight and there's discovery, "Oh, now I know," makes any real difference in alleviating symptoms such
as anxiety disorders or depression.
This is why there's sort of--often sort of a sticker shock when people go to a university psychology department
where they say, "Look. Hey. Where is--So I'm in Psych. How could I take classes on Freud? Who's your expert on Freud?"
And the truth is Freudian psychoanalysis is almost never studied inside psychology departments. Not the cognitive or
developmental side, not the clinical side. There are some exceptions but, for the most part, even the people who do study
Freud within psychology departments do so critically. Very few of them would see themselves as a psychoanalytic
practitioner or as a Freudian psychologist.
Freud lives on both in a clinical setting and in the university but Freud at Yale, for instance, is much more likely to
be found in the history department or the literature department than in the psychology department. And this is typical enough
but, despite all of the, sort of, sour things I just said about Freud, the big idea, the importance of the dynamic unconscious,
remains intact. We will go over and over and over again different case studies where some really interesting aspects of
mental life prove to be unconscious.
Now, there's one question. I'm actually going to skip over this for reasons of time and just go to some examples of
the unconscious in modern psychology. So, here's a simple example of the unconscious in modern psychology: Language
understanding. So, when you hear a sentence like, "John thinks that Bill likes him," in a fraction of a second you realize that
this means that John thinks that Bill likes John. If you heard the sentence--Oops--"John thinks that Bill likes himself," in a
fraction of a second you would think that it means "John thinks that Bill likes Bill." And as we will get to when we get to the
lecture on language, this is not conscious. You don't know how you do this. You don't even know that you are doing this but
you do it quickly and instinctively.
So much of our day-to-day life can be done unconsciously. There are different activities you can do driving,
chewing gum, shoelace tying where if you're good enough at them, if you're expert enough at them, you don't know you're
doing them. I was at a party a few years ago for a friend of mine and we ran out of food so he said, "I'll just go pick up some
food." An hour later he was gone--still gone and it was around the corner. And we called him up on his cell phone and he
said, "Oh. I got on the highway and I drove to work." Yeah. He works an hour away but he got on the highway "drive drive
drive." And these--some version of these things happen all of the time.
Maybe more surprising, Freud's insight that our likes and dislikes are due to factors that we're not necessarily
conscious of has a lot of empirical support--a lot of empirical support from research into social psychology, for example. So,
here's one finding from social psychology. If somebody goes through a terrible initiation to get into a club, they'll like the club
more. You might think they'd like it less because people do terrible things to them. But actually, hazing is illegal but a
remarkably successful tool. The more you pay for something the more you like it and the more pain you go through to get
something the more you like it. From the standpoint of politics for instance, if you want loyal people in a political campaign,
do not pay them. If you pay them, they'll like you less. If they volunteer, they'll like you more. And we'll talk about why.
There's different theories about why, but my point right now is simply that people don't necessarily know this but still they're
subject to this.
Another example is some weird studies done in a discipline of social psychology known as terror management
which involves subliminal death primes. The idea of subliminal death primes is this. You sign up for your human subjects
requirement and then you--they put you in front of a computer screen and then they tell you, "Oh, just sit in front of the
computer screen and then we'll ask you some questions." And then the questions come out and they're questions like, "How
much do you love your country?" "What do you think of Asians?" "What do you think of Jews?" "What do you think of
blacks?" "What do you think of vegetarians?" "What do you think of people's political views different from yours?"
Here's the gimmick. What you don't know is on that computer screen words are being flashed like that but they're
being flashed so fast it looks like that--You don't see anything--words like "corpse," "dead," "dying." The flashing of these
subliminal words, "subliminal" meaning a fancy term meaning below the level of consciousness, you don't know you're


seeing them has dramatic effects on how you answer those questions. People exposed to death primes become more
nationalistic, more patriotic, less forgiving of other people, less liking of other races and people from other countries. Again
the claim--the explanation for why this is so is something which we'll get to in another class. The point now is simply to
illustrate that these sort of things can have--that things you aren't aware of can have an effect on how you think.
The final example I'll give of this is a short demonstration. To do this, I'm going to cut the class in half at this point
so you'll be on this side of the class, the right side, my right, and this will be on the left side, and I simply want everybody to
think about somebody you love. So, think about somebody you love, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your mom, your dad.
Think about somebody you love. Just think. Okay. Now, on this screen is going to be instructions but I want to give the
instructions to this half of the class [pointing to his right]. I'm going to ask everybody in this half of the class [pointing to his
left] please either turn your head or shut your eyes. Okay? Teaching fellows too. Okay. And everybody on this half obey
[pointing to his right]. Okay. Has everybody read that [pointing to the slide]? Okay. Now, turn your head, this group [pointing
to his right]. Now this group [pointing to his left]: Look at this [pointing to instructions on the slide] and take a moment. You
don't have to do it on paper but take a moment to do it in your head. You--Each group had instructions. Some people might
have seen both instructions. Follow the instructions you got for you.
Now, this was research done by Norbert Schwarz and here's the question I want you to ask yourself, "How much do
you like this person?" And here's the effect: Half of you were asked to list three features of the person. Half of you were
asked to list ten. The finding, which is not a subtle finding, is that liking goes up in the three group and liking goes down in
the ten group. And here is why. I have to think about three positive features of somebody so I think about my girlfriend. I
have a girlfriend. I think about my girlfriend, "but oh, she's smart, she's beautiful and she's kind. Good. How much do--What
do I think of her? "Pretty, good, smart, beautiful, kind, smart, beautiful, oh, yeah." But the problem--;Now, Schwarz is clever
though. He says, "List--" The other group gets ten positive features, "smart, beautiful, kind really nice good cook
punctual, smart No, I mentioned that." The problem is nobody has ten positive features! And the effect of being asked to
do ten positive features is people find this hard. And then those people, when asked, "How much do you like this person?"
say, "Couldn't really make it that ten. I guess I don't like them very much."
Now, the point of this illustration, again, is that it shows that you don't know this. Subjects who were asked to do ten
positive features and then later ranked the person lower and then asked, "Why did you rank the person lower?" Don't say,
"'Cause you told me to list ten." Typically, we are oblivious to these factors that change our points what we like and what
we dislike and this is, in fact, a substantial and an important part of the study of psychology, and particularly, for instance,
the study of racial and sexual prejudice. Where--One of the big findings from social psychology, and we'll devote almost an
entire lecture to this, is that people have strong views about other races that they don't know about and that they don't know
how to control their actions.
So, to some extent, this rounds out Freud because to some extent the particulars of Freud are--for the most part
have been rejected. But the general idea of Freud's actually been so successful both in the study of scientific psychology and
in our interpretation of everyday life that, to some extent, Freud's been a victim of his own success. We tend to
underestimate the importance of Freudian thought in everyday life because he's transformed our world view to such an
extent that it's difficult for us to remember if there's any other way to think about it. So, to some extent, he's been the victim of
his own success.
We have time for some further questions about Freud and about scientific implications of Freud. I took a class once
on how to teach when I was a graduate student. And I just remember two things from this class. One thing is never grade in
red pen. Those--People don't like that. The second thing is never ask any questions, because presumably it is very
frightening to ask, "Any questions?" and people find it's intimidating. I'm supposed to ask, "What are your questions?" So,
what are your questions? Yes, in back. Sorry.
Student: Did Freud believe in [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Did Freud believe in [inaudible]
Student: Medication
Professor Paul Bloom: Medication. Freud had an--It's a good question. The question was, "Does--did Freud believe in
medication?" Medication, of course, being a major theme of how we deal with certain disorders now, particularly depression
and anxiety disorders. On the one hand, Freud made his start as a neuroscientist. Freud studied the mind and the brain and
was intensely interested in the neural basis of thought and behavior. But the answer to your question in the end is, "no."
Although Freud was very sensitive to the brain basis of behavior, Freud was totally convinced that the method through which
to cure disorders like depression and anxiety would not be medication but rather through the sort of talk therapy and insight.
Moreover, modern therapists, including some people who aren't psychoanalytically defined, will say, "Look. These drugs are
all well and good but what they do is they mask the symptoms." So, if you have panic attacks, say, it's true that drugs might
make the panic attacks go away, but the panic attacks are actually not your real problem. And by making them go away you
don't get to the root of your problem. So, the answer is both Freud and modern day psychoanalysts would think that
medications are substantially overused in the treatment of mental disorders. Yes.
Student: Are there any [inaudible]


Professor Paul Bloom: The question is, "What about research on dreams?" "Dreams" is such a fun topic that I'm going to
devote half a class to sleeping and dreams. So, for instance, I will answer the question "What is the most common dream?" I
will also answer the question "Who thinks about sex more in dreams, men or women, and what proportion of--" Oh. There's
so many great questions I will answer. Dreams from a Freudian standpoint. There's been some evidence that dreams do,
and some often do, have some relationship to what you're thinking about and worrying about through the day. But the strong
Freudian view about symbolism and wish fulfillment has not been supported by the study of dreams. What are your other
questions? Yes, whoever Erik is pointing to.
Professor Paul Bloom: Purple shirt. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]--Electra complex?
Professor Paul Bloom: The Electra complex? The Electra complex is the penis envy story. Freud developed--This is a
crude summary, but Freud developed the Oedipal complex, "Mom, I love Mommy, Dad." And then it's as if somebody
reminded him, "Sigmund, there are also women." "Oh, yeah." And that story I told you with the penises and the penis envy
and the replacement is sort of a very shortened version of the Electra complex. I think it's fair to say that the Electra complex
was a sort of add-on to the main interest of Freud's Oedipal complex. One more, please. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: According to Freud, the--there's not a fixation in the stage, in the same sense as an oral or anal
stage, but yes. The claim that Freud would make is that the woman's discovery that she lacks the penis plays a fundamental
role later on determining her allegiances in life and in fact her own sexual preferences and interests. So, it's not the sort of
thing that affects her just for a short period.


Lecture 4
Professor Paul Bloom: I actually want to begin by going back to Freud and hitting a couple of loose ends. There was a
point in my lecture on Wednesday where I skipped over some parts. I said, "We don't have time for this" and I just whipped
past it. And I couldn't sleep over the weekend. I've been tormented. I shouldn't have skipped that and I want to hit--Let me tell
you why I skipped it. The discussion I skipped was the discussion of why we would have an unconscious at all. So, I was
talking about the scientifically respectable ideas of Freud and I want to talk about some new ideas about why there could be
an unconscious.
Now, the reason why I skipped it is I'm not sure this is the best way to look at the question. As we will learn
throughout the course, by far the vast majority of what our brains do, the vast majority of what our minds do, is unconscious
and we're unaware of it. So the right question to ask may not be, "Why are some things unconscious?" but rather, why is this
tiny subset of mental life--why is this conscious? On the other hand, these claims about the utility of unconsciousness, I
think, are provocative and interesting. So I just wanted to quickly share them with you.
So, the question is, from an evolutionary standpoint, "Why would an unconscious evolve?" And an answer that
some psychologists and biologists have given is deception. So, most animals do some deception. And deception defined
broadly is simply to act or be in some way that fools others into believing or thinking or responding to something that's false.
There's physical examples of deception. When threatened, chimpanzees--their hair stands up on end and that
makes them look bigger to fool others to thinking they're more dangerous than they are. There's an angler fish at the bottom
of the ocean that has a rod sticking up from the top of its head with a lure to capture other fish to fool them in thinking that
this is something edible and then to themselves be devoured. But humans, primates in general but particularly humans, are
masters of deception. We use our minds and our behaviors and our actions continually to try to trick people into believing
what's not true. We try to trick people, for instance, into believing that we're tougher, smarter, sexier, more reliable, more
trustworthy and so on, than we really are. And a large part of social psychology concerns the way in which we present
ourselves to other people so as to make the maximally positive impression even when that impression isn't true.
At the same time, though, we've also evolved very good lie detection mechanisms. So not only is there evolutionary
pressure for me to lie to you, for me to persuade you for instance, that if we're going to have a--if you are threatening me
don't threaten me, I am not the sort of man you could screw around with. But there's evolutionary pressure for you to look
and say, "No. You are the sort of man you could screw around with. I can tell." So how do you become a good liar? And
here's where the unconscious comes in. The hypothesis is: the best lies are lies we tell ourselves. You're a better liar, more
generally, if you believe the lie that you're telling.
This could be illustrated with a story about Alfred Hitchcock. The story goes--He hated working with child actors but
he often had to. And the story goes--He was dealing with a child actor who simply could not cry. And, finally frustrated,
Hitchcock went to the actor, leaned over, whispered in his ear, "Your parents have left you and they're never coming back."
The kid burst into tears. Hitchcock said, "Roll em" and filmed the kid. And the kid, if you were to see him, you'd say, "That's-Boy, he's--he really looks as if he's sad" because he was. If I had a competition where I'd give $100,000 to the person who
looks the most as if they are in pain, it is a very good tactic to take a pen and jam it into your groin because you will look
extremely persuasively as if you are in pain. If I want to persuade you that I love you, would never leave you, you can trust
me with everything, it may be a superb tactic for me to believe it. And so, this account of the evolution of the unconscious is
that certain motivations and goals, particularly sinister ones, are better made to be unconscious because if a person doesn't
know they have them they will not give them away. And this is something I think we should return to later on when we talk
about social interaction and social relationships.
One other thing on Freud--just a story of the falsification of Freud. I was taking my younger child home from a play
date on Sunday and he asked me out of the blue, "Why can't you marry your mother or your father?" Now, that's actually a
difficult question to ask--to answer for a child, but I tried my best to give him an answer. And then I said--then I thought back
on the Freud lecture and so I asked him, "If you could marry anybody you want, who would it be?" imagining he'd make
explicit the Oedipal complex and name his mother. Instead, he paused for a moment and said, "I would marry a donkey and
a big bag of peanuts." [laughter] Both his parents are psychologists and he hates these questions and at times he just
screws around with us. [laughter]
Okay. Last class I started with Freud and now I want to turn to Skinner. And the story of Skinner and science is
somewhat different from the story of Freud. Freud developed and championed the theory of psychoanalysis by himself. It is
as close as you could find in science to a solitary invention. Obviously, he drew upon all sorts of sources and predecessors
but psychoanalysis is identified as Freud's creation. Behaviorism is different. Behaviorism is a school of thought that was
there long before Skinner, championed by psychologists like John Watson, for instance. Skinner came a bit late into this but
the reason why we've heard of Skinner and why Skinner is so well known is he packaged these notions. He expanded upon
them; he publicized them; he developed them scientifically and presented them both to the scientific community and to the
popular community and sociologically in the 1960s and 1970s. In the United States, behaviorism was incredibly well known
and so was Skinner. He was the sort of person you would see on talk shows. His books were bestsellers.
Now, at the core of behaviorism are three extremely radical and interesting views. The first is a strong emphasis on
learning. The strong view of behaviorism is everything you know, everything you are, is the result of experience. There's no


real human nature. Rather, people are infinitely malleable. There's a wonderful quote from John Watson and in this quote
John Watson is paraphrasing a famous boast by the Jesuits. The Jesuits used to claim, "Give me a child until the age of
seven and I'll show you the man," that they would take a child and turn him into anything they wanted. And Watson
expanded on this boast,
Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed and my own specified world to bring them up and I'll guarantee to take
any one at random and train them to become any type of specialist I might select--doctor, lawyer, artist, merchant, chief, and
yes, even beggar-man and thief, regardless of his talents, penchants, tendencies, abilities, vocations and race of his
Now, you could imagine--You could see in this a tremendous appeal to this view because Watson has an extremely
egalitarian view in a sense. If there's no human nature, then there's no sense in which one group of humans by dint of their
race or their sex could be better than another group. And Watson was explicit. None of those facts about people will ever
make any difference. What matters to what you are is what you learn and how you're treated. And so, Watson claimed he
could create anybody in any way simply by treating them in a certain fashion.
A second aspect of behaviorism was anti-mentalism. And what I mean by this is the behaviorists were obsessed
with the idea of doing science and they felt, largely in reaction to Freud, that claims about internal mental states like desires,
wishes, goals, emotions and so on, are unscientific. These invisible, vague things can never form the basis of a serious
science. And so, the behaviorist manifesto would then be to develop a science without anything that's unobservable and
instead use notions like stimulus and response and reinforcement and punishment and environment that refer to real world
and tangible events.
Finally, behaviorists believed there were no interesting differences across species. A behaviorist might admit that a
human can do things that a rat or pigeon couldn't but a behaviorist might just say, "Look. Those are just general associative
powers that differ" or they may even deny it. They might say, "Humans and rats aren't different at all. It's just humans tend to
live in a richer environment than rats." From that standpoint, from that theoretical standpoint, comes a methodological
approach which is, if they're all the same then you could study human learning by studying nonhuman animals. And that's a
lot of what they did.
Okay. I'm going to frame my introduction--my discussion of behaviors in terms of the three main learning principles
that they argue can explain all of human mental life, all of human behavior. And then, I want to turn to objections to
behaviorism but these three principles are powerful and very interesting.
The first is habituation. This is the very simplest form of learning. And what this is is technically described as a decline in the
tendency to respond to stimuli that are familiar due to repeated exposure. "Hey!" [shouting, then pausing] "Hey!" [shouting
again] The sudden noise startles but as it--as you hear it a second time it startles less. The third time is just me being goofy.
It's just--It's--You get used to things. And this, of course, is common enough in everyday life. We get used to the ticking of a
clock or to noise of traffic but it's actually a very important form of learning because imagine life without it. Imagine life where
you never got used to anything, where suddenly somebody steps forward and waves their hand and you'd go, "Woah," [as if
surprised] and then they wave their hand again and you'd go, "Whoah," [as if surprised again] and you keep--[laughter]
And there's the loud ticking of a clock and you say, "Hmmm." [acting as if he's interested in the sound of a clock
ticking] And that's not the way animals or humans work. You get used to things. And it's actually critically important to get
used to things because it's a useful adaptive mechanism to keep track on new events and objects. It's important to notice
something when it's new because then you have to decide whether it's going to harm you, how to deal with it, to attend to it,
but you can't keep on noticing it. And, in fact, you should stop noticing it after it's been in the environment for long enough.
So, this counts as learning because it happens through experience. It's a way to learn through experience, to change your
way of thinking through experience. And also, it's useful because harmful stimuli are noticed but when something has shown
itself to be part of the environment you don't notice it anymore.
The existence of habituation is important for many reasons. One thing it's important for is clever developmental
psychologists have used habituation as a way to study people, creatures who can't talk like nonhuman animals, and young
babies. And when I talk on Wednesday about developmental psychology I'll show different ways in which psychologists have
used habituation to study the minds of young babies.
The second sort of learning is known as classical conditioning. And what this is in a very general sense is the
learning of an association between one stimulus and another stimulus, where stimulus is a technical term meaning events in
the environment like a certain smell or sound or sight. It was thought up by Pavlov. This is Pavlov's famous dog and it's an
example of scientific serendipity. Pavlov, when he started this research, had no interest at all in learning. He was interested
in saliva. And to get saliva he had to have dogs. And he had to attach something to dogs so that their saliva would pour out
so he could study saliva. No idea why he wanted to study saliva, but he then discovered something. What he would do is
he'd put food powder in the dog's mouth to generate saliva. But Pavlov observed that when somebody entered the room who
typically gave him the food powder, the dog--the food powder saliva would start to come out. And later on if you--right before
or right during you give the dog some food you ping a bell the bell will cause the saliva to come forth. And, in fact, this is
the apparatus that he used for his research.


He developed the theory of classical conditioning by making a distinction between two sorts of conditioning, two
sorts of stimulus response relationships. One is unconditioned. An unconditioned is when an unconditioned stimulus gives
rise to an unconditioned response. And this is what you start off with. So, if somebody pokes you with a stick and you say,
"Ouch," because it hurts, the poking and the "ouch" is an unconditioned stimulus causing an unconditioned response. You
didn't have to learn that.
When Pavlov put food powder in the dog's mouth and saliva was generated, that's an unconditioned stimulus giving
rise to an unconditioned response. But what happens through learning is that another association develops that between
the conditioned stimulus and the conditioned response. So when Pavlov, for instance--Well, when Pavlov, for instance,
started before conditioning there was simply an unconditioned stimulus, the food in the mouth, and an unconditioned
response, saliva. The bell was nothing. The bell was a neutral stimulus. But over and over again, if you put the bell and the
food together, pretty soon the bell will generate saliva. And now the bell--When--You start off with the unconditioned
stimulus, unconditioned response. When the conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus are brought together over
and over and over again, pretty soon the conditioned stimulus gives rise to the response. And now it's known as the
conditioned stimulus giving rise to the conditioned response. This is discussed in detail in the textbook but I also--I'm going to
give you--Don't panic if you don't get it quite now. I'm going to give you further and further examples.
So, the idea here is, repeated pairings of the unconditioned stimulus and the conditioned stimulus will give rise to
the response. And there's a difference between reinforced trials and unreinforced trials. A reinforced trial is when the
conditioned stimulus and the unconditioned stimulus go together. You're--and to put it in a crude way, you're teaching the
dog that the bell goes with the food. An unreinforced trial is when you get the food without the bell. You're not teaching the
dog this. And, in fact, once you teach an animal something, if you stop doing the teaching the response goes away and this
is known as extinction.
But here's a graph. If you get--They really count the number of cubic centimeters of saliva. The dog is trained so
that when the bell comes on--Actually, I misframed it. I'll try again. When the bell comes connected with food, there's a lot of
saliva. An unreinforced response is when the bell goes on but there's no food. So, it's--Imagine you're the dog. So, you get
food in your mouth, "bell, food, [making panting sound] bell, food, [another panting sound]" and now "bell [panting]." But next
you get "bell, bell, bell." You give it up. You stop. You stop responding to the bell. A weird thing which is discussed in the
textbook is if you wait a while and then you try it again with the bell after a couple of hours, the saliva comes back. This is
known as spontaneous recovery.
So, this all seems a very technical phenomena related to animals and the like but it's easy to see how it generalizes
and how it extends. One interesting notion is that of stimulus generalization. And stimulus generalization is the topic of one of
your articles in The Norton Reader, the one by Watson, John Watson, the famous behaviorist, who reported a bizarre
experiment with a baby known as Little Albert. And here's the idea. Little Albert originally liked rats. In fact, I'm going to show
you a movie of Little Albert originally liking rats. See. [pointing to video] He's okay. No problem. Now, Watson did something
interesting. As Little Albert was playing with the rat, "Oh, I like rats, oh," Watson went behind the baby--this is the--it's in the
chapter--and banged the metal bar right here [simulating a banging motion]. The baby, "Aah," screamed, started to sob.
Okay. What's the unconditioned stimulus? Somebody. The loud noise, the bar, the bang. What's the unconditioned
response? Crying, sadness, misery. And as a result of this, Little Albert grew afraid of the rat. So there--what would be the
conditioned stimulus? The rat. What would be the conditioned response? Fear. Excellent.
Moreover, this fear extended to other things. So, this is a very weird and unpersuasive clip. But the idea is--the clip
is to make the point that the fear will extend to a rabbit, a white rabbit. So, the first part, Little Albert's fine with the white
rabbit. The second part is after he's been conditioned and he's kind of freaked out with the white rabbit. The problem is in the
second part they're throwing the rabbit at him but [looking at the video] now he's okay. [laughter]
[Speaking to a teaching assistant] Is the mic on? Oh. This is fine.
This is one of a long list of experiments that we can't do anymore. So, classical conditioning is more than a
laboratory phenomena. The findings of classical conditioning have been extended and replicated in all sorts of animals
including crabs, fish, cockroaches and so on. And it's been argued to be an extension of--it's argued to underlie certain
interesting aspects of human responses.
So, I have some examples here. One example is fear. So, the Little Albert idea--The Little Albert experiment,
provides an illustration for how phobias could emerge. Some proportion of people in this room have phobias. Imagine you're
afraid of dogs. Well, a possible story for the--for why you became afraid of dogs is that one day a dog came up and he was a
neutral stimulus. No problem. And all of a sudden he bit you. Now the pain of a bite, being bit, and then the pain and fear of
that is an unconditioned stimulus, unconditioned response. You're just born with that, "ow." But the presence of the dog there
is a conditioned stimulus and so you grew to be afraid of dogs.
If you believe this, this also forms the basis for ways for a theory of how you could make phobias go away. How do
you make conditioned stimulus, conditioned response things go away? Well, what you do is you extinguish them. How do
you extinguish them? Well, you show the thing that would cause you to have the fear without the unconditioned stimulus.
Here's an illustration. It's a joke. Sorry. [pointing towards a slide containing a comic of a man trapped in a small booth, filled
with snakes, dangling from the top of a building] He's simultaneously confronting the fear of heights, snakes, and the dark


because he's trapped in that thing and the logic is--the logic of--the logic is not bad. He's stuck in there. Those are all the--his
conditioned stimulus. But nothing bad happens so his fear goes away. The problem with this is while he's stuck in there he
has this screaming, horrific panic attack and then it makes his fear much worse.
So, what they do now though, and we'll talk about this much later in the course when we talk about clinical
psychology--but one cure for phobias does draw upon, in a more intelligent way, the behaviorist literature. So, the claim
about a phobia is that there's a bad association between, say dog and fear, or between airplanes or snakes and some bad
response. So, what they do is what's called, "systematic desensitization," which is they expose you to what causes you the
fear but they relax you at the same time so you replace the aversive classical conditioned fear with something more positive.
Traditionally, they used to teach people relaxation exercises but that proves too difficult. So nowadays they just pump you full
of some drug to get you really happy and so you're really stoned out of your head, you're [makes "sick" noise] and this isn't
so bad. It's more complicated than that but the notion is you can use these associative tools perhaps to deal with questions
about fear, phobias and how they go away.
Hunger. We'll spend some time in this course discussing why we eat and when we eat. And one answer to why we
eat and when we eat is that there's cues in the environment that are associated with eating. And these cues generate
hunger. For those of you who are trying to quit smoking, you'll notice that there's time--or to quit drinking there's times of the
day or certain activities that really make you want to smoke or really make you want to drink. And from a behaviorist point of
view this is because of the associative history of these things.
More speculatively, classical conditioning has been argued to be implicated in the formation of sexual desire,
including fetishes. So a behaviorist story about fetishes, for instance, is it's straightforward classical conditioning. Just as
your lover's caress brings you to orgasm, your eyes happen to fall upon a shoe. Through the simple tools of classical
conditioning then, the shoe becomes a conditioned stimulus giving rise to the conditioned response of sexual pleasure. This
almost certainly is not the right story but again, just as in phobias, some ideas of classical conditioning may play some role in
determining what we like and what we don't like sexually. And in fact, one treatment for pedophiles and rapists involved
controlled fantasies during masturbation to shift the association from domination and violence, for instance, to develop more
positive associations with sexual pleasure. So the strong classical conditioning stories about fetishes and fears sound silly
and extreme and they probably are but at the same time classical conditioning can be used at least to shape the focus of our
desires and of our interests.
Final thought actually is--Oh, yeah. Okay. So, what do we think about classical conditioning? We talked about what
habituation is for. What's classical conditioning for? Well, the traditional view is it's not for anything. It's just association. So,
what happens is the UCS [unconditioned stimulus] and the CS [conditioned stimulus], the bell and the food, go together
because they happen at the same time. And so classical conditioning should be the strongest when these two are
simultaneous and the response to one is the same as the response to the other. This is actually no longer the mainstream
view. The mainstream view is now a little bit more interesting. It's that what happens in classical conditioning is preparation.
What happens is you become sensitive to a cue that an event is about to happen and that allows you to prepare for the
event. This makes certain predictions. It predicts that the best timing is when the conditioned stimulus, which is the signal,
comes before the unconditioned stimulus, which is what you have to prepare for. And it says the conditioned response may
be different from the unconditioned response.
So, move away from food. Imagine a child who's being beaten by his father. And when his father raises his hand he
flinches. Well, that's classical conditioning. What happened in that case is he has learned that the raising of a hand is a
signal that he is about to be hit and so he responds to that signal. His flinch is not the same response that one would give if
one's hit. If you're hit, you don't flinch. If you're hit, you might feel pain or bounce back or something. Flinching is preparation
for being hit. And, in general, the idea of what goes on in classical conditioning is that the response is sort of a preparation.
The conditioned response is a preparation for the unconditioned stimulus.
Classical conditioning shows up all over the place. As a final exercise, and I had to think about it--Has anybody here
seen the movie "Clockwork Orange"? A lot of you. It's kind of a shocking movie and unpleasant and very violent but at its
core one of the main themes is right out of Intro Psych. It's classical conditioning. And a main character, who is a violent
murderer and rapist, is brought in by some psychologists for some therapy. And the therapy he gets is classical conditioning.
In particular, what happens is he is given a drug that makes him violently ill, extremely nauseous. And then his eyes are
propped open and he's shown scenes of violence. As a result of this sort of conditioning, he then when he experiences real
world violence he responds with nausea and shock; basically, training him to get away from these acts of violence.
In this example--Take a moment. Don't say it aloud. Just take a moment. What's the unconditioned stimulus? Okay.
Anybody, what's the unconditioned stimulus? Somebody just say it. The drug. What's the unconditioned response? Nausea.
What's the conditioned stimulus? Violence. What's the conditioned response? [nausea] Perfect.
The third and final type of learning is known as operant conditioning or instrumental conditioning. And this is the
thing, this is the theory championed and developed most extensively by Skinner. What this is is learning the relationships
between what you do and how successful or unsuccessful they are, learning what works and what doesn't. It's important.
This is very different from classical conditioning and one way to see how this is different is for classical conditioning you don't
do anything. You could literally be strapped down and be immobile and these connections are what you appreciate and you


make connections in your mind. Instrumental conditioning is voluntary. You choose to do things and by dint of your choices.
Some choices become more learned than others.
So, the idea itself was developed in the nicest form by Thorndike who explored how animals learn. Remember
behaviorists were entirely comfortable studying animals and drawing extrapolations to other animals and to humans. So, he
would put a cat in a puzzle box. And the trick to a puzzle box is there's a simple way to get out but you have to kind of pull on
something, some special lever, to make it pop open. And Thorndike noted that cats do not solve this problem through insight.
They don't sit in the box for a while and mull it over and then figure out how to do it. Instead, what they do is they bounce all
around doing different things and gradually get better and better at it.
So, what they do is, the first time they might scratch at the bars, push at the ceiling, dig at the floor, howl, etc., etc.
And one of their behaviors is pressing the lever. The lever gets them out of the box, but after more and more trials they
stopped scratching at the bars, pushing at the ceiling and so on. They just pressed the lever. And if you graph it, they
gradually get better and better. They throw out all of these behaviors randomly. Some of them get reinforced and those are
the ones that survive and others don't get reinforced and those are the ones that go extinct.
And it might occur to some of you that this seems to be an analogy with the Darwinian theory of natural selection
where there's a random assortment of random mutations. And sexual selections give rise to a host of organisms, some of
which survive and are fit and others which aren't. And in fact, Skinner explicitly made the analogy from the natural selection
of species to the natural selection of behavior. So this could be summarized as the law of effect, which is a tendency to
perform an action's increased if rewarded, weakened if it's not. And Skinner extended this more generally.
So, to illustrate Skinnerian theory in operant conditioning I'll give an example of training a pig. So here is the idea.
You need to train a pig and you need to do so through operant conditioning. So one of the things you want to do is--The pig
is going to do some things you like and some things you don't like. And so what you want to do, basically drawing upon the
law of effect, is reinforce the pig for doing good things. Suppose you want the pig to walk forward. So, you reinforce the pig
for walking forward and you punish the pig for walking backward. And if you do that over the fullness of time, your
reinforcement and punishment will give rise to a pig who walks forward.
There's two--One technical distinction that people love to put on Intro Psych exams is that the difference between
positive reinforcement and negative reinforcement. Reinforcement is something that makes the behavior increase. Negative
reinforcement is very different from punishment. Negative reinforcement is just a type of reward. The difference is in positive
reinforcement you do something; in negative reinforcement you take away something aversive. So, imagine the pig has a
heavy collar and to reward the pig for walking forward you might remove the heavy collar.
So, these are the basic techniques to train an animal. But it's kind of silly because suppose you want your pig to
dance. You don't just want your pig to walk forward. You want your pig to dance. Well, you can't adopt the policy of "I'm going
to wait for this pig to dance and when it does I'm going to reinforce it" because it's going to take you a very long time.
Similarly, if you're dealing with immature humans and you want your child to get you a beer, you can't just sit, wait for the kid
to give you a beer and uncap the bottle and say, "Excellent. Good. Hugs." You've got to work your way to it. And the act of
working your way to it is known as shaping.
So, here is how to get a pig to dance. You wait for the pig to do something that's halfway close to dancing, like
stumbling, and you reward it. Then it does something else that's even closer to dancing and you reward it. And you keep
rewarding it as it gets closer to closer. Here's how to get your child to bring you some beer. You say, "Johnny, could you go
to the kitchen and get me some beer?" And he walks to the kitchen and then he forgets why he's there and you run out there.
"You're such a good kid. Congratulations. Hugs." And then you get him to--and then finally you get him to also open up the
refrigerator and get the beer, open the door, get the--and in that way you can train creatures to do complicated things.
Skinner had many examples of this. Skinner developed, in World War II, a pigeon guided missile. It was never
actually used but it was a great idea. And people, in fact--The history of the military in the United States and other countries
includes a lot of attempts to get animals like pigeons or dolphins to do interesting and deadly things through various training.
More recreational, Skinner was fond of teaching animals to play Ping-Pong. And again, you don't teach an animal to play
Ping-Pong by waiting for it to play Ping-Pong and then rewarding it. Rather, you reward approximations to it.
And basically, there are primary reinforcers. There are some things pigs naturally like, food for instance. There are
some things pigs actually automatically don't like, like being hit or shocked. But in the real world when dealing with humans,
but even when dealing with animals, we don't actually always use primary reinforcers or negative reinforcers. What we often
use are things like--for my dog saying, "Good dog." Now, saying "Good dog" is not something your dog has been built, prewired, to find pleasurable. But what happens is you can do a two-step process. You can make "Good dog" positive through
classical conditioning. You give the dog a treat and say, "Good dog." Now the phrase "good dog" will carry the rewarding
quality. And you could use that rewarding quality in order to train it. And through this way behaviorists have developed token
economies where they get nonhuman animals to do interesting things for seemingly arbitrary rewards like poker chips. And
in this way you can increase the utility and ease of training.
Finally, in the examples we're giving, whenever the pig does something you like you reinforce it. But that's not how
real life works. Real life for both humans and animals involved cases where the reinforcement doesn't happen all the time but
actually happens according to different schedules. And so, there is the distinction between fixed schedules versus ratios


variable schedules and ratio versus interval. And this is something you could print out to look at. I don't need to go over it in
detail. The difference between ratio is a reward every certain number of times somebody does something. So, if every tenth
time your dog brought you the newspaper you gave it hugs and treats; that's ratio. An interval is over a period of time. So, if
your dog gives you--if your dog, I don't know, dances for an hour straight, that would be an interval thing. And fixed versus
variable speaks to whether you give a reward on a fixed schedule, every fifth time, or variable, sometimes on the third time,
sometimes on the seventh time, and so on.
And these are--There are examples here and there's no need to go over them. It's easy enough to think of
examples in real life. So, for example, a slot machine is variable ratio. It goes off after it's been hit a certain number of times.
It doesn't matter how long it takes you for--to do it. It's the number of times you pull it down. But it's variable because it
doesn't always go off on the thousandth time. You don't know. It's unpredictable. The slot machine is a good example of a
phenomena known as the partial reinforcement effect. And this is kind of neat. It makes sense when you hear it but it's the
sort of finding that's been validated over and over again with animals and nonhumans. Here's the idea. Suppose you want to
train somebody to do something and you want the training such that they'll keep on doing it even if you're not training them
anymore, which is typically what you want. If you want that, the trick is don't reinforce it all the time. Behaviors last longer if
they're reinforced intermittently and this is known as "the partial reinforcement effect."
Thinking of this psychologically, it's as if whenever you put something in a slot machine it gave you money, then all
of a sudden it stopped. You keep on doing it a few times but then you say, "Fine. It doesn't work," but what if it gave you
money one out of every hundred times? Now you keep on trying and because the reinforcement is intermittent you don't
expect it as much and so your behavior will persist across often a huge amount of time. Here's a good example. What's the
very worst thing to do when your kid cries to go into bed with you and you don't want him to go into bed with you? Well, one-The worst thing to do is for any--Actually, for any form of discipline with a kid is to say, "No, absolutely not. No, no, no, no."
[pause] "Okay." And then later on the kid's going to say, "I want to do it again" and you say no and the kid keeps asking
because you've put it, well, put it as in a psychological way, not the way the behaviorists would put it. The kid knows okay,
he's not going to get it right away, he's going to keep on asking. And so typically, what you're doing inadvertently in those
situations is you're exploiting the partial reinforcement effect. If I want my kid to do something, I should say yes one out of
every ten times. Unfortunately, that's the evolution of nagging. Because you nag, you nag, you nag, the person says, "Fine,
okay," and that reinforces it.
If Skinner kept the focus on rats and pigeons and dogs, he would not have the impact that he did but he argued that
you could extend all of these notions to humans and to human behavior. So for an example, he argued that the prison
system needs to be reformed because instead of focusing on notions of justice and retribution what we should do is focus
instead on questions of reinforcing good behaviors and punishing bad ones. He argued for the notions of operant
conditioning to be extended to everyday life and argued that people's lives would become fuller and more satisfying if they
were controlled in a properly behaviorist way. Any questions about behaviorism? What are your questions about
behaviorism? [laughter] Yes.
Student: [inaudible]--wouldn't there be extinction after a while? [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Good question. The discussion was over using things like poker chips for reinforcement and the point
is exactly right. Since the connection with the poker chips is established through classical conditioning, sooner or later by
that logic the poker chips would lose their power to serve as reinforcers. You'd have to sort of start it up again, retrain again.
If you have a dog and you say "Good dog" to reward the dog, by your logic, which is right, at some point you might as well
give the dog a treat along with the "Good dog." Otherwise, "Good dog" is not going to cut it anymore. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: As far as I know, Skinner and Skinnerian psychologists were never directly involved in the creation of
prisons. On the other hand, the psychological theory of behaviorism has had a huge impact and I think a lot of people's ways
of thinking about criminal justice and criminal law has been shaped by behaviorist principles. So for instance, institutions like
mental institutions and some prisons have installed token economies where there's rewards for good behavior, often poker
chips of a sort. And then you could cash them in for other things. And, to some extent, these have been shaped by an
adherence to behaviorist principles.
Okay. So, here are the three general positions of behaviorism. (1) That there is no innate knowledge. All you need
is learning. (2) That you could explain human psychology without mental notions like desires and goals. (3) And that these
mechanisms apply across all domains and across all species. I think it's fair to say that right now just about everybody
agrees all of these three claims are mistaken.
First, we know that it's not true that everything is learned. There is considerable evidence for different forms of
innate knowledge and innate desires and we'll look--and we'll talk about it in detail when we look at case studies like
language learning, the development of sexual preference, the developing understanding of material objects. There's a lot of
debate over how much is innate and what the character of the built-in mental systems are but there's nobody who doubts
nowadays that a considerable amount for humans and other animals is built-in.
Is it true that talking about mental states is unscientific? Nobody believes this anymore either. Science, particularly
more advanced sciences like physics or chemistry, are all about unobservables. They're all about things you can't see. And it


makes sense to explain complex and intelligent behavior in terms of internal mechanisms and internal representations. Once
again, the computer revolution has served as an illustrative case study. If you have a computer that plays chess and you
want to explain how the computer plays chess, it's impossible to do so without talking about the programs and mechanisms
inside the computer.
Is it true that animals need reinforcement and punishment to learn? No, and there's several demonstrations at the
time of Skinner suggesting that they don't. This is from a classic study by Tolman where rats were taught to run a maze. And
what they found was the rats did fine. They learn to run a maze faster and faster when they're regularly rewarded but they
also learn to run a maze faster and faster if they are not rewarded at all. So the reward helps, but the reward is in no sense
And here's a more sophisticated illustration of the same point. [Professor Bloom plays video]
Professor Paul Bloom: And this is the sort of finding, an old finding from before most of you were born, that was a huge
embarrassment for the Skinnerian theory, as it suggests that rats in fact had mental maps, an internal mechanism that they
used to understand the world entirely contrary to the behaviorist idea everything could be explained in terms of
reinforcement and punishment.
Finally, is it true that there's no animal-specific constraints for learning? And again, the answer seems to be "no."
Animals, for instance, have natural responses. So, you could train a pigeon to peck for food but that's because pecking for
food is a very natural response. It's very difficult to train it to peck to escape a situation. You can train it to flap its wings to
escape a situation but it's very difficult to get it to flap its wings for food. And the idea is they have sort of natural responses
that these learning situations might exploit and might channel, but essentially, they do have certain natural ways of acting
towards the world.
We know that not all stimuli and responses are created equal. So, the Gray textbook has a very nice discussion of
the Garcia effect. And the Garcia effect goes like this. Does anybody here have any food aversions? I don't mean foods you
don't like. I mean foods that really make you sick. Often food aversions in humans and other animals can be formed through
a form of association. What happens is suppose you have the flu and you get very nauseous and then at the same point you
eat some sashimi for the first time. The connection between being nauseous and eating a new food is very potent. And even
if you know intellectually full well that the sashimi isn't why you became nauseous, still you'll develop an aversion to this new
When I was younger when I was a teenager I drank this Greek liqueur, ouzo, with beer. I didn't have the flu at
the time but I became violently ill. And as a result I cannot abide the smell of that Greek liqueur. Now, thank God it didn't
develop into an aversion to beer but-- [laughter] Small miracles. But the smell is very distinctive and for me--was new to me.
And so, through the Garcia effect I developed a strong aversion.
What's interesting though is the aversion is special so if you take an animal and you give it a new food and then you
give it a drug to make it nauseous it will avoid that food. But if you take an animal and you give it a new food and then you
shock it very painfully it won't avoid the new food. And the idea is that a connection between what something tastes and
getting sick is natural. We are hard wired to say, "Look. If I'm going to eat a new food and I'm going to get nauseous, I'm
going to avoid that food." The Garcia effect is that this is special to taste and nausea. It doesn't extend more generally.
Finally, I talked about phobias and I'll return to phobias later on in this course. But the claim that people have
formed their phobias through classical conditioning is almost always wrong. Instead, it turns out that there are certain
phobias that we're specially evolved to have. So, both humans and chimpanzees, for instance, are particularly prone to
develop fears of snakes. And when we talk about the emotions later on in the course we'll talk about this in more detail. But
what seems likely is the sort of phobias you're likely to have does not have much to do with your personal history but rather it
has a lot to do with your evolutionary history.
Finally, the other reading you're going to do for this part--section of the course is Chomsky's classic article, his
"Review of Verbal Behavior." Chomsky is one of the most prominent intellectuals alive. He's still a professor at MIT, still
publishes on language and thought, among other matters. And the excerpt you're going to read is from his "Review of Verbal
Behavior." And this is one of the most influential intellectual documents ever written in psychology because it took the entire
discipline of behaviorism and, more than everything else, more than any other event, could be said to have destroyed it or
ended it as a dominant intellectual endeavor.
And Chomsky's argument is complicated and interesting, but the main sort of argument he had to make is--goes
like this. When it comes to humans, the notions of reward and punishment and so on that Skinner tried to extend to humans
are so vague it's not science anymore. And remember the discussion we had with regard to Freud. What Skinner--What
Chomsky is raising here is the concern of unfalsifiablity. So, here's the sort of example he would discuss. Skinner, in his
book Verbal Behavior, talks about the question of why do we do things like talk to ourselves, imitate sounds, create art, give
bad news to an enemy, fantasize about pleasant situations? And Skinner says that they all involve reinforcement; those are
all reinforced behaviors. But Skinner doesn't literally mean that when we talk to ourselves somebody gives us food pellets.
He doesn't literally mean even that when we talk to ourselves somebody pats us on the head and says, "Good man. Perfect.
I'm very proud." What he means, for instance, in this case is well, talking to yourself is self-reinforcing or giving bad news to
an enemy is reinforcing because it makes your enemy feel bad.


Well, Chomsky says the problem is not that that's wrong. That's all true. It's just so vague as to be useless. Skinner
isn't saying anything more. To say giving bad news to an enemy is reinforcing because it makes the enemy feel bad doesn't
say anything different from giving bad news to an enemy feels good because we like to give bad news to an enemy. It's just
putting it in more scientific terms.
More generally, Chomsky suggests that the law of effect when applied to humans is either trivially true, trivially or
uninterestingly true, or scientifically robust and obviously false. So, if you want to expand the notion of reward or
reinforcement to anything, then it's true. So why did you come--those of you who are not freshmen--Oh, you--Why did you
come? All of you, why did you come to Yale for a second semester? "Well, I repeated my action because the first semester
was rewarding." Okay. What do you mean by that? Well, you don't literally mean that somebody rewarded you, gave you
pellets and stuff. What you mean is you chose to come there for the second semester. And there's nothing wrong with saying
that but we shouldn't confuse it with science. And more generally, the problem is you can talk about what other people do in
terms of reinforcement and punishment and operant conditioning and classical conditioning. But in order to do so, you have
to use terms like "punishment" and "reward" and "reinforcement" in such a vague way that in the end you're not saying
anything scientific.
So, behaviorism as a dominant intellectual field has faded, but it still leaves behind an important legacy and it still
stands as one of the major contributions of twentieth century psychology. For one thing, it has given us a richer
understanding of certain learning mechanisms, particularly with regard to nonhumans. Mechanisms like habituation, classical
conditioning and operant conditioning are real; they can be scientifically studied; and they play an important role in the lives
of animals and probably an important role in human lives as well. They just don't explain everything. Finally, and this is
something I'm going to return to on Wednesday actually, behaviorists have provided powerful techniques for training
particularly for nonverbal creatures so this extends to animal trainers. But it also extends to people who want to teach young
children and babies and also want to help populations like the severely autistic or the severely retarded. Many of these
behaviorist techniques have proven to be quite useful. And in that regard, as well as in other regards, it stands as an
important contribution.


Lecture 5
Professor Paul Bloom: So, most of what we do these days our methods, our theories, our ideas are shaped, to some
extent, by Piaget's influence. And so, what I want to do is begin this class that's going to talk about cognitive development by
talking about his ideas. His idea was that children are active thinkers; they're trying to figure out the world. He often
described them as little scientists. And incidentally, to know where he's coming from on this, he had a very dramatic and
ambitious goal. He didn't start off because he was interested in children. He started off because he was interested in the
emergence of knowledge in general. It was a discipline he described as genetic epistemology the origins of knowledge. But
he studied development of the individual child because he was convinced that this development will tell him about the
development of knowledge more generally. There's a very snooty phrase that--I don't know if you ever heard it before. It's a
great phrase. It's "Ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny." And the idea of this--What that means is that development of an
individual mimics or repeats development of the species. Now, it's entirely not true, but it's a beautiful phrase and Piaget was
committed to this. He was very interested in saying, "Look. We'll figure how a kid develops and that will tell us about the
development of knowledge more generally."
So, Piaget viewed the child as a scientist who developed this understanding, these schemas, these little, miniature
theories of the world. And they did this through two sorts of mechanisms: assimilation and accommodation. So, assimilation
would be the act of expanding the range of things that you respond to. Piaget's example would be a baby who's used to
sucking on a breast might come to suck on a bottle or on a rattle. That's changing the scope of things that you respond to.
Accommodation is changing how you do it. A baby will form his mouth differently depending on what he's sucking on. And
so, these processes where you take in--I'm giving this in a very physical way, but in a more psychological sense you have a
way of looking at the world. You could expand it to encompass new things, assimilation. But you could also change your
system of knowledge itself accommodation. And Piaget argued that these two mechanisms of learning drove the child
through different stages. And he had a stage theory, which was quite different from the Freudian stage theory that we have
been introduced to. So his methods were to ask children to solve problems and to ask them questions. And his discoveries
that--they did them in different ways at different ages led to the emergence of the Stage Theory.
So, for Piaget, the first stage is the sensorimotor stage or the sensorimotor period. For here the child is purely a
physical creature. The child has no understanding in any real way of the external world. There's no understanding of the
past, no understanding of the future, no stability, no differentiation. The child just touches and sees, but doesn't yet reason.
And it's through this stage that a child gradually comes to acquire object permanence.
Object permanence is the understanding that things exist when you no longer see them. So those of you in front,
you're looking at me and I go [ducks behind lectern]. It occurred to me it'd be a great magic trick if I then appeared in back.
But no, I'm just here. That's object permanence. If I went under here and then the people said, "Where the hell did he go?
Class is over," that would show a lack of object permanence. So, adults have object permanence. Piaget's very interesting
claim is that kids don't. Before six-month-olds, Piaget observed, you take an object the kid likes like a rattle, you hide it, you
put it behind something, it's like it's gone. And he claimed the child really thinks it's just gone. Things don't continue to exist
when I'm not looking at them anymore. And so he noticed they--they're surprised by peek-a-boo. And Piaget's claim was one
reason why they're surprised at peek-a-boo is you go--you look at a kid, the kid's smiling and go, "Oh, peek-a-boo," and you
close--and you cover your face and the kid says, "He's gone." "Peek-a-boo." "Oh, there he is. He's gone." And you really-That's the claim.
Piaget also discovered that older children fail at a task that's known as the A-not-B task. And Peter Gray in his
psychology textbook refers to it as the "changing hiding places" problem, which is probably a better name for it. And here's
the idea. You take a nine-month-old and for Piaget a nine-month-old is just starting to make sense of objects and their
permanence. You take an object and you put it here in a cup where the kid can't see it, but it's in the cup. So the kid, if you
were the kid, will reach for it. You do it again, reach for it. You do it again, reach for it. That's point A. Then you take--you
move it over here. Piaget observed kids would still reach for this. It's like they're not smart enough to figure out that it's not
there anymore, even if they see it move. And this was more evidence that they just don't understand objects, and that this
thing takes a lot of time and learning to develop.
The next stage is the preoperational stage. The child starts off grasping the world only in a physical way, in a
sensorimotor way, but when he gets to the preoperational period the capacity to represent the world, to have the world inside
your head, comes into being. But it's limited and it's limited in a couple of striking ways. One way in which it's limited is that
children are egocentric. Now, egocentrism has a meaning in common English which means to be selfish. Piaget meant it in a
more technical way. He claimed that children at this age literally can't understand that others can see the world differently
from them. So, one of his demonstrations was the three mountains task. We have three mountains over there. You put a
child on one side of the mountains and you ask him to draw it, and a four- or five-year-old can do it easily, but then you ask
him to draw it as it would appear from the other side and children find this extraordinarily difficult. They find it very difficult to
grasp the world as another person might see it.
Another significant finding Piaget had about this phase of development concerns what's called "conservation." The
notion of conservation is that there's ways to transform things such that some aspects of them change but others remain the
same. So, for instance, if you take a glass of water and you pour it into another glass that's shallow or tall, it won't change the


amount of water you have. If you take a bunch of pennies and you spread them out, you don't get more pennies. But kids,
according to Piaget, don't know that and this is one of the real cool demonstrations. Any of you who have access to a four- or
five-year-old, [laughter] a sibling or something--Do not take one without permission, but if you have access to a four- or fiveyear-old you can do this yourself. This is what it looks like. The first one has no sound. The second one is going to be sound
that's going to come on at the end [plays video]. But there's two rows of checkers. She asks the kid which one has more. The
kid says they're the same. Then she says--Now she asks him which one has more, that or that. So that's really stupid. And
it's an amazing finding kids will do that and it's a robust finding.
Here's another example. So, they're the same [tape playing]. So, it's a cool finding of that stage, suggesting a
limitation in how you deal and make sense of the world. The next phase, concrete operations, from seven to twelve, you can
solve the conservation problem, but still you're limited to the extent you're capable of abstract reasoning. So the
mathematical notions of infinity or logical notions like logical entailment are beyond a child of this age. The child is able to do
a lot, but still it's to some extent stuck in the concrete world. And then finally, at around age twelve, you could get abstract
and scientific reasoning. And this is the Piagetian theory in very brief form.
Now, Piaget fared a lot better than did Freud or Skinner for several reasons. One reason is these are interesting
and falsifiable claims about child development. So claims that--about the failure of conservation in children at different ages
could be easily tested and systematically tested, and in fact, there's a lot of support for them. Piaget had a rich theoretical
framework, pulling together all sorts of observations in different ways, wrote many, many books and articles and articulated
his theory very richly. And most of all, I think, he had some really striking findings. Before Piaget, nobody noticed these
conservation findings. Before Piaget, nobody noticed that babies had this problem tracking and understanding objects.
At the same time, however, there are limitations in Piaget's theory. Some of these limitations are theoretical. It's an
interesting question as to whether he really explains how a child goes from a concrete thinker to an abstract thinker, or how
he goes from not having object permanence to understanding object permanence. There's methodological limitations. Piaget
was really big into question and answer, but one problem with this is that children aren't very good with language, and this
might lead you to underestimate how much they know. And this is particularly a problem the younger you get.
Methodology is going to loom heavy in the discussion of any science and that includes psychology. Often 90% of
the game is discovering a clever method through which to test your hypotheses. We're going to talk a little bit about that
regarding babies. I'll give you another example from a very different domain. There was a set of scientists interested in
studying tickling. So, when you tickle somebody, under what circumstances will they laugh? Where do you have to tickle
them? Can you tickle yourself? Does it have to be a surprise, and so on? It turns out very difficult to study this in a lab.
You're not going to have your experimental credit. You come into the lab and say, "Okay. I'm the graduate student. Ha, ha,
ha." And [laughter] in fact, an example of a methodological attempt was done by Henry Gleitman at University of
Pennsylvania, who built a tickle machine, which was this box with these two giant hands that went "r-r-r-r." This was a failure
because people could not go near the tickle machine without convulsing in laughter. But we will discuss when we have a
lecture on laughter a bit of the tickle sciences.
And finally there's factual. What do infants and children really know? It's possible that due to the methodological
limitations of Piaget, he systematically underestimated what children and babies know. And in fact, I'll present some
evidence suggesting that this is in fact--that this is the case.
So, I want to introduce you to the modern science of infant cognition. Infant cognition has been something studied
for a very long time. And there was a certain view that has had behind it a tremendous philosophical and psychological
consensus. And it's summarized in this Onion headline here. And the idea is that babies are stupid, that babies really don't
know much about the world. Now, the work that this Onion headline is satirizing is the recent studies, which I'm going to talk
about, suggested that on the contrary, babies might be smarter than you think. And to discover the intelligence of babies we
have to ourselves be pretty smart in developing different techniques.
To study what a baby knows, you can't ask your questions. Babies can't talk. You could look at what it does but
babies are not very coordinated or skilled so you need to use clever methods. One clever method is to look at their brain
waves [laughter]. This child on the right died during testing. It was a tragic--It was crushed by the weights [laughter] of the
electrodes. He's happy though. You could study their brain waves. One of the few things babies can do is they could suck on
a pacifier. And you might think, well, how could you learn anything from that? Well, for instance, you could build machines
that when babies suck on a pacifier they hear music or they hear language, and then you could look at how much they suck
on the pacifier to determine what they like.
But undeniably we know most of our--we got most of our knowledge about babies from studies of their looking
times. That's one thing babies can do. They can look. And I have up here--This is a picture of Elizabeth Spelke, who is a
developmental psychologist who's developed the most research on looking at babies' looking times and what you could learn
from them. And I have here two ways you could learn from looking. One is preference. So for instance, suppose you want to
know, for whatever reason, do babies like the looks of dogs or cats? Well, you could put a baby down, have a picture of a
dog here, a picture of a cat here, and see which one the baby looks at. Babies can move their eyes and that could tell you
something. Do babies distinguish pretty faces from ugly faces? Well, put a pretty face here, an ugly face here, see if the baby


prefers to look at the pretty one. You could also do habituation and surprise. And much of the studies I'm going to talk about
here involve habituation and surprise.
Habituation is a fancy word for boredom. What you do is you show a baby something over and over again. Now,
remember from behaviorism the baby will learn this isn't very interesting. Then you show the baby something different. If the
baby really sees it as different, the baby will look longer, and you could use that as a measure of what babies find different.
For instance, suppose you want to know if the baby can tell green from red. Well, you could show the baby a green patch, a
green patch, a green patch, a green patch; the baby'll get bored, then a red patch. If they all look the same to the baby, the
baby will just continue to tune out, but if the red looks different the baby will perk up. And this is, in fact, one way they study
color vision in babies.
Surprise is related to this. You could show babies something that shouldn't happen. If babies are like--If babies also
think it shouldn't happen, they might look longer, and essentially what happens is scientists do magic tricks to explore this
very thing. And to start with some real examples, a lot of this infant research has gone back to the Piagetian question of
object permanence, asking, "Is it really true babies don't know that objects remain even when they're out of sight?" So one
very simple study by Spelke and Baillargeon: Have babies shown a block with a bar going back and forth like that. So the bar
just goes back and forth. Now, there's something you do that's so obvious you probably don't even know you're doing it.
When you see a display like that, what you assume is there's a bar there, and what that means is there's something in the
middle that you've never seen before. But of course, if you were a simple perceptual creature, you would just see that there'd
be a bar on top and a bar on the bottom. You wouldn't expect anything in the middle because you never saw anything in the
middle. So, what you do then is you show babies this and then you show them either B or C and if we do this with adults you
expect B, C is almost a joke. And, in fact, babies respond the same way. Babies expect there to be an entire, complete bar
and are surprised and look longer at the broken bar.
Other studies, some of them--Well, here's another study by Rene Baillargeon looking at the same thing in a different
way. You show the baby, say a six-month-old, a stage with a block on it. Then a screen rises and obscures the block. Now, if
the babies expect the block to still be there, they should think the block should stop the screen. On the other hand, if out of
sight out of mind, they should expect the screen to keep going. So, what you do is you set up a couple of displays, one
where the block is stopped, the other one where you take this away with a trap door and it keeps going. And, as you see, the
baby screams when this happens. That doesn't really happen, but they do look longer.
One final example of an object permanence study. Some of this work's been done at Yale in Karen Wynn's lab,
where they look at babies' understanding of addition and subtraction. And a lot of it is done with real objects, but there's also
animated versions so here is an animated example [tape playing]. Babies are surprised. They expect 2 - 1 = 1 and when 2 1 = 2 or 3 or 0, they look longer, indicating surprise. And even six-month-olds are sensitive to these rudimentary facts of
arithmetic, telling us something about their mathematical knowledge, but also telling us something about that they expect
things to remain when they're out of sight.
Now, this research suggests that infants' understanding of the physical world is there from the very start, but at the
same time not entirely. We know there are certain things babies don't know. Here's an example. Suppose you show babies
this. You have a block here and then you have something above there floating in mid air. Babies find this surprising. Even
six-month-olds find this surprising. It violates gravity, but six-month-olds aren't smart enough to know that a block just stuck
over here is also surprising. Twelve-month-olds will think that it should fall. Six-month-olds don't, and even 12-month-olds
don't find anything weird about this, while adults are sophisticated enough to understand that that's an unstable configuration
and should fall over. So, although some things are built in, some things develop.
And this raises the question of, "How do we explain development?" How do we explain when babies come to know
things that they didn't originally know? Well, one answer is neural maturation, growth of the brain. Most of the neurons you
have now in your head, right now, you had when you were in your mother's uterus. What happens in development isn't for
the most part the growth of new neurons. It's for the most part pruning, getting rid of neurons. So, the neural structures
change radically as babies kind of get rid of excess neurons through development. At the same time though, connections
between neurons grow like crazy and they--and this process of synaptic growth where there are the connections across
different synapses peaks at about two years. Finally, remember myelination, where you sort of get this fatty sheath over your
neuron to make it more effective? That also happens through development, and in fact, it goes through development and
even teenagers are not fully myelinated. In particular, they're not fully myelinated in their frontal lobes. Recall that frontal
lobes are involved in things like restraint and willpower. And so, it could be the problem is the baby's brain doesn't develop
Another possibility is there's problems with inhibition. This is related, again, to the frontal lobes and this comes out
with the A, not B error. So, remember the baby reaches, reaches, reaches. It's moved, reach, follow, keeps reaching the
same place. And it could be that babies don't know anything about objects. But another possibility is once you do something
it's kind of hard to stop. It takes a bit of control to stop. And there's all sorts of independent evidence that babies lack this
control. The part of their brain that could control certain behaviors is just not active yet.
There's a very nice illustration of inhibitory problems from a "Simpsons" episode that actually sort of covers anything
you might want to know about developmental differences. So it goes like this [tape playing]. And that basically may sum up


much of developmental psychology. That the child essentially--he does A, A, A. It's moved. You go, "doh!" and he keeps
going for it. And there's some evidence that's true. Adele Diamond who studies this finds that although kids reach for A, they
look for B, as if they know it's there but they can't stop themselves from reaching. And we'll continue this theme a little bit
Finally, it might be kids don't know things. Some things you've got to learn. And this is true in all sorts of domains
in the social world, in the economic world, in the political world and it's true as well in the physical world. In fact, there's
some things even adults don't know. So, here's a study by Michael McCloskey with college students. Here's the idea. You
have a tube, a transparent--a tube--a hollow tube, and at the top of the tube you throw a ball through so it whips through the
tube and it comes out. The question is, "What happens to it?" Does it go in the path of A, or does it go in the path of B?
Without looking around, who votes for A? Who votes for B? Here's the weird thing. Whenever I do this at Yale everybody
gets the damn thing right [laughter]. At Johns Hopkins, 50/50, [laughter] for A and B. I got to get a better demo. But anyway,
college students not here, show systematic biases of incorrect physical intuitions. Here's a twist, and if you found people who
were less wonderful than you all, and asked them you'd get a lot of people saying the curving thing. But here's a twist. Ask
somebody, "What if you took a tube and you squirted water through it? Where would the water go?" Nobody chooses B.
Everybody knows the water would continue in a straight line, suggesting that when you have experience that helps you out,
but in absence of experience you're kind of lost.
We've talked about the physical world. What about the social world? What about the world of people? Well, there's
a lot of research on this as well. Babies start off with some social preferences. If you take newborn babies--It's very hard to
do research with newborn babies actually because of the consent procedure and everything, so most of this work is done in
France [laughter], where they have no laws at all. They just rush in to--Women give birth and they rush in and they say, "We
are psychologists," and then we do experiments on the babies, and it's terrific. And this is one of them where they compare
babies looking at this versus this. Babies like the one that looks like a face. These are newborns. There are some
preferences with humans and with other primates to favor faces. Babies are also social animals too, so they're natural
Andrew Meltzoff, for instance, has found that if you go to a newborn baby, and if you find a newborn baby, this is
the first thing you should do. Stick your face right up to the newborn baby and go like this and stick your tongue out. And
Meltzoff finds that babies more often than not stick their tongues out back, suggesting some sort of social connection from
one person to another, and then later on babies are mimics. Babies more often than not will copy the face next to them. Now,
these--the nature of these responses, this preferring faces, this sort of mimicry, is a matter of debate, and there's a lot of
research going on asking how smart are babies. Can we see--use some of the same methods that we've looked at for the
physical world to look at the social world?
And to illustrate one of the studies, I'll tell you about a study that I did with Valerie Kuhlmeier and Karen Wynn. And
so, what we tested was nine-month-olds and twelve-month-olds, and we showed them movies. So, they're sitting down and
they're seeing a movie where one character's going to help a ball achieve a goal, and another character's going to hinder the
ball. And then we're going to see whether they expect the ball to approach the one that helped it versus the one that
hindered it. So, this is what a baby would see. This is literally the same movie a baby would see in the experiment. The thing
is for these sorts of experiments there is a lot of control, so something that's a square in one movie will be a triangle in
another movie; something that's on the top in one movie will be on the bottom in another movie. So, this is an example movie
but this is what babies would see. [video playing]
And they'd see this over and over again and the question is would they expect babies--would babies expect the one
to approach the one that helped it or approach the one that hindered it? And what we find is, statistically, babies look longer
when shown a movie where it approaches the one that hindered it versus helped it. And this we take as preliminary evidence
that they have a social interpretation. They see this movie as you see this movie in terms of helping and hindering, and
somebody going to somebody that helped it versus hindered it. You could then ask--This makes a prediction that babies
should themselves prefer the creature who's the helper versus the hinderer, and to explore this, a graduate student in this
department, Kiley Hamlin, has started a series of studies where they show babies three-dimensional scenes and then give
them the characters and see which one they reach for. So, here's video so you could see how this experiment is done. [video
Now, the next trial is from a different study. A different thing we use, and the baby is given a choice. One thing to
know methodologically is the person giving a choice is blind to the study. And blind here is a technical term meaning she had
no idea what the baby saw, and the point about this is to avoid either intentional or unintentional sort of trying to get the
answer you want. She couldn't do that because she didn't know what the right answer is. So, here's what the baby would
see. [video playing]
So, this suggests that some social understanding may be there from the very start. This evidence is tentative, very
But now, I want to raise a huge developmental puzzle and the puzzle is there are some ways in which babies are--not just
babies, but young children are very clueless when it comes to people. And so, I have a film clip here of two very nice studies


showing babies' ignorant--sorry, young children's ignorance of other people. I'll show you the studies and then we'll briefly
discuss what they mean. Uh oh. [video playing]
Professor Paul Bloom: Before discussing that example in a little bit more detail, any questions? What are your questions?
Yes, in back.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Typically--I don't know for those particular children, but typically on those tasks three-year-olds and
young four-year-olds tend to fail, and around the age of four or five kids tend to succeed. There's sort of a period around the
age of four, four and a half, where kids make the transition from failure to success. The question, by the way, was when do
children--in that video when were the--what were the ages of the children who failed and who passed? Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: The question of whether discriminant conditioning has been used with babies to explore what sort of
concepts they have. I don't know. Does anybody--It has been-Graduate Student: --It's not as effective-Professor Paul Bloom: Koleen answered and said that it's not as effective as other methods. Part of the problem with using
operant conditioning with babies is it's difficult to get them to behave in any systematic way. So, the looking-time measures
tend to be more subtle. Any other questions? Oh. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Oh. The question of why they chose--the baby--the kids chose the rocket ship one as opposed to the
Rafael one. It wasn't what they were interested in in the experiment. And my bet is when they chose the stickers they had a
pretty good sense of why, of which ones the boys would prefer in those studies. The question of why a boy might prefer one
sort of sticker, and you might get a different response with a girl, is going to come up later when we discuss different theories
of sex differences. But that was something I think they were just assuming in the study to get it off the ground. Okay.
There's a huge debate over what's going on there. And if you listened at the end to the psychologist summarizing
the data, the psychologist had a very good and very clear and strong idea of what was going on. It was that children need to
know more about minds. The children don't know about that you can do something with the intent to deceive. They don't
understand that somebody could choose what you chose in a malicious way. This is possible. This is one respectable theory,
but the alternative is they have the right knowledge, but they suffer from problems with inhibition.
So, consider both studies. The first study, the one with the deceptive dolls with the big shoes and little shoes, is
actually fairly difficult. And it's possible that children kind of got overwhelmed with it, and when asked what would the mother
think, who the mother would think stole the food, responded with who really stole the food. And that there's some pull
towards the right answer that makes this task difficult.
The second one--the second study illustrates this issue even more clearly. Take the boy who kept failing. He kept
pointing to the rocket ship and mean monkey kept taking it away. It's possible that he genuinely didn't know what to do, that
he wasn't smart enough to understand that he needed to point to the other one. But it's also possible that it's a Homer
Simpson-like effect, where when asked to point to what he wants, he just couldn't help but point to the one he wanted. And
that the extra work it takes to lie was beyond him. And, in support of the second alternative, even adults find these tasks
involving lying and deception more difficult. They were slower at them. We make more mistakes than tasks that don't involve
lying and deception. So, I'm raising this not to solve the problem. You'll read more about it in the Peter Gray textbook and
more about it in The Norton readings on development, but just to raise this as an interesting area of debate.
Another interesting area of debate is, "What's the relationship between different sorts of development?" So, I started
off with Piaget, and Piaget, like Freud, believed in general, across the board changes in how children think. An alternative,
though, is that there's separate modules, and this is a view developed, again, by Noam Chomsky, and also by the
philosopher of mind Jerry Fodor, who claimed that the whole idea of a child developing as a single story is mistaken. What
you get instead is there are separate pre-wired systems for reasoning about the world. These systems have some built-in
knowledge, and they have to do some learning, but the learning pattern varies from system to system and there's a
separateness to them. Why should we take this view seriously? Well, one reason is that there are developmental disorders
that seem to involve damage to one system but not to another. And the classic case of this is a disorder known as autism.
And autism is something I've always found a fascinating disorder for many reasons. It's actually why I entered psychology. I
started off working with children with autism. And it could be taken as a striking illustration of how the social part of your brain
is distinct from other parts of your brain.
So, what autism is is a disorder that strikes about one in a thousand people, mostly boys. And the dominant
problems concern--consist of a lack of social connectedness, problems with language, problems dealing with people, and
more generally, a problem of what the psychologist, Simon Baron-Cohen has described as "mind blindness." In that autistic
people show no impairments dealing with the physical world, they show no impairments on--they don't necessarily show any
impairments on mathematical skills or spatial skills, but they have a lot of problems with people. Now, many autistic children
have no language; they're totally shut off from society. But even some of them who'd learned language and who managed to
get some sort of independent life, nevertheless will suffer from a severe social impairment. And this could be shown in all
sorts of ways.


A simple experiment developed by Simon Baron-Cohen goes like this. You show this to three- and four-year-olds.
There's four candies there, and you say, "This is Charlie in the middle. Which chocolate will Charlie take?" For most children
and most of you, I hope, the answer's pretty clear: This one. Autistic children will often just shrug, say, "How could I know?"
because they don't instinctively appreciate that people's interests and desires tend to be attuned to where they're looking.
Another sort of task, which is a task that's been done hundreds, perhaps thousands of times, is known as "the falsebelief task" and here's the idea. You show the child the following situation. There's a doll named Maxie and Maxie puts the
ball in the cupboard. Maxie leaves and a second doll enters. The second doll takes the ball out of the cupboard and puts it
under the bed. Maxie comes back and the question is, "Where will Maxie look for the ball?" Now, this is a question about
your understanding about minds. The question of where is the ball really is a question about the physical world. Everyone
can solve it, but this question is hard. The right answer is Max will--Maxie will look in the cupboard, even though it's not really
there because Maxie has a false belief about the world. Three-year-olds find this difficult. Two-year-olds find this difficult.
Four-year-olds and five-year-olds are able to pass this task. Normal adults are able to pass this task. Children with autism
have serious problems. And often, people with autism who are otherwise very high functioning will fail this task. They'll say,
"Oh, he must think it's not--He'll--He's going to check under the bed." Any questions about autism? Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Good question. It isn't. They're both experiments designed to tap an appreciation of false belief. The
deception one with the shoes and everything looked at it in the course of deception. Can you understand that the mother
might think it's that person even though it's really that person? And our kid failed. This is a sort of stripped-down version
without all the fanciness but it tests exactly the same thing. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Nobody knows, but there's a theory which won't answer your question but will put it into a broader
context. Simon Baron-Cohen argues that there are certain abilities that tend to be more sequestered for males, and other
abilities that are more sequestered, more focused on females. Social abilities, he argues, tend to be more female than male.
So, the way Baron puts it, provocatively, is to be a man is to suffer from a very mild form of autism [laughter]. The idea is
then that autistic individuals suffer from what he calls extreme male brains, and as such, it stands to reason that they'd be
more sampled from the male population than the female population. That's such an interesting issue, that again, when we
return to talk about sex differences we'll look at that in a little bit more detail to see if it's supported by the evidence. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: I'm sorry. Tell me the--Is the severity of autism
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: It's an interesting question. The question is, "How do you think about the severity of autism with
regard to developmental stages?" And sort of surprisingly, autism can't really be thought of in that way. So, it's not like an
adult with autism is like a three-year-old or a two-year-old. In some ways, somebody with autism isn't like any child at all, any
normally developing child at all. So, it's not really a developmental delay in the way that it might make sense to think about
certain forms of retardation. On the other hand, when we think about how severe autism is we do look at things like how
much language does the person have, and in that sense, it is related to development. Yes.
Student: What are the chances that someone who's autistic would be able to overcome their deficiencies?
Professor Paul Bloom: The majority of people with autism. It's a good question. The question is, "What are the chances that
somebody with autism will be able to overcome their deficiencies?" Autism is a funny disorder in that there's a lot of media
publication and media presentation. Often the people who are showcased in the media tend to be very exceptional. So,
there's a woman, Temple Grandin, who's autistic and--Has anybody here heard of Temple Grandin? She wrote some
wonderful books about her experience as an autistic person, but she's very unusual. So a lot depends, to answer your
question, how one defines autism, and whether one includes Asperger syndrome, which is a limited, a more mild syndrome,
as a form of autism. The answer is that the majority of people with autism have severe problems, and will not, and at this
stage, with this level of therapy, will not lead a normal life.
Student: More specifically, what I meant was, when you showed the example of Rain Man, ere they exceptional [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Right. The question is about so-called autistic savants. So, Rain Man, the character played by Dustin
Hoffman, had extraordinary mathematical abilities. And some people with autism have extraordinary artistic abilities or
mathematical abilities or musical abilities and these are amazing. It's an amazing question why they have it but this is a very
small minority. This is a very--It's fascinating that it happens at all, that you have severe damage but compensated with
some powerful skill. Now, I know I'm answering your question I think in a better way, but it's actually very rare. Most people
with autism do not have any exceptional abilities that go along with it.
Another question is if you believe in modules--If there are modules, what are they? And so far when reviewing the
developmental data we've talked about two of them: physics and people. An object module and a social module. But other
people have argued that there is a special module in your brain for dealing with artifacts, that is, things like tables and chairs
and cars and forks. Some people have argued there's a module for sociology, for dealing with human groups, races and
classes and so on. Some have even argued that there is an intuitive biology, a common-sense biological understanding of
the world that's separate from your understanding of people and physics. And, in fact, the most dominant proponent of the


view is our very own Frank Keil, Master of Morse College at Yale, who has strongly defended the notion of an intuitive
biological module.
Final question, just to raise: I've talked in terms of the modular view but there might also be profound general
differences between children and adults, not just specific to how you think about objects or how you think about people or
how you think about this or how you think about that, but rather more general. And one claim, which we're going to return to
briefly next class when we talk about language, is that there's a very, very big difference between a creature that doesn't
have language and a creature that does. And part of the claim is that learning a language, learning to speak, reconfigures
the human brain in such a way that is really exceptional. And that has no parallel in any other species. And this is an
interesting claim and one we'll talk about.
Finally, I want to end with an example from Stephen Jay Gould. Suppose you hate development; you hate
developmental psychology; you hate babies; you hate children; they're not cute; they're ugly; you don't want to have them;
you don't want to study them; you're annoyed that we have to discuss them. Fine. But there are reasons to study
development even if you are not interested in children because sometimes developmental studies and developmental data
and developmental science can inform questions about adults.
And Stephen Jay Gould has a very nice example of this. He asked the question "Is a zebra a black animal with
white stripes or a white animal with black stripes?" Now, you could look at adult zebras all day long and you're never going to
figure this out. But if you want to know the answer, and I knew it, but I forget what it is--It doesn't matter. But if you wanted to
know it you could. You would look at development and you'd watch the embryological development of a zebra and that's how
you would learn the answer to your question. In fact, I'll end with a nice quote. This is by the famous biologist, D'Arcy
Thompson, who wrote the book On Growth and Form, and it's sort of the model of many developmental psychologists and
many evolutionary psychologists so I'll end with this: "Everything is the way it is because it got that way." Okay. I'll see you
next week.


Lecture 6
Professor Paul Bloom: This class today is about language. And language is, to a large extent, where the action is. The
study of human language has been the battleground over different theories of human nature. So, every philosopher or
psychologist or humanist or neuroscientist who has ever thought about people has had to make some claim about the nature
of language and how it works. I'm including here people like Aristotle and Plato, Hume, Locke, Freud and Skinner. I'm also
including modern-day approaches to computational theory, cognitive neuroscience, evolutionary theory and cultural
psychology. If you hope to make it with a theory of what people are and how people work, you have to explain and talk about
language. In fact, language is sufficiently interesting that, unlike most other things I'll talk about in this class, there is an entire
field devoted to its study, the field of linguistics that is entirely devoted to studying the nuances and structures of different
Now, I'll first, before getting into details, make a definitional point. When I'm talking about language I'm meaning
systems like English and Dutch and Warlpiri and Italian and Turkish and Urdu and what we've seen and heard right now in
class in the demonstration that preceded the formal lecture. [Before class started, Professor Bloom had several bilingual
students give demonstrations of non-English speech.] Now, you could use language in a different sense. You could use the
term "language" to describe what dogs do, or what chimpanzees do, or birds. You could use language to describe music, talk
about the--a musical language or art, or any communicative system, and there's actually nothing wrong with that. There's no
rule about how you're supposed to use the word "language." But the problem is if you use the word "language" impossibly,
incredibly broadly, then from a scientific point of view it becomes useless to ask interesting questions about it. If language
can refer to just about everything from English to traffic signals, then we're not going to be able to find interesting
generalizations or do good science about it.
So, what I want to do is, I want to discuss the scientific notion of language, at first restricting myself to systems like
English and Dutch and American sign language and Navajo and so on. Once we've made some generalizations about
language in this narrow sense, we could then ask, and we will ask, to what extent do other systems such as animal
communication systems relate to this narrower definition. So we could ask, in this narrow sense, what properties do
languages have and then go on to ask, in a broader sense, what other communicative systems also possess those
Well, some things are obvious about language so here are some; here are the questions we will ask. This will frame
our discussion today. We'll first go over some basic facts about language. We'll talk about what languages share, we'll talk
about how language develops, and we'll talk about language and communication in nonhumans.
I began this class with a demonstration of--that illustrates two very important facts about language. One is that
languages all share some deep and intricate universals. In particular, all languages, at minimum, are powerful enough to
convey an abstract notion like this; abstract in the sense that it talks about thoughts and it talks about a proposition and
spatial relations in objects. There's no language in the world that you just cannot talk about abstract things with. Every
language can do this. But the demonstration [before class] also illustrated another fact about language, which is how
different languages are. They sound different. If you know one language, you don't necessarily know another. It's not merely
that you can't understand it. It could sound strange or look unusual in the case of a sign language. And so, any adequate
theory of language has to allow for both the commonalities and the differences across languages. And this is the puzzle
faced by the psychology and cognitive science of language.
Well, let's start with an interesting claim about language made by Charles Darwin. So, Darwin writes, "Man has an
instinctive tendency to speak, as we see in the babble of our young children, while no child has an instinctive tendency to
bake, brew or write." And what Darwin is claiming here, and it's a controversial and interesting claim, is that language is
special in that there's some sort of propensity or capacity or instinct for language unlike the other examples he gives. Not
everything comes natural to us but Darwin suggests that language does.
Well, why should we believe this? Well, there are some basic facts that support Darwin's claim. For one thing, every
normal--every human society has language. In the course of traveling, cultures encounter other cultures and they often
encounter cultures that are very different from their own. But through the course of human history, nobody has ever
encountered another group of humans that did not have a language. Does this show that it's built in? Well, not necessarily. It
could be a cultural innovation. It could be, for instance, that language is such a good idea that every culture comes across it
and develops it. Just about every culture uses some sort of utensils to eat food with, a knife and a fork, chopsticks, a spoon.
This probably is not because use of eating utensils is human nature, but rather, it's because it's just a very useful thing that
cultures discover over and over again. Well, we know that this probably is not true with regard to language. And one reason
we know this is because of the demonstrated case studies where a language is created within a single generation. And
these case studies have happened over history.
The standard example is people involved in the slave trade. The slave trade revolving around tobacco or cotton or
coffee or sugar would tend to mix slaves and laborers from different language backgrounds, in part deliberately, so as to
avoid the possibility of revolt. What would happen is these people who were enslaved from different cultures would develop a
makeshift communication system so they could talk to one another. And this is called a "pidgin," p-i-d-g-i-n, a pidgin. And this


pidgin was how they would talk. And this pidgin was not a language. It was strings of words borrowed from the different
languages around them and put together in sort of haphazard ways.
The question is what happens to the children who are raised in this society. And you might expect it that they would
come to speak a pidgin, but they don't. What happens is, in the course of a single generation, they develop their own
language. They create a language with rich syntax and morphology and phonology, terms that we'll understand in a few
minutes. And this language that they create is called a "creole." And languages that we know now as creoles, the word refers
back to their history. That means that they were developed from pidgins. And this is interesting because this suggests that to
some extent the ability to use and understand and learn language is part of human nature. It doesn't require an extensive
cultural history. Rather, just about any normal child, even when not exposed to a full-fledged language, can create a
And more recently, there's been case studies of children who acquire sign language. There's a wonderful case in
Nicaragua in sign language where they acquire sign language from adults who themselves are not versed in sign language.
They're sort of second-language learners struggling along. What you might have expected would be the children would then
use whatever system their adults use, but they don't. They "creolized" it. They take this makeshift communication system
developed by adults and, again, they turn it into a full-blown language, suggesting that to some extent it's part of our human
nature to create languages.
Also, every normal human has language. Not everybody in this room can ride a bicycle. Not everybody in this room
can play chess. But everybody possesses at least one language. And everybody started to possess at least one language
when they were a child. There are exceptions, but the exceptions come about due to some sort of brain damage. Any
neurologically normal human will come to possess a language.
What else do we know? Well, the claim that language is part of human nature is supported by neurological studies,
some of which were referred to in the chapters on the brain that you read earlier that talk about dedicated parts of the brain
that work for language. And if parts of these brains--if parts--if these parts of the brain are damaged you get language deficits
or aphasias where you might lose the ability to understand or create language. More speculatively, there has been some
fairly recent work studying the genetic basis of language, looking at the genes that are directly responsible for the capacity to
learn and use language. And one bit of evidence that these genes are implicated is that some unfortunate people have point
mutations in these genes. And such people are unable to learn and use language.
So, in general, there is some support, at least at a very broad level, for the claim that language is in some sense part of
human nature. Well, what do we mean by language? What are we talking about when we talk about language? We don't
want to restrict ourselves, for instance, to English or French. What do all languages share? Well, all languages are creative
and this means a couple of things.
One meaning is the meaning emphasized by Rene Descartes. When Rene Descartes argued that we are more than
merely machines, his best piece of evidence for him was the human capacity for language. No machine could do this
because our capacity for language is unbounded and free. We could say anything we choose to say. We have free will. And
in fact, language allows us to produce a virtual infinity of sentences. So, we could create and understand sentences that we
never heard before. And there are a lot of sentences. So, if you want to estimate how many grammatical sentences under
twenty words in English, the answer is, "a lot." And what this means is that any theory of language use and language
comprehension cannot simply appeal to a list. When you understand a sentence I said you have to have the capacity to
understand a sentence even if you've never heard it before. And this is because we could effortlessly produce and
understand sentences that no human has ever said before on earth.
Would anybody volunteer to say a sentence, non obscene, non derogatory, that has never been spoken before on
earth, ever? Here. I'll start. "It's surprisingly easy to get a purple tie on eBay if you don't care much about quality." I could
imagine no one else in the world has said this before. "I am upset that one cannot easily download 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer'
through iTunes." Now, it's possible somebody said both these sentences before, but you probably have not heard them. But
you understand them immediately. So, how do you do it? Well, you have rules in your head. You've learnt what the words
mean, but you have abstract and unconscious rules that take these words, figure out the order, and in a fraction of a second,
give rise to understanding. And that's the sort of thing linguists study.
So, take some standard examples from the linguistic study of English. And bear in mind the rules we're talking about here
are not rules you explicitly know. They're automatic rules of the same sort we're going to talk about in the context of visual
perception in that they're implicit and unconscious and not accessible to explicit understanding. So for instance, immediately
you read "The pig is eager to eat" versus "The pig is easy to eat" and in a fraction of a second you know there's an important
difference. "The pig is eager to eat" means the state of affairs that we're talking about is when the pig does the eating. "The
pig is easy to eat" is when the pig is being eaten.
You would see a sentence like "Bill knew that John liked him" and you know, without even knowing how you know,
that this could mean that Bill knew that John liked Bill or it could mean that Bill knew that John liked Fred. But it can't mean
that Bill knew that John liked John. The natural interpretation, in fact, is that Bill knew that John liked Bill. The two words corefer. Contrast that with "Bill knew that John liked himself," which only has the meaning Bill knew that John liked John. And
this is what linguists do for a living so if you hear me talking about this and say, "I want to spend the next forty years of my


life studying that," you should become a linguist. But that's the sort of--those are the sort of phenomena that we're interested
Now, it gets more complicated. Those are examples from syntax, but language has many structures. Language has
structures going from the bottom to the top. All languages--All human languages have phonology, which is the system of
sounds or signs; morphology, which is the system of words or morphemes, basic units of meaning; and syntax, which refer
to rules and principles that put together words and phrases into meaningful utterances. And I want to talk briefly about each
of these three parts of language before looking at some other issues. I'm indebted here to Steven Pinker's excellent
book The Language Instinct which provides, I think, a superb discussion of these phenomena. And I'm going to steal some of
my examples from Pinker.
So, phonology. Phonology is the system of sounds that languages have. There's a subset. There's a list, a finite list,
of possible sounds that language can use. I'm going to put aside for the moment the question of sign languages and how
they work. I'm going to talk about them in a little bit. The idea is that English has about forty of these phonemes. So, if you're
a native monolingual speaker of English you hear speech and each sound you hear is categorized as falling into one of those
forty morphemes--sorry, phonemes. So, for example, English has a phoneme of "lu," "l," and a phoneme of "r." And so, an
English speaker can hear the difference between "lip" and "rip" and that corresponds to two different words in English. Other
languages don't have that distinction and so those distinctions are very difficult for non-native English speakers to learn.
So, part of what goes on when you learn, is you have to learn the language--the phonemes that your language has.
Another part of the problem of learning language is you have to figure out what the boundaries are between the words. You
have to use sound signals to figure out the boundaries between the words. Now that--If the only language you've ever heard
is English, that's going to seem like a really weird example of a problem because you're listening to me speak and in
between each of my words you're hearing a pause. You don't have to be very smart to figure out where one word begins and
one word ends. But the pause is a psychological illusion. If you were to just talk into an oscilloscope that measured your
sound vibrations, there are no pauses between the words. Rather, the pauses are inserted by your mind as you already
know where one word begins and another one ends. And you insert a pause at that point.
You could see this when you hear a language you don't already know. So, for those of you who have never heard
French before, when you hear somebody say, "Je ne sais pas" you could say, "Remarkable! French has no pauses between
words." And you-- And now a French speaker, of course, hears "Je ne sais pas." For Hebrew, I know one sentence in
Hebrew: "Sleecha, eypho ha-sheeruteem" which I think is a request for the bathroom. But if you don't know Hebrew there's
no pauses. And the truth is, when you each gave your demonstrations, nobody spoke properly because nobody spoke-Here's the sentence: "Glorp [pause] fendel [pause] smug [pause] wuggle." Rather, you all sounded like, "blublublublublub"
without any pauses because I don't know your languages.
Children come into the world without knowing any specific language and so they have to learn pauses. They have
to learn to interpret sounds in context and sometimes they make mistakes. They get problems of segmentation. And there
are some illustrations. You could see their mistakes if they're trying to repeat back something that's already known within a
society. So, songs are a good example. These are excerpts from children. [misunderstood lyrics from songs] "I'll never be
your pizza burnin'." Anybody know--figure out what that corresponds to?
Student: [I'll never be your] Beast of burden?
Professor Paul Bloom: "Beast of burden." Very good. [reading another misunderstood song lyric off of the slide] "A girl with
colitis goes by." Somebody?
Student: "A girl with kaleidoscope eyes."
Professor Paul Bloom: "The ants are my friends; they're blowin' in the wind." And [laughter] this is a religious one. "Our father
with Bart in heaven; Harold be they name Lead us not into Penn Station"
Now, phonological understanding illustrates all sorts of aspects of language processing and, in fact, of consciousness.
Because remember I said that, typically, when you hear a sentence you make--you manufacture in your mind gaps between
the words. Typically, when there's something which is unclear you'll fill in the gap and figure out what the word is. And you'll
hear it that way. So, the few examples--The best examples, again, are for when it goes wrong.
So, a classic example is from the song "Super Freak" by Rick James. I got a big lecture about copyright laws and
this is going to violate most of them. Rick James is going to be sitting on the--at--staring at the web two years from now
saying, "Hey. That's my thing." Okay. So, I want you to listen to this line. I'm sure most of you have heard this before but I
want you to listen closely. [music playing] What was that last line? [laughter] "The kind of girl you read about--" Well, it turns
out that nobody really knows. And it sounds to many people who do top-down interpretation as--to me as well, that "she's the
kind of girl you read about in Newsweek magazine." But that makes no sense at all given that you don't want to "bring home
to Mama." [referring to a song lyric] And she's--and it's not the--and in fact, if you check the notes on the song, she's in fact,
"the kind of girl you read about in new wave magazines." Now, when you listen to it then, again, knowing that, you hear it that
way. [music playing]
Now, this top-down--This is known as "top-down" processing. Top-down processing is an example of when you
know what something is you hear it that way. And this is extremely useful when it comes to filling in gaps in sounds. In
normal conversation, if I'm to say "s-- [coughs] entence" you won't hear that as "s-- [cough] entence." Rather, you hear


"sentence." You fill in the gap. This can lead to problems. The problem it's led to in my life revolves around the song "Get
Crunk" [laughter] because I've heard "Get Crunk" and my children asked me if I would buy them "Get Crunk" from iTunes. My
children are eight and ten. And now "Get Crunk," as I was aware from having heard it before, involves the consistent refrain
of "get crunk" extremely bad word, "get crunk" extremely bad word, and so I said "no." And then they said, "Well, there's a
clean version of it." So, I downloaded the clean version. Unfortunately, knowing what the clean version--knowing what the
word is means to me the clean version is not very clean. Now, I will add, [laughter] before people write letters and stuff, this
is the clean version. [The music plays, but even though the expletives are censored out you still perceive them as being
there] [laughter] Thank goodness they took away that obscene word. [laughter]
Okay. So, top-down processing affects how we hear things, usually, almost always, for the better. And in fact, this is
a theme we're going to return to next class when we talk about vision because the same thing is going to happen there. How
we see the world is often confusing and befuddled but what we know can clear things up. Same with sound.
Morphology is the next level up. Phonology is sounds. Morphology is words. And human language uses this
amazing trick described by Ferdinand de Saussure, the great linguist, as "the arbitrariness of the sign." And what this means
is we can use--take any arbitrary idea in the world, the idea of a chair or a story or a country, and make a sound or a sign to
connect to it. And the link is arbitrary. You might choose to use a word for "dog" as "woof woof" because it sounds like a dog
but you can't use a word for "country" that sounds like a country. You could use a sign language thing for "drink" that looks
sort of like the act of drinking but you can't use a sign language word for "country" that looks like a country, or for "idea" that
looks like an idea.
So, the way languages work is it allows for arbitrary naming. It allows for this map between a symbol, say a spoken
word, and any sort of thought we want to use. And those arbitrary mappings, as we come to learn them, make up the
vocabulary of a language. I'm talking about words but the more technical term is "morpheme." And what a morpheme is is
the smallest meaningful unit in a language. Now often, this is the same thing as a word. So, "dog" is a word. And "dog" is
also a morpheme, but not always because there are single morphemes and then there are words that are composed of many
morphemes. So, "dogs" and "complained" are one word, but two morphemes and what this means is that you make the word
by putting together two morphemes. To put it differently, in order to know what "dogs" means, you never had to learn the
word "dogs." All you had to know is the word "dog" and the plural morpheme 's' and you could put them together to create a
How many morphemes does the average speaker know? The answer is fairly startling. The average speaker
knows, as a low-ball estimate, about 60,000 words. I think the proper estimate is closer to 80,000 or 100,000. What this
means, if you average it out, is that since children start learning their first words at about their first year of life, they learn
about nine new words a day. And it's not a continuous nine words every day. It goes up and down depending on the age. But
still, the amount of words we know is staggering. How many of you know more than one language pretty fluently? Those of
you who know other languages might have in your heads 200,000 words or 300,000 words and you're accessing them in a
fraction of a second. It is--could legitimately be seen as one of the most astonishing things that people do.
Finally, syntax. So, we have the sound system of a language, the phonology. We have the words of a language, the
morphology, but all that gives you is "dog," "cup," "chair," "house," "story," "idea." That won't allow us to communicate
complicated ideas. So, the final step in the story is syntax. And syntax refers to those rules and principles that allow us to
combine words into phrases and phrases into sentences. And syntax uses another neat trick and this is defined by Wilhelm
von Humboldt as the "infinite use of finite media." So, here's the question. Your vocabulary is finite. There are just so many
words. You have to learn them one by one, but you could produce a virtual infinity of sentences. How can you do that? How
can you go from a finite list of symbols to an infinite number of sentences? And the answer is you have a combinatorial
Now, language is not the only thing in culture or nature that has this sort of combinatorial system. Music also has a
combinatorial system. There's a finite number of notes but a limitless number of musical compositions. DNA also has this
sort of combinatorial system where you have a finite number of, I guess, bases or amino acids that could combine to a
possible infinity of strings, of DNA strings. So, how does this happen? Well, the infinity mechanism, and many of you will be
familiar with this from mathematics or computer science, is recursion. And there's a lot to be said about this but it could be
pretty simply illustrated in language.
So, here's an example of a simple language. It's not--It's actually close to how linguists describe normal languages,
but it's very simple. It has three nouns, "Fred," "Barney" and "Wilma," and two verbs, "thinks" and "likes." A very simple
language. And one rule. And the way to read this rule is you make a sentence by taking a noun, any noun, putting a verb
after it, and then following that verb with a noun. Now, when you do this, how many--And then so, for instance, you get the
sentence "Fred likes Wilma." When you do this, how many possible sentences are there?
Let me just take a second. Okay. Any guesses? Eighteen. The sentences are "Fred likes Fred," "Fred likes Barney,"
"Fred likes Wilma," "Fred thinks Fred," "Fred thinks Barney," "Fred thinks Wilma," and so on. The three nouns followed by
any of the two verbs followed by any of the three nouns. That is not a very interesting language. But now, take a more
complicated language--same vocabulary, the same three nouns, the same two verbs, the same sentence, but now one other
sentence. This sentence expands to a noun followed by a verb followed by a sentence and there you get recursion. You


have one rule invoking another rule and then you can get a sentence like "Fred thinks Barney likes Wilma." And here you get
a potential infinity of sentences.
And this is obviously a toy example but you could see the use of recursion in everyday life and in everyday use of
language. You could say, "John hates cheese," "My roommate heard a rumor that John hates cheese," "It disturbed Mary
when I told her that my roommate heard a rumor that John hates cheese," "I was amazed that it disturbed Mary when I told
her that my roommate heard a rumor that John hates cheese," "Professor Bloom had devoted way too much of his lecture
talking about how I was amazed [laughter] that it disturbed Mary when I told her that my roommate heard a rumor that John
hates cheese," "It really bothered me that--" and there's no limit. There's no longest sentence. You could keep producing a
sentence deeper and deeper embedded until you die. And this is part of the power of language.
Now, the syntactic rules are complicated. And one of the puzzles of syntactic rules, or one of the issues of them, is
that different rules can conspire to create the same sentence. So, you take a sentence like--This is a classic line from
Groucho Marx: "I once shot an elephant in my pajamas. How it got into my pajamas I'll never know." And the humor, such
that it is, revolves around the ambiguity of rules that generate it, like this versus like this. Often, to illustrate the issues of
ambiguity, people have collected poorly thought-out headlines in newspaper reports that play on--that inadvertently have
ambiguity. "Complaints about NBA referees growing ugly." So, that's the beauty of that structure. "Kids make nutritious
snacks." "No one was injured in a blast which was attributed to the buildup of gas by one town official." Last summer I was in
Seoul visiting the--visiting Korea University and the big headline there on the front page was "General arrested for fondling
privates." [laughter]
Now, there actually is--The ambiguity is actually quite difficult to avoid in the construction and understanding of
sentences. It's one of the ways in which it's often difficult to write clearly, and in fact, there's a whole sub-field of the law
involving the use of linguistic theory to disambiguate sentences both in the Constitution, in legislation, as well as in some
criminal cases.
And there was, several years ago, a very serious criminal case that rested on a sentence. And here's what
happened. There were two brothers, one of them retarded, and they get into a robbery. And a police officer sees them and
points the gun at them. And one of the brothers points a gun at the police officer. The police officer shouts for the brother, the
non-retarded brother, to drop the gun. Actually, he said, "Give me the gun." The retarded brother shouted, "Let him have it,"
whereupon the brother shot and killed the police officer. Now, the brother who did the shooting was plainly a murderer. What
about that brother who shouted, "Let him have it"? Well, it depends on what he--on how you interpret that sentence because
the sentence is beautifully ambiguous. It could mean "shoot him, let him have it," or it could mean "give him the gun, let him
have it." And in fact, the trial, which I think somebody could--If people out there know about this, please send me an e-mail.
My understanding was he was found guilty but a lot to turn on the ambiguity of a sentence.
I want to shift now and talk about where does all this knowledge come from but I'll stop and answer any questions about the
material so far. What are your questions? Yes.
Student: How does syntax differ from grammar or are they exactly the same?
Professor Paul Bloom: Syntax--The question is, "How is syntax different from grammar?" They're exactly the same. Syntax is
a more technical term but it means the same thing as grammar. Yes.
Student: You said that every normal human being that's born uses at some point or another some kind of language. Aren't
there people who weren't born within a culture and grew up and who never really spoke a language though they were
physically normal?
Professor Paul Bloom: Yes. I'm glad you actually asked me about that because, as I said it, I realized it wasn't quite
right. The point that was just raised here is I had said before that everybody who's neurologically normal comes to acquire
and learn a language. But what about people who are neurologically normal but they don't have language around them? And
in fact, there have been, historically, some cases of this. There's been, probably apocryphal, stories about children who are
raised by wolves or by dogs. There are stories, horrible stories, some in the twentieth century, about children who are locked
away by insane or evil parents and have never learned to speak. There are stories of deaf people who are within certain
societies where nobody signs to them, and so they're what's known as linguistic isolates. And they themselves never learn to
speak. And those cases are the dramatic exception and they do tell you something.
They tell you that it's not enough to have a brain for language. Somebody does have to use it with you. Interestingly,
it doesn't have to be that many people. So, Susan Goldin-Meadow has studied deaf children that nobody signed to but what
she studies is deaf children with deaf siblings and these children don't just sit there. They create their own language. It's not
a full-blown language like American sign-language or langue des signes quebecoise but it's a language nonetheless, with
words and syntax and phonology. It's an interesting question. Any other questions? Yes.
Student: Could it be argued that there are inherent limits to grammar?
Professor Paul Bloom: It's a good question. The question is, "Are there inherent limits in our abilities to come up with
grammars?" And most linguists would argue "yes," that languages are highly constrained in how they do things. So, for
instance, one example is there's no language in the world that ever constructs a question by switching the order of words
around in a sentence. There's no language in the world that has a rule that says the fifth word has to be a verb. And linguists
have all of these conditions they say, "no language in the world works this way." Now this is--;So, these are constraints on


grammar and they're really interesting because they tell us what's a humanly natural language versus what's not a humanly
natural language. But notice, even if there is incredible constraints on grammars, still--we could still produce an infinite
number of sentences. It's just like if you restrict me to only a subset of numbers, only the odd numbers, still there's an infinity
of odd numbers. So, grammar can be restricted but still give rise to an infinity of possible sentences.
Well, there's a radical claim about the origin of language associated with the guy who we met when we talked about
behaviorism who wrote A Review of Verbal Behavior, the linguist Noam Chomsky. And Chomsky makes this radical claim.
And this is that we shouldn't view language learning as learning at all. Instead, we should view it as something similar to
growth. So he says,
No one would take seriously the proposal that a human organism learns through experience to have arms rather
than wings, or that the basic structure of particular organs results from accidental experience. [Language] proves to be no
less marvelous and intricate than these physical structures. Why, then, should we not study the acquisition of a cognitive
structure like language more or less as we study some complex bodily organ?
So, you might learn to play baseball, you might learn about the American Civil War, but if Chomsky is right you
didn't learn to speak English. Rather, what happened is you heard English and--but the capacity grew in your head and
something a lot more similar to the development of arms or legs or a visual system.
Well, should we believe this? We know there has to be some effect of the environment shaping language,
obviously, because in order to know English you have to have heard English, in order to know Dutch you have had to heard,
to--had to have learned and heard Dutch. And in fact, languages differ in all the ways that we were talking about. Some
languages like English has a--have a distinction between l' and r.' Other languages do not. For a language like English, that
creature there is referred to with the morpheme "dog." That's a historical accident of English. In French it's chien and in
Greek it's something else. And each of those 6,000 languages and people in the room who know another language would
say, "Yeah, in Vietnamese it's this," "In Urdu it's this," "In Czech it's that."
Finally, there is syntax. So, English is what's known as a subject-verb-object language. That means if you want to
convey the idea that Bill hit John, you would say, "Bill hit John." But not all languages work that way. In fact, the majority of
languages, more languages, are actually subject-object-verb languages. So, you would say, if you wanted to convey that Bill
was the hitter and John was hit, "Bill John hit." All of this has to be learned. And all of this has to be learned through
exposure to language users.
On the other hand, there is considerable evidence that the development of these language skills, in some way, is
similar to growth in the way that Chomsky suggests. So, here are some basic facts about language development. One is
something which I had mentioned before. All normal children learn language. There can be specific impairments of language.
Now, again, we spoke about them before when talking about the brain. Some of these impairments could be due to trauma,
the aphasias. Trauma, a blow to the head, a stroke can rid you of your language. But, also, there are genetic disorders,
some falling under the rubric of what's known as "specific language impairment," where children are born without the same
ability as the rest of us to learn to speak. And these are interesting in many ways.
One reason that they're interesting is that they illustrate something about human language. It is not--It would not be
unreasonable for you to think before listening to his lecture, "Look. All you need to have to learn a language is to be smart" or
"All you need to have to learn a language is to want to communicate" or "All you need to have to learn a language is to be a
social person wanting to--having the ability to understand others and deal with others." But the cases of specific language
impairments suggest that all of that is wrong, because there are children in this world right now who are plenty smart, who
really want to communicate, and who are entirely social creatures but they can't learn language. And this suggests that the
ability to learn language and understand language is to some extent separate from these other aspects of mental life.
Continuing on this theme, we also know that language is learnt without any sort of feedback or training. There are
many Americans who believe that they need to teach their children language. And there's a huge industry with DVDs and
flash cards and all sorts of things designed to teach your children language. And I think many parents believe that if they
didn't persist in using these things their children would never learn to speak. But we know that that's not true. We know that
this isn't true because there are communities where they don't speak to their kids. They don't speak to their kids because
they don't believe it's important to speak to their kids. Some linguists would interview--Linguists would interview adults in
these communities and say, "Why don't you speak to your babies?" And these adults would respond, "It'd be ridiculous to
speak to a baby. The baby has nothing to say. You might as well just speak to your dog." And then the American linguist
would say, "Yeah. We speak to our dogs." [laughter] Americans and Europeans speak to everything and everybody. Other
cultures are more picky and they don't talk to their children until their children themselves are talking. This doesn't seem to
make much of a difference in language learning.
Some studies have, motivated by Chomsky's work in expressed--sorry, motivated by Chomsky's critique of
Skinner'sVerbal Behavior, have asked even in-- "What if we just looked at children within the United States? Don't these
children get feedback?" And the answer is yes and no. So your average highly educated Western parent does give their
children feedback--do give their children feedback based on what they say. But they don't typically give feedback based on
the syntax or grammaticality of what they say.


The example given by Brown and Hanlon in the classic study in the 1970s is they did all of these studies looking at
what children say and how parents responded, and it turns out parents respond not to the grammatical correctness but to the
affect or cuteness or sociability of the utterance. So for instance, if a child says to his mother, "I loves you, Mommy," it's a
very unusual parent who would say, "Oh, no. The verb agreement is mistaken. [laughter] You've added a redundant s.' It's
not appropriate." Similarly, if a child is to say, "I hate your guts, Mother," it's an unusual mother, "That's wonderful. There's a
subject, verb, object. The whole thing's structurally fine." We respond to our kids like we respond to each other based on the
message that's conveyed, not the grammaticality of the utterances. Children make grammatical mistakes all the time but
then they go away and they go away without correction. So those are some basic facts.
What do we know about the time course of language? Well, early on children start off and they prefer the melody of
their own language. These studies were done in France with four-day-old babies. And what they did was they used a sucking
method. Remember, there's a limited number of things babies can do. One of the things they can do is suck, and these
babies would suck on a pacifier to hear French. And they would prefer to hear French than to hear Russian. And these
investigators claimed this is because they had been exposed to French in the first four days of their lives. Reviewers, mostly
from France, objected and said, "No. Maybe French just sounds better. Everybody's going to like French." So, they re-did the
study in Russia. Russian kids sucked harder to hear Russian than they did to French.
And what they're listening to isn't the words. They don't know words yet. They don't know of syntax yet. It's the
rhythm of the language. For you, French and Russian sound different. Even if you're like me and you don't know a word of
either language, they still sound different. They sound different to babies too. And a baby being raised in France or a baby
being raised in Russia knows enough to tell what's his language and what isn't.
Early on, children are sensitive to every phoneme there is. So, English-speaking children, for instance, can-English-speaking babies babies who are born in the United States can distinguish between English phonemes like "lip"
and "rip" but they could also distinguish between phonemic contrasts that are not exemplified in English, such as phonemic
contrasts in Czech or Hindi. Yes.
Student: I'm wondering if you can say the wrong things to them--to infants based on what you were saying before. Because I
was in France one summer and I had some neighbors there. I hated these neighbors, I thought they were stupid. Not
because they were French, but they had a baby and it would gaggle and coo and they would respond in similar terms.
Professor Paul Bloom: They would gaggle and coo back at the baby.
Student: [inaudible] And I hate these people. [inaudible] So I don't know if it--Does it matter what you say to babies as long
as you say something.
Professor Paul Bloom: There's a lot going on in your question. [laughter] Some raising--Well, there's a lot going on in your
question. The answer to the question-- The question was, "your baby's going to coo and 'ga ga, goo goo,' does it matter if
you coo and 'ga ga, goo goo' back?" No, it doesn't make a difference. Your hatred towards them was unmotivated. You can
be relieved of that debt, or now you know you feel bad now, I guess. [laughter] If you speak to your children in perfect
English, it's very strange. Nobody speaks to their babies in, "Hello, Son. It's time--Oh. You want to change your diaper right
now so stay still." That's bad parenting. It sounds kind of silly. More--What most people do is, "Oh. You're such a cute little
baby." And it probably--One--There's--Evolutionary psychologists debate the function of why we talk funny to babies. And
some people have argued that it does help their language learning. And some people have argued instead that what it does
is it calms them. They like to hear the music of a smooth voice and so on. But whether or not you do so doesn't seem to
make a big difference.
It is very difficult to find any effect of how parents talk to their kids on how their kids learn language, particularly
when it comes to babies. So, early on babies can--are sensitive to all phonemes and then that goes away. Around twelve
months of age it goes away. This is one thing you were much better at when you were a baby than you are now. When you
were a baby you were a multilingual fool. You could understand the sound differences of every language on earth. Now, if
you're like me, you could barely understand English. [laughter] You narrow down until you're sensitive just to the language
you hear. And this narrowing down is largely in place by about twelve months of age.
Around seven months is babbling. And I want to stop at this point to go back to the issue--I promised you I would turn a bit to
sign language and I want to describe now a very elegant--I want to show a little film now of a very elegant series of
experiments looking at the question of whether babies who are exposed to a sign language, babble.
[film plays]
One of the real surprising findings in my field over the last ten/twenty years has been that the acquisition of sign
languages has turned out to be almost exactly the same; in fact, as far as we know, exactly the same as the acquisition of
spoken languages. It didn't have to be that way. It could have been just as reasonable to expect that there'd be an advantage
for speech over sign. That sign languages may be full-blown languages but they just take--they're just harder to learn
because the brain and the body have adapted for speech. It turns out that this just isn't the case. It turns out that sign and-the developmental milestones of sign languages and the developmental milestones of spoken languages are precisely the
same. They start babbling at the same point. They start using first words, first sentences, first complicated constructions.
There seems to be no interesting difference between how the brain comes to acquire and use the spoken language versus a
sign language.


Around twelve months of age, children start using their first words. These are words for objects and actions like
"dog" and "up" and "milk." They start showing some sensitivity to the order of words. So they know that "dog bites cat" is
different from "cat bites dog." Around eighteen months of age, they start learning words faster. They start producing little,
miniature sentences like "Want cookie" or "Milk spill" and the function morphemes, the little words, "in," "of," "a," "the," and so
on start to gradually appear.
Then the--Then there's the bad news. Around seven years of age going up through puberty, the ability to learn language
starts to go away. The best work on this has been done by Elissa Newport and Sam Supalla who have studied people who
have been in the United States for many, many years 30, 40 years and seeing how well they have come to speak
English. And it turns out the big determinant of how well you speak English as an immigrant isn't how smart you are. It's not
how many family members you have when you're here. It's not your motivation. It's how old you were when you started.
It turns out that if you start learning a language a second language is where most of the work's been done within
the first few years of life you're fine. You'll speak like a native. But then it starts getting worse and worse. And once you hit
puberty, suddenly there's huge variation in the abilities you have to learn language. It is very rare, for instance, for somebody
who has learned English past puberty to speak without an accent. An accent is very hard to shake and it's not just an accent.
It's also other aspects of phonology, syntax, and morphology. It's like the part of the brain that's responsible for language
learning is only around early in development and if you don't get your language by then it'll just run out.
I want to begin next class with this question, the question of animals. And that will shut down the language learning
part. But one thing I'll put up here is your second reading response. So, I'll also put this up on Wednesday, and by
Wednesday you might have a bit of a better--be in a better position to answer this question. But I'll continue with language on
Wednesday and then we'll also talk about vision, attention, and memory. I'll see you then.


Lecture 7
Professor Paul Bloom: Two follow-ups on yesterday's--I'm sorry, on Monday's lecture. One is that somebody came up after
class and asked when the preference for your own language emerges in development and fortunately, [A graduate teaching
assistant] studies pretty much exactly this sort of infant understanding. She knew the answer. There's been studies looking
at newborn babies finding that pretty much the moment they pop out they favor their own language over other language-over other languages. And this suggests that they are listening while in utero, while in the womb, to the rhythms of their
language and developing a preference for it.
A second issue is, I talked very briefly about a court case in which the person was--said at a moment where
someone else was pointing a gun at a police officer, "Let him have it!" and a police officer was killed. And that person was
charged with murder but I admitted I didn't actually know how things turned out and [a graduate teaching assistant] was kind
enough to do extensive research. Well, he went to Wikipedia and [laughter] found out the answer. The answer is he was tried
and found guilty for murder. He was then subsequently pardoned. In fact, he was pardoned in 1988, which is really nice
except he was executed in 1957. But they did it into a movie. So, it's a movie.
Okay. So, I want to do today, for the first part of the lecture, is continue the language lecture and then move to
perception, attention, and memory. And what we had spoken about was--We first talked about universals of language, then
moved to some detail about the different aspects of language including phonology, morphology, and syntax. We discussed
the ways in which language does the amazing things it does, including the fact that language has used arbitrary science or
sounds to convey concepts, and that languages exploit a combinatorial system including recursion to put together these
symbols into a virtually limitless set of meaningful sentences. We then talked about development and made some remarks
about the developmental time course talking about the emergence of language from babies to where babies are really
good at learning language to you who are not, whose brains have atrophied, whose language capacities are dead.
Final issue is to shift to animals. Now that we know something about language, we could then ask do animals use-possess the same sort of language? And if not, can they learn it? Now, there is absolutely no doubt at all that nonhuman
animals possess communication systems. This has been known forever and is not a matter of controversy. And if you want
to use the term "language" to mean "communication," then the answer is obviously "yes." Dogs and bees and monkeys have
language. If you want to use language though in the more technical, narrow sense as anything that has the properties that
we discussed earlier, using English and ASL and Spanish and so on as our background, the answer's almost certainly "no."
Animal communication systems fall into sort of one of three categories. Either there is a finite list of calls, so vervet
monkeys, for instance, have a small list of calls to convey different warnings like "attack from a snake" or "attack from a
leopard." There is a continuous analog signal. So, bee dance, for instance, works on this way. Bee dance communicates the
location of food sources but doesn't do it in any syntactically structured way. Rather, the intensity of the dance corresponds
to the richness of the food source. And then, you get things like random variation on a theme such as birdsong. But what you
don't find in any real sense is phonology, morphology, syntax, combinatorial systems or arbitrary names.
Now, this much is not particularly controversial. There gets to be a lot of controversy though. This is the summary
about nonhuman communication systems. It gets more controversial when we get to famous cases of primates trained by
humans such as Kanzi, Nim Chimpsky, and other famous primates that you may well have seen on the Discovery channel
and other venues. And this is fairly controversial. If you read the Gray textbook, while nothing in it is particularly inaccurate, I
think Gray is actually a little bit too credulous, too believing in the claims that have been made about the abilities of the
animals. So many scientists argue, for instance, that animals like Kanzi, even if they can be said to be learning words at all,
learn very few of them. And it takes them extensive years of training to learn, unlike a normally developing child who could
learn a word in a day or a word in an hour. The utterances often have order but this order tends to be very limited and lacks
the recursive properties. And in fact, the lack of recursion is not controversial.
Finally, the utterances of chimpanzees--trained chimpanzees are extremely repetitive so what you often see on TV
and in documentaries is sort of a sampling. And the sampling could often be very impressive but if you take just what they
say at random it tends to look like this. This is typical chimpanzee utterances just taken at random: "Nim eat, Nim eat. Drink,
eat, me Nim. Me gum, me gum. Tickle me, Nim play. Me eat, me eat. Me banana, you banana, me you give. Banana me, me
eat. Give orange, me give, eat orange, me eat orange." Lila Gleitman once commented that if any normally developing child
spoke like this, his parents would rush him screaming to a neurologist.
There's a broader question here, which is, "Why would we ever expect a chimpanzee to learn a human language?"
We don't normally expect one species to have the capacities associated with another species. So, bats use echolocation to
get around and some birds navigate by the stars, but there's not an active research program seeing if cats can use
echolocation or dogs could navigate by the stars. And I think one reason why you might be tempted to think, "well, of course
chimps must be able to learn language" is because you might be caught in the grips of some bad ideas about language.
So, one idea is you might say, "Look. Chimps should use language because chimps are so smart." But the
response to this is, "they are smart but we know that smart isn't enough." We know that the human capacity for language is
not totally a result of smartness. There are smart children who, due to some deficit in their language capacity, don't speak or
understand a language. So, the smartness of chimpanzees does not in itself demonstrate that they should be able to learn


You might also point out correctly that chimps are our nearest evolutionary relatives, which is right, so you--one
would expect on the face of it--it's not unreasonable to expect us to share a lot of abilities with them. On the other hand, we
split from them a long time ago and plainly humans are different from chimps. And there was five million years either way
and that's more than enough time for a language capacity to evolve.
Now, none of this is to say that the study of nonhuman communication systems isn't interesting. From my own--This
is my personal opinion I'll raise here. From my own opinion, the study of the attempts to try to teach chimpanzees, or
gibbons, or gorillas, a human language like ASL are misguided. It would be as if a team of monkeys kidnapped a human
child and tried to train him how to hoot like a monkey. It might be enjoyable but it does not seem to give us any rich insights.
What I think is a lot more interesting is the study of these animal communication systems in the wild. There's a linguistics of
human language that has delineated the principles that underlie all human languages. It would be as extraordinarily
interesting to attempt the same linguistic program to the other communication systems used in the wild such as the cries of
vervet monkeys and bee dance.
So, this brings the section on language to a close but I want to tell you a few things we didn't talk about. One of the
problems with an Intro Psych course is we have to whip through a lot of topics very fast. So, if you were to take a course that
focused directly on language you might learn, for instance, more about language in the brain, something touched about very
briefly in the textbook but something that has a large literature associated with it. Similarly, and related to this, there's
language disorders, disorders like aphasias and disorders like specific language impairment and dyslexia. There is the study
of language perception and production. How is it that we do this amazing feat of understanding and producing words in a
fraction of a second? Where does that ability come from?
There is the study of reading which is, in many ways, different from the study of a language. Remember when
Darwin described language as an instinct. He carefully distinguished it from other things that don't come natural to us
including reading. And in fact, reading is difficult. Reading is a cultural invention, not every human has it. And unlike
language, reading is acquired with tremendous difficulty over many years. On the other hand, reading plainly intersects with
language. It's a new way of conveying language, moving out from speech to writing. And the psychology and neuroscience of
reading is thus very interesting.
There's bilingualism and multilingualism. The questions people in this room typically are going to be interested in is
does it matter for how well you learn language whether you're learning one or two or three or four. How is it that a multilingual
encodes all these different languages inside a single brain? And so on. Finally, a very hot issue is that of the relationship
between language and thought and I'm actually--A few years ago I taught an entire seminar called "Language and Thought"
devoted to precisely this question. And it's a cool question and it could break up into two very general questions. One is, "Is
language necessary for abstract thought?" And one way to answer that question is to look at creatures without language like
babies and chimpanzees and see how smart they are. It might be that they're not--that they're very smart, in which case it
would suggest you don't need language for abstract thought. On the other hand, it might be that they have certain cognitive
limitations, which would suggest that language is essential for abstract thought.
Then there's the related question. Even once you know a language, does the structural properties of the language
that you know affect the way you think? And the claim that the language you know affects how you think is sometimes
described as linguistic relativity or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. So for instance, there's a lot of research looking at speakers
of different languages such as English versus Korean and seeing whether structural differences in these languages affect
how you think. Now, some of this work is discussed in the readings, the book--the Gray textbook, and the selections
from The Norton Anthology. And this makes up--again, I've showed this to you on Monday--your reading response where you
have to address this question and take your best shot at answering it. What are your questions about language? Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: The question was raised, "Some people learn languages easier than others and how do we explain
this?" And the answer is you could ask the question both with regard to first language learning so some children learn
language very quickly, some are very slow and also with regard to second language learning. Some of you are breezing
through your second language requirement here at Yale. Others are struggling and miserable. And there's considerable
variation. There's the story of Einstein who was very slow to learn language and didn't speak at all until he was four. And in
fact, he was a--He said his first words when all of a sudden he was having supper with his parents and he put down the
spoon and he said, "The soup is too hot." And his parents stared in astonishment and said, "You've never spoken before."
And he said, "Well, up to now everything's been fine." [laughter] It's not a true story. [laughter]
The question of why and where these differences come from, nobody really knows and it's surprisingly hard.
There's a slight advantage for being female. Girls are slightly more advanced in language than boys but it's not a big one and
you need a hundred people to just see it statistically. There's a big genetic factor. If your parents learned language quickly
and learned other languages quickly, you are more likely to. But an understanding of the brain bases of these differences or
the cognitive bases or the social bases is just--is largely an open question. Yes.
Student: What happens when parents [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: This is actually more the norm around the world than the situation in the United States where kids are
exposed to a single language. What happens is children learn both languages. Children are very good, as adults are, of


distinguishing different languages on the basis of their sound system and their rhythms so they don't typically confuse them.
And then they just learn more than one language. And that's actually more the average state of affairs around the world. Yes.
Student: You said that people who are right-handed learn languages [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: The question is about the hemispheric specialization for language. And I don't have actually much
more to say than what I said before, which I agree is deeply unsatisfying. If you're right-handed, language is probably in the
left side of your brain. How many people here are left-handed? For you we don't know. It varies. Some of you have it in the
left side. Some of you have it in the right side. For some of you it's kind of diffuse. Now, why is this? And in fact, why are
some people right-handed and others left-handed in the first place? Those are really good questions. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Yes. I'll--Yes, that's--I'll answer that question. And unfortunately, it's going to be the last one and then
I'll go to vision. The question is, "Does learning more than one language cause you to learn them slower than just learning
one language?" And it would stand to reason that it would. There's a finite amount of mental resources. If I'm just learning
English, I use all of it for English. And if I'm learning English and Spanish I kind of got to split. And you'd expect them to be
each learned slower. It's one of the surprises of the study of language development that that common-sense view does not
appear to be true. Children learning more than one language seem to show no deficit relative--in each of their languages,
relative to a child learning just one language. In other words, if I am just learning English and I'm a kid and you're learning
English and Spanish and you're a kid, you'll reach the milestones in English the same time I will. Your extra learning of
Spanish doesn't seem to affect you. There doesn't seem to be any detriment for learning multiple languages.
Another question which comes up is, "Is there any cognitive deficit?" In other words, some people have argued that
learning multiple languages sometimes harms children in certain ways. This is a claim that's been made in Quebec, for
instance, over the debate over how children should be taught English and French. It does not appear to be the case. There
appears to be, as far as we know, no down side to learning many languages when you're young. Does that answer your
I want to move now to the topic that will take us through today and through the beginning of next week perception,
attention, and memory. And I'm putting them together instead of treating them as separate lectures because there's a sense
in which they're the same story. You see a scene. You see this scene and you're looking at it and you're perceiving it. It's
coming through your eyes and you're interpreting it and you see something. You see a man and you see a house. If you
were to shut your eyes, you could still hold that scene in memory. And a week later, if I'm to ask you about that, "What
season was it?" you would do pretty well. This is the story I want to talk about how we do this.
And in the course of this I want to make a series of claims that go something like this. For perception, I want to first
persuade you the problem of perception's hard and that successful perception involves educated and unconscious guesses
about the world. For attention, I want to suggest that we attend to some things and not others and we miss a surprising
amount of what happens in the world. For memory, there are many types of memory. The key to memory is organization and
understanding. And you can't trust some of your memories.
How many of you remember where you were at 9/11? Many of you are wrong. And I am never going to persuade
you of this because you have certain memories. And you could tell the story. Everybody could tell the story where they were
when the towers went down. But clever psychologists on September 12 said, "Let's do a study." And they asked people,
"Where were you yesterday when you heard the news?" And they told them. And then they went back to them later, a year
later, two years later, and said, "Tell me about what happened September 11." And they said, "I remember totally where I
was. I have a very--" And then--And often the story was wrong. There is a lot like that which we're going to talk about. And
the biggest moral then--so, I put it really, in really big print--We are often wrong about our experiences, both of the present
and of right now. So, let's start with perception.
There is a story--I went to graduate school at MIT and there was a story there about Marvin Minsky who is the A.I.
[artificial intelligence] guru. He--If you've heard the words--the phrase "artificial intelligence," that was him. And if you heard
the claim that people are nothing more than machines made of meat--also him. Well, there's a story where he was doing
work on robotics and he was interested in building a robot that could do all sorts of cool things that's like a robot. And the
story goes the robot had to among--had to write--had to see the world. It had to be able to pick up things and recognize
people and see chairs and navigate its way and Minsky said, "That's a tough problem. It's going to take a graduate student a
whole summer to figure it out." And he assigned it to a graduate student for a summer project.
Visual psychologists, perception psychologists, love that story because the study of computer vision and robotics
vision and the attempts to make machines that can identify and recognize objects has been a profound failure. There is, at
this point, no machine on earth that could recognize people and objects and things at the level of a really dumb one-year-old.
And the reason why is that it's a much harder problem than anybody could have expected. Well, what makes it such a hard
Well, one reason why you might think it's an easy problem is you say, "Okay. We have to figure out the problem of
how people see. Well, here's what we do." [pointing to a slide that caricatures the inside of a person's head as containing a
little man, the real "you," sitting in a control room watching a television monitor that is connected to the larger-head's
eyeballs] You're in--You're over there and here's your eye. And somehow it has to get to this television monitor and then you


look at it and that'll solve the problem of how you see. So, sometimes people say, "Hey. I hear the eye flips things upside
down. I guess this guy [the guy in your head] is going to have to get used to looking at things upside down. That's an
interesting problem." No. That's not the way to look at it because that doesn't answer any questions. That just pushes the
question back. Fine. How does "he" see? We're not answering anything.
Similarly, although the Terminator's [the cyborg assassin from the movie "The Terminator"] view of the world may
correspond to that [showing a slide of what vision looks like to the Terminator a series of gauges and numbers], that
doesn't solve any problem of how he actually sees. So, he has all these numbers shooting out there. Well, he has to read the
numbers. He has to see this. This [pointing to some icons at the edge of his slide] is my iTunes. [laughter] That's inadvertent.
Here's the right way to think about perception. You got the eye, which is very ugly and bloody, and then around here
you have the retina. And the retina is a bunch of nerve cells. And the nerve cells fire at--for some stimulus and not others.
And from this array of firings, "firing not firing firing not firing," you have to figure out what the world is. So, a better
view is like this. The firings of the neurons could be viewed as an array of numbers. You have to figure out how to get from
the numbers to objects and people, and to actions and events. And that's the problem. It's made particularly a difficult
problem because the retina is a two-dimensional surface and you have to infer a 3D world from a two-dimensional surface.
And this is, from a mathematical point of view, impossible. And what this means is that there--For any two-dimensional
image there is an indefinite number of three-dimensional images that correspond to it.
So for instance, suppose you have this on your retina, an array of light shaped like that [referring to a slide
portraying a square and an irregular polygon that could be a square that is tilted backwards in space]. What does that
correspond to in the world? Well, it could correspond to a thing just like that that you're looking for or it could correspond to a
square that's tilted backwards. And so, you have to figure out which is which. And the way we solve this problem is that we
have unconscious assumptions about how the world works. Our minds contain certain assumptions about how things should
be that enable us to make educated guesses from the two-dimensional array on to the three-dimensional world.
And I purposefully did not make the slides available for this class ahead of time because I don't want people to
cheat, but there are several points where you could look at the slides and confirm that some of the things I'm going to tell you
are actually true. And I want to give you three examples. One is color. And I'm going to conflate here color and brightness.
The other is objects. The other is depth.
First, the problem of color. How do you tell a lump of coal from a snowball? Well, that's a lump of coal and that's a snowball,
and it's from Google images. How do you know which is which? Well, a lump of coal you say is black and a snowball is
white. How do you know? Well, maybe you have on your retina--Your retina responds to sort of color that hits it. It's
oversimplified, but let's assume that this is true. So, this is black coming out and that's white and that's how you tell. But in
fact, that can't be right. It can't be right because objects' color is not merely a matter of what material they're made of but of
the amount of light that hits it. So, as I walk across the stage I fall into shadow and light, and none of you screams out,
"Professor Bloom is changing colors!" Rather, you automatically factor out the change in illumination as this is happening.
And this could actually be quite striking. So, you see this display over here. Take a look at those two blocks. [a slide
portrays two blocks of different luminance, one under a table, one in the middle of a lit room.] I take it you see this one [the
object under the table] as lighter than that one. You do. You might imagine this is because this strip [the block under the
table] is lighter than this [the block out in the open] but it isn't. They're the same. And you won't believe me until you actually
print it out and take a look, but they are in fact the same. I'll show it to you. And you could say I'm tricking you but this is the
way it works. There's the close-up. So, remember we're comparing this and this [the two blocks]. Now, let's take away other
parts of the environment and you'll see they're the same. [As Professor Bloom covers the background surrounding both of
the blocks they suddenly appear to be the same color as one another.]
Now you say, "But hold it. This can't be the same as this" but the answer is--goes like this. We know shadows make
surfaces darker. We don't know this like "Here's something I know." Rather, we know this in that it's wired up in our brains.
So when we see a surface in shadow we automatically assume that it's lighter than it looks, and we see it as lighter. And you
could show this by removing the cues to the shadow. And you see it as it really is. And this is an illustration of how the
information to your eyes is just one bit of information; the degree of light coming from a single source is one bit of information
that you use to calculate certain assumptions and come to a conclusion.
Here's a different kind of example: Objects. You see this [a picture of a man walking down a path, in front of his house] and
you automatically and intuitively segment it into different objects. You segment it into a man and a house and birds and trees.
How do you do this? It turns out, to program a computer to segment a scene into different objects is hugely difficult and the
question of how we do it is, to some extent, unknown. But one answer to this question is there are certain cues in the
environment that are signals that you're dealing with different objects. And these cues are often described as Gestalt
So, one example is "proximity." When you see things that are close to each other, you're more likely than not to
assume that they belong to the same thing. There's "similarity." That display [a group of many objects that are all the same
shape, but all the objects on one side have a different texture than those on the other side] could correspond to an indefinite
number of objects but you naturally tend to see it as two. You do one with one texture pattern, the other with the other texture
pattern. "Closure." The fact that this is a closed square here suggests it's a single object [referring to a line drawing of a


square overlapping a circle]. "Good continuation." If you had to judge, this [referring to a picture of two overlapping lines, line
AB and line CD] could just as well be two shapes, one that runs from A to C, the other one that runs from D to B. But you
don't tend to see it that way. Rather, you tend to see it as one that runs from A to B, the other one that runs from C to D.
"Common movement." If things move together they're a single object. And "good form." You see the object over there [two
overlapping and perpendicular rectangles]. In the absence of any other information, you might be tempted to say that's a
single thing, a plus sign maybe. This [pointing to two overlapping but non-perpendicular rectangles], because it has lousy
form, you're more tempted to say it's two things, one thing lying on top of each other.
And these are the sort of cues, expectations; none of them are right. There's cases where they could all fool you.
But these are useful cues that guide our parceling of the world, our segmenting of the world into distinct objects. Here they
are summarized [pointing to a slide showing all the cues on the same page]. And here's a case where they fool you [pointing
to a slide showing a Kanizsa Triangle, an illusory triangle induced by three incomplete circles]. So you might think, if you're
suggestible, that there is a triangle here. And this is a case where there are certain cues driving you to think that there's a
triangle here. There is, however, no triangle here. If you cover up these little Pacmen here, the triangle goes away. Similarly,
there is no square in the middle [referring to a picture of a Kanizsa Square]. There is no square. It's very Matrix. And these
are illusions because these are cues that there should be a square there, the regularity of form.
Finally, "depth." You see this [the picture of the man walking away from his house] and you don't--You see it on one
level as a flat thing. Another level you look inside the picture and you see, for instance, the man is in front of the house. You
look at me and you see the podium. And if you have a terrible neurological disorder you see this strange creature that's half
podium leading on to a chest and up to a head that's sort of--the top of him is wiggling and the podium staying still. If you are
neurologically normal, you see a man walking back and forth behind a podium. How do you do that? Well, this is really a
problem because, I could give you a technical reason why vision is hard, but crudely, you got a two-dimensional retina and
you have to figure out a three-dimensional world. How do you do it? And the answer once again is assumptions or cues.
There are certain assumptions the visual system makes that aren't always right and in fact, in cases of visual illusions, can
be wrong but will guide you to perceive the world in a correct and accurate way.
So for example, there is binocular disparity. This is actually a sort of interesting one. This is the only depth cue that
involves two eyes. If I look at you [a student sitting in the front row] pretty close, the image I get here [pointing to his right
eye] and the image I get here [pointing to his left eye] are somewhat different while--or I have to focus my eyes together to
get the same image. If I look at you in back, they're almost identical because the further away, given the two eyes that are
static, the closer the images look. And it's not, again, that you say to yourself, "Oh. Back there an orange. It's the same
image in my right eye and my left eye. You must be far away." Rather, unconsciously and automatically you make
estimations on how far people are in depth based on binocular disparity.
There is "interposition." How do you know I'm in front of the podium and the podium's not in front of me? No. How
do you know the podium's in front of me? Well, from where I'm standing it's right. How do you know the podium is in front of
me? Well, because I'm walking here and then it cuts into me. And unless I'm going through a grotesque metamorphosis,
what's happening is it makes sense to say I'm moving behind the podium. Interposition. You take the guy. How do you know
the guy is standing in front of the house? Well, because there is--you see all of him and he's blocking a lot of the house.
There's relative size. How far away am I? Well, if you looked at me and you had to estimate how far away I am, part
of the way you'll figure that out is you know how tall a human's supposed to be. If you thought that I was fifty feet tall, you
would assume I'm further away than I am. And so, your judgments on size dictate your judgments about distance. Usually,
this cue isn't necessary but if you look at the Empire State Building--If you go into a field and you see a tower and you look,
your judgment of how far away the tower's going to be depends on your knowledge of how tall a tower should be. If it's this
tall, you say, "Oh. It must be--" And then you'd be surprised. There's texture gradient, which I'll explain in a second, and
linear perspective, which I'll also explain in a second.
Texture gradient goes like this. Remember the problem we had before. How do you know if that thing [a spotted
rectangle that's tilted backwards] is this object [a spotted rectangle standing upright] or an object in and of itself? Well, the
answer is things with textures will show themselves because the textures will get smaller from a distance. Now, logically, this
could still be a single thing standing upright with just dots going up smaller. But the natural assumption is the reason why the
dots recede in this regular fashion is because it's receding in depth.
Classic illusion the Mueller-Lyer illusion. People will see this as longer than this [referring to one of two arrow-like
lines, one with both ends pointing inward, the other with both ends pointing outward]. It's not. If you don't believe me, print it
out and measure it. Related to the Ponzo illusion, once again people see this one [showing a picture of two gradually
converging lines crossed by several horizontal lines, like a train-track receding in the distance] as--you get illusions named
after you when you discover these--this one [a horizontal line at the top] as longer than this [a horizontal line at the bottom].
Again, it's not.
What's going on here? Well, the top line looks longer even though it isn't. And one explanation for why is, these
other lines in the scene cause your visual system to make guesses about distance. And then you correct for distance by
making assumptions about size. If you have two lines--You'll get--We'll get in more detail in a second, but if you have two
lines and they take up the same amount of space on your retina, but you believe that one is 100 feet away and the other's 50


feet away, the one that's 100 feet away you will see as bigger because your brain will say, "Well, if it takes up just this much
space but it's further away, it must be bigger than something that's closer and takes up that much space." And that's what
goes on here.
For the top line, for the Mueller-Lyer illusion, we assume that this is further away and this is closer based on the
cues to distance. And the cue is factored in. And because we assume that this is further away, we assume it must be bigger
to take up the same space as this which is closer. Similarly for the Ponzo illusion. There's linear perspective. Parallel lines
tend to recede in distance. If this top one is further away than this but they take up the same size in your eye, this one must
be bigger and you see it as bigger. And the book offers more details on how these illusions work.
I'm going to end with an illusion that I'm not even going to bother explaining. I'll just show it to you because you
should be able to, based on thinking about these other illusions, figure it out. It was developed by Roger Shepard. Well, you
know that. And they are called Shepard tables [pointing to a picture of what looks like two simple dining tables, or desks. One
that looks longer and skinnier than the other]. And the thing about it is, these look like two tables. If you ask people--You
don't frame in terms of here's a lecture on visual perception. You ask people, "Which of these tables would be easier to get
through a door if you have a thin door?" People would say the one on the left. This one looks sort of thicker and harder to get
through. This one looks longer and leaner. In fact, they're the same size. What I mean by that is that this [rectangle] is
exactly the same as this [rectangle].
Now, I'm going to prove it to you by showing you something which took me--on the computer which took me about
seven hours to do. And nobody's going to believe it because I could have faked it. But if you want, print it out and do it
yourself. You just take a piece of paper, put it on here. Then you move it [he demonstrates that a piece of paper, cut to be
the same size as one of the tables, fits perfectly over the other table] and [they're] the same. I showed it to somebody and
they called me a liar. Anyway, you could do it yourself in the privacy of your own home or study. But what I'd really like you to
do after you do it is say, "Okay. Fine. Why does this one look longer and thinner than this one?" And the answer is the same
answer that will explain the Mueller-Lyer illusion and the Ponzo illusion, having to do with cues to depth and the way your
mind corrects the perception of depth. And that's all I have to say at this point about perception.
I want to move now to attention and memory and I'm going to treat attention and memory together. We are
fascinated with memory and, in particular, it's particularly interesting when memory goes wrong. It's particularly fascinating
what happens in cases of amnesia. So for example, I need a volunteer who is willing to do a little bit of acting, a very little bit,
an incredibly little bit. [a student volunteers] Excellent. Okay. So well, you just stay there. So pretend you have amnesia.
Okay? What's your name?
Student: I don't know.
Professor Paul Bloom: Perfect. I'm really glad you said that. That's the wrong answer because you don't have total
amnesia. You still remember English. Okay. It's very clever. Okay. So you couldn't have lost all your memories. You have
English. You [pointing to a different student]--So we'll do you. What's your name? Oh. He looks puzzled but he still maintains
bowel and bladder control so he hasn't forgotten everything. [laughter] Now, I always lose the third volunteer in that demo.
So, what I'm saying is that memory is a hugely broad concept. It includes autobiographical memory, which is what
we standardly think. That's a perfectly rational response. When I say somebody's losing their memory, "Oh. I have a movie
about somebody losing their memory," you don't imagine a person in diapers. You imagine the person walking around,
having sex with cool people and saying, "Where am I?" And [laughter] so what you imagine is you imagine them losing their
autobiographical memory, their sense of self. But of course, knowing English is part of your memory and knowing how to
stand and knowing how to chew and swallow are all things that you've learned, that you've--that have been molded by
There's another distinction which is going to come in regarding amnesia, which is there's broadly two types of
amnesia. They often run together, but one type of amnesia is you lose your memory of the past. Another type of amnesia-That's the Matt Damon amnesia. Another type of amnesia though is you lose the ability to form new memories. And here's a
film of a man who had exactly this problem. [film playing]
He was a world-renowned choir director and he suffered viral encephalitis which led to brain damage which
destroyed most of his temporal lobes, his hippocampus, and a lot of his left frontal lobe. It could be--It could have been worse
in that he retains the ability to talk. He seems to be--He's not intellectually impaired. He just can't form new memories and so
he lives in this perpetual "now" where just nothing affects him and he feels--This has not always happened. There's more
than one of these cases and it doesn't always happen like this, but he feels continually reborn at every moment. And we'll
return to this and then ask what's going on here. But there's a few themes here.
I want to, before getting into detail about memory, I want to review some basic distinctions in memory when we talk
about memory. So crudely, you could make a distinction between sensory memory, short-term memory, which is also known
as working memory, and long-term memory. Sensory memory is a residue in your senses. There's a flash of lightning. You
might see an afterimage. That afterimage is your sensory memory. There's somewhat of a longer echoic memory for sounds.
So as somebody is talking to you even if you're not paying attention you'll store a few seconds of what they're saying, which
is sometimes, when somebody's talking to you and you're not listening to them and they say, "You're not listening to me."


And you say, "No. You were talking about--" and pick up the last couple of seconds from echoic memory. There's short-term
Anybody remember what I just said? If you did, that's short-term memory--spans for a few minutes. And then there's
long-term memory. Anybody know who Elvis is? Do you know your name? Do you know where you live? Your long-term
memory store that you walk around with and you're not going to lose right away. When we think about amnesia in the movie
sense, we think of a certain loss of long-term memory associated with autobiographical personal events.
There is a distinction between implicit and explicit, which we'll talk about it in more detail. But explicit, crudely, is
what you have conscious access to. So, what you had for dinner last night. You could think back and say, "I had this for
dinner last night." Implicit is more unconscious. What the word--what certain word--what the word "had" means, how to walk,
how to ride a bicycle, that you might not be able to articulate and might not even be conscious of but still have access to.
There's a distinction between semantic memory and episodic memory. Semantic memory is basically facts, what a
word means, what's the capital of Canada, and so on. Episodic is autobiography, is what happened to you. That Yale is in
New Haven is semantic. That you went on vacation away from New Haven last week, it would be episodic. There is encoding
stores and retrieval, which refers to different levels of what happens in memory. Encoding is getting the memory in, as when
you study for a test or you have an experience. And storage is holding the memory. And retrieval is getting the memory out.
Finally, retrieval is often broken, conveniently, into recall versus recognition, where recall is when you just pull it out
of memory and recognition is when you recognize what corresponds to something in the past. Anybody remember what color
tie I had on two days ago? Oh. Okay. Well, that would be impossible to remember but if I asked you, "Is it purple or is it
orange?" that would be much easier. [laughter] Now, you could break up, crudely, the memory into stages. So you start that
sensory memory is just the stuff that comes in leading to short-term memory, leading to long-term memory. And this stage
theory is something which we'll discuss in more detail. But this leads us to the issue of attention.
How do you get memory from your sensations, from what you're hearing? I'm speaking to you. You're hearing me.
How does it ever get in to the other systems? What decides what's remembered and what's not? There's all sorts of things
happening to you now. The seat of your chair is pressing against your butt. You wouldn't say, "Oh. I want to remember this
forever. The seat's pressing against my butt." [laughter] Your neighbor is exuding a certain sort of smell. You're thinking
about something. Your eyes follow him. Not everything gets in memory. You'd go mad if you tried to remember everything.
You can't. So, what determines what gets into memory? Well, one answer is "attention does."
And attention is--could be crudely viewed as a flashlight, a spotlight on experience that willingly zooms in on
something and makes it memorable. Attention has certain properties. Some things come from attention--to attention
effortlessly and automatically. Here's an example. You're going to see an array of letters here. One of them's going to be
green. When you see the green one, please clap. [laughter] No, not this green one. [laughter] There's going to be another
slide. Okay. You're ready now. [students quickly find the one green "x" amongst a background of black "x"s. Okay. Now find-Not that "o" [laughter] but there's going to be an "o." When you see it clap. [students quickly find the "o" amongst a
background of "x"s] Okay. Sometimes it's work. Find the red "o." [students are much slower at finding the red "o" amongst a
background of black "o"s and red "x"s] [laughter] It's harder.
Sometimes attention is involuntary. I need a volunteer. And all I want to do is I want to show you colors on the
screen and I'd like you to name the colors as they come out. [pointing at a student] Do you want this?
Student 1: I'm colorblind.
Professor Paul Bloom: Oh. [laughter] The first one is easy. See. This is--You have to just go down the colors [on the slide
are a series of different colored rectangles. The student must name the colors]. Anybody? Okay.
Student 2: Red, green, blue, black, green, blue, red, blue, black, red.
Professor Paul Bloom: Excellent. [applause] Okay. Now these. These will be words but just name--Okay, you. Just name
the colors. [this slide contains color words that are written in the same color that they spell. Again, the student must name the
color of the font]
Student 3: Green, red, blue, black, blue, red, green, black, red, blue.
Professor Paul Bloom: Perfect. Now, we'll go back to you, same deal, words. [now the slide contains a list of color words
that are written in a different colored font then what they spell. The student must name the font color.]
Student 4: Red, blue, green -Professor Paul Bloom: No, no, no. Huh uh. Don't--I know you can read. The colors.
Student 4: Okay. Sorry. Okay. Blue, green, red, green, black, green, blue, black, red, [laughter] blue, black, red, black. [the
student struggles to name the color of the font without accidentally saying the name that is written]
Professor Paul Bloom: Very good actually. [laughter] That's known as the Stroop effect. Being an expert reader, as you
are, your knowledge of reading, your attention to what the words meant, subverted your desire to do the task. You couldn't
make that go away even if you wanted to. If somebody gave you $1,000 to read this as fast as you read this, and as fast as
you read this, you'd be unable to. You can't block it.
There is some work--There are some interesting discoveries about attention. I have a demonstration here. I'd like
people actually--It's important--Some of you may have seen this before. It's important for you to be silent throughout it. What
you're going to see is you're going to see two teams of basketball players. One of them is going to have white T-shirts. The


other one will have black T-shirts. They'll be passing balls back and forth. What I'd like you to do is count in your head how
many passes the white team does with the ball. [the video shows several people passing a basketball back and forth while,
at one point, a person in a gorilla suit walks across the scene] [laughter] What number did people get? Okay. Did anybody
notice anything unusual? [laughter] Did anybody not notice anything unusual? Okay. Some people did not notice anything
unusual. Those who didn't see anything unusual, watch this again and just watch it. [laughter] About 50% of people when
counting, who have never seen this before don't notice anything. But then when you're not counting it's kind of obvious what
you're missing. [laughter] And this is one demonstration among many of the fact that when you're attending to something you
have a very small window of attention and you lose the focus on other things.
Here's another different example. I'd like people to watch a movie and pay attention very closely to what happens in
the movie and try to remember this. [The movie shows a conversation between two people. Each time the camera cuts from
one angle to the next something about the scene changes.] How many of you noticed something odd in that movie? How
many of you didn't? Okay. Now, everybody look at the scarf, the color of the plates and the food, among other things. [the
same movie plays again] The phenomena, in general, has been called "change blindness." And what it is is we tend to be-when there's a focus of attention focused in a certain way, we tend to be oblivious to other things that go on in the
environment. Often it is, in fact, quite difficult when there's a change in scene to notice what changes and what stays the
So, in this final demo, there's just going to be two pictures flicking. Could you clap when you see what's different
between the two pictures? [applause] [laughter] I myself am terrible at these and so I have a lot of sympathy. How many
people never saw it? [laughter] Good. That's very impressive. [laughter] One more time with a different one. [applause] Did
anybody not see it? Be honest. I'll give you another try. [applause] Okay. I'll put you out of your misery. [laughter] This is
work by Dan Simons and it's part of an extraordinarily interesting body of work on what's known as "change blindness." And
what this means is, the phenomena is, we have a very narrow focus of attention and huge changes can happen that we are
oblivious to. This is why, in movies, there are so many--so much difficulty with continuity changes.
Dan Simons is also famous for having brought this outside of the laboratory in some classic experiments and I'm
trying to get the film corresponding to them. What he did was that he did this great study in the Cornell campus where he
was--where what happened is they would get some unsuspecting person walking through campus and some guy would
come over and say, "Excuse me, Sir. I'm lost. Could you help me with directions?" And have a map and then the person
would say, "Sure." And then there'd be two construction workers holding a door. And these guys were going to rudely bump
between these two characters and then the experimenter gets switched with another guy. So now, when these two guys walk
away, the subject is standing there with an entirely different person. [laughter] What's interesting is nobody notices. [laughter]
They notice if the person changes sexes. "Didn't you used to be a woman?" [laughter] And they notice if the experimenter
changes races, but most other changes they're oblivious to.
There's another experiment. I think Brian Scholl did this one but it may have been Dan Simons where what happens
is a subject comes in to the lab. They say, "If you're going to do an experiment with us, you need to sign the human subject
form." Hands him the form, the experimenter. The subject signs the form. The experimenter takes the form and says, "Thank
you. I'll put it down here." Goes down here and then a different person pops up. [laughter] People don't notice. And there's a
certain level on which we're oblivious to changes. What's weird is we don't see--we don't think we are. We think we see the
world as it is and we don't know--notice that when we're attending to something; everything else gets blanked out.
And so about 50% of people who have never seen this demo before, the gorilla demo, they don't notice the gorilla.
And there's--you couldn't imagine anything more obvious. The gorilla study was actually done a very long time ago. And it
was originally done in a different way but I'll show it to you just because this is the original study and now that you all know
what to expect--Oh, not that one. Oops. [demo playing] Nope. [demo playing] That's actually--If you looked at that quickly, it's
a current Yale professor. Oh. I'm never going to get my DVD back. Anyway, I'll show you the other demo on--next week. I
will. [laughter] Any questions about attention and memory at this point? Yeah.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Yeah. Why does it work that way? Why is it--Why do things that become very practiced become
automatic and involuntary? It's a good question. I don't know. We know that they do. We know that once you--that you can't
not read once you know how to read. You also can't not listen. If I'm talking to you and I'm extremely boring, but I'm talking to
you, it's very hard not to listen. You can't shut off your ears. You could put your fingers in them but you can't shut off your-You also can't shut your eyes without actually shutting them. You can't say, "This is a disgusting movie. I'm not going to
attend to it." [laughter] So, that's not answering your question. It's just saying that your observation is a right one and a more
general one. When you're good at something and you're over-practiced, it becomes involuntary and you cannot stop it. Okay.
Well--Oh. One more in back. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: What now? Sorry. Over there. Yeah.
Student: [inaudible] right before his accident?


Professor Paul Bloom: Did he remember things before his accident? Yes. He had some amnesia of events before his
accident but he did remember things. He knew his name and he knew other things about his life. Okay. I'll see you next


Lecture 8
Professor Paul Bloom: I'll begin the class officially with a different sort of demonstration. I want to just show you one of the
change-blindness studies that has been done in the real world. And these videotapes are not available publicly. We get them
from the web and see them as little Java scripts. So, this is one of the first studies done by Dan Simons when he was at
Cornell. And his adviser at the time was our Frank Keil, who's now in our department. So, here's the study. [The videotape
shows a student who is walking outside on a college campus and stops and asks an older man for directions. Their
conversation is interrupted when two construction workers carrying a door walk in between them. At that point the student
surreptitiously swaps places with one of the men carrying the door. Remarkably, the conversation about directions resumes
without the older man ever noticing that he is speaking to a completely different person.] [laughter] And you don't notice it.
Change blindness is one of the more striking phenomena discovered by laboratory scientists and by psychologists.
But it's important to realize, to get away from the sort of surprise of the gorilla and the fact that it's hard to see the flickering-the object that's flickering, and appreciate the big moral of this, because the big moral of this is actually, I think, striking and
quite important. You think right now that you're perceiving the world. I look down on you and I think I have a whole sense of
where everybody is. I can't see everybody perfectly in back. You're kind of far away and blurry but there's a sense in which I
have a world around me. Similarly, if I'm to close my eyes for a second, everything just remains and I could sort of remember
some of the things that are there. That's really good sound localization by me [responding to a noise he heard from the video
So you're looking up and you think you have a sense of the world both in perception and memory. The changeblindness experiment suggested this isn't true. The change-blindness experiment suggests that if you look at me for a
second and during that second all of your classmates change positions, including those next to you, you are extremely
unlikely to notice. The change-blindness experiment suggests that if you turn your eyes away from me towards there for a
second and turn back, and I'm dressed entirely differently, you wouldn't notice. The exceptions would be if you told yourself
consciously, "Remember what this guy is wearing; he's wearing this, that and the other." But if you don't do it consciously
you'll lose it, and usually this is okay.
Usually, it's okay because your memory and your visual system exploits a basic fact about the universe, which is
that most things stay the same most of the time. I don't have to explicitly remember that you're over there when I turn my
head for a second because you'll be over there in any case. You don't need to hold precise representations of the world. And
so you only notice it in certain clever circumstances. One sort of clever circumstance is when psychologists change reality as
in the change-blindness studies. A second sort of circumstance is in movies. So, one of the big surprises when people
started making movies involving cuts was it is extremely difficult to get everything continuously right. And you need to work
very hard to notice. So, there's all of these continuity errors that creep up into movies and you have to be a film buff or writing
it down to even notice this. And the overall moral here then is that your perception of reality is a lot more sparse, a lot more
limited, than you might think it is.
So, this is where we were at the end of last class. We were talking about the different sorts of memories: Sensory
memory, which is the sort of fraction of a second of sensory residue of what you're hearing and what you're seeing, working
memory, short-term memory, and then long-term memory. And we talked last class about how things get into sensory
memory, into working memory, the role of attention. And in fact, the change-blindness studies are actually just studies of how
something gets from your senses to your consciousness and what does and what doesn't.
Now I want to move to the distinction between working memory, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Now,
the obvious distinction is actually just in fact--is storage differences. So, long-term memory or "LTM" has a huge storage
capacity. This is your memory like the hard drive of your computer. This is the memory you walk around with. It includes all
the words in English, just for example, 60 to 80,000 words. It includes everybody you've ever met, languages, faces, stories,
locations, nursery rhymes, songs, TV programs. Nobody knows the storage. It is not true that you remember everything that
has ever happened to you. There's no reason to believe that this is true. At the same time though, you have a huge amount
stored in your brain in long-term storage and nobody actually--It has to be limited because it's a finite, limited brain. But
nobody knows how big it is. Nobody knows how many terabytes you carry around in your brain and--but it's a lot.
Compare this to working memory the short-term memory, which is actually very limited. Your memory of what you
could store on--in--where you could hold in consciousness right now is quite limited. Here is an exercise. Do not write these
things down. I want you to remember them. I'm just going to give you a few numbers: 14, 59, 11, 109, 43, 58, 98, 487, 25,
389, 54. Please write them down. View this as an IQ test if that would relax you. How many of you who decided to participate
in this experiment got three or less? Good. Good. Four, five, six, seven, eight, nine or more? Anybody get all eleven? This is
a particularly difficult memory task. The numbers are meaningless. And I told--and I forgot to tell you to get your pen and
pencil ready, so some of you just glared at me. But [laughter] under normal circumstances the cognitive psychologist George
Miller said that this sort of suggested that the standard memory storage of short-term memory is seven, plus or minus two.
And what that means is anywhere from five to nine roughly.
Some of you, I bet, can beat that. Some of you on a not-so-good day maybe won't make it that much. Now "seven
plus or minus two" is what you--;so, that's what you hold in consciousness. I can tell you 14, 21. You walk around, "Oh, yeah,


14, 21." You hold that in consciousness with no problem. But I throw eleven numbers at you, you can't. Some dribble out.
You can't hold that in your conscious window in your short-term memory.
Now, this raises the question "seven plus or minus two" what? And the answer seems to be what George Miller
calls "chunks." And a chunk is a basic memory unit, something you think of as a single, individual entity. So, suppose you
see the string of letters "L, A, M, A, I, S, O, N." If you don't know--If you can't form these into words and you have to
remember them, these are eight chunks. You have to just pick them up separately. On the other hand, if you break them up
into four words you could just remember it as four chunks. And if you break it up into two words in French, "la maison," "the
house," it could just be one or two. How much you know depends--affects how much you memorize--how much you could
store in memory because it affects what counts as a basic unit of memory.
And there's all sorts of examples of this. If I tell you "1, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0, 0, 1, 0, 1, 1, 0," those of you who don't know
binary numbers might have to remember that as "1, 1, 0, 0," whatever I said. Those of you who are computer scientists or
mathematicians or, for whatever reason, know binary numbers could convert it into a single binary number. Anybody know
what the number is? No, I cannot say it again. [laughter] Some number, 24, or not 24--to some number, 24, and then you
remember "24." It's easier. Suppose you see a chessboard and the chessboard is set up and you don't know how to play
chess. It is murderously hard to remember that. They've done the experiments. They've taken people in a lab who don't know
how to play chess. They set up a chessboard and then they say, "Okay. Look at this for five minutes." Then they take it
away, set it up again, and it's murderously hard. "There is a horse-y thing on the side there and everything." But if these
chess pieces are set up in some way that's logical for a chess player, then a chess master could look at it and remember it in
a glance, "Oh. It's the Fibonacci defense" or something like that [laughs], and then immediately recover it.
Similarly, football coaches have been tested on their memories of football diagrams. And they have a photographic
memory for football diagrams because it corresponds to things that make sense. Architects could have a photographic
memory, a perfect memory for floor plans because it makes sense to them. They understand it. And so the way you store
things in memory, and this is a theme we're going to return to when we get to long-term memory, depends in a large extent
on how much you understand it. And this shows up in expertise effects.
Now, this is what's happening so far in short-term memory, how much you hold in there. The question is how do you
get it into long-term memory? So, you have long-term memory, your major storage system. How does information get from
your consciousness to long-term storage? Well, there's one thing--there's one way which sort of works sometimes but not
very well. And it's called "maintenance rehearsal."
Suppose I said you have to remember this number, this string of numbers. And if you remember it in twenty minutes
you will get one thousand dollars. And the string is my phone number when I was a kid. I'll include the area code: 514-6889057. Now, if you tell that to a four-year-old, well, the four-year-old will say, "I'll remember it." And then you ask them, "What
did I just say?" "Well, I don't know." If you tell it to an--because you know something--If a lot depended on it, you would know
to do something. What you would do is you'd say to yourself, "514-688-9057, 514-688-9057, 514-688 --" You'd rehearse it in
your head over and over again. The problem is you could hold it as long as you can do that. It's like these movies. You see
this all the time, like an episode of 24: "Jack, call CTU and tell them Agent 11 is trapped in a--" And I can't even remember
this but the way to remember it is you hold--you've just got to repeat it over and over again in your head. But this will not
typically get things into long-term memory.
To get things into long-term memory, rehearsal is usually not enough. You need to do other things. Typically, what
you need is structure and organization. And one way to demonstrate this was in a classic "depth of processing" experiment
which nicely illustrates the fact that the more you structure something, the deeper you think about it, the better it gets
entrenched in the long-term memory.
So, in this study what they did was they asked people--they told people that there's going to be words flashed on a
screen. And all of the subjects saw the same strings of words. There were forty-eight words. They were not told to memorize
the words. One third of the subjects was told, "Look. Some of these words are going to come out in capital letters, some of
them not capital letters. Press a button for capitals, non-capitals." "Sure." The other group was told, "Some of these words
will rhyme with 'train,' Others won't. Press a button if it rhymes in 'train'." The third group was told, "Does it fit into the
sentence The girl placed the blank on the table'? Press a button if it does. Press a button if it doesn't." Then they were asked
as a surprise, "What words did you see?" And the findings looked like this. When they were asked to focus on just what the
word looked like, memory was very poor, the sound better, the meaning better. If you want to remember something, the best
way to remember it is to give it meaning, to give it sense.
This is illustrated through a very ancient technique, which is that the way to remember things that are otherwise
arbitrary is to give them some organization through memory tricks, through vivid imagery or songs or poetry. And there's a lot
of examples of this. Do you know how to remember that the hippocampus--There's a part of the brain called the
hippocampus. This is the worst memory trick ever but it will stick with you for twenty years. The hippocampus is involved in
spatial memory. It's involved in finding your way around. Think to yourself, "The way I find my way around campus is through
the hippocampus." And you think, "Well, that's stupid," but you'll never forget now that the hippocampus is in charge of
spatial memory. It's going to be all you retain from this course.


Memory books on how to remember people's names usually try to exploit this sort of thing when you try to get
poetry or dramatic images. So, the memory books always typically involve somebody--like you meet somebody with very
spiky hair and they say, "My name is Mr. Fish" and then you remember--you think of their--of a big fish impaled on their hair.
And then whenever you see them you remember their name. It only really works for names like "Fish" but [laughter] the idea
is you try to generate vivid imagery. When stuck with a situation where you have to remember ten letters, turn it into a song
where--or a dirty poem where each of the letters is the first words of it. When having to remember something that seems
totally arbitrary, try to figure out a grand and obscene image that will come to mind easily. And this is how--these are one
way to get things into memory.
At a deep level though, the way to get things into memory, and this applies to this course no less than anything
else, is by understanding the--understanding it. I'm going to read you something and I want you to try your best to remember
what I tell you. These are not going to be strings of numbers. These are going to be--This is going to be a series of
sentences: "A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than the street. At first it is better to run
than to walk. You may have to try several times. It takes some skill but it's easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it.
Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close. Rain, however, soaks in very fast. Too many people
doing the same things can also cause problems. One needs lots of room. If there are no complications, it can be very
peaceful. Finally, a rock will serve as an anchor. If things break loose from it, however, you will not have a second chance."
And here is what I said [pointing to the written sentences on the overhead slide]. This is murderously hard to
remember. Now try it. [Pointing to a slide that reads, "This paragraph is about flying a kite."] Knowing what this is about,
being able to put a context to it helps the memory and helps it come to mind. [laughter]
Okay. So, this is about how to get memory--how to get information into your memory. How do you get information
out? So, it's exam period. You got the stuff presumably into your head. You have to get it out. You have to retrieve it. There
is a court case. You have to figure out--You have to recount the crime that you witnessed. You see somebody and you want
to know his or her name. And you heard it; you just have to get it out. Well, how do you do that? Well, there's "retrieval cues."
Retrieval cues make sense. Retrieval cues are just things that have been associated with what you--what you're trying to
remember. If I have to remember to replace the windows, when I walk in to my living room and see that a window is cracked
that will remind me to replace the windows. If I had a lunch date with you and forgot about it, when I see you, "Oh, yeah. We
were supposed to get together to have lunch."
Retrieval cues bring things back but it's a little bit more complicated than that. There's a more general relationship
between encoding and retrieval called the "compatibility principle." And what this means is you're much better to remember
something in the context in which you have learned it. And this is also known as "context-dependent memory" and "statedependent memory." It's illustrated by one of the strangest experiments in the history of psychology where they had people
on a boat and then they had them scuba dive underwater. And they taught them things either on the boat or underwater with
things that they held up. And then they tested them later. And it turns out that you'll remember it better if you're tested on it in
the context in which you learned it. And it might be because then the retrieval cues help bring it back. But it's more general
than that. If you have to remember something you learned in this class, you will do better if you try to think about the room in
which you learned it in. You will do better on your final exam if you were to take it in this room than if you were to take it in
another room because being in this room will bring back the cues.
It's not just the environment. People who learn things when they're stoned remember them better--keeping stoned
at a sort of a low-level that doesn't disrupt other mental activities--remember them better when they're sort of stoned again
[laughter] than if they're non-stoned. Similarly--So, if you study while you drink you should tipple a little bit before coming in to
the Final exam. [laughter] It's sort of like the "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" sort of result. And so, similarly, it even
applies to moods in that if you learn something when depressed you have a slightly better recovery of it when you're in that
same mood of depression than when you're elated. And the idea is that part of what memory is--part of what recovering
memory is is getting back your original context in which you learned it.
"Elaborative rehearsal" and retrieval involves the connections between different things. Elaborative rehearsal is that
the more you think about something the easier it is to remember. If you have to think about--If you have to remember
something, try to connect it to as many things as possible. Think of an image. Make a joke out of it. Imagine how you would
explain it to somebody else. Imagine how the world--what the world would be like if it wasn't so. And the idea is that this sort
of thinking about it makes connections in your memory from that thing you have to learn, to other memories. And so it makes
it easier to recover.
"Elaborative retrieval" refers to a finding that when you want to get something back out of memory people tend to
give up too soon. It turns out that there's a lot of stuff that's in your memory but it needs work to extract; it needs various sort
of searching strategies. One study asked people who were considerably older than you to remember their high school
classmates. And in the first pass people were terrible. Maybe they had a couple of friends they kept in touch with. Otherwise,
pretty bad. And this is a good experiment because you could use high school yearbooks to judge whether or not they get it
right. But then what you do is you tell the person, "Look. Keep trying. Were you--What sort of--Who was your teacher? What
sort of clubs did you belong to? What sort of sports you--did you participate in? How did you get to school? How did you get
from school? What did you do during lunch? What did you do during break?" And you keep ask--"Do you know--have any


friends whose letter--whose last name began with B,' with C,' with D'?" And you keep pushing and pushing and pushing.
And over the span of time things come back. Again, it's not true that you never forget. There is honest to God forgetting but
sometimes you think you forget and it's because you haven't looked long enough. There's a real physical notion of searching
for the right answer.
We've talked about retrieval. Oh. Every class I've given somebody asks either in class or by e-mail what about dj
vu? And dj vu is a feeling that an event has happened before. So, you're looking at me and I'm lecturing and you say, "I've
heard this before. I know this before." You see somebody and say, "I've been in this situation before." This is not evidence
for psychic powers, [laughter] which many people say it is, but nobody really knows why this exists. We know, and this is a
clue, it's worse with frontal lobe damage. If you get damage to this part of the brain, you get a lot more dj vu experiences. I
asked some experts in memory, including Marcia Johnson who is chair of our department, what the best explanation for dj
vu is. And the answer she gave, the--say one big theory, goes like this. Dj vu is a feeling that it's happened before. The
answer is it has happened before. It's happened half a second ago. And so what happens is sometimes there is a glitch, a
disturbance in the force. I don't know. There's a glitch [laughter] and you are talking and then something happens to you and
you put it in your memory. But it's as if you don't put the stamp on it of what time and what date. So, you're talking to me and
then you store it in memory but you don't store it in memory as happening right now. Then half a second goes by and you're
talking to me and you say, "This is strangely familiar." And that's one theory of what goes on in dj vu.
Okay. So far, there's the sort of good news remembering but then there's bad news forgetting. How many
people can remember, without looking down at your notes, at least two of the numbers I gave you earlier? How many people
can remember at least four? Oh, impressive. If I asked you in an hour, the number would go down. These are sort of
statistics in a similar experiment [pointing to an overhead slide]. And this graph illustrates that people forget. Over time, you'll
Why do you forget? Why is there forgetting at all? Well, there's different explanations for this. One explanation is
your brain's a physical thing, it's a physical piece of meat, and it kind of goes bad. Physical things decay. And so, the
memory traces that are laid onto your brain will just decay over time. A second answer is interference. So, remember those
numbers? Here's a few more: 114, 81, 66, 42. Well, the more information that comes in that's similar to the stuff you're trying
to remember, it blocks your recovery of original information. So your ability to remember something can be impaired by
learning more things which are related to it because they get confused in memory. Finally, and maybe this is most
interesting, there are changes in retrieval cues. So, the more time goes by the more the world changes. And if your memory
is to some extent dependent on cues bringing it back to life, then the change in retrieval cues can make it more difficult to
recall certain things.
This leads to a puzzle where there's considerable scientific debate over the case of childhood amnesia. And the
case of childhood amnesia is--doesn't refer to when a child gets brain damage and gets amnesia. What it refers to is people
have a difficult time recovering very early memories. I want people to just take a second and try to think back on what your
first memory is and roughly how old you were. How many people don't think you have a first memory until you were about
five years old or older? Okay. How many people think you have the first memory of around age four or younger? How many
people think you have the first memory of around age three or younger? Two or younger? How many of you think you have
the first memory when you were about one years old or younger? And I'm not asking about past lives but that [laughs]
happened last year. How old is your--roughly your first memory do you think? [pointing towards a student] How old?
Student: Between one and two.
Professor Paul Bloom: Between one and two? Anybody think they could beat that? Same guy? Yeah.
Student: One.
Professor Paul Bloom: One. [laughter] Anybody else? The literature is unclear on this because it's very difficult to test
people's recollections of their first memories. If I'm to ask people about their first memories, they'll often say, "Oh, yeah. I
remember I was in this room and there was a crib and I'm going Ga ga, goo goo' [laughter] and I was on the potty. I was
walking. I was so cute. I remember it." It's very difficult to tell and, as we'll discuss in some detail, there are a lot of reasons to
distrust people when they--not that they're lying but to distrust the accuracy of people's memories.
We also know from studies about trauma where people have terrible experiences when they're one or two.
Typically, this trauma is not remembered later on. People know of trauma because they're told about it but they don't typically
remember it with any accuracy. Even children--older children don't remember back beyond that age. Nobody knows why
childhood amnesia occurs. Nobody knows why it's very difficult to recover memories before about the age of three. One
theory is that the retrieval cues change radically. I had a friend of mine who's a clinical psychologist and he suggested a new
form of therapy where they make these giant tables and chairs and then they bring you in to the office and you're standing
there with these giant tables and chairs [laughter] and all these memories of being a baby would come flooding back.
[laughter] And he dropped out of the field and-- [laughter] Really, but it's such a cool idea.
Some people think language is to blame. So a child, a baby, starts out with no spoken or signed language.
Language comes to be learned at around one, two, and three, and it might be that the learning of a language reformats your
memory. And once the memory is reformatted it can't go back to the previous state prior to language in the end. It could be


neural maturation. It could be that those memory parts of the brains grow around age two or three that just weren't there prior
to that. And nobody really knows. It's a fascinating research area why--about memory changes early on.
Another case of memory failure is brain damage. And brain damage comes in a couple of flavors. There is
retrograde amnesia; "retro" for past. Retrograde amnesia is when you lose some memory of the past. This could be in a case
where you get some sort of head trauma and you lose memory of your entire episodic memory. But typically, if you have any
sort of serious accident that involves you losing consciousness you'll have a blackout of some period prior to that, say, blow
to the head. And the reason for this is as you're having these experiences now they need to kind of get consolidated into
your brain. Your brain needs to rewire and catch up to the experiences you're having. A sudden blow to the head will knock
you unconscious and then the memories that have happened immediately prior will not get consolidated and they'll be lost
Another sort of memory is anterograde amnesia and this was the case of--This happens in Korsakoff's syndrome. It
happens to a very famous patient known as H.M. who actually lives in Hartford, Connecticut. And it happened to Clive
Wearing, the film you saw last class. And this sort of amnesia is a sort of amnesia where you lose the ability to form new
memories. And so you live in a perpetual present, unable to accumulate new memories.
But it's actually a little bit more complicated than that. What happens is--And this was an exciting discovery about
these patients that led to some real insights about normal memory--What happens is--And this is the brain damage in these
cases, the temporal lobe and the hippocampus, very useful for spatial memory you'll know. One discovery made about
people who couldn't form new memories is that they could form new memories, but of certain types. So for example, this is a
task here involving filling in a star while looking in to a mirror. And if I asked you to do it you'd find it pretty difficult. It's just
kind of difficult to do. You'd be clumsy at it. You bring in an amnesic who can't form new memories and you say, "Hey. I want
you to try something new. I want you to try this star game." He'd say, "Okay. I've never seen it before but I'll do it." Tries it.
Does very badly. You bring him in and over and over again--Each time he does it he starts off by saying, "I've never seen this
before. I'll--I'm sure I'll give it a try" but he gets better and better at it. And this is known as implicit memory.
The claim is that in these sorts of cases you lose the abilities to form explicit conscious memories that you're aware
of, that you understand. But some sorts of memories persist and you are able to form them. This has actually been illustrated
in a couple of dramatic movies, one of them a very bad dramatic movie [laughs] where Drew Barrymore loses the ability to
form new memories and somehow falls in love with Adam Sandler. [laughs] Definitely don't watch that. But a very good
movie called "Memento," which is about a character who loses his ability to form new memories while trying to track down his
wife's killer. "Memento" is a movie which is fascinating because it's told backwards. But throughout "Memento" there's
another story told forwards. And I like this story because it very dramatically illustrates what does, and what is and is not
impaired in cases of severe memory damage. So, I'm going to show you a couple of clips that illustrate the disassociation
from "Memento." [clip playing]
Now, the next scene is actually modeled after real experiments. [clip playing] Those of you who have seen the
movie know that this ends up quite tragically for Sammy. I highly recommend the movie. We've dealt right now with two sorts
of failures of memory. One is everyday failure of memory when you forget. How many of you remember three or more of the
numbers I originally presented? Yeah? Go ahead.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Fourteen, 59, 11. Is that right? [laughs] Fine. [laughter] All right. I'm going to ask you again in a
month. [laughter] Well, people are supposed to forget [laughter] and some things will--you will forget. That's normal
A second case is forgetting due to brain damage. Forgetting due to brain damage is exotic and unusual but it's
interesting in that it illustrates some more general themes about how the mind works. Remember one theme of this course is
we're going to look at exotic cases like the case of Clive Wearing, not just because they're interesting in their own right but
sometimes by looking at the extremes we could learn something about how normal people's normal, intact minds and brains
The third case of forgetting is more interesting and it actually--Well, I want to do a little trial here. What I want to do
is I want to--You to listen to three children describe an event that happened. I want you to come to some--your own guess.
Imagine you were a judge, you were a childcare worker, you wanted to see--I want you to be--come to your own guess about
who you believe and what you think happened. [audio playing] [inaudible] [laughter]
You've heard three children. Who do you believe? Who believes--There's three of them, one, two, three. Who
believes the first one? Who believes the second one? Who believes the third one? Sort of an even split. Twenty-three
hundred experts were shown these films and asked about the different actions, whether or not the person ripped the book,
messed up the bear, tossed the book in the air and, as you could see, the majority thought that he did. This is work done by
Steve Ceci who was gracious enough to lend me the film to use for teaching purposes.
It turns out the second girl was right. Absolutely nothing happened. [laughter] The teacher said, "There is somebody
named Sam Stone who's going to come in." A guy walks in and says, "Hi," walks around and leaves. [laughter] The first and
third children had their memories implanted, not through any sort of science fiction means. They had their memories
implanted--Well, they had their memories implanted like this. Some of the children would just ask questions. The interviewer,


by the way, was herself unaware of what happened so the interviewer was a perfectly nave interviewer. And it turns out if
you just interview children and you ask them questions about whether the book was ripped, "Did you see him? Did he really
do it?" they don't say anything. They didn't see anything and they won't say anything.
Other children were told about Sam Stone. They were told a stereotype about Sam Stone that he's very clumsy
and he tends to rip things and he trips and he breaks things and he spills things. And in fact, the third child mentioned that in
passing. He said, "He always does that." Just knowing this about Sam Stone tends to raise the proportion of kids who say,
for instance, that he ripped the book.
Other children were given suggestions. They were given suggestive questioning. They were a series of leading
questions like, "Oh. Sam Stone came in? Did he rip a book while he was there?" And still more children got both. And in fact,
the children you saw were from this group. They heard Sam Stone being described as a clumsy fellow and they were given a
series of suggestive questionings. In this condition they were given several suggestive questionings over the period of
several months. These children, like the first child and the third child, are not lying. They honestly believe that Sam Stone
came in and did these things. Also they believe it and they're so convincing in their belief that experts, including police
officers and child caseworkers and judges and lawyers, find these children to be extremely believable. And I think they
probably find them to be extremely believable because the children are not lying. They really believe they saw what they
saw. But these memories were implanted. And Ceci, and many other investigators, study how memories can be implanted in
people's minds through suggestion and through leading questions.
It turns out that the same sort of experiments and the same sort of research has been done with considerable
success in implanting false memories in adults. There are dramatic cases of people remembering terrible crimes and
confessing to them when actually, they didn't commit them. And this is not because they are lying. It's not even because
they're, in some obvious sense, deranged or schizophrenic or delusional. Rather, they have persuaded themselves, or more
often been persuaded by others, that these things have actually happened.
Psychologists have studied in the laboratory how one could do this, how one can implant memories in other people.
And some things are sort of standard. Suppose I was to tell you a story about a trip I took to the dentist or a visit I took to--or
a time when I ate out at a restaurant and I'm to omit certain details. I omit the fact that I paid the bill in a restaurant, let's say
or I finished the meal and then I went home. Still, you will tend to fill in the blanks. You'll tend to fill in the blanks with things
you know. So, you might remember this later saying, "Okay. He told me he finished eating, paid the bill and left," because
paying the bill is what you do in a restaurant.
This is benign enough. You fill in the blanks. You also can integrate suppositions made by others. And the clearest
case of this is eyewitness testimony. And the best research on this has been done by Elizabeth Loftus who has done a
series of studies, some discussed in the textbook, showing how people's memories can be swayed by leading questions.
And it can be extremely subtle. In one experiment, the person was just asked in the course of a series of questions--shown a
scene where there's a car accident and asked either, "Did you see a broken headlight?" or "Did you see the broken
headlight?" The the' presupposes that there was a broken headlight and in fact, the people told--asked, "Did you see the
broken headlight?" later on are more likely to remember one. It creates an image and they fill it in.
In another study, she would show film segments and then ask, "Did you see the children getting on the school bus?"
Now, there was no school bus but people who hear that question later on when asked, "Did you see a school bus in the
film?" are more likely to say yes. In another study, she would show people film segments and ask them either, "How fast
were the cars going when they hit each other?" or "How fast were the cars going when they smashed into each other?" A
week later she'd bring people back in to the laboratory and ask, "Did you see any broken glass?" Those who hear a smash
tend to see the broken glass more than those who hear a hit because the question has changed their memory, making it
more of a dramatic event.
Hypnosis is the clearest case where there's a sort of reconstructive effort led by--led as a result of leading and
probing questions. Some of you are readily hypnotizable and you can be hypnotized. And what we would learn about a past
event from hypnotizing you will not necessarily then be inaccurate. What hypnotizing does is it makes people very willing to
cooperate. Unfortunately, it isn't as if there is a memory storage there where you could just go through and look as in the
movies where you just say, "What's the license plate?" The person's hypnotized and then the flashback comes in and then
they zoom in on the license plate. Memory doesn't work that way. What happens is--What somebody will do in a
hypnotizable state is they'll be very eager to please the hypnotist. And so they'll make stuff up.
And people under hypnosis just make stuff up. And they do very enthusiastically and very believably make stuff up.
This is particularly the case with hypnotic regression when we ask you to go back to your sixth birthday party, for instance.
And what's great as a developmental psychologist is if I ask you to go back to your fourth birthday party and you're
hypnotizable you'll be oh, just like a four-year-old except you won't be like a real four-year-old. What you'll be like is an adult's
notion of what a four-year-old is supposed to be. In fact, this has happened in the extreme case with hypnotic regression
where people claim to speak languages like from ancient Egypt. And linguists love these studies because you don't--of
course you don't really sound like you're speaking a language from ancient Egypt. What you sound is like a North American
who believes he's speaking a language from ancient Egypt so they're, "nonsense sounds." [laughter] And so what it makes


you is--Hypnotism brings out the actor in you. It makes you want to give a persuasive account of what happened. And so
hypnotism is just an extreme form of what normally happens in eyewitness testimony.
Repressed memories. We could devote a class--We could devote a semester to the very heated debate in the
United States mostly about repressed memories. There are many adults who have claimed to have experienced traumatic
sexual abuse. In some cases, this is unexceptional from a memory point of view. People know this happened to them.
They've always known it happens to them and then they tell people about it. But there's a subset of cases where people
have had no memory up to a point of what happened to them. Then they go to a psychologist or a psychiatrist; they undergo
questioning, often using hypnotic techniques; and then they recover a memory of past traumatic sexual abuse. And what this
is--what makes this so debatable, and there is a debate about this. I don't want to try to preclude it one way or another. What
makes this debatable is some psychologists believe that, in at least some cases, these memories are real and they have
been repressed through a Freudian mechanism that they're too terrible to bring to consciousness, and the therapy brings
them out into real life. But most psychologists believe that these memories cannot be trusted, that these memories are
created through the actions of the therapist.
And so, there's actually considerable psychological and legal battles over the veracity of the therapists where
women who have claimed to have sexual--be sexually abused, for instance, have pressed criminal charges against their
fathers on the basis of false memories. Similarly, people who have been accused of sexual abuse have pressed criminal
charges against psychiatrists claiming that these psychiatrists have implanted the memories into their sons and daughters. It
is controversial whether memories are ever repressed. What isn't controversial is that, for at least some cases, you can
implant false memories in people, not because you're a sinister or evil person but because you really believed something
happened. And you talked to them about it and then you caused these memories to come into being.
A final case is flashbulb memories. I asked this early in the semester. I'll ask it again. How many of you remember
where you were on September 11, 2001? Is there anybody who doesn't remember where they were on September 11,
2001? It would be interesting. It was a socially relevant event, but here's the problem with these flashbulb memories.
Flashbulb memories are the idea that these memories being so vivid, and they are vivid for many of us--exactly where we
stood, what happened; well, they can't really be trusted. And here is why not. Because they are such important events, I bet
many of you have actually heard the question before, "Where were you on September 11th?" and talked about it. What
happens in these conversations is stories change. I have my--I knew where I was on September 11th. My wife knew where
she was. But I spent as much time listening to her talk about it as I spent time me talking about it. And now maybe my
memory is actually of her experience and not mine.
It's not--For all of these cases, the temptation you have to resist is saying, "Yes. I know memories can be swayed. I
know they could be distorted and everything but, you see, I really am sure that happened." You have to resist that temptation
because there are so many cases we know, including the tape of the girls that we just saw, where people are entirely sure
things happened. And we know full well that they didn't exist. Being sure is no guarantee that a memory isn't false,
reconstructed or even implanted.
So, this part of memory has three main morals. There are many types of memories. I talked about short-term
memory, long-term memory. I talked about implicit memory and explicit memory. These are sort of separable sort of
memories. You could break one while having the other one impaired. Arguably, there are brain systems dedicated to
memory for faces, memory for everyday objects, memory for spatial locations. The key to remembering is organization and
understanding. Introduction to "X" courses, including Introduction to Psychology courses, are among the hardest courses at
Yale. And the reason why is there is just a lot of material that is diverse and you have to command each aspect separately.
The easiest courses at Yale tend to be highfalutin seminars where you kind of have enough of a background that everything
is--can be clear and understandable. The more you understand something, the easier you'll remember it.
And finally, you can't trust some of your memories. Your reading response for this week is you have to use your
powers for good and not for evil, [laughter] though if you manage to succeed at this I will be very impressed. [laughter] But
you have to describe, based on the lecture materials and the readings, how to implant a false memory. We have a few
minutes. Any questions on memory. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Uh huh. Hey. Please-Student: [inaudible] Is that long-term sensory memory?
Professor Paul Bloom: The example is, "What sort of memory is it when you know how to play the piano?" And it's a very
good question. It is long-term memory because you might know how to do a concerto or a song and then you have it stored
in your head and you carry it around with you. You'll remember it a year from now, two years from now. It is long-term
memory but it is also an excellent example of implicit memory because you know how to do it but you could do it
unconsciously without attending to it. It's not sensory but it's as if, put it crudely, that your fingers know and not your mind.
We have time for one more question. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: The question is about photographic memory. There are a lot of claims about photographic memory.
My understanding is they do not tend to be substantiated. Sometimes photographic memory, and this came up when we


talked about autism a few classes ago, is linked with savant-like skills. People who have severe impairments in some ways
may have photographic memories in others. I am not convinced that photographic memory in the sense that you see
something, you take a picture of it, you hold it in memory really exists. I think there may be one or two case studies that
suggest it might be real but I think it's controversial. Okay. We have a guest lecturer on Wednesday. Dean Peter Salovey will
talk to us about love.


Lecture 9
Professor Paul Bloom: I'm delighted to introduce the first guest lecturer for this Introduction to Psychology course, Dean
Peter Salovey. Peter is an old friend and colleague. Many of you--I think everybody here knows of him through his role as
Dean of Yale College. I'll just, in this context of this introduction, mention two other things about him. One is prior to being
dean and in fact, still as a dean, he's an active scientist and in particular, a social psychologist actively involved in studying
health psychology, the proper use of psychological methods to frame health messages, and also is the founder and
developer of the idea of emotional intelligence, an idea he's done a huge amount of research on. Secondly, Peter is or was
an active and extremely well-known teacher at Yale College. He taught at one point, the largest course ever in Yale College
a course on Psychology in Law which broke every record ever had here. And before that, during that, and after that, he
was a legendary Introduction to Psychology teacher. And I think--and he had some reason for why he was so legendary with
his lecture today on the topic of love.
Dean Peter Salovey: Thanks very much. Okay. Thank you very much, Professor Bloom. It really is a pleasure to come and
lecture to you today on Valentine's Day on the topic of love. My main area of research is human emotion. And love is an
emotion. It's not one that I study personally, at least not in the lab, and--but it is fun to talk about. And it is a topic that lends
itself to many social psychological phenomena. It's also great to be able to come in and guest lecture. One of the things I
very much miss since serving as dean is the opportunity to teach Psychology 110. And although I love being dean, I do miss
teaching Introductory Psychology, the feeling of exposing people to ideas that maybe you hadn't heard before.
Well, I suspect some of the ideas in this talk you'll have not heard before and for a variety of reasons. A couple of
the things you'll notice is that some of the experiments I'll talk about today are not the kinds of experiments that can be done
anymore. They're not considered ethically acceptable but they were done in the 50s and 60s and early 70s when ethical
standards were different and so we can teach them. We just can't give you the same experiences that some of the college
students that we'll talk about today in these studies had.
The other thing I will mention is that there is a certain androcentric and heterosexual quality to much of the social
psychological research on romantic love. You'll see that in the experiments. Usually, the participants are men and usually the
targets are women in these experiments. I'm not endorsing this as the only way to study love. It just happens to be the way
these experiments were done and so I mention this caution right from the beginning. We'll have to think about--One of the
things you should think about is do you think these experiments generalized to other kinds of dyadic relationships. And that's
a question that I think you can ask throughout this lecture.
Okay. So let's get started. And to start things off I think what we need to do is consider a definition. I'm going to
define what love is but then most of the experiments I'm going to talk about are really focused more on attraction than love-who finds each other of romantic interest that might then develop into a love relationship. But let's start with a definition of
love. And I'm going to pick a definition from a former colleague, Robert Sternberg, who is now the dean at Tufts University
but was here on our faculty at Yale for nearly thirty years or so. And he has a theory of love that argues that it's made up of
three components: intimacy, passion, and commitment, or what is sometimes called decision commitment. And these are
relatively straightforward. He argued that you don't have love if you don't have all three of these elements.
Intimacy is the feeling of closeness, of connectedness with someone, of bonding. Operationally, you could think of
intimacy as you share secrets, you share information with this person that you don't share with anybody else. Okay. That's
really what intimacy is, the bond that comes from sharing information that isn't shared with other--with many other people.
Second element is passion. Passion is what you think it is. Passion is the--we would say the drive that leads to romance.
You can think of it as physical attraction or sex. And Sternberg argues that this is a required component of a love
relationship. It is not, however, a required component of taking a shower in Calhoun College. [a Yale dormitory] [laughter]
The third element of love in Sternberg's theory is what he calls decision or commitment, the decision that one is in a
love relationship, the willingness to label it as such, and a commitment to maintain that relationship at least for some period
of time. Sternberg would argue it's not love if you don't call it love and if you don't have some desire to maintain the
relationship. So if you have all three of these, intimacy, passion and commitment, in Sternberg's theory you have love. Now
what's interesting about the theory is what do you have if you only have one out of three or two out of three? What do you
have and how is it different if you have a different two out of three? These are--What's interesting about this kind of
theorizing is it give--it gives rise to many different permutations that when you break them down and start to look at them
carefully can be quite interesting. So what I've done is I've taken Sternberg's three elements of love, intimacy, passion and
commitment, and I've listed out the different kinds of relationships one would have if you had zero, one, two or three out of
the three elements.
And I'm using names or types that Sternberg uses in his theory. These are really from him. Some of these are pretty
obvious. If you don't have intimacy, if you don't have passion, if you don't have commitment, you don't have love. Sternberg
calls this non-love. That's the technical term. And [laughs] essentially what he's saying is the relationship you now have to
the person sitting next to you, presuming that you're sitting next to a random person that you didn't know from your college, is
probably non-love. If it's something else, we could talk about it at the end of the lecture or perhaps when I get to it in a


Now let's start to add elements. Let's add intimacy. This is sharing secrets, a feeling of closeness, connectedness,
bonding. Let's say we have that with someone but we don't have passion, that is, no sexual arousal, and no commitment to
maintain the relationship. This is liking. Sternberg calls it liking. And liking is really what is happening in most typical
friendships, not your closest friendship but friendships of a casual kind. You feel close, you share certain information with
that person that you don't share with other--many other people, but you're not physically attracted and there's no particular
commitment to maintaining this for a long period of time.
Now, what if you're not intimate, you're not committed, but you're passionate; you feel that sexual arousal. This is
what Sternberg would call infatuation. And that term probably works for you too, infatuated love, and this is love at first sight.
"I don't know you, we've never shared any secrets because I don't know you, I'm not committed to defining this as anything,
I'm not committed to the future. In fact, I'm not thinking about the future. I'm thinking about right now but boy, am I attracted."
Right. That's infatuation and that's what Sternberg means by infatuated love.
The third kind of one-element relationship is there's no intimacy, right, no bonding, no closeness, no secrets, no
physical attraction, no sexual arousal, but by gosh, we are going to maintain this relationship, we are committed to it for all
time. Sternberg calls that "empty love." Empty love is kind of interesting. It's often the final stage of long-term relationships
that have gone bad. "We don't share information with each other anymore so there's no intimacy. We don't feel physically
attracted to each other anymore, there's no passion, but we'd better stay together for the kids, right? Or we've got to stay
together for appearance's sake or we'd better stay together because financially it would be a disaster if we don't" or all of the
reasons other than intimacy and passion that people might commit to each other. That's what Sternberg calls empty love.
Now what's interesting is in societies where marriages are arranged this is often the first stage of a love
relationship. These two people who have maybe never seen each other before, who have never shared secrets so there's no
intimacy, who have never--don't know if they're physically attracted to each other or on their wedding day revealed to each
other and committed legally and sometimes religiously to each other. Right? The commitment is there but at that moment
nothing else might be there. What's interesting of course is that such relationships don't seem to have any greater chance of
ending in divorce than people who marry for love. But there's a big confound, there's a big problem in studies of those kind of
relationships. What might it be? Anybody. What might be the problem in the statement I just made that these kind of
relationships are just as likely to survive as people who marry for love? Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Dean Peter Salovey: Yeah. So they may occur; they're more likely to occur in societies that frown on divorce. They make it
very costly, socially costly, to divorce, so then they stay together for all kinds of reasons, not always such good ones.
All right. Now who was it who sang the song "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad"? Was that Meat Loaf? Who was it? It was
Meat Loaf. All right. Professor Bloom says it was Meat Loaf. It was Meat Loaf. You're all saying, "there was a singer called
Meat Loaf?" Meat Loaf sang the song "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad." Let's see if two out of three ain't bad. What if you have
intimacy, "we share secrets, passion, we feel physically attracted to each other but we're not making any commitments
here." Sternberg calls that "romantic love." This is physical attraction with close bonding but no commitment, Romeo and
Juliet when they first met. This is often the way relationships start: "We like each other, I'm physically attracted to each other,
I--to you, I enjoy spending time with you but I'm not making any long-term commitments. So I'm not even willing to use the L'
word in describing what it is we have." Right? Many of you might have been in relationships of this sort. That's romance.
That's romantic love.
Now, what if you have intimacy, "we share secrets with each other, but there's no particular physical attraction but
we are really committed to this relationship." This is what Sternberg calls "companionate love." This is your best friend. "We
are committed to sharing intimacy, to being friends forever," but physical attraction is not part of the equation here. This is
sort of the--maybe the Greek ideal in relationships of some kind.
All right. What if we have passion, "I'm sexually attracted to you," but no intimacy. "I don't want to really know that
much about you, I don't want to really share anything of me with you, but I am committed to maintaining this physical
attraction to you" [laughter] Well, that's what Sternberg calls "fatuous love." It's a whirlwind courtship. It's a Hollywood
romance. It might lead to a shotgun wedding. Maybe you find yourself in Las Vegas and you get married for a day and a half
and then realize that this wasn't such a good idea. And maybe your name is Britney and you're a singer. [laughter]
Well, anyway, you've got the idea. That's fatuous love. "We are basically committed to each other for sex" but it's
very hard to make those relationships last a long time because we might not have anything in common, we might not share
anything with each other, we might not trust each other, we are not particularly bonded to each other. On the other hand, if
you have all three, intimacy, passion, commitment, this is "consummate love" according to Sternberg complete love. This is
how he defines love.
Okay. So now you have a definition of love and you can now, as a homework assignment, sit down tonight and make a list of
every person you know by the three elements of love and just start putting the check marks in the boxes and tallying up your
personal love box score. And we don't want to collect those. We don't even want to see those but you can have fun with that.
Then you can ask the other people to do it too and you can compare with each other. [laughter] And if you all survive this
exercise you'll be better for it. [laughter] What doesn't kill you makes you stronger. That's the idea behind that exercise.


All right. Now the social psychology of love really has been a social psychology of attraction. What makes people
find each other attractive? What makes them want to be intimate? What makes them physically desirable to each other?
What might lead to a commitment, a decision to make a commitment to make the relationship last? This is just so nice. I'm
giving this lecture on love and the two of you are holding hands here in the front row. It's really-- [laughter] And-- [applause]
All three elements present, intimacy, passion, and-- [laughter] Yeah. Okay. [laughter] Good. Just checking. [laughter] Okay.
So what's interesting about the social psychology of attraction is it has focused on seven variables. And I've divided
these into two groups, the big three and the more interesting four. And I call them the big--The big three are three variables
that the effects are so powerful that they almost don't need to be discussed in much detail. The more interesting four are the
ones I'm going to focus on in this lecture because they're a bit more subtle and they may be things that you've never heard of
before. But let's quickly talk about the big three.
The way to understand the big three is with the phrase "all other things being equal." All other things being equal,
people who find themselves in close spatial proximity to each other, like sharing an armrest in a lecture, will be more likely to
be attracted to each other and form a romantic relationship. Okay, all other things being equal. Now this has been tested in
lots of interesting ways. Studies have been done in the city of New York where you can--if you live in Manhattan you can
actually get a very nice metric of how far apart people live from each other in city blocks. Right? You have a nice grid pattern
and you can use a city block metric to add up the number of blocks between people's doors. And people who live more
closely together are more likely to end up in romantic relationships with each other. It seems kind of obvious. Right? This
even works on college campuses. We can measure in feet the distance between the door to your room and the door to every
other room of a student on campus and there will be a correlation between the likelihood of--it's a negative correlation--the
likelihood of getting into a romantic relationship with a person and the number of feet between your door and that person's
door. The fewer feet, the more likely a romantic relationship, all other things being equal.
Now, all other things being equal is a big qualifier. Right? But if we could statistically control for every other variable,
all I'd need to do is measure the distance from your door to everybody else's door on campus and I could chart out who's
going to fall in love with whom on the Yale campus. Now, this idea in a way is--I don't know. Maybe it's a little
counterintuitive. There is a kind of cultural myth around the stranger, the person you don't know, who you will--who you fall in
love with. And that is not likely to be the case if it's the person who is nearby. Right? And you'll see as we go through the
other big--the other two "big three" that there is a kind of repetition of this theme. It isn't the stranger you fall in love with.
All right. Let's continue down. Similarity. You've probably heard the phrase "Birds of a feather flock together" and
that's true when it comes to romance. On any dimension that psychologists have measured in these kinds of studies, when
people are more similar they are more likely to find each other attractive. This could be obvious things like height or age but it
also could be things like attitudes toward capital punishment, preference for the Red Sox over the Yankees. Right? All of
these are dimensions of similarity. All things being equal, the more similar the more likely you'll find each other attractive. So,
opposites don't really attract. Birds of a feather may flock together but opposites don't really attract each other.
Now, usually at this point somebody in the lecture hall raises their hand and says, "Well, my boyfriend or my
girlfriend and I are complete opposites and how do you account for that, Professor Salovey?" And I usually look at them and I
say, "Good luck." [laughter]
And of course all things might not be equal. There may be other variables at play but, all things being equal, similarity does
not breed contempt. Similarity breeds attraction. Okay? Isn't it interesting? We have all of these common sayings that
contradict each other and then empirically, some of them turn out to have more evidence supporting them than others. So
"opposites attract?" Not much evidence. "Similarity breeds contempt?" Not much evidence. "Birds of a feather flock
together?" Yeah, there's some evidence for that anyway.
Finally, familiarity. Familiarity--We tend to fall in love with people in our environment with whom we are already
familiar. The idea that some enchanted evening we will see a stranger--Where are The New Blue [a Yale a cappella group
that sings for couples on Valentine's Day] when you need them? [laughter] "Some enchanted evening you will see a stranger
across a crowded room." Right? What musical is that from? "South Pacific." Very good. You will see a stranger across a
crowded room. That's kind of a cultural myth. Of course it happens, but much more common is somebody you already know,
somebody you have seen repetitively you suddenly find attraction--attractive and a relationship forms. Okay?
So the big three: People who are similar to you, people who are already familiar to you, people who are nearby in
space. These are the people, all things being equal, that you will find attractive. Okay? So those are the big three. Those are
big main effects. Those are big, easy to observe in various ways in the lab. By the way, the familiarity idea doesn't just work
for people. I can show you words in a language that you don't speak and I can flash those words to you very quickly and I
can later repeat some of those words and mix in some new ones that you've never seen before and I can say, "I don't know-I know you don't know what any of these words mean. I know you can't read these characters but just, if you had to tell me,
which ones do you like and which ones don't you like or how much do you like each one?" The ones you will like are the
ones you saw earlier, the ones that you already have familiarity. Even if you don't remember having seen them, even if that
familiarity was generated with such quick exposures that you don't remember even having seen anything, you will get that
familiarity effect. Okay? Good.


The more interesting four. These are more interesting because they're a little bit complicated, a little bit subtle. Let's
start with actually the one that is my favorite. This is "competence." Think about other people in your environment. Think
about people who are competent. Generally--And think about people who are incompetent. Generally, we are more attracted
to people who seem competent to us. Now, that isn't very interesting. And it turns out that's not really the effect. Yes, we're
more attracted to people who are competent than people who we think are incompetent but people who are super
competent, people who seem competent on all dimensions, they're kind of threatening to us. They don't make us feel so
good about ourselves. Right? They make us feel a bit diminished by comparison. So, what we really like--The kind of person
we're really attracted to is the competent individual who occasionally blunders. And this is called the Pratfall Effect, that our
liking for the competent person grows when they make a mistake, when they do something embarrassing, when they have a
failure experience. Okay?
You can see this with public figures. Public figures who are viewed as competent but who pratfall, who make a
mistake, sometimes they are even more popular after the mistake. Okay? I think of Bill Clinton when he was President. His
popularity at the end of his term, despite what everyone would agree, whether you like Bill Clinton or not, was a big mistake
with Monica Lewinsky, his popularity didn't suffer very much. A lot of people in the media would describe him, "Well, he's
just--It just shows he's human." He makes mistakes like the rest of us, even though that was a pretty big mistake. Right? And
you could see this even with smaller pratfalls. Sometimes public figures are liked even more after their pratfall.
Now, the classic experiment, the classic pratfall experiment, is just a beautiful one to describe. It's a work of art. So,
let me tell you a little bit about it. You're in this experiment. You're brought to the lab and you're listening to a tape recording
of interviews with people who are described as possible representatives from your college to appear on a quiz show. The
quiz show is called "College Bowl," which I don't think is on anymore but was on when I was in college. And you're listening
to interviews with possible contestants from Yale who are going to be on "College Bowl." You have to decide how much-What you're told is you have to decide who should be chosen to be on "College Bowl." And you listen to these interviews.
Now what's interesting is there's two types of people, the nearly perfect person and the mediocre person. The nearly perfect
person answered 92% of the questions correctly, admitted modestly to being a member of the campus honor society, was
the editor of the yearbook, and ran varsity track. That's the nearly perfect person. The mediocre person answers only 30% of
the questions correctly, admits that he has only average grades, he worked on the yearbook as a proofreader, and he tried
out for the track team but didn't make it. So, you see, they're keeping a lot of the elements consistent but in one case he's
kind of an average performer and in the other case nearly perfect.
Now, which of these two people do you find more attractive in listening to the tape? So, when they ask you
questions about which person should be on the quiz show, people say the more competent person. But they also ask
questions like, "How attractive do you find this person?" Now, you're only listening to an audiotape. How attractive do you
find this person? And the results are pretty obvious. The competent person is rated as much more attractive, considerably
more attractive, than the mediocre person. Okay? If this were the end of the story though, it would be a kind of boring story
and it's not the end of the story.
Now, what happens is half of the participants in the experiment who have listened to each of these tapes--You only
get to listen to one tape. Half of them are assigned to the blunder condition. And what happens in the blunder condition is the
tape continues and what you hear is the clattering of dishes, a person saying--the person saying, "Oh, my goodness. I've
spilled coffee all over my new suit." Okay? That's the blunder. That's the pratfall. Now you're asked, "Who do you find more
attractive?" And look what happens. Your rating of the attractiveness of the competent person grows even higher. The
competent person who blunders, this is the person that I love. Unfortunately, the mediocre person who blunders, you now
think is even more mediocre. [laughter] Right? This is the sad irony in these experiments. The effect works both ways so the
mediocre become even more lowered in your esteem, in your regard.
Now, I'll tell you a little personal story about my coming to Yale that relates to this experiment. This is one of the
most famous experiments in the history of social psychology. I wouldn't quite put it up there. You'll hear maybe later about, or
maybe you've already about Milgram and maybe Asch conformity and maybe Robber's Cave. Those are even better known
than this, but this is right up there. This is a top five experiment. What--So--And it was done by Elliot Aronson who has retired
now, but for many years taught at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The name is not one that you need to know.
In any case, I came to Yale in 1981 as a graduate student and I was looking for an adviser and I was kind of
interviewing with a faculty member at Yale at the time named Judy Rodin. Some of you may know that name because she
went on later to become the President of the University of Pennsylvania and now is the President of the Rockefeller
Foundation. But I was interviewing with her and set up a meeting. And what I was trying to persuade her in this meeting was
to take me on as one of her students, to let--to be my adviser. And it's about my third or fourth week of graduate school and
I'm pretty nervous about this. And she could be intimidating to a first-year graduate student.
And I remember I was holding this mug of coffee and I was pleading with her, trying to convince her to take me on
as her student, and I was saying, "Judy, I'll get a lot done. I'll work really hard. I can analyze data. I can write." And I'm talking
about myself and I'm swinging--I'm using my hands as I talk. I'm swinging this cup of coffee around. And fairly soon into the
conversation I demonstrated some principle that you've probably learned in your physics class having to do with an object at
rest remaining at rest unless acted upon by a force. Well, the object at rest was the coffee in the cup and when I pulled the


coffee cup out from under the coffee it landed right on her desk and began--I watched in slow motion as this wave of coffee
just moved from my side of the desk to her side of the desk.
She jumped up and jumped back and started moving papers around and really was giving me this look like "Why
don't you just leave?" So, I was trying to save the moment as best as I could, and I looked at her and I said, "Judy, do you
remember that old experiment that Elliot Aronson did [laughter] on attractiveness?" [laughter] She looked at me kind of out of
the corner of her eye and I said, "Well, that was my blunder. [laughter] Now you're going to like me even more." [laughter]
And she just shook her head and she said, "Peter, Peter, Peter. You know that effect only works if I think you're competent
first." [laughter] Anyway, that was my introduction to Yale, graduate school at Yale. [laughter]
All right. So blundering. Only blunder if you're competent first and it will make you more attractive. That is the
Pratfall Effect. Let's move on and I'm going to move a little bit quickly through all this because I want to leave time for a few
questions at the end of the lecture.
Let's talk about physical attractiveness as number two of the more interesting four. Now physical attractiveness is one that
really bothers us. We don't like to believe that physical attractiveness accounts for much in life. It seems unfair. Except at the
margins, there isn't much we can do about physical attractiveness. And when we're not pictured in The Rumpus [a satirical
Yale newspaper that publishes a list of the best looking people on campus] it can really hurt. [laughter] So, we all like to
believe that physical attractiveness matters. And the interesting thing is if you do surveys of college students and you say to
them, "Rate how important different characteristics are in relationships that you might be involved in," they will say that
warmth is important, sensitivity is important, intelligence is important, compassion is important, a sense of humor is
important, and they'll say that looks aren't important. But if you measure all of those things--Let's do it in a different order. If
you send everybody out on a blind date and then you look at, after the blind date, how many of those people who are
matched up blindly actually go on a second date, actually get together again, what predicts who gets together again? Was it
the rating of warmth? No. Sensitivity? No. Intelligence? No. Compassion? No. Sense of humor? No. What was it? Looks. So
we believe that looks don't matter and unfortunately they do.
Now, the good news in all of this is the studies that looked at physical attractiveness in this way were just looking at
what predicts a second date after a first date. Obviously, what predicts a long-term relationship are probably things less
superficial than looks, or at least other things in addition to looks. But it is a great predictor of a second date. And college
students year after year say, "But it's not important." And it's one of those classic disassociations between what we think is
unimportant and what empirically turns out to be more important.
Alright well, there are very interesting studies that have been done with physical attractiveness. At the University of
Minnesota, a computer algorithm paired people up. It couldn't have been a very complicated algorithm because it basically
paired people up randomly on the campus. But the computer--but a lot of data about all the students on campus were--was
collected--were collected and people were then randomly paired up and sent to the dance. And then they were tracked over
time. And just as in the thought experiment I just gave you, the University of Minnesota students acted in the same way. If
the computer--If they rated their partner as attractive, the randomly assigned partner, they were more likely to continue the
Now it's interesting to ask, "why?" And we have to start to look at other experiments to try to get at what is it about
physical attractiveness that makes people want to pursue the relationship? And once again Elliot Aronson, the person who
did the blunder experiment, the "Pratfall" experiment, he did some nice work on attractiveness as well. And in one
experiment, which many people know as the "Frizzy Wig" experiment, he did the following. He invited a confederate, a
graduate student who was working with him in his lab--Psychologists--Social psychologists always call people who are in the
employ of the experimenter "confederates." It doesn't mean that they grew up south of the Mason-Dixon Line or wave a
certain kind of flag or--but the older term for it was "stooge." They would say, "We hired a stooge to act in the following role in
the experiment." But I think a certain generation of college students thought stooges were only named Moe, Larry, and Curly
and so they started to use the phrase "confederate." Now, they'll usually just say, "We hired an actor."
But anyway, the confederate that they hired was a woman who was naturally attractive in most people's view but
they made her look either more attractive or less attractive by giving her kind of frumpy clothes, bad make-up, and a frizzy
wig. And it was the frizzy wig that everybody remembers from this experiment. And what she does in the experiment is she
poses as a graduate student in clinical psychology who is interviewing male participants only men in this experiment. And
at the end of the interview she gives them her own personal clinical evaluation of their personality. Okay? So, that's all it is.
They have this interview with this woman. She's either made to look very good or she's made to look kind of ugly with this
frizzy wig and they talk to her. She gives them an evaluation of their personality. Half of the subjects receive a favorable
personality assessment. Half of them receive a kind of unfavorable evaluation.
How do they respond? Well, when she was made to look attractive they were delighted when she gave them
positive feedback about themselves. When she was made to--When she gave--When she was made to look attractive but
gave them unfavorable information about themselves, they were really upset about it. When she was made to look
unattractive they didn't really care what kind of information she gave. It didn't really matter whether it was positive or not. It
didn't really make any difference. It was interesting. In the condition where she was made to look attractive but gave you bad


feedback about yourself, often the subjects in that condition would look for an opportunity to interact with her in the future,
obviously to try to prove that her evaluation was wrong. It mattered that much to them.
So there's kind of this idea that attractive people, their feedback to us has more impact. I'm not saying this is fair, I'm not
saying it's rational, I'm not endorsing it, but empirically-- [coughs] excuse me--empirically we can see it, that somehow the
attractive--the feedback from the attractive person matters more to us.
Okay. Number three of the more interesting four. Gain, loss. This is really a general idea in psychology that we are
in a way wired up to be more sensitive to change than to steady states. And you could imagine why that might be true.
Change often signals danger or opportunity and if we are especially tuned-in to change, it helps us survive and it helps us
pass along our genes. Okay? So we're more sensitive to change.
How does that play out in love? Well, in love we are--what is very powerful to us is not just that someone always is
positive toward us, "I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you, I love --" Right? It wears out its welcome. What's more
powerful is the person who was not that positive to us but over time becomes more positive. The first derivative of their
regard for us is positive. Okay? Aronson calls this the "Gain Effect." We are really attracted to people whose regard for us is
gaining momentum over time. Okay? And even if over a period of time the average amount of their regard is lower because
they started lower and then got higher than someone who was always high, it's the ones who were first lower who then went
up that capture our attention. The first derivative is more important than just the position of their regard for us, getting better
and better.
Now, what's interesting is there is also a loss effect. People who really hurt us are not the people who have always
been negative. The person who every time they sees you hates you, says they hate you and accompanies it with an obscene
gesture--after a while this person can't hurt you. Right? There's a country song that Ricky Skaggs sings that has the phrase
in it "Nothing can hurt you like the person you love." That's what hurts, the person who always was positive who now--whose
regard starts to fade. Oh. You can only hurt the one you love. Right? You can only hurt the one you love because you are
expecting positive feedback from the one you love. And when that turns negative, it's a blow. It's a blow to the solar plexus.
Right? So you can only hurt the one you can love but the one who always loves you sometimes has trouble showing you that
they love you. The one who didn't really love you that much but then starts to show you that they love you, that person is a
powerful influence on your behavior.
Okay. The last--Oops. Come back. The last set of studies--Have you talked about Schacter, Singer's "Emotions"?
Okay. So let me describe to you this phenomenon. This is a phenomenon about the misattribution for the causes of arousal.
You feel physiologically aroused but you're not completely sure why, and you have to make up an explanation for it. I think
what I want to do--And sometimes that explanation is accurate, but the ones that are interesting here are the ones where you
misattribute the cause of the arousal--you make a mistake and think it's love when it might be due to something else.
So, let's do a thought experiment. I'm a Yale college student, for the purposes of this thought experiment and I live
in Pierson because I need to walk a great distance to Chapel Street, to the Starbuck's on Chapel Street. And I have a friend
who I don't know that well, somebody who was sitting next to me in class a few weeks in a row. And I said, "Would you like to
go see The New Blue in concert and then get coffee after it Friday night?" And she says to me, "Sure. I would do that." And
so The New Blue concert takes place in the Pierson-Davenport Theater in the basement there what used to be a squash
court is now a little theater and we enjoy ourselves at the concert and then I say, "Let's go to Starbuck's and get a coffee."
And so, we walk that distance from Pierson College down to the York Street Gate, over to Chapel Street, make the
left on Chapel Street, another block down to High, walk into the Starbuck's. And she says to me, "You know, I'd better have a
decaf because it's kind of late and I want to be able to sleep." And I say, "That's fine. Whatever you want." She says, "Yeah.
So I'll have a decaf double espresso mocha skinny with a--" What? What other dimensions are there? [laughter] Right? "A
double espresso mocha skinny frothed." [laughter] And I say, "Okay. Fine. I'll have a coffee." [laughter] And I go up there and
I order the drinks. "I'll have a small coffee please and a double espresso mocha skinny frothed" except the barista makes a
mistake. Did the word "barista" exist before Starbuck's? [laughter] I don't think so.
The barista makes a mistake. The barista uses caffeinated coffee in the drink instead of decaf, doesn't tell anybody, doesn't
tell me. I don't see it. I just come back with my black coffee and my double espresso mocha latte skinny frothed, except it
isn't espresso. It's got two shots of caffeinated espresso. I'm sorry. It isn't decaffeinated. It's got two shots of caffeinated
espresso in it. And I put it down on the table and we're having this nice conversation and we're drinking our beverages and
it's about 12:30/1:00 now and Starbuck's is closing and it's time to walk back to Pierson. And we're walking back to Pierson
and we leave the Starbuck's, we make a left on Chapel Street, we're walking up to York, I'm getting a little sleepy, but my
friend looks at me and says, "Huh. I feel a little funny." What's actually happening? Her heart is beating a little faster, [sound
of heartbeat] her palms are beginning to sweat, her breath is coming a little shorter than it otherwise would. "I don't know. Is
it warm in here?" And she said, "I don't think I've felt this way in a very long time. [laughter] "Gee. It couldn't be the coffee. I
ordered decaf. What could this be? What.." And she turns and she looks at me [laughter] and she says, "What a day this has
been. What a rare mood I'm in. Why, it's almost like being in love." [laughter]
And it is almost like being in love except what it really is is two shots of caffeinated espresso [laughter] causing a
rapid heart rate, an increase in respiration, sweaty palms, but I don't realize--she doesn't realize that's what it is. She turns to


the most salient--and this is the way social psychologists would say it--turns to the most salient object in her immediate
social environment--that would be me--and [laughter] says she's in love.
That's the idea of misattribution--aroused due to something else, "don't know what that is." It's best if you don't know
what that is or even if you do mistakenly attribute it, misattribute it, to physical attraction, romance, intimacy, passion and
commitment, it's love.
All right. Now, I don't necessarily recommend that you do this thought experiment in vivo this weekend, although if you're
lonely you might want to try it but [laughter] we can go--we can take this idea right--We can actually do research on this. We
could take it into the lab. But before I tell you about lab experiments let me tell you about the most famous field experiment
on this idea.
We call this the "Rickety Bridge" experiment. And there is a bridge at the University of British Columbia that crosses
a river that runs through campus and the rickety--There's actually two bridges. The rickety bridge is one that's kind of a rope
bridge. It's hundreds of feet above the river. It sways in the breeze. It's only about three feet wide. You kind of hold on to it
carefully and you cross the river. It's a pretty scary way to cross that river. Has anybody been--seen this bridge? It's still
there. Yes. You know this bridge. Okay. There's another way to cross the river. It's on a low bridge near the water, solid
wood planks, nice and wide, hand railings made out of solid wood, and you can cross the bridge that way.
So, what two investigators at the University of British Columbia did is they simply positioned, once again, an
attractive actor or confederate on one side of the bridge. She was a woman and she met men crossing the bridge. And she
would intercept them as they came across the rickety bridge, or the low bridge, and she would ask them a few questions and
conclude with, "Can you write me a story? You would help me out with my experiment if you'd just write a little story right
now." Then she would collect their story and she would say, "If you have any questions about this experiment, here is my
phone number." Actually, this happens when you're in experiments. You get the phone number of the experimenter.
What happens? Well, the men, male students, who cross the rickety bridge, they wrote these sexy stories with
interesting content, with kind of little bit ribald themes. And the people on the solid bridge, they just wrote pretty boring
stories. The people who crossed the rickety bridge were more likely to call her up later and say, "Yeah. I'd like to talk about
that experiment I was in. Could we meet at the Starbuck's? [laughter] You drink decaf, don't you?" Right? And the people on
the low bridge were much less likely to call her up. Okay?
What was going on? Well, this was interpreted as misattributed arousal. On the rickety bridge you're swaying in the breeze
hundreds of feet above the water, the bridge seems unstable. Maybe you'll make it. Maybe you won't. Your heart is beating,
your palms are sweating, you're breathing harder. You meet this person and she seems more attractive because you're
feeling all these things. And you attribute it to the attraction.
Now, there's a reason why this study is bad science. There's a major flaw in this study. The clue to the flaw is that
you can't even call this study an experiment. What's the flaw? Anybody. Yes.
Student: The people who would take the rickety bridge might be more likely to be more [inaudible]
Dean Peter Salovey: People who take the rickety bridge might be the kind of people who are more looking for adventure than
the people who take the solid bridge. Right. Another way of saying it is there isn't random assignment of the subjects to the
two conditions in the study. That's no random assignment; it's not an experiment. You--By not randomly assigning people to
these two conditions, you may be capturing just individual differences in the kind of person who, when there's a perfectly
stable, safe, low bridge, says, "Huh uh. I won't want to go on that bridge. I want to go on the bridge where I have to risk my
life to get to class." [laughter] And then should it surprise us that that's the kind of person who would call a perfect stranger
on the telephone and write a sexy story and give it to them? [laughter] Right? We're not so surprised. So what we have to do,
of course, is take it in to the lab and do this in a more systematic way with random assignment. And this is how I'll want to
finish up today. We have until 2:45, 3:45? Okay. Great. I'll take about five more minutes to finish up and that'll give us some
time for questions.
So how do you do this in the lab? Well, you can bring people in to the lab and I can present you with a confederate
who--Let's say you are all in condition one, everybody on this side of the room, and I can say to all of you, "Please wait here.
We'll begin the experiment in a moment. While you're waiting please fill out this form." And the form includes how attractive-how attracted you are to the experimenter, to me. I can do the same thing over here. I can give you the form and ask you to
rate how attractive you think I am and I can give you the same instruction with a crucial difference: "Please wait here. We will
begin the painful shock experiment in a moment. Please fill out these forms while you wait."
What happens? The people who got the painful shock instruction are more likely to find the confederate attractive.
[laughter] Why? While they're sitting there thinking about painful shock it's making their heart beat faster, [sound of
heartbeat] it's making their palms sweat, it's making them breathe harder maybe. And even though it's fairly obvious what's
doing that, they still misattribute that arousal to "I must be falling in love," even with that obvious a--even with that obvious an
You can do this in other ways. You can bring--Here is one of my favorite ones. You bring people in the lab. We'll
make them the control group this time. We bring you in the--to the lab and we say to this group of people, "Please wait here.
We'll begin the experiment in a moment. You can fill out these forms in the meantime." The forms ask how attracted you are
to the experimenter. You're now in the experimental group and I say, "Please wait here. We'll begin the experiment in a


moment. I'm going to ask you to fill out some forms but first, to get ready for this experiment, I'd like you to get on this
treadmill and run for ten minutes." So you've run on the treadmill. You've just sat around. The people who've run on the
treadmill, even when that arousal is fairly obvious, you've got--you--doing a little bit of aerobic exercise, you still find the
experimenter more attractive. Okay? This is why the fourth floor of Payne Whitney Gym is such a dangerous place [laughter]
and I urge you as your dean to be very careful there. [laughter] Okay? It's that combination of aerobic exercise and spandex
[laughter] that leads to trouble.
All right. Now, here's the final experiment and I apologize for this. It is a bit sexist in 2007 context, but let me
explain. And we could never do this--and one could never do this experiment today but let me go through it with you and
you'll apologize for its--some of its qualities. In this experiment male subjects were brought in to the lab and they were asked
to look at centerfolds from Playboy magazine. So, these are essentially photographs of naked women. And they are wearing
headphones that amplify their heartbeat and they are asked among other things how attracted are they to the centerfold
photograph that they're looking at. So, maybe--I don't remember how many they look at. Maybe it's about 10.
So, these slides are coming up. They've got the headphones on. The headphones are amplifying their heartbeat
and the slides are moving one after another for a few seconds each slide and they're listening to their heartbeat. [sound of
heartbeat] Slide one. Slide two. Slide three. Slide four. Slide five. Slide six. And then they're asked which one did you find
most attractive, which one are you most attracted to? "Oh, slide five, absolutely. She's the woman I want to marry." [laughter]
Right? And what has happened is they're using this bodily cue of their heartbeat to infer that that's who they find more
Now, here is the twist. They're not actually listening to their heartbeat. They're listening to a tape recording of a
heartbeat. And the experimenter is back there with the speed knob [laughter] and at random intervals he just speeds up the
tape of their heart [laughter] and then slows it down. And it doesn't matter which slide he speeds up the tape of the heartbeat
on, that's the one the subject is more likely to think is the person of their dreams, the person they're attracted to. So even you
can misattribute real arousal. You can even misattribute phony arousal, arousal that isn't even coming from your body. It's
just coming--It's just being played to you randomly. You can even misattribute that.
Okay. I think these experiments are cute and I think there's an interesting phenomenon there. And it says
something, in a way, about how easily we can be misled as to what things in our environment, even things coming from our
own body, mean. But there's also some very serious implications of this kind of work. One of them has to do with domestic
violence. So think about domestic violence situations and why people stay in them. Why do people stay in relationships that
are violent? Now the number one reason, and we have to acknowledge it up front, is usually economically there's no
alternative or people believe there's no alternative. "I can't leave because if I leave I'd be homeless. If I leave I will starve, if
my--if I leave my kids will starve or there'll be danger to my kids." And that keeps people trapped in abusive relationships but-And that's number one, but what else might be going on?
Sometimes people don't realize that the relationship they're in is abusive--it's psychologically or emotionally
abusive. They get into these fights and screaming matches and name-calling and such even if it's not physical violence. And
they feel a certain arousal when that happens and they misattribute it. "Well, he wouldn't be yelling and screaming at me if he
didn't love me." Right? They misattribute that, what might be anger, what might even be aggression and violence, to an
expression of love.
I have a friend who's a social psychologist who told me a story once that really made me very nervous, although
she's fine. She said, "When I was dating my husband"--this is thirty years ago--"we were having a tough time. We were in
many, many arguments--We got into many, many arguments and one time something happened where he came up to my
car in a parking lot and he was yelling at me through the window. And I rolled up the window and before you know it he had
punched out the window." And yelling at her and punched out the window. He didn't touch her. And he--she said to me,
"That's when I knew he really loved me." And I thought that's scary and I--and, all joking aside, that's scary but that's
misattributed arousal. "I'm feeling--when he did that I felt something and I assumed it was love. What she was misattributing
as love--Well, she was misattributing his aggressive response as love. She was misattributing her own fear as mutual
attraction, as "And I must love him." So, although we joke about these kinds of experiments, and they are fun to talk about
because they are unusual and cute, there is also some serious implications of this kind of work that one might think about.
And you might think about other possible implications as well. Okay. Let me stop there and see what kinds of questions we
might have.
Dean Peter Salovey: Thank you. Thanks very much. That's very kind of you. Because we are on tape I'll repeat any
questions that come in. Yeah.
Student: [inaudible]
Dean Peter Salovey: Right. So the question is in experiments like the painful shock experiment if you are told in advance,
like you all are, through a consent form or by the experimenter, "This is an experiment involving painful shock," will you still
rate the experimenter as more attractive or will you not be able to misattribute the arousal? It is true. The more salient we
make the source of the arousal, the less likely you can get the effect. If in my thought experiment I say to my friend, "Well, I
know why you're feeling that way. The reason why you're feeling that way is cause the barista made a mistake and gave you


caffeinated espresso when you asked for decaf or maybe you just love me." Right. The person is not likely to say, "Oh, I bet
it's love." They're more likely to think oh, caffeine, yeah. That's the parsimonious explanation here." So it is true. The more
salient you make the cause of the arousal, the less likely you'll get the effect but you can see even in experiments where the
cause of the arousal is somewhat obvious, at least to us, you can still get a misattribution effect. Other questions. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Dean Peter Salovey: Yeah. So the question is are any of these factors, particularly the big three, proximity, familiarity, and
similarity--Do they affect the maintenance of relationships or just the initial attraction? It's interesting. My guess is they affect
both initial and maintenance over time but the literature mostly focuses on initial attraction, much richer data on that initial
attraction and those initial stages of the relationship in part because it's a little hard to follow couples over time. Imagine the
sort of Heisenberg-esque problems we would get carefully following romantic couples over time and interfering with them to
ask questions and make observations. It would be hard to let this couple naturally--this relationship naturally unfold. So, we
really get--So, really the focus of many of these experiments is on initial attraction. That's why I always say my lecture is on
love, the definition of terms is about love, but the experiments really are much more about attraction than about love. Another
question. Yes.
Student: Can someone feel consummate love for more than one person?
Dean Peter Salovey: Oh. Can someone feel consummate love for more than one person? That's a very good question. It's
actually a question that's debated in the literature. I didn't get into it at all in this experiment--in this lecture--but there's an
interesting debate going on about love and many other emotions between people who take a kind of evolutionary perspective
on these states versus people who take what might be called a more socially constructed perspective. And these aren't
necessarily so incompatible but the evolutionary perspective I think would argue that you can feel that kind of love for more
than one person or at least it would facilitate the passing on of your genetic material to a larger array of the next generation.
So I think the evolutionary explanation is not a problem but we have constructed a world where in most societies, except for
very unusual polygamist societies, the belief is that you can't love more than one. Right. And so you've got this tension
between what might be evolutionarily wired impulses and the kind of social constraints that say this isn't good, this isn't
appropriate, this is taboo. And my guess is the result is yes, you could but you're not going to feel un-conflicted about it and
it's because these two are conflicting each other at the same time. How about one more question and then we'll let you go?
I'm sorry. I saw him first.
Student: Wouldn't natural selection favor the people who learn all these things and then practically try to apply them?
Dean Peter Salovey: So he's making the evolutionary argument. Wouldn't natural selection favor the people who take
introductory psychology, come to my Valentine's Day lecture, listen carefully to the big three and the more interesting four,
and then go out there and put them into practice? It feels a little bit like the--like we're trying to pass on an acquired
characteristic, which is a little bit counter to Darwinian theory but if somehow you could design a proclivity for learning this
kind of material, evolution might indeed favor it. I can tell you this much. It would make the several thousands social
psychologists in this world very happy and proud of their field, if that turned out to be true. Anyway, thank you all very much.
Happy Valentine's Day! Thanks!


Lecture 10
Professor Paul Bloom: We began the course by talking about one of the foundational ideas of modern psychology. This is
what Francis Crick described as "The Astonishing Hypothesis," the idea that our mental life, our consciousness, our morality,
our capacity to make decisions and judgments is the product of a material physical brain. What I want to talk about today and
introduce it, and it's going to be a theme that we're going to continue throughout the rest of the course, is a second idea
which I think is equally shocking, perhaps more shocking. And this has to do with where mental life comes from, not
necessary its material nature, but rather its origin. And the notion, this other "astonishing hypothesis," is what the philosopher
Daniel Dennett has described as Darwin's dangerous idea. And this is the modern biological account of the origin of
biological phenomena including psychological phenomena.
Now, people have long been interested in the evolution of complicated things. And there is an argument that's been
repeated throughout history and many people have found it deeply compelling, including Darwin himself. Darwin, as he
wrote The Origin of Species, was deeply persuaded and moved by this argument from--in the form presented by the
theologian William Paley. So, Paley has an example here. Paley tells--gives the example of you're walking down the beach
and your foot hits a rock. And then you wonder, "Where did that rock come from?" And you don't really expect an interesting
answer to that question. Maybe it was always there. Maybe it fell from the sky. Who cares? But suppose you found a watch
on the ground and then you asked where the watch had come from. Paley points out that it would not be satisfying to simply
say it's always been there or it came there as an accident. And he uses this comparison to make a point, which is a watch is
a very complicated and interesting thing.
Paley is--was a medical doctor and Paley goes on to describe a watch and compare a watch to the eye and noticing
that a watch and the eye contain multitudes of parts that interact in complicated ways to do interesting things. In fact, to
change and to update the analogy a little bit, an eye is very much like a machine known as a camera. And they're similar at a
deep way. They both have lenses that bend light and project an image onto a light-sensitive surface. For the eye the lightsensitive surface is the retina. For the camera it's the film. They both have a focusing mechanism. For the eye it's muscles
that change the shape of the lens. For a camera it's a diaphragm that governs the amount of incoming light. Even they're
both encased in black. The light-sensitive part of the eye and part of the camera are both encased in black. The difference
is--So in fact, the eye and a camera look a lot alike and we know the camera is an artifact. The camera has been constructed
by an intelligent--by intelligent beings to fulfill a purpose.
In fact, if there's any difference between things like the eye and things like a camera, the difference is that things
like the eye are far more complicated than things like the camera. When I was a kid I had this incredible TV show called "The
Six Million Dollar Man." Anybody here ever seen it or heard of it? Oh. Anyway, the idea is there's a test pilot, Steve Austin,
and his rocket jet crashes and he loses his--both legs, his arm and his eye, which sounds really bad but they replace them
with bionic stuff, with artificial leg, artificial arm and an artificial eye that are really super-powered. And then he fights crime.
[laughter] It was [laughs] really the best show on. It was really good, [laughter] but the thing is this was in 1974. It's now over
thirty years later and it's true then and it's true now, this is fantasy. It doesn't make it to the level of science fiction. It's
fantasy. We are impossibly far away from developing machines that could do this. We are impossibly far away from building
a machine that can do what the human eye does. And so somebody like Paley points out, "Look. The complexity of the
biological world suggests that these things are complicated artifacts created by a designer far smarter than any human
engineer. And the designer, of course, would be God."
I went to Goggle Images. That--I don't mean that to be sacrilegious [laughter] in any sense. You could try this. I
went to "Google Images" and typed in "God" and this [a picture of an old-bearded man wearing a crown] is what showed up
right in the middle so--And this, Paley argued, and it was--has been convincing throughout most of history, is a perfectly
logical explanation for where these complicated things come from. It also has the advantage of being compatible with
scripture and compatible with religious beliefs, but Paley made the point this stands on its own. If you find complicated things
that--complicated artifacts, you don't assume they emerged by accident. You assume that they were created by an intelligent
Now, this view has always had problems. This view, you could call it "creationism," which is that biological
structures were created by an intelligent being, has always had problems. One problem is it pushes back the question. So
you ask, "Where did that intelligent being come from?" And this is a particularly serious problem from the standpoint of the
evolution of psychological structures. So, we want to know, "how is it that creatures came across--upon this earth with the
ability to reason and plan and do things?" And then the answer is "well, another creature with that ability created us." That
doesn't necessarily mean it's wrong, but it means it's unsatisfying. You immediately want to get an explanation for where that
other creature comes from.
More to the point, there's always been evidence for evolution. And what I mean by evolution here isn't necessarily a
specific mechanism, but merely the fact that body parts like the eye didn't emerge all of a sudden, but rather have parallels
both within other existing animals and across human and biological history. This evidence comes in different forms. There is
fossil evidence for different body parts suggesting that they have evolved from more rudimentary form. There is vestigial
characteristics. And what this means is there are characteristics that human bodies have that are somewhat inexplicable, like


the human tailbone or goose-bumps, unless you view them--the human body in its current form as modifications from a
previous form.
There are parallels with other animals. And this is clear in psychology. So, a human brain is different from the rat,
cat, and monkey brain but at the same time you see them following a sort of common plan and common structures. And one
rational inference from this is that they're linked through evolutionary descent.
Finally, there is occasional poor design. So, Paley rhapsodized about the remarkable powers of the human body
and the different body parts, but even Paley admitted that there are some things which just don't work very well. Your eye
contains a blind spot because of how the nerves are wired up. In the male urinary system the urethra goes through the
prostate gland instead of around it, which leads to many physical problems in men later on in life. And so you're forced to
either argue that these are really good things or that God is either malicious or incompetent. And those are difficult
arguments to make.
So, these are problems with the creationist view. But still, for the longest time in human intellectual history there was
no alternative. And in fact, Richard Dawkins, the most prominent evolutionary--one of the most prominent evolutionary
biologists alive and one of the most staunchest critics of creationism, has written in The Blind Watchmaker saying, look,
anybody 100 years ago or 150 years ago who didn't believe that God created humans and other animals was a moron
because the argument from design is a damn good argument. And in the absence of some other argument you should go-defer to that. You should say, "Well, there are all of these problems but humans and other biological forms must have divine
creation because of their incredible rich and intricate structure." What changed all that of course was Darwin. And Darwin-Darwin's profound accomplishment was showing how you get these complicated biological structures, like the eye, emerging
through a purely non-intentional, non-created process, a purely physical process. And this could be seen as equal in
importance to the claim that the Earth revolves around the Sun and that we're not the center of the universe. And in fact,
some scholars have made a suggestion which seems plausible, that the idea of natural selection is the most important idea
in the sciences, period.
So, this is not a course in evolution and I expect people to have some background. If you don't have a background
in it, you could get your background from external readings but also from--the Gray textbook and the Norton readings will
both--will each provide you with enough background to get up to speed. But the general idea is that there are three
components to natural selection. There is variation. And this variation gives rise to different degrees of survival and
reproduction and gets passed on from generation to generation and gives rise to adaptations, what Darwin described as
"that perfection of structure that justly excites our imagination."
And the biological world has all sorts of examples. You look at camouflage. Prior to Darwin one might imagine that
some intelligent creator crafted animals to hide from their prey. But now we have a different alternative, which is that animals
that were better hidden survive better, reproduce more, and over the course of thousands, perhaps millions of years, they've
developed elaborate camouflage. There's been a lot of work on Paley's favorite example the eye. So Darwin himself noted
that the human eye did not seem to emerge all at once but rather you could look at other animals and find parallels in other
animals that seem to suggest that more rudimentary forms are possible. And more recently computer simulations have
developed--have been developed that have crafted eyes under plausible assumptions of selective pressure and what the
starting point is.
So, this is the theory of natural selection. The good question to ask is, "why am I talking about evolution in
Introduction to Psychology class?" And the answer is that there are two ideas which come together. And in fact, they're both
of the dangerous ideas. One idea is that Darwin's idea--that biological forms evolve through this purely physical process. The
second idea, the rejection of Descartes, is that our minds are the product of physical things and physical events. You bring
these together and it forces you to the perspective that what we are--our mental life is no less than the eye, no less than
camouflage, the product of this purely physical process of natural selection. More to the point, our cognitive mechanisms
were evolved not to please God, not as random accidents, but rather for the purpose of survival and reproduction. More
contentiously, you could argue they've been shaped by natural selection to solve certain problems. And so, from an
evolutionary point of view, when you look at what the brain is and what the brain does, you look at it in terms of these
problems. And this is what psychology is for. This is what our thinking is for. We have evolved mental capacities to solve
different problems: perception of the world, communication, getting nutrition and rest, and so on.
Now, we're going to talk about how to apply evolutionary theory to psychology. But as we're doing so we have to
keep in mind two misconceptions. There are two ways you can go seriously wrong here. The first is to think that, well, if we're
taking an evolutionary approach then natural selection will cause animals to want to spread their genes. So, if we're being
biological about it, that means everybody must run around thinking "I want to spread my genes." I want to--and this is just
really --Oops. I shouldn't do that. This is really wrong. It's [the text on the slides] even in red. And what this fails to do is make
a distinction between ultimate causation and proximate causation. And those are technical terms referring to--Ultimate
causation is the reason why something is there in the first place, over millions of years of history. Proximate causation is why
you're doing it now. And these are different. Obviously, for instance, animals do all sorts of things to help survive and
reproduce but a cockroach doesn't think "oh, I'm doing this to help survive and reproduce and spread my genes." A


cockroach doesn't know anything about genes. Rather, the mechanisms that make it do what it does are different from its
own mental states, if it has any--why it does them.
This is a point nicely made by William James. So, William James is asked, "Why do we eat?" And he writes,
Not one man in a billion when taking his dinner ever thinks of utility. He eats because the food tastes good and makes him
want more. If you asked him why you should want to eat more of what tastes like that, instead of revering you as a
philosopher, he will probably laugh at you for a fool.
And it's really the common sense answer. "Why are you eating?" Nobody's going to answer, "Because I must
sustain my body so as to spread my genes in the future." Rather, you eat because you're hungry.
Those two theories, you eat because you're hungry and you eat to sustain your body so you could spread your
genes in the future, are not alternative. Rather, they're different levels of explanation. And you can't confuse them. The
ultimate level which does appeal to survival and reproduction does not--is independent from the psychological level. To give
another example, people protect their children so you ask, "Why do people protect their children? Why would somebody
devote so much effort to protecting and helping and feeding their children?" Well, the evolutionary explanation is animals that
don't protect their offspring don't last over evolutionary time. We protect our offspring because they contain fifty percent of
our genes, but that's not the psychological explanation. Nobody but a deranged psychologist would ever answer, "Oh, I love
my children because they contain fifty percent of my genes." Rather, the psychological explanation is a deeper--is different
and has a different texture. And this will be a lot clearer when we talk about the emotions, where you could really see a
distinction between the question of why we feel something from an evolutionary point of view and why we feel it from a dayto-day point of view.
The second misconception is that natural selection entails that everything is adaptive, that everything we do,
everything we think is adaptive. This is wrong. Natural selection and evolution, more generally, distinguish between
adaptations and byproducts and accidents. Many of you are currently, or will as you get older, suffer back pain. If I was to
ask you, "So, why do you suffer back pain? How does back pain help you survive and reproduce?" Well, the answer is it's
not an adaptation. Back pain is an accidental byproduct of how our backs are shaped. Don't go looking for an adaptive
reason for hiccups or self-pity or bloating after you eat. There's all sorts of things a body will do that have no adaptive value,
rather just accidents. We have a body that does all sorts of things. Some things it will do by accident and this is certainly true
for psychology.
So, a lot of the things, for instance, that occupy our interest or our fascination in day-to-day life are almost certainly
evolutionary accidents. The number--The three--Three of the main preoccupations of humans are pornography, television,
and chocolate but if I asked you, "Why do you like porn?" and you'd say, "Because my ancestors who liked porn reproduced
more than those who didn't," [laughter] it's not true. Rather, you like porn, assuming you do, [laughter] as an accident. You
have evolved--For instance, should you be a heterosexual male, you have evolved to be attracted to women. That is most
likely to be an evolutionary adaptation because being attracted to women and wanting to have sex with women is one step to
the road to having kids, which is very good from an evolutionary perspective.
It so happens, though, in our modern environment that people have created images that substitute. So, instead of
actually going out and seeking out women you could just surf the web for hours and hours and watch dirty movies and read
dirty books evolutionary adaptive dead ends. They're accidents. Why do you like chocolate bars, assuming that you do? It
is not because your ancestors in the African savanna who enjoyed chocolate bars reproduced more than those who didn't.
Rather, it is because we've evolved a taste for sweet things. And we've evolved a taste for sweet things, in part, because the
sweet things in our natural environment like fruit were good for us. In the modern world we have created things like
chocolate, which are not so good for us but we eat anyway.
A lot of the debates--There's a lot of controversy in psychology over the scope of evolutionary explanations. And a
lot of the debate tends to be over what's an adaptation and what isn't. There are some clear cases. We have color vision.
Why do we have color vision? Well, I think everybody would agree we have color vision as an adaptation because of the
advantages it gives us for seeing and making visual distinctions. We are afraid of snakes. We're going to talk about that in
more detail but there's a straightforward adaptive story about that. We are afraid of snakes because, really, our ancestors
who weren't afraid of snakes didn't reproduce as much as those that were. We like chocolate bars and we enjoy NASCAR.
Those cannot be adaptations because chocolate bars and NASCAR are recent developments that could not have been
anticipated by evolution.
Those are easy questions. Here are some hard questions. Music. Everywhere in the world people like music. Is this
an adaptation for some selective advantage or is it an accident? Steven Pinker, who wrote The Language Instinct that you
read before, caused a huge amount of controversy when he argued that music is just an evolutionary accident. He described
it as auditory cheesecake, something we like to gorge ourselves on that have no--has no adaptive advantage. Other people
argue music does have an adaptive advantage. Sometimes males use violence to coerce sex. Is male sexual violence a
biological adaptation or is it an accident? There's more than one language. Is that just an accidental byproduct of the way
language works or is there some sort of group or selectionist advantage sketched out in some way of having multiple
languages? What about visual art? What about fiction? What about our love for stories? Those are all matters of heated


And so, we have to keep in mind some things plainly are accidents. Some things almost certainly aren't accidents.
Where the action is in the study of psychology and the study of evolution of cognition is trying to figure out which is which.
So, those are the misconceptions we have to avoid. But still, who cares? Again this is an Introduction to Psych course. Why
are we talking about evolution? Why should it matter to a psychologist how the mind has evolved? I'm going to talk about
evolution now but for the rest of the course I'm just interested in how our minds are, period. S,o why would evolution matter?
Well, many people think it doesn't. For instance and they think it doesn't for different reasons one claim is a
metaphysical one. You might be a dualist. You might reject the idea your mental life is the product of your brain and hence
evolution is irrelevant to psychology because the brain and the mind--because the brain, which may have evolved, has
nothing interesting to do with the mind. Lisa Simpson got it wrong when she said the Pope--She got it half right when she
said the Pope favored evolution. It is true. John Paul II, many years ago, made a statement saying that Darwinian theory is
not incompatible. Darwinian theory is a view about the evolution of species that is not motivated by any animus, is a genuine
scientific theory, and should it turn out to be true, it is not incompatible to truth about man as taught by the Church. And
scientists were thrilled by this and they were--they said he's endorsing evolution. But what a fewer people talk about is the
fact that after he said this he drew the line. He allowed for evolution of the body but he would not allow for evolution of the
mind. So it was--he wrote:
If the human body takes its origin from preexisting living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God.
Consequently, theories of evolution which consider the mind as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere
epiphenomenon of this matter are incompatible to the truth about man.
So, you might not want evolution to be true about the mind because you might believe that the mind is not subject to
the same physical laws as the rest of the physical world. That's one way you could reject evolutionary psychology. Another
way to reject evolutionary psychology is to accept that the mind is a physical thing but then argue that all of these instincts
and these hard-wired facets of human nature might exist for other animals but they don't exist for people. So, the
anthropologist Ashley Montagu in '73, close to when The Six Million Dollar Man was shown, by the way, said:
With the exception of the reactions of infants to sudden withdrawals of support and to sudden loud noises, the
human being is entirely instinctless. Man is man because he has no instincts, because everything he is and has
become he has learned from his culture, from the man-made part of the environment, from other human beings.
You might say, "Look. He could believe that in '74 but, of course, all of the infant studies that have come out since
then suggested that's not true and nobody would believe that nowadays." But in fact, the view is often hold--held--Louis
Menand in a New Yorker article a few years ago wrote, "Every aspect of life has a biological foundation in exactly the same
sense, which is that unless it was biologically possible it wouldn't exist. After that it's up for grabs." And this is in the context
of an argument that evolution can't tell us anything about what's most interesting about people. Menand is not--is an
educated, intelligent scholar. He is presumably well aware of the findings of Spelke and Baillargeon about how people are
hard-wired to understand the objects in social life and so on. But his point is just that when it comes to the more interesting
aspects of human nature, the stuff we're naturally, intuitively interested in, that's more cultural. And the evolutionary theory
and Darwinian theory just doesn't have anything much to say about it, not because the mind is separate from the brain but
just because humans are much more cultural organisms, and so biology has little to say about it.
There's a third objection, which is you might think, "Okay, the human mind actually does contain instincts. There is a
human nature but we should just study it by studying people. How could evolution, the study of evolution, the consideration of
evolution tell us anything interesting?" I actually, in my own work, think evolution can tell us some interesting things. And I
want to try to make a case for ways in which evolution can inform and enlighten us about the mind as it is.
First, I want to make a point, which is although this course is Intro Psych and it is about the mind as it is, still I think
by any account the evolution of consciousness, morality and so on, just is intuitively interesting. It's the sort of thing that
people are just fascinated by and I think it's a question of interest in and of its own right. But here's how it could tell us about
psychology. For one thing, it can tell us what can be innate and what cannot. So, some problems, some evolutionary
problems, have been around for a long time and could lead to special biological adaptations. If I told you there is a biological
adaptation for talking, mate selection, childcare; maybe it's true, maybe it isn't, but it's not crazy. From an evolutionary point
of view, it's a reasonable possibility that it is.
Other problems are recent and our brains could not be specialized to deal with them: written communication,
interacting with strangers, driving a car, playing chess. If you were to argue that there's a part of the brain devoted to playing
chess, I would say you're utterly wrong. You cannot be right because, from an evolutionary point of view, there could be no
such part of the brain evolved because playing chess is a recent innovation. As a result, a focus on evolution could help
discipline us to make coherent claims about what is built-in and what isn't built-in.
Third, we're going to talk about human differences in this course. We're going to devote a class to human
differences of the sort of what makes you different from her, different from her. Why do we have different intelligences in this
class? Why are some of us arrogant and some of us humble? Some of us like--attracted to men, others attracted to women,
and so on. But there's also questions of group differences. And evolutionary theory can help us say intelligent things about


what sort of group differences you should expect because evolutionary theory predicts that some populations should evolve
in different ways than others.
The most obvious example is that children should be different from adults. The evolutionary problems faced by a
child are very different from the evolutionary problems faced by an adult. And you can make specific and rather interesting
predictions about how children's brains should different--differ from adults' brains. Evolutionary theory predicts--does not
make any predictions about racial differences or ethnic differences. Some might exist, but there's no adaptive reason why
humans who have evolved in different parts of the world should have profound differences in their mental capacities.
What does evolutionary theory say about sex differences? Well, it says some interesting things, and we're going to
devote a class to discussing them, but what I think is going to be true--proved to be important is that we'll be able to use
evolutionary biology to talk sensibly about what sort of distinctions between the sexes, between males and females, one
would expect to find and what sort one wouldn't expect to find. We can make educated predictions. I'm going to have--I want
to put here a clip of a man. This is a scene from a movie, the movie "Roger Dodger," that begins with a man making quasievolutionary claims about the differences between men and women. And I want to put this as an example of what you could
call "barroom evolutionary psychology." And I want us to hold this in our minds because we're going to return to these claims
and discuss their validity. [clip playing]
I like this for a few reasons. First, I like the backward reference to William James and utility. Second, it is a
gorgeous combination of some things that are actually reasonably rational and total bull crap. And--but what evolutionary
biology will give us is the tools to distinguish between the two. On the face of it immediately, the ability to read maps, the
claim that that has a biological--that differences in that ability have a biological root is crazy. On the other hand, the claim
that one--that males may develop a trait not because it's advantageous but to attract females is less crazy. The telepathic
stuff is really crazy but--;So, I'm not at this point--We're going to devote a lecture to sex. I do not, at this point, want to make
any claims one way or another. But what I want to suggest is that from a biological point of view we could say sensible and
intelligent things about what differences should exist and what shouldn't.
Finally, and most of all, looking at something from the perspective of design, the perspective of what's it for, can
often give you interesting insights as to its current nature. And I'll give you two quick examples, one that's not from
psychology, one that is. Women suffer--Often women who are pregnant early in their pregnancy suffer from morning
sickness, nausea, throwing up and so on. This has traditionally been viewed as just a breakdown in the system--too much
hormones, everything's askew; women get nauseous. Margie Profet suggested an alternative and this won her theMacArthur
Genius Award. And this was the claim that maybe pregnancy sickness is not an accident; rather, it's designed, it has a
biological purpose. In particular, as the baby develops in the uterus, it is vulnerable to various sorts of poisons or teratogens.
Profet suggested that pregnancy sickness is a hypersensitive period where women are extremely sensitive, get extremely
nauseous towards the sorts of foods that could damage their baby.
Now, if she just ended there it's a story. How do we know it's true? But then she went on to examine it the same
way that any scientist examines any claim by making predictions and testing them. And this makes some interesting
predictions. It suggests the timing of onset and offset of pregnancy sickness, of morning sickness, should correspond to the
period of maximal vulnerability on the part of the developing embryo or fetus. Suggested the types of foods avoided should
correspond to those sorts of foods that were most deadly for the fetus and that were deadly for the fetus during the periods
where humans evolved. This last qualification is an important one. Women do not develop an aversion to alcohol during
pregnancy even though alcohol is extremely dangerous to the developing child. The answer is an easy one. Alcohol wasn't
around during our evolutionary history and we could not have evolved a system to protect ourselves from it.
And finally, there should be a relationship between miscarriage and birth defects in a surprising direction. For
Profet, and she has evidence to back this up, pregnancy sickness is not a glitch in the system. Rather, it's the sign of a
healthy act of protective mechanism going on. And in fact, the more morning sickness the more the baby should be
protected. Something which, by and large, appears to be true. That's an example of how the question--when dealing with this
they say, "Hey. Women throw up when they get pregnant" and then say, "Look. Maybe that's not just a glitch. What's it for?"
You could then learn some interesting things.
Here's a different example based on the last lecture, this wonderful lecture by Peter Salovey on sex and love where
he talked about the "big three." These are the "big three" to remind you of what attracts us to somebody else. You are very
attracted to the person next to you or a person that--because of proximity, similarity, familiarity. And there is abundant
evidence supporting the truth of this. It's almost always true but the evolutionary psychologist looks at this and says there's
something seriously wrong here. There are some cases where that has to be totally, absolutely mistaken. To realize what
this is, think for a moment. What humans are you most close to, most similar to and most familiar with? What humans did
you spend over ten years of your life with who are genetically and environmentally as close to you as if they were related,
who you are intimately familiar with? Are those the humans that you find the hottest? [laughter] No. They're your siblings and
they are not hot. [laughter]
I was on Google Images this morning. I put up some hot siblings and--but--although we may find them hot, they do
not typically, with some rare and bizarre exceptions, find [laughter] one another hot. Why not? Well, this is not a huge puzzle
from the standpoint of evolutionary biology. Evolutionary biology posits that humans, as well as other animals, should have


incest avoidance. We should love--we should be attracted to those familiar to us, similar to us, close to us, but not kin. Kin
are off limits. There is a good reason why. Because if you inter-mate with your kin you have bad offspring [laughter] and so
animals should be wired up not to mate with their kin. And in fact, this is what happens.
There are--Parents of teenagers have all sorts of concerns. And a lot of the concerns are, in fact, sexual. How do
you keep your son and/or your daughter from going out and having sex with too many people, or the wrong people, or
unprotected sex? But there are no parenting guides in the world that say "How do you keep your children from having sex
with one another?" [laughter] You typically do not need to because they do not want to have sex with one another.
Now, this is--actually also illustrates the difference between proximate and ultimate causation. So, you think for
yourself, "Eew. Do I want to have sex with my sister?" You don't think to yourself, "I would prefer not to, for the offspring that
we will create will be nonviable and it'll be a waste of my reproductive efforts." Rather, you think, "Eew," because at a gut
level you respond. And this sort of instinctive response is what you get from an evolutionary analysis of sex.
But this story is deeply incomplete because the question that gets raised is "how do you tell?" You don't want to
have sex with your kin but how do you tell your kin? People don't carry their DNA markers on strips that you could see. How
do you tell who your kin are? And this actually turns out to be a really interesting question. It used--And some research
suggests that the answer is simple. You avoid sex with people you grew up with. And these studies actually come from
kibbutz studies, studies where people are raised communally on an Israeli kibbutz. They know they're not related, but still,
the fact that they were raised together as kids suggests that there's a cue at a gut level not to be attracted to one another.
It turns out there's some reason now to believe this story is incomplete. A paper that came out in Nature five days
ago reported a series of extremely interesting studies. And they found that the cue of being raised together as a child with
somebody--yes, that does diminish sexual desire, but an even bigger cue was "did you observe your parents, and in
particular, your mother, taking care of that person?" If you did, that seriously diminishes sexual desire and brings it down to
the level of disgust. And again, these are the sort of questions and issues you begin to ask when you approach things from
an evolutionary perspective.
Okay. For this lecture--the rest of this lecture and then the next couple of lectures, I'll be discussing some basic
aspects of human nature that are, to some extent or another, informed by evolutionary theory. And what I want to start for the
remainder of this lecture is a discussion of rationality. Now, some of you maybe not want to go into--not want to go into
psychology because there's no Nobel Prize for psychology. You might all think, "Hey, if I'm going to go into the sciences I
want a Nobel Prize. Think how proud Bubby and Zadie would be if I won a Nobel Prize. Wouldn't that be the best?" You can
get one. Psychologists have won the Nobel Prize. Most recently, Danny Kahneman won a Nobel Prize. You win it in
economics, sometimes medicine; not a big deal. He won it for his work done over the course of many decades on human
rationality. And this work was done in collaboration with Amos Tversky, who passed away several years ago. And this work
entirely transformed the way we think about human decision-making and rationality.
Kahneman and Tversky caused a revolution in economics, psychology, and the social sciences more generally, by
causing us to shift from the idea that we're logical thinkers, who think in accord with the axioms of logic and mathematics and
rationality, more towards the idea that we actually have sort of rough and ready heuristics. These heuristics served us well
during the time--during our evolutionary history, but sometimes they can lead us astray. And I want to give some examples of
these heuristics. And I'll give four examples of heuristics that are argued to permeate our reasoning.
The first is "framing effects." This was a classic study by Kahneman and Tversky involving this sort of question. The
U.S. is preparing for the outbreak of a disease that's going to kill six hundred people. There are two programs. Program A: If
you follow it two hundred people will be saved. Program B: There's a one-third chance everybody will be saved and a twothird chance nobody will be saved. Who would choose program B? Who would choose program A? Okay. And that fits the
responses. Most people choose program A. That's--It could go either way. What's interesting is if you frame the question
differently, like this, you get very different responses. And instead of focusing on the people who will be saved, you focus on
the people who will die and, instead of focusing on the chance that nobody will die and the chance that everybody will die,
you'd flip it around, you get a corresponding flip. And this is known as a "framing effect."
The idea of a framing effect is that you could respond differently to a situation depending on how the options are
framed. And, in particular, this combines with "loss aversion." People hate a certain loss. "Four thousand of these people will
die" is extremely aversive and so the framing can influence your decisions. And clever advertisers and clever decision
makers will frame things in different ways to give you--give rise to different intuitions. Sometimes this could be fairly simple.
So, you have this ad of a hamburger that's eighty percent fat free versus twenty percent fat--You don't have to be a brilliant
ad executive to figure out which one to go for.
It turns out that this sort of fundamental act the fundamental role of framing effects is not limited to humans. So,
I want to take a second and tell you some work done by my colleague, Laurie Santos, with capuchin monkeys. And what she
does is she takes these capuchin monkeys and she teaches them to use money. She teaches them to use little discs to buy
themselves either pieces of banana or pieces of apple. And they like to eat this. And they very quickly learn you can hand
over a disc to get some banana or some apple. [laughter] Now, Dr. Santos and her colleagues have done many studies
using this method, but the study I'm interested in illustrating here shows framing effects in these nonhuman primates.


So, what she does is--There's two options. In one option, the experimenter shows one object to the capuchin and
low--and then either gives one or two--half the time gives one, half the time gives two, for an average of one and a half. The
other experimenter does exactly the same thing; gives one or two for an average of one and a half, but starts off displaying
two. Now, if you weren't a human, how would you feel about these two experimenters? They both give you the same amount.
And capuchins are extremely sensitive to how much they get, but it turns out as predicted they don't like the pink
experimenter because the pink experimenter is--he gives you two--shows you two and half the time he gives you one. This
guy shows you one, and half the time gives you two. And over time they develop a preference for the experimenter that
shows them one initially, suggesting that they are being subject to framing effects or choices relative to a reference point.
A different sort of demonstration is the "endowment effect." This is a robust and very interesting effect. Here's the
idea. I show you something like a cup or a chocolate bar and I say, "How much will you give me for this chocolate bar? It
looks like you're pretty hungry. How much will you give me for this chocolate bar?" And you say, "I'll give you two dollars for
this chocolate bar." Most people on average give two--the chocolate bar--gives two dollars for a chocolate bar. The other
condition's exactly the same except I hand you a chocolate bar and say, "How much money will you sell me that chocolate
bar for?" There, people say, "Two fifty," and in fact, what happens is once you own something its value shoots up. And this
has mystified economists and psychologists. It makes no sense. The chocolate bar doesn't even have to move. I just leave it
on the table and say either "How much will you spend," "How much will you give me for this?" or "Okay. It's yours. How much
do you want for me to take it back?" The answer is, it's framing. If you're asking how much you want for it, it's a game. It's
just how much will you pay to get something. But if you're being asked how much do you want for me to take it from you, you
treat it as a loss. And as a loss it becomes more valuable. Those are framing effects.
The second example is base rates. There are seventy lawyers--sorry, seventy engineers and thirty lawyers and
John is chosen at random. Let me tell you about John: forty-years old, married, three children, conservative, cautious, no
interest in politics, awkward around people. His hobbies include carpentry, sailing, and solving mathematical puzzles, like
online dating. [laughter] What do you think John is? A lawyer or an engineer? Who thinks he's a lawyer? Good. Who thinks
he's an engineer? Okay. Most people think he's an engineer, but here's the thing. You switch it. Right? Thirty engineers,
seventy lawyers? It doesn't change. People--No matter what this number is--these numbers--it doesn't seem to change who
you think he is or how confident you are.
People look at John as an individual and they ignore the background status of where he came from. They ignore
base rates. Base rates are very difficult to think about and I want to give you an example of this. And the example will be on
the slides for when you print them out--print it out because you might want to work through it yourself. But I'll give this to you
There's a disease that hits one in a thousand people, a pretty common disease. There's a test for the disease and if you
have it, it's going to tell you you have it. It tests for a certain thing in your blood and "boom," if the thing is in your blood the
test will go "boom." If you have it, it will tell you you have it. It doesn't miss. On the other hand, it's not perfect. It has a false
positive rate of five percent. So, if you don't have the disease, five percent of the time the test will say you have it. So, if the
test says you don't have it, you're fine. But if the test says you have it, maybe you have it but maybe it's a false positive. You
take the test. It says you have the disease. Without pen and paper, how likely do you think the odds are you have the
disease? Who says over fifty percent? Okay. Before people sinisterly shouted the right answer, people will tend--medical
students were given this, medical students less savvy than you, and the average is between fifty percent and ninety-five
The answer is, as some people quickly noted, two percent. And here's how it works. One percent of a thousand will
have the disease. That person will test positive. The test never misses. That leaves nine hundred ninety-nine people who
don't have the disease, and we'll say about fifty percent of these people have it. So, for every fifty-one people who test
positive, only one will have the disease, giving an average of about two percent. This sort of thing is very difficult. Our minds
are not evolved to do base rate computation. And so, any problems involving base rate computation, including real world
problems, like what to do when you come back with a positive test, we screw up. And often we screw up in the direction of
The third bias is the "availability bias." And this is simply that if you want to know how frequent something is, how
available it is to come to mind is an excellent cue. But this could lead to mistakes. A classic example by Kahneman and
Tversky is you ask people--one group of people how many English words end with "ng" or what proportion of English words,
another group of people what proportion end with "ing." It turns out you get much bigger numbers for "ing" than "ng" though,
of course "ng" has to--"ing"--sorry, "ng" would include everything with "ing." It's just a lot easier to think about these things.
This can show up in the real world. What are your risk of getting killed--What's your risk of getting killed by a shark?
Well, if you ask people what their risk of getting killed by a shark is, they characteristically overestimate it. I will give you the
news of what the risk is for getting killed by a shark. Injured in any given year: one in six million. Killed: one in five hundred
million. If you live in Florida, which apparently is Shark Central, your chance of getting injured is about one in a half million.
People will overestimate the risks because shark attacks are very salient. They are always reported in the news and they're
very interesting. What is the chance of getting killed by potato salad? [laughter] Well, food poisoning, death by food
poisoning, injury by food poisoning runs to about one in fifty-five, one in 800 for some sort of injury and one in 55,000 killed.


Potato salad is 1,000 more times more dangerous than shark attacks. But you get it wrong because you don't think, "Oh, my
God, big news story. Somebody dies by potato salad." [laughter] And so, we tend to overestimate the chance of being killed
by dramatic effects.
How many Jews in the United States, what proportion? Who thinks it's over three quarters of the United States is
Jewish? [laughter] I'm kind of anchoring here. Okay. Okay. Who thinks over half? Who thinks over forty percent? Who thinks
over twenty percent? Okay. Who thinks over fifteen percent? Who thinks over ten percent? Who thinks over seven and onehalf percent? Who thinks over five percent? Okay. Who thinks overall there's more than five percent of the United States
that's Jewish? Who thinks over three percent? The answer is somewhere between 1.9 and 2.1%. Most people think--The
average American thinks it's twenty percent. There is-- [laughter] If you're curious about demographics, and this map isn't to
be entirely trusted because I got it from Wikipedia, [laughter] this is the distribution of the Jewish population, self-identified as
Jewish in different parts of the United States. [laughter] New York City is, of course, the most dense population with nine
percent. New Haven has 3.5%.
Now, why do people get it wrong? Well, there's all sorts of reasons and this is going to come out in the context of
social psychology when we talk about how people think about human groups. But one quick answer is people who are plainly
Jewish are prominent in positions where people notice them, like entertainment or, in the case of you guys, academia. And
this could lead to--this availability-- "Can I think of a Jew? Yeah." [laughter] This availability causes us to overestimate the
proportion to which Jews are represented in the population.
Final example. Confirmation bias. This is a very nice study and it's very simple. It's--You're in a jury of a custody
case. You have to give a child custody either a mother or father sole custody. One parent has average income, average
health, average working hours, reasonable rapport with the child, and a relatively stable social life. The second parent has an
above-average income, minor health problems, lots of work-related travel, a very close relationship with the travel--with the
child, and an extremely active social life. Think for a moment. Who would you award custody with? There's no--Obviously,
there's no right answer here.
Just think for a moment. Who would award custody to parent A? Who would award custody to parent B? Okay. As I
think there is in this room, when this study is done there's a slight advantage to parent B. Here's what's interesting. You give
another group of people this question. "Which parent would you deny custody to?" You get a slight advantage for parent B.
Now, this is to some extent an illustration of framing problem but it's also a more general illustration of the confirmation bias.
So, when you're asked to award custody to, you then ask, "Well, what is a good--what is a sign that somebody's a good
parent?" And the good parent aspects of B jump out. When asking about denying custody you ask, "Where is a cue that
somebody's a bad parent?" And the bad parent aspects of B jump out. In general, when we have a hypothesis we look for
This makes some things, which are logically easy extremely difficult problems when we face them in the real world.
And I'll end with my final example, that of the Wason selection task. Here's the game. And people--I don't want people to
shout it out just yet. There is four cards [pointing to a slide depicting four cards: D, G, 3, 8]. Each card has a letter on one
side and a number on the other side. You have to judge whether this claim is true or false. "If a card has a 'D' on one side, it
has a '3' on the other side." How many cards do you have to turn over to test whether that rule is right? Okay. Somebody
shout out what one card is you have to turn over. "D." Everybody gets that right. What else? Do you need to do any other
cards? How many people think it's "D" and "3"? I'm raising my hand to fool you. [laughter] People answer either "D" or "D"
and "3" but think about it. What would make this rule wrong? It's wrong if it has "D" on one side and not "3" on the other.
Right? That's what it would be to be wrong. You then would have to check "D" to see if there is a "3" on the other side. You
were all right about that. That means you'd check "8" to see if there's a "D" on the other side. "Three's" not going to tell you
anything. That's hard. People find this very hard.
Okay. Big deal. But what's interesting is you can modify it in certain ways to make it a lot easier. And this is the work
of Leda Cosmides and her colleague, an evolutionary psychologist at Santa Barbara who has argued that if you frame these
questions in ways that make ecological sense, people are much better at them. And basically, she does studies where she
has people who are evaluating a social rule. Imagine these cards. On one side of the card is an alcohol--is a drink. On the
other side is a person's age. You are a bartender and you want to make sure nobody under twenty-one drinks beer. Which
cards do you turn over? Well, now it's easier but the logic is the same. It's a violation that there's "under twenty-one" on one
side, "beer" on the other side, so you need to check the "under twenty-one" here and you need to check the "beer" here. And
when you make these logical problems more ecologically valid they turn out to be much easier.
Okay. There's a little bit more but I'll hold it off until next class. And I'll end with the reading response, which is to do
your own bit of reverse engineering and evolutionary psychology. And I'll see you all on Wednesday.


Lecture 11
Professor Paul Bloom: On Monday we--I presented an introduction to evolutionary psychology, the looking at psychology
from an evolutionary perspective, and trying to make a case and give some examples of how it can help illuminate and
illustrate certain aspects of how the mind works. One of the advantages of an evolutionary perspective on the mind is that it
forces us to look scientifically at what we would otherwise take for granted. There are a lot of aspects of how we are and
what we are and what we do that seem so natural to us. They come so instinctively and easily it's difficult, and sort of
unnatural, to step back and explore them scientifically but if we're going to be scientists and look at the mind from a scientific
perspective we have to get a sort of distance from ourselves and ask questions that other people would not normally think to
ask. And the clearest case of this arises with the emotions. And as a starting point there's a lovely quote from the
psychologist and philosopher William James that I want to begin with. So, he writes:
To the psychologist alone can such questions occur as: Why do we smile when pleased and not scowl? Why are
we unable to talk to a crowd as we talk to a single friend? Why does a particular maiden turn our wits upside down? The
common man--[None of you are the common man.] The common man can only say, "Of course we smile. Of course our
heart palpitates at the sight of the crowd. Of course we love the maiden. And so probably does each animal feel about the
particular things it tends to do in the presence of certain objects. To the lion it is the lioness which is made to be loved; to the
bear the she-bear. To the broody hen, the notion would probably seem monstrous that there should be a creature in the
world to whom a nestful of eggs was not utterly fascinating and precious and never to be too-much-sat-upon object which it
is to her.
Now, there's a few things to note about this passage. First, it's incredibly sexist. It assumes not just merely in
reflexive use of phrases. It assumes that--William James assumes he's talking to males, male humans who sometimes take
the perspective of male bears. And so, it assumes a male audience. You wouldn't normally--You wouldn't actually ever write
this way. A second point is it's beautifully written and you're not--;also, not allowed to write that way anymore either. It's
poetic and lyrical and if--William James characteristically writes that way. I think he writes so much better than his brother,
Henry James, an obscure novelist. [laughter] Finally though, the point that he makes is a terrific one, which is yes, all of
these things seem natural to us but the reason why they seem natural is not because they are in some sense necessary or
logical truths. Rather, they emerge from contingent aspects of our biological nature.
And so we need to step back. We actually--We need to step back and ask questions like--and these are questions
we're going to ask--Why does poop smell bad? Avoid the temptation to say, "Well, poop smells bad because it's so stinky."
The stinkiness of poop is not an irreducible fact about the universe. Rather, the stinkiness of poop is a fact about human
psychology. To a dung beetle poop smells just fine. Why does chocolate taste good? Well, chocolate--The good tastiness of
chocolate isn't some necessary fact about the world. It's a fact about our minds that doesn't hold true for many other
creatures. And so, we have to step back and ask why to us do we find chocolate appealing?
Why do we love our children? Don't say they're lovable. Many of them are not [laughter] and, as William James
points out, every animal, most animals, many animals love their children. They think their children are precious and
wonderful. Why? Why do we get angry when people hit us? Suppose somebody walked up to you and slapped you in the
face? You'd be afraid. You'd be angry. Would you get sleepy, feel nostalgic, suddenly desire some cold soup? [laughter] No.
Those are stupid alternatives. Of course if somebody slapped us you would--we would get angry or afraid. Why? Why do we
feel good when someone does us a favor? Why don't we feel angry? Why don't we feel fearful? What we're going to do
throughout this course is step back and ask these questions. We're going to ask questions nobody would have otherwise
thought to ask, where the common man wouldn't address, and this is, of course, standard in all sciences.
The first step to insight is to ask questions like why do things fall down and not up? And I imagine the first person
who articulated the question aloud probably met with the response saying, "What a stupid question. Of course things fall
down." Well, yes, of course things fall down, but why? Why is our flesh warm? Why does water turn solid when it gets cold?
These are natural facts about the universe, but the naturalness needs to be explained and not merely assumed. In this class
we're going to explore, throughout the course, what seems natural to us and try to make sense of it. And to that end we have
to ask questions that you wouldn't normally ask. We've already done this to some extent with domains such as visual
perception, memory, language and rationality, but now we're going to move to the case where it's maybe even somewhat
more difficult to do this. Now, we're going to start dealing with the emotions. We're going to talk about the emotions, why they
exist, what they're there for, and how they work.
I want to start off with the wrong theory of the emotions. And the wrong theory of the emotions is beautifully
illustrated in the television and movie series Star Trek. In this alternative fantasy world, there are characters, Mr. Spock in the
originalStar Trek, Data in one of the spin-offs, who are described as competent, capable, in fact in many ways, super
competent and super capable people. But they're described as not having emotions. Spock is described as not having
emotions because he's half Vulcan, from a planet where they lack emotions. Data is an android who is said to lack an
emotion chip.
This lack of emotions on this--on a TV series does not hurt them much. They're able to fully function. And in fact, in
a TV series emotions are often seen as a detriment. You do better off without them. And there are many people in sort of


common sense who might think "Gee, if only I could just use my rationality, think reasonably and rationally and not let my
emotions guide my behavior I'd be much better off." It turns out that this is a notion of how to think about the emotions that is
deeply wrong. And in fact, makes no sense at all.
Using the example of Star Trek, Steven Pinker, in his book How the Mind Works, nicely illustrates the problem here.
He writes, "Spock must have been driven by some motives or goals. Something must have led him to explore strange new
worlds, to seek out new civilizations and to boldly go where no man had gone before." Presumably, it was intellectual
curiosity that set him to drive and solve problems. It was solidarity with his allies that led him to be such a competent and
brave officer. What would he have done if attacked by a predator or an invading Klingon? Did he do a handstand, solve the
four-color map theorem? Presumably, a part of his brain quickly mobilized his faculties to scope out how to flee and how to
take steps to avoid a vulnerable predicament in the future. That is, he had fear. Spock did not walk around naked around the
ship. Presumably, he felt modesty. He got out of bed. Presumably, he had some ambitions and drive. He engaged in
conversations. Presumably, he had some sociable interests.
Without emotions to drive us we would do nothing at all. And you could illustrate this scientifically. Creatures like
Spock and Data don't exist in the real world but there are unusual and unfortunate cases where people lose, to some extent
or another, their emotions. And you could look at these people and see what happens to them. The classic case, the most
famous case, is that of a man called Phineas Gage. Phineas Gage is the classic Intro Psych example an extremely poor
guy, poor schmuck.
In 1848--He was a construction foreman. In 1848 he was working at a site with explosives and iron rods. And due to
an explosion, an iron rod passed through his head like so. Imagine that rod shooting upwards. It went under his eye and
popped out the top of his head. It landed about one hundred feet away covered with blood and brains. The rod itself weighed
thirteen pounds. Amazingly, Gage was not killed. In fact, he was knocked unconscious only for a short period and then he
got up and his friends surrounded him and asked, "Are you okay?" And they--And then they took him to the hospital. On the
way to the hospital, they stopped by a tavern and he had a little pint of cider to drink, sat down and talked to people. And
then he had an infection, had to have surgery. But when it was all said and done he wasn't blind, he wasn't deaf, didn't lose
language, didn't become aphasic, no paralysis, no retardation. In some sense, what happened was much worse. He lost his
Here's a description at the time of what Gage was like. And this is from Damasio's excellent book Descartes' Error:
He used to be a really responsible guy, a family man, very reliable, very trustworthy. But after the accident he was fitful,
irreverent, indulging at times in the grossest profanity, manifesting but little deference for his fellows, impatient of restraint or
advice, a child in his intellectual capacities and manifestations. He had the animal pleasures of a strong man. His foul
language is so debased that women are advised not to stay long in his presence.
And he couldn't hold a job. He lost his family, couldn't hold a job. He ended up in the circus. He was in the circus
going around the country with his big iron rod telling everybody the story as they surrounded him and clapped. There are
other cases like Phineas Gage, cases where people have had damage to that same part of the brain, parts of the frontal
cortex. And what they've lost is they basically lost a good part of their emotions. And what this means is they don't really care
that much about things. They can't prioritize.
Damasio tells a case of one of his patients who was under the pseudonym here of Elliot. And Elliot had a tumor in
his frontal lobe. And the tumor had to be removed and with it came a lot of Elliot's frontal lobe. And again, as a result of this,
Elliot was not struck blind or deaf or retarded, and he didn't become the sort of profane character that Phineas Gage
became, but he lost the ability to prioritize. He lost the ability to set goals. Damasio describes him here:
At his job at an activity he would read and fully understand the significance of the material [He works in an office.]
but the problem was he was likely, all of a sudden, to turn from the task he had initiated to doing something else and
spending an entire day doing that. He might spend an entire afternoon deliberating on which principle of categorization he
should apply to files. Should it be the date or the size of the document, pertinence to the case or another?
He couldn't set his goals. He couldn't--He ended up not being able to keep a job, not being able to deal with people.
And these are not men who have lost their emotions. There is no case around where you could have your emotions entirely
blotted out. But they lost a large part of their emotional capacity and as a result, their rationality failed.
Emotions set goals and establish priorities. And without them you wouldn't do anything, you couldn't do anything.
Your desire to come to class to study, to go out with friends, to read a book, to raise a family, to be--to do anything are
priorities set by your emotions. Life would be impossible without those emotions. And so, there's certain themes we're going
to explore here. The first is this, that emotions are basically mechanisms that set goals and priorities and we're going to talk
a lot about--in this class and the next class about universals. We're also going to talk about culture. It turns out that cultures,
different cultures, including differences between America and Japan and the American South and the American North, have
somewhat different emotional triggers and emotional baselines to respond to. But at the same time, as Darwin well knew,
emotions have universal roots that are shared across all humans and across many animals.
So, the agenda for this class and the next class is going to go like this. First, I want to talk a little bit about facial
expressions, which are ways in which we communicate our emotions not the only way, but an important way and look, in
particular, at the case of smiling because it's kind of interesting. Then I want to look at one case study of a nonsocial


emotion, that of fear. I want to then deal with feelings towards our kin, people we're genetically related to, and then--and this
will take us to the next class, feelings towards non kin.
So first, faces. And as an introduction to faces I have a brief film clip from Paul Ekman, who is one of the world's great
scholars in the study of facial expressions. [clip playing]
In Ekman's work, he presents us with instructions on how to make different faces and identify faces. Ekman actually
has a sort of more practical career along with his scientific career. He trains police and secret service members to try to
figure out cues to honesty and dishonesty. There's a very interesting New Yorker profile on him by Malcolm Gladwell a few
years ago, something you might be interested in. But let's do one of his faces.
Please lower your brows and draw them together. That means even those who aren't making eye contact with me
now. Tense your lower and upper eyelids. Don't pop out contact lenses but just tense them. Stare. Your eyes can bulge
somewhat. [laughter] Okay. Now, the last part is important. Press your lips together with the corners straight or down. That's
good. You got it. [laughter] Okay. Just because you are not making eye contact with me doesn't mean I can't see you. Okay.
[laughter] Well, what you're looking like presumably is this [referring to a slide]. And what face is that? What emotion does
that correspond to? Anger.
There's all sorts of databases of different faces from around. This guy--I don't know who he is but he seems to be
on a lot of these things [laughter] but the thing is you don't need to rely on him. You don't need to rely on Western faces.
Even if you go on line there's, by now, a lot of databases from faces from all sorts of genders and national origins. This is
from a Japanese women facial expressions. And there are some subtle and very interesting differences across countries and
across people, but there's also deep universals. You don't have to work very hard to figure out what these different facial
expressions mean.
I want to give one more face example because I want to focus on this a little bit. This one's a little bit easier. Raise
the corners of your lips back and up, please. [laughter] Raise your cheeks. Raise your lower eyelids if you can. [laughter]
They're smiling. You're smiling. You can stop [laughter] smiling. Yale is actually really big on smiling. We have two of the
world's experts on smiling. This is Angus Trumble, the curator at the British Art Gallery who wrote this wonderful book, A
Brief History of the Smile looking at the smile in art. And this is my colleague, Marianne LaFrance, who is actually not smiling
in that picture but she studies smiling and smiling in adults, smiling in children, smiling across cultures, and the different
social uses of smiling. And there are some interesting discoveries people have made about smiles and about smiles and the
One--Oh. Well, one is that smiles are universal. We know, for instance, that young children smile. This is my son,
Zachary, when he was younger, not that weird-looking kid [laughs] next to him. [laughter] Thank God. [laughter] And even
blind children, children blind from birth, will smile. They'll smile appropriately, making an important point that smiling is not
learned by looking at other people's faces.
Smiling is also not uniquely human. Nonhuman primates smile as well. Smiles are social signals. You might imagine
that people smile when they're happy. This is actually not the case. It's not as simple as that. Rather, people smile when they
wish to communicate happiness and we know that from several studies. There are some studies of bowlers and the studies
are very nice. What they do is they film bowlers. So, the bowlers do their bowling and sometimes they knock down all the
pins, which is called a what? A strike. So a strike--and that's good in the bowling world. So, they knock down all the pins but
what they don't do, is they don't smile after they knock down the pins. They are being filmed. They don't smile. Then they
turn around to their friends and give a big grin.
Other studies have looked at films of people who have just won Olympic gold medals. Now, not surprisingly, people
who have won Olympic gold medals are very happy. This is good news to win an Olympic gold medal. But they don't actually
stand on the podium grinning. Rather, they stand there with their faces in a normal expression. Then when they stand up and
face the crowds, there's a big smile. You can ask yourself whether during sex, an activity where many people enjoy, whether
or not people smile during sex. And you can discover this yourself with [laughter] a partner or a mirror. [laughter]
So, there are other things we know about smiles. There are different types of smiles. There are actually quite a few
different types of smiles that are different in interesting ways. This is Paul Ekman again. Which one's a better smile? Who
votes for the one on the right? Who votes for the one on the left? There are two different sorts of smiles. The one on the right
is a smile of greeting. It's sometimes known as a "Pan Am" smile. Pan Am is a now defunct airline which had at that time-They were--They don't call them stewardesses anymore but they're--the stewardesses would come in and they would smile.
That was part of their job. But it was a big, fake smile, the Pan Am smile, a smile to communicate "hello" and--but it's as
opposed to a smile where the communication is that of genuine happiness. The difference is around the eyes. It's not the
mouth. It's the eyes.
A real happiness smile, what's known as a Duchenne smile, after a neurophysiologist who studied it, involves
moving the eyes. What's interesting is about only one out of every ten people can fake a Duchenne smile. So, if you smile at
somebody, and you just hate their guts but you want to smile at them, it's--unless you're quite gifted it's difficult to fake a
really good, really happy smile.
You could--It's not difficult to study smiles in the real world. You could look at politicians, for instance. Politicians are
often in contexts where they have to smile a lot. And what they do is they simply give the Pan Am smile. The mouth moves


up, particularly if somebody is attacking their record or ridiculing them, and they'll smile and--but it's not a sincere smile. The
eyes don't move.
My favorite example of this was a few years ago when there was a huge battle for the House majority leader. And a
guy named--a Republican named John Boehner won this position in quite a heated battle. And they took a picture of the guy-This is not very nice. They took a picture of the guy, Roy Blunt, as he stepped out. And he had lost and this was his
expression. [laughter] And he's not really very happy [laughter] as opposed to a smile like this, which is a real smile.
So, you have two sorts of smiles: A real happiness smile [or] a Duchenne smile--called--also known as the
Duchenne smile, and then a Pan Am smile, or greeting smile. And you'll use each of those smiles at different points in your
day and in your life. It turns out that these different smiles have real psychological validity. They seem to sort of reflect deep
differences in your mood and emotions and thoughts. Ten-month-olds, for instance, give different sorts of smiles. When their
mother approaches there they give a real happiness smile. Then when a stranger approaches or someone else approaches
there they'll tend to give more of a greeting smile.
John Gottman studied married couples. And John Gottman does a lot of work--Well, what he does is he looks at film
clips of couples. And by analyzing the film clips he tries to predict will their marriages survive. And one of his cues--There's
different cues. Incidentally, sort of side topic: The death knell for a marriage for Gottman--This is his big finding. It's not if they
fight a lot. It's not they scream at each other. It's not even if they hate each other. The death knell of a marriage is contempt.
And so, if he shows these clips: I walk in, "Honey, I'm home," and my spouse has the look of contempt, it's a bad sign.
[laughter] But another clue is the sort of smiles they give when they see each other when they walk into the lab. If it's a true
happiness smile, that's actually bodes better for the relationship than a Pan Am, or greeting smile.
Finally, studies have been done of college yearbook photos looking at people thirty years later. And it turns out that
there's a correlation, a reliable relationship between how happy somebody is now and back thirty years ago in their yearbook
photo--what sort of smile they're giving.
There is some evidence for a third sort of smile. This is known as a coy smile or an appeasement smile. This is sort
of a very specialized sort of smile. This is a smile of embarrassment or stress. You give it when you want people to like you,
you want to join in; you want to make people feel positive about you. But you're in, sort of, a high-stress situation often with
some sort of risk. And what you do is you sort of you turn away. There's no eye contact. You turn away and kind of give this-[demonstrating by tilting his head to the side]
And this actually shows up in other primates. Here's a nice picture. [laughter] So, the rhesus monkey bites her own
infant, and the infant gives a scream and then the submissive, coy smile. And it also shows up in human infants. Here's a
nice clip of a coy baby smile. I'll walk you through it. The baby is being approached, [laughter] goes like this [with lockedgaze the brows raise and a smile starts], smiles like this [smile widens and head turns up a left], and then the aversion [smile
widens and head is further averted]. Yeah. Babies are cute. [laughter] Any questions at this point about smiling? What are
your smiling questions? [laughter] Yeah.
Student: Do nonhuman primates' smiles [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: That's a good question. I don't know. There's evidence that the coy smile shows up in non--The
question was, "Do nonhuman primates give the same smiles that humans do?" such as a distinction between the Pan Am
smile, a greeting smile, versus a genuine smile of happiness? I don't know. I'll find out for you for next class though. That's a
good question. Yeah.
Student: How come some people's smiles are better than other people's smiles?
Professor Paul Bloom: How come some people's smiles are better than other people's smiles? The non-interesting
psychological answer, some people are better looking and there's more thing-- [laughter] but the deeper answer is some
people are better able to smile. Some people are better able to use the cues to express true happiness.
There's something else about smiles which is going to come up, which your question raises, I think, which is going
to come up in--when we talk about emotional contagion and actually, some issues of morality. Smiles are extremely
contagious. So, what I'd like people to do--If you're sitting next to somebody, please turn around and find someone next to
you and look at them. Don't do anything. Just look at them. Whoever is being looked at, look back. [laughter] This is not-[laughter] Please arbitrarily decide. Okay. Please arbitrarily decide on the smiler. That will be--No, not at me, at each other,
[laughter] and that will be the person--If you are unable to resolve this dispute--yes, you two, please--if you are unable to
resolve this dispute, the person to the right of me will be the smiler. So, look at each other expressionless. [laughter] Now,
the person who is the mandated smiler, [laughter] on three, please smile. One, two, three. [laughter] Okay. [laughter]
Worst class demo ever [laughter] but if one could imagine more restrained circumstances, it is actually extremely
difficult to be facing somebody who's really smiling at you and not smile. This is true, by the way, for virtually every other
emotion. The phenomena is known as "emotional contagion," where if you're facing somebody, for instance, and they're-they look at you in a face of absolute rage, it is very difficult to just sit there without your own face molding in accord to their
own. And the reasons why this happens and how that works is something we'll talk about later on. So that's--One more
question. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]


Professor Paul Bloom: I don't know if that's--The question is, "Is there a difference between smiling with your teeth versus
just your lips closed?" There probably is. That's not a main smile difference but my bet is that there probably is a difference.
And my bet also is that that sort of distinction, how much teeth you show when you smile, is the sort of thing that would show
regional and country by country differences. For instance, there's been research finding that people in England smile
different from people in the United States. And I think that those are the sort of contrasts that you would expect to find in
cross-cultural differences. Every culture is going to have Pan Am smiles, happiness smiles, coy smiles, but the variation of
that sort is something which will vary as a result of how you're raised and the people around you.
I want to deal with a few emotions in this class and next and the first case study of an emotion I want to deal with is
the emotion of fear. And I want to deal with fear for different reasons. One reason is it's a basic emotion, it's universal. All
humans have it. Many nonhumans, probably most nonhuman, species have it too. And it also brings us back to the lecture
on behaviorism where we talked about classical conditioning and different theories of what people are afraid of. It's a
nonsocial emotion. What I mean by this is it's possible, of course, to be afraid of a person, but unlike an emotion like
gratitude, it's not intrinsically social. You could be afraid of falling off a cliff or something. It has a distinctive facial expression
This is a famous picture of Lee Harvey Oswald who was being assassinated by Jack Ruby. And this is the
detective's face standing there, a mixture of fear and anger the face being drawn back in a universal expression that every
human everywhere would be able to recognize.
So, the basic question to ask is "What are we afraid of?" And the answer's a little bit interesting. We're afraid of
spiders, snakes, heights, storms, large animals, darkness, blood, strangers, humiliation, deep water, and leaving home
alone. We are afraid of other things too but those are big things to be afraid of. I'm not even going to ask. If there's somebody
who--in this room, who's not afraid of any of those things? You're a tougher person than I am. These are universal fear
elicitors. Why? What do they have in common? Why would you be afraid of those things? And the answer is--And why
would--why are there so few people afraid of guns, cars, and electrical outlets?
The answer is not particularly surprising. These are things that--something's ticking over there. [referring offstage]
These are things that are scary in our ancestral environment. More particularly, these are things that through the course of
human evolution have been dangerous to us. And so, we are afraid of these things [pointing to a slide containing spider,
snakes, heights etc.] and not so afraid of these things [pointing to guns, cars, electrical outlets, etc.]; similarly for nonhuman
primates. So, chimpanzees are afraid of certain things and they can often develop phobias for certain things, but the phobias
they develop, the fears they develop, are things like spiders and snakes.
There was a nice study done in urban Chicago, in the inner city of Chicago. And they asked children raised in the
inner city, "What are you most afraid of?" And you might think they would say, "I'm afraid of being shot. I'm afraid of guns. I'm
afraid of being killed by somebody or being harmed by somebody. I'm afraid of being run over by a car." The two biggest
fears of children in urban Chicago are that [pointing to the slide], snakes and spiders, even though many of these children
have probably never seen a snake outside of a zoo in their lives. These are natural fears.
There is some research done by the psychologist Judy DeLoache at University of Virginia where she's studying
babies' fears of spiders and snakes, babies obviously who, since their parents are normal, have not yet seen spiders and
snakes. There are various ethical reasons why you can't show babies--you can't try to construct phobias in babies of spiders
and snakes but the research she's finding using more indirect methods finds, as one would expect, these are what
psychologists would call "pre-potent stimuli"; that is, these are things that naturally elicit fear and concern. And that's all I
have to say about fear.
I want to turn for the rest of this lecture and for next lecture next week to the social emotions. And the social
emotions can be broken down into two categories. [a student sneezes] Bless you, bless you. Those emotions you feel
towards your kin, towards your genetic relatives, and those emotions that you feel towards the people you're not related to
but interact with. And I want to focus particularly on emotions that generate kind or altruistic behavior.
"Altruism" is the biologists' term meaning kindness, generosity, and evolutionary biologists have worked really hard
to explain why animals might evolve to be kind. A very old, very wrong view of evolution is that evolution has shaped animals
such that they're merely survival machines. If so, then from an evolutionary standpoint any kindness towards an animal--that
an animal shows towards another animal--is a mystery. If evolution wired us up simply to survive, then it's a puzzle why
animals would relate positively to other animals. But of course, that's not true.
Here's a simple example showing it's not true. Imagine two genes, two sorts of animals each containing their own
gene. Gene "A" makes an animal care for its offspring. Gene "B" makes an animal care only for itself. Imagine what will
happen in the next generation. Plainly, Gene "A" will win out. It's a very simple case. An animal who has evolved a brain that
says, "Take care of your offspring" will do much better from a natural selection point of view from an animal who has evolved
a brain that says, "Eat your offspring." The animal that eats its offspring, those genes are a biological dead end. What
matters then is not survival, per se. What matters is reproduction. And so, that simple fact is why we would expect animals to
care for their children, because children are the means through which genes replicate.
But it gets a little bit richer than that. And this is one of the major revolutions in evolutionary biology over the last half
century. Forget about the animal a bit and take another perspective. Take a perspective of the cold virus. People have been


sneezing in the front row. Now, you're coughing. Thank you. Why do you sneeze when you get a cold? Here's not a-- [more
coughing, laughter] Point made. Here is--Here's not a bad answer. You sneeze because you've got all these germs inside
you and your body wants to get the germs out, so you sneeze. It's not that it's totally wrong, but it's not bad.
The real answer is a little bit more interesting. Don't look at it from the person's perspective. If you have a cold, try to
get away from your own selfish perspective, "I have a cold." Look at it from the perspective of the cold virus. The cold virus
has evolved just as much as you evolved. And it's evolved due to survival and reproduction. What the cold virus does is
evolve different strategies to cause it to reproduce. And what it does is--one way to reproduce is to occupy other animals and
manipulate their bodies so as to expel it. From this point of view then, the reason why you sneeze when you have a cold is
that your cold--the cold virus is using your body as a tool to replicate itself. From this person--this perspective, a person is
just a germ's way of making other germs. And there's tons of other examples of this.
There's a parasite known as toxoplasmosis that lives in the bodies of rats. But it gets passed on when the rats get
eaten by cats. And then it ends up in the cats' feces and then it ends up back in rats. If you are a rat and you have
toxoplasmosis, you are perfectly healthy except for one thing. The toxoplasmosis rewires your brain and it makes you less
afraid of cats. Now, again, this is not some sort of bizarre quirk of a humorous god. Rather, it's because this is a perfectly-this is the adaptive strategy of the toxoplasmosis virus.
In fact, a real powerful virus would skip the respiratory system altogether, even better than a cold virus. What it
would do is it would take over the brain and it will make people want to run around and have sex with other people and kiss
them on the mouth. And in fact, there is some evidence that this happens. There's some evidence, for instance, that one of
the effects of sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis is it arouses the libido, makes people more sexually engaged,
because this is part of the strategy through which these viruses replicate themselves. Imagine a virus, for instance, that
captured an animal's brain and then modified the animal's brain such that the animal would run out and bite other animals so
as to pass on the virus. And then, of course, you would call that virus "rabies." Along these lines, the evolutionary biologist
Richard Dawkins took the general step of suggesting that animals are the vehicles through which genes exploit to reproduce.
From this perspective, an animal is just the person's--is just the gene's way of creating another animal.
Well, as psychologists, what benefit does that--does this way of analysis give us? It actually can help us explain
altruism. So, which genes are going to survive? Well, the genes that survive are going to be the ones that make the most
copies of themselves. Animals are vehicles through which genes reproduce. An animal's merely the gene's way of making
another gene. Hence, selfish genes will lead to altruistic animals because, to the extent that evolution operates at the level of
the genes, there's no hard and fast distinction between your own body and someone else's body.
And here's an illustration by the biologist Haldane. So, Haldane was once asked, "Would you lay down your life for
your brother?" And he responded, "No, but I would gladly give my life for three brothers or five nephews or nine first cousins."
Now, he's joking. You don't actually do the math if you're normal. But what he's capturing is the logic, the ultimate causation
of our feelings towards our kin. Our genes have wired us up--our brains up to love our children and love our kin because, in
this way, our genes manage to replicate themselves. And in fact, you get his calculations by looking at genetic relatedness.
The genetic relatedness, from an evolutionary standpoint, affects how much you care for other people. From the
standpoint of your genes, you dying for the life of three brothers is an excellent compromise because the genes replicate by
fifty percent more. If you imagined--;So, here is his calculations. If you imagined a choice between this one gene that makes
the animal choose to die and the other gene that makes an animal choose for its brothers to die, the gene that sacrifices the
body it belongs to will make more copies in the future. And there's an interesting irony to this. The selfish gene theory is often
seen as sort of a cold-blooded evolutionary analysis, but it provides a scientific basis for real, genuine altruism, for really
arguing that, from the standpoint of the genes, there really is no hard and fast difference between yourself and another
From this perspective, we can start to answer some interesting questions at least about nonhumans. When a new
male lion takes over a pride what he does is kill all the remaining cubs and any lionesses undergo spontaneous abortions.
This all might seem very cruel but from a genetic standpoint it makes sense. The other cubs are genetic competition for him.
They do not have his genes. Moreover, only once they're out of the way can he reproduce and copulate with the females.
The females do their spontaneous abortions because that's a reliable adaptive trick. These cubs are not going to survive
once they are born so the female's best strategy is to get rid of them and start anew.
From a psychological point then, animals have evolved to be nice to their kin, particularly their children, and
particularly in birds and mammals. Birds and mammals invest in quality and not quantity, as opposed to fish and reptiles. For
birds and mammals, we don't have many kids but--so we devote a huge amount of psychological energy to protecting the
ones that we have. Moreover, the kids we have are vulnerable for long periods of time and require our resources. So, there's
various psychological mechanisms that this gives rise to. One is how parents or how adults in general respond to children.
Another one is how children respond to parents. And I'll briefly talk about a few of these phenomena.
[plays a sound of a baby crying] Small animals make distress calls. They chirp, they mew, they bleat or they cry.
The governing of a distress call is actually an extremely delicate high-wire act for any young organism from an evolutionary
point of view. It has to on the one hand be annoying enough to actually generate help, to get people to help you, to feed you,
to pick you up, to take you and put them next to you. On the other hand, it can't be so annoying that the people around you


kill you [laughter] and so it's complicated. But, from your point of view, you're wired up to respond to them. That sound is, at
very minimum, extremely annoying. And it's more--it's not annoying because of its volume or pitch. It's annoying because
your brains are wired up so that that baby cry is going to drive you up the wall.
On the more positive side, babies are cute. I got this [picture] from Google Images, typing in "cute baby," [laughter]
getting rid of the porn and [laughter] coming on to that. No, no, Playboy, but anyway it was over that. [laughter] And do not be
tempted to say, "Isn't it wonderful that the way nature works is that babies are cute? Otherwise we would have killed them."
[laughter] That's not the right story. If--Babies are not--Human babies are not, sort of, metaphysically cute. If Martians came
down they wouldn't say, "Oh, cute baby." Rather, they're cute because of how our brains are wired up. They're cute because
there are certain cues that correspond to the way our brains work.
And in fact, this is how it works for all mammals. So, babies have these big, protruding foreheads, an upturned little
nose, chubby cheeks and big eyes. Those are the ingredients for cute. Stephen Jay Gould has a wonderful essay where he
discussed this, looking at the evolution of Mickey Mouse from the Walt Disney character. Mickey Mouse starts off as an ugly,
little rodent. [laughter] Over time he gets cuter and cuter and cuter as the artist converged on more and more baby-like
Studies of adults show what's known as a baby-face bias. This is not unique to the United States. The same studies
have been done in Asia. You find a baby face in an adult, Leonardo DiCaprio, to be particularly nave, helpless, kind and
warm. And in mock trials, people with baby faces are more likely to be found innocent than people like Ben Affleck, [laughter]
who do not have baby faces. [laughter] Now, one question which is going to come up for an entire lecture later on is "who is
sexier, the baby faced man or Testosterone Man?" here [pointing to Ben Affleck]. [laughter] And I am going to ask actually
for a vote because I'm going to return to this. I do not--I only want the men to vote, please. Who would go for--And forget the
fact that he looks sort of unhappy. Who would go for Ben Affleck here? Okay. [laughter] Who would go for Leonardo? Okay.
[laughter] Well, the women votes would actually be more complicated. We will discuss when we get the lecture on sex. Your
choice will depend on where you are in the menstrual cycle. [laughter]
Now, so far, we're talking about how babies respond to--We're talking about our responses to babies. What about
babies' responses to us? Well, there's a very old theory known as the "Cupboard Theory" proposed by the behaviorist B.F.
Skinner which argues that babies' attachment to their parents is because the parent provides food, characteristically breast
milk, but it could be food from a bottle or whatever. And because of operant conditioning, the baby is driven towards the
adult. An alternative theory is that of Bowlby, which is that they're drawn to their mother for comfort and social interaction as
well as fear of strangers.
To test this, the psychologist Harlow performed a series of ingenious experiments with nonhuman primates
distinguishing between what he called "wire mothers" and "cloth mothers." And you'll see illustrations of this to follow. Wire
mothers are mothers that are built that they give food. They have a little nipple attached and you can drink from it and give
food to the baby. And that's the baby's source of food. Cloth mothers don't give any food but they give warmth and comfort.
There was a while in the psychology department where one professor was known to be extremely supportive to his
students but didn't really provide much warmth. And he was known as the cloth mother. And another one was very
productive and everything but provided no love. And she was known as the wire mother. But anyway, I'll show you the
movies. [movie playing]
I have to warn you this third and final movie is an example of why this research is not currently done, but it illustrates an
important scientific point. Oh. Now him-- [movie playing]
I think I'm-- [showing pictures of cute baby animals] They're just more Google Images. [laughter] I think I'll--I want to
begin next class by wrapping up and explaining the Harlow studies in more detail and what they tell us. And then we'll move
towards altruism, towards non kin. I'll see you next week.


Lecture 12
Professor Paul Bloom: So what we're doing today is continuing on the theme of emotions. "Emotions" is a two-part lecture
and we're continuing along certain themes.
I want to begin by responding to a question which was raised in the last class concerning smiling and nonhuman
primates. It was a very good question. The issue was: we know that humans have different sorts of smiles to convey different
sorts of information. The question was, "do nonhuman primates, like chimpanzees or gorillas or gibbons, have the same
many sorts of smiles?" So, I contacted the world's expert on smiling, who did not return my e-mails. So, I contacted the
second world's expert on smiling who told me that the answer is "no," that primate--nonhuman primate smiles actually
correspond almost entirely to appeasement smiles. They're "don't hurt me" smiles. They're equivalent to the "coy smile" that
we saw on humans. But that nonhuman primates do not use smiles for greetings; there's no equivalent to the "greeting
smile" or "Pan Am smile"; nor do they use them as genuine expressions of happiness. There's no equivalent to the
"Duchenne smile." That's as far as I know. If the world's expert gets back to me and says something different, I'll keep you
Another thing. Going back to the beginning theme of the class, what we started--just to review, we talked about the
different functions of emotions. And then we talked about smiling and facial expressions. And then we turned to some--to a
nonsocial emotion, the case of fear. And then we shifted to social emotions. And we talked about social emotions towards kin
and the special evolutionary reasons that would lead them to evolve. And as we were ending, we were talking about the
relationship between an animal and its children, particularly in cases like humans and birds and mammals where there tends
to be a close relationship with our children.
We invest in quality, not quantity. I might produce very few children in my life. And my evolutionary trick then is to
focus very intently on them and make sure they survive. If I were to produce 100 children, I could stand to lose a few, but if I
just produce five in my lifetime or two or one, they become very precious to me. And so, the story of the evolution of a
species like us involves a long period of dependence and deep, deep bonds between the parent and the child. And that's
part of what I talked about, how parents respond to children.
And I want to begin this class by giving an illustration from a documentary about parental response to children, but I
want to give it in a species that's not us. And here is why. I'll explain why with an analogy. I have a friend of mine who studies
the psychology of religion. He studies why people hold religious beliefs. And he tells me that when he's talking to a non
specialist, somebody not in the field, he doesn't ever tell them, "Yeah, I'm really interested in why people believe in the Bible
or why people light the candles on Sabbath or why people go to church" because these are religions that people around here
hold, and if you tell people you study them they'll sort of be puzzled, "why would you want to study something like that" or
offended. If you want to talk about the psychology of religion to an audience like this, what you do is you start with the exotic.
So, you start by talking about people who put butter on their heads.
Dan Sperber talks about a culture where the men put butter on their heads in the summer. And it kind of melts and
that's part of--one of the things that they do or--you talk about a culture that believes in spirits or that trees can talk. You say
you're studying it and they say, "Oh, that's interesting. I wonder why they believe that?" And you use that as a way to look at
more general facts that exist even in our culture. You use the fact that we don't take the exotic for granted as a way to
motivate the scientific study of things we do take for granted.
And this is, of course, true more generally. This was the point in the William James quote when he talked about
things that are natural to us and noticed that some very odd things are equally natural to other species. And it's true, I think,
in particular when we talk about things like the love we have for our children. So, one way to look at the love we have for our
children scientifically, isn't to look at it head-on, because the love we feel towards our own children feels sacred, it feels
special, but look at it in other species. And so, one of the nicest illustrations of this is the Emperor penguin, which was-which--whose childcare and mating practices were dramatized in a wonderful movie called "March of the Penguins." And this
is interesting because they had this incredibly elaborate and quite precarious system of generating and taking care of
So, I want to show you a brief clip of the movie to illustrate some parts of this. What they do at the beginning, which
is not--which leads up to this, is they take a very long trek from the water to their breeding grounds. Their breeding grounds
is--are protected from the wind and they're on a firm piece of ice so they could hold the whole pack. They do the breeding
there and it's there that the eggs are created. So, this is where the movie begins at this point. [clip playing]
"March of the Penguins" was the second best--second most popular documentary of all time, beaten only by
"Fahrenheit 9/11." And people responded to it in different ways, which are informative when we think about the
generalizations you could make from animal behavior to human behavior. Some conservative commentators saw this as a
celebration of family values, such as love and trust and monogamy. Some liberals, who hate everything that's good and true,
[laughter] responded by saying, "Well, yeah, they're monogamous for one breeding season. It's a year. Then they go and
find another mate. If you add it up, it's pretty slutty." [laughter]
I think more to the point, people were impressed and stunned by the rich and articulate and systematic behavior
that these animals were showing. Plainly, they didn't pick it up from television, movies, culture, learning, schooling, and so


on. To some extent, this sort of complicated behavior came natural to them. And it's understandable that some proponents of
intelligent design, or creationism, pointed to this as an example of how God creates things that are deeply, richly intricate so
as to perpetrate the survival of different animals. From a Darwinian standpoint, the Darwinian would agree with the
creationist that this couldn't have happened by accident, this is just far too complicated, but would appeal to the--to this as an
exquisite example of a biological adaptation, in particular a biological adaptation regarding parental care to children shaped
by the fact that children share the parents' genes and so parents will evolve in ways that perpetrate the survival of their
Then there's the other direction, which is how children respond to parents, how the young ones are wired up to
resonate and respond in different ways to the adults around them. And we quickly talked about some different theories of
this. And I'll just review what we talked about last class. Babies will develop an attachment to whoever is closest. They'll
usually prefer their mothers because their mothers are typically those who are closest to them. They'll prefer her voice, her
face, her smell. It used to be thought that there is some sort of magical moment of imprinting that when the baby is born, the
baby must see his or her mother and "boom," a connection is made. If the baby doesn't, terrible things will happen with
attachment later on. This is silly. There is no reason to believe there's some special moment or special five minutes or
special hour. It's just in the fullness of time babies will develop an attachment to the animal that's closest to it. They will
recognize it as, at an implicit level, at an unconscious level, as their kin.
Well, how does this work? How does the baby's brain develop--come to develop an emotional attachment to that
creature? Well, you remember from Skinner that operant conditioning could provide a good answer to this. And this is known
as the "Cupboard Theory," which is babies love their moms because their moms provide food. It's the law of effect. It's
operant conditioning. They will approach their mothers to get the food from them. And they will develop an attachment
because their mother provides food. And this is contrasted with a more nativist, hard-wired theory developed by Bowlby
which claims that there's two things going on. There is a draw to mom for comfort and social interaction and fear of
Now, in the real world, it's difficult to pull apart these two means of attraction because the very same woman who's
giving you comfort and social interaction is also the one giving you milk. But in the laboratory you can pull them apart. And
that's what Henry Harlow did in the movies you saw last week. So, Harlow exposed primates to two different mothers. One is
a wire mother. That's a Skinnerian mother. That's a mother who gave food. The other is a cloth mother set-up so that she'd
be comfortable and give warmth and cuddling. And the question is, "Which one do babies go for?" And as you can remember
from the movies, the results are fairly decisive. Babies go to the wire mother to eat--as one of the characters said, "You've
got to eat to live." But they viewed the--they loved the cloth mother. They developed an attachment to the warm, cuddly
mother. That's the one they used as a base when they were threatened. That's the one they used as a base from which to
Okay. And that actually--Oh, that's just--I have a picture. And that actually takes me to the--Oh, except for one thing,
it almost takes me to the end of the question of our emotions towards kin. One question you could ask is, "What if there's no
contact at all?" Now, you could imagine the effects of how--A lot of people are interested in the question of the effects of the
child's early relationship to adults around him or her in how the child turns out later. This becomes hugely relevant for social
debates like daycare. So for instance, a lot of psychologists are interested in the question, "Is it better for a child to be raised
by a parent, usually a mother, or does it make a difference if the child goes to daycare? What if the child goes to daycare at
six months? What if the child goes to daycare at two years? How does this affect the child?" The short answer is, nobody
really knows. There's a lot of debate over whether or not there are subtle differences and it's deeply controversial. But we do
know that it doesn't make a big difference. We do know that if you got raised by mom, or perhaps mom and dad, or maybe
just dad all through your life until going off for school and I--my parents threw me in a daycare at age three months--it's not
going to make a big difference for us, maybe a subtle difference though it's not clear which way it would go. But it won't make
a big difference.
But what if there's no contact at all? What if--What about terrible circumstances where people get no cloth mother,
they get nobody for attachment? This is a really--In the real world, of course, you can't do experiments on this. And in the
real world with humans, this only happens in tragic cases. But this has been studied. So Harlow, again, raised monkeys in
solitary confinement so they were raised in steel cages with only a wire mother. In other words, they got all the nutrition they
needed but they got no mothering. It turned out that you kind of get monkey psychotics. They're withdrawn. They don't play.
They bite themselves. They're incompetent sexually. They're incompetent socially. They're incompetent maternally. In one
case, one of these monkeys raised in solitary confinement was artificially inseminated. When she had a child she banged its
head on the floor and then bit it to death. So, you need to be--you need--This shows--This is kind of a stark demonstration
that some early connection, some early attachment is critical for the developing of a primate.
Obviously, you don't do these experiments with people but there are natural experiments, humans raised in harsh
orphanages with little social contact, and these children--If the--In other words, they get fed, barely, but nobody picks them
up and cuddles them. These children, if this happens for long enough, they end up with severe problems with social and
emotional development. From an emotional point of view, they're often insatiable. They really need cuddling and support or
they're apathetic, they don't care at all. Now, there's some sort of good news, which is if you get these people or these


monkeys early enough you can reverse the effects of this bad development. So, there's some research done with monkey
therapists. So then, what they do is they take the monkey, they raise it in a steel cage, the monkey comes out, the monkey is
kind of psycho, and then they send in a younger monkey who is just goofing around, jumping all around the place and
everything. And experience with this younger monkey who just follows them around and clings to them leads to gradual
improvement. It makes the solitary monkey become better.
There might be a similar effect with humans. So one story more about--of an anecdote than an experiment was a
situation where at the age of one and a half, children were taken away from a really harsh orphanage where they had no
contact and brought into a home for mentally retarded women where these women gave them plenty of contact and cuddling
and apparently, from what we know, brought them back to normal. And this is all I want to talk about, about the emotions we
feel towards our kin, towards our children, and towards our parents. Any questions or thoughts? Yes.
Student: Do children in orphanages comfort each other?
Professor Paul Bloom: It's a good question. Do children in orphanages comfort each other? I don't know. The situation
probably wouldn't be there--The problem is children in orphanages who are in these terrible situations tend to be babies and
very young and they wouldn't be thrown together in situations where they could comfort each other. It's a really interesting
question. What if it was a situation where children were raised without a supportive cloth mother at all, would not be able to
pick them up and hold them, but they could play amongst themselves and support each other? I don't know the answer to
Teaching Assistant: Yes.
Professor Paul Bloom: Yes? Is there evidence on that?
Teaching Assistant: Yes, there is. [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Yes. [laughter] The answer is there is evidence, [laughs] as everybody knows, [laughter] that this
sort of--amongst the young, support can actually help the monkey and the children. Somebody else had a question here?
Student: What does that tell us about the middle ground, if the parent is comforting just a little bit and then not that much
Professor Paul Bloom: Right. So this is--The question is, "What does that tell us about the middle ground?" So this is an
extreme case but what do we know about the middle case? Say your parent--You're not raised in a cage, you're not in a
Romanian orphanage, but your parents just don't pick you up very much. They don't love you very much. There's no good
evidence that that has any effect on a person. The problem is, and we're going to talk about this in much more detail in a
couple of weeks, is it's true that parents who aren't affectionate have kids that aren't affectionate but it's not clear this is
because of a genetic connection or an environmental connection. The one thing we do know is that in the middle ground,
effects tend not to be dramatic. So when you get away from extreme cases, effects are hard to see and require careful
experimental research to tease out. I think what it's safe to say for a lot--for everything but the severe conditions is we don't
know what kind of effects there are. But if there are effects they are not big and dramatic ones.
Okay. Animals' good feelings, animals' emotional attraction to their kin, is not a huge puzzle from an evolutionary
point of view. Evolution is driven by forces that operate on the fact of how many genes get reproduced and replicated among
your descendants. So, it makes sense that animals would be wired-up to care for their kids. It would make sense that kids
who are wired-up to survive would develop attachments to their parents. What's more of a puzzle though is that animals,
including humans, seem to have exquisitely complicated relationships with non-kin. In particular, animals are nice to non-kin.
You are nice to people that you're not related to. There are a lot of examples of this. Animals groom one another. You go,
you pick off the lice and the bugs off your friend; they pick it off you. They give warning cries.
So, warning cries--All sorts of animals give warning cries. You are--I don't know. You're a little animal and a big
animal comes charging and you say, "Hey!" Oh. You may sort of cry and everybody runs away. And that's very risky for you
but you do it anyway, often to protect people you aren't related to. Often animals share childcare. And from a cold-blooded,
natural selection, survival-of-the-gene point of view, you would imagine that if you lend me your kid for the day I would eat
him for the protein and "it's not my genes and actually it gives more for my kids." That's not quite how it works though.
Animals share food. In fact, that animal, hugely ugly, the vampire bat, shares food. What happens is the vampire
bat--vampire bats live in caves and they fly out. And what they do is often a bat will strike it big. She'll find a horse, for
instance, bite the horse, pump in tons of blood and then fly back. And what it does is it doesn't keep it to itself. Rather, it goes
around the whole cave and vomits blood into the mouth of all the other vampire bats so everybody benefits. Isn't that nice?
[laughter] Now, what you're tempted to say is, "Well, that's really nice. Everybody benefits," but this raises a puzzle from the
evolutionary point of view.
Remember, animals benefit more, and to this situation, animals benefit more by working together than by working
alone. The benefits outweigh the costs. This is known as "reciprocal altruism" meaning my behavior to you, my good
behavior to you, my altruism for you, is predicated on the idea of reciprocation, "I'll benefit from you." And you imagine how
vampire bats, for instance, why this makes sense. This is--If you're a vampire bat, it's a better system when anybody strikes
it big to feed you rather than for anybody who strike it big, use the blood and then spit out all the rest of it. But here's the
problem. Here's why it's such a puzzle. The problem is the existence of cheaters. And in economics and sociology these are


also known as "free-riders." And what a cheater or free-rider does is it takes the benefits without paying the cost. Imagine
two genes. Imagine one builds a vampire bat that accepts blood from others and shares blood. The other gene accepts
blood from others and doesn't share blood. In the long run, "B" will actually out-produce gene "A" because in fact, "B" will be
healthy while other vampire bats get sick. And then so the offspring will do better.
An even sharper example is an example of warning cries. So, gophers give warning cries when there's a predator. It
is extremely adaptive to give a warning cry. Sorry. It's extremely adaptive to respond to a warning cry. You hear a warning
cry, you-- "Oh, crap," you run away. It is not very adaptive to give a warning cry. A really good solution then is to listen to
warning cries but not to give them. Suppose we had a system--It is very adaptive when people are going to the bar, when
people buy drinks to accept the drinks. It is not so adaptive, from the standpoint of one's wallet, to buy people drinks. Here is
a solution. Accept drinks but don't pay for drinks. And if everybody fell to that solution, the idea of buying a round would fade.
So, there is the puzzle. Since cheating--Since a cheater, in the short run, can always out-win--does better than a noncheater, how could this cooperation evolve? How could it be an evolutionarily stable strategy?
And the answer is "cheater detection." Reciprocal altruism can only evolve if animals are wired up to punish
cheaters. Now, that requires a lot of mental apparatus. You have to recognize cheaters, you have to remember cheaters,
and you have to be motivated to punish cheaters. And not every animal has this degree of complicated apparatus but
actually we know that vampire bats do. So, in one clever study--So the theory says--the evolutionary theory says "yeah, I see
what these vampire bats are doing," but you see--and this is a case where evolution makes a nice prediction that couldn't
evolve unless bats are keeping track. If bats aren't keeping track, then the system could never exist because the cheaters
would just take it over. They must be watching for cheaters.
So, the experiment which was done is you--a vampire bat strikes it big, it flies back, and then you keep it--as a
scientist you keep it from giving blood to anybody else. Then what happens? Well, what happens is when the other bats
strike it big they starve the selfish bat, just as if we go to bars and everybody buys a round except for me. And this happens
over and over and over again. Pretty soon you're going to buy a round but you're not going to give me one. And so, just as
humans are keeping their eyes out for people who are taking the benefits without paying the costs, so are other animals. And
it is argued that this sensitivity to cheating, this focus on reciprocation, plays a powerful role in the evolution of social
behavior and the evolution of social emotions.
And a classic illustration of this is The Prisoner's Dilemma. Now, many of you, I think, have seen The Prisoner's
Dilemma in one course or another? It shows up--It is one of the main constructs in the social sciences. It shows up in
cognitive science, psychology, economics, that you could--The teaching fellows are passing around something which you're
not going to use right away. But for some of you this is the first time you're going to be exposed to The Prisoner's Dilemma
so let me spell it out.
Here's the idea. You and a friend commit a crime. You rob a bank, for instance. For the sake of this example, you
are prisoner two. You get caught. The police put you in a little room and they say, "We want to know everything that
happened. In particular, we want you to rat out your friend." Now, here are the options, and one thing about this is nothing is
hidden. The police officer could actually print out a copy of The Prisoner's Dilemma and put it right in front of you. And what
he could say is, "Look." You're prisoner two. "You could cooperate--Well, you have two options. You could either cooperate
with your friend, you could stay silent, or you could defect or you could squeal." But the police officer says, "Look. If you--Let
me tell you something. If you cooperate with your friend and he squeals on you, you'll go to prison for life and he'll walk out.
However, if you squeal on him and he cooperates, he keeps quiet, he'll go to prison for life and you'll walk out." So, what do
you do? Now, on the nice side, what you can do is you could say, "No. I'm going to be quiet. I'm going to cooperate." Now, if
you could trust your friend to cooperate, you're fine, you each get a little stint in prison, but of course your friend might defect.
Your friend might squeal.
Here is the important structure of The Prisoner's Dilemma. No matter what you--what your friend chooses to do,
you're better off squealing. So, suppose you're prisoner two. You believe your friend's going to cooperate with you. He's not
going to be--he's not going to give the information out. Well, then your best thing to do is squeal on him. What if you believe
he's going to squeal on you? Well, your best thing to do is squeal on him but if you could get your act together and you could
coordinate this, you would both be quiet and get a fairly minor penalty. And you could see this--This is the standard origin of
the prisoner's dilemma, why it's called "The Prisoner's Dilemma," but you could see this all over the place. So, here is the
logic. The best case for you is to defect while the other person cooperates. The worst case is to cooperate while the other
person defects.
Back to the police thing. The best case for you is to give up all the information; the other guy stays silent; you cut a
deal; you walk home that day. The worst case is you're quiet, he cuts a deal, you go to prison for life, but overall the best is
that each cooperate and overall the worst for both is if each defect. And the reason that makes this tragic is this. Regardless
of what your opponent does, it pays to defect, but if both people defect both are worse off. I'll give a couple of other
examples. No. [referring to a slide] That's just to show that there's a cartoon corresponding to The Prisoner's Dilemma. It is
that common.
Here's the idea. I am--I break up with my wife. We've been married for a while. We've decided we're not going to go
through it together anymore and we break up. We're living in separate houses and we're starting to talk divorce. It occurs to


me--Here's me. I put that out there. "Should I get a divorce lawyer?" I ask. Now, I know divorce lawyers are really expensive.
And it's kind of difficult to get a divorce lawyer. But if I get a divorce lawyer--And so neither one of us get a divorce lawyer
we'll just do okay. We'll get a mediator. We'll split the money down the middle. That'll be okay but I'm kind of tempted. If I get
a divorce lawyer and she doesn't, my divorce lawyer will take everything she's got. I get everything, she loses everything.
Maybe I should be nice. Hold it. What if she gets a divorce lawyer and I don't? Well, then I'll lose everything, she'll get
everything. Well, we should both get a divorce lawyer then but we'd both do pretty badly.
Imagine we're two countries, country "A" and country "B." Should I do nuclear disarmament? That's pretty good.
We'd do okay if both countries disarmed. We would live our lives; we'll raise taxes; we'll do whatever countries do. But
wouldn't it be cool if I build up my weaponry and they don't? I'll invade, take everything they got. That's kind of tempting. Uh
oh. Also, if I don't do anything and they do it, they'll invade my country, take everything. So, we both build up our weaponry
and we both do pretty badly. Once you start thinking about things this way, there's no end to the sort of notions that could fall
under The Prisoner's Dilemma.
A good example is a drug deal. Suppose I want to buy marijuana from you, or "reefer" as they call it on the street.
[laughter] So, I have $1,000 and from you I'd like to buy a ton of reefer so--I'm rounding off. [laughter] So, you say,
"Wonderful. Wonderful. Let's meet behind the gym, two in the morning on Friday, and we'll do the exchange. You bring
$1,000, I bring the reefer." "Oh, cool. Okay. Good." And I think, "that's pretty good, a thousand bucks, I get the reefer, you
get a thousand bucks. That's okay, that's the normal thing." But now something occurs to me. "Nobody's going to go to the
cops if things go badly. So instead of doing--bringing the money, why don't I just bring a gun? You come with your reefer, I
stick a gun in your face, take the reefer, go home."
Maybe I won't do that, but now I worry because you're thinking the same thing. So, you could show up with a gun,
stick the gun in my face, take the thousand bucks, go home. I'll have no reefer. What will I smoke? [laughter] So, we both
think this way. So, we both show up behind the gym, two in the morning, with guns. [laughter] Well, that's not as bad for
either one of us if I had--I--you had a gun and I didn't have a gun. But still, we're both worse off than if we could cooperate
and just do the damn trade. And so that's the structure of The Prisoner's Dilemma.
You can only appreciate The Prisoner's Dilemma by actually doing it. So, here's--here is a numerical equivalent to
The Prisoner's Dilemma. Everybody should have a card in front of you, a file card. If you don't--If you didn't get a card, a
piece of paper will do just as well. Please write on one side "cooperate" and on the other side "defect" and then please find a
partner with whom to play one game. This is a one-shot game. One of you is player one. The player on the right-most side
from my right could be player one. The other one is player two. Do you each have a partner? If you have three people, you
could cluster together and do two and then two and just think. It is actually best if you've never met or spoken to the person
you're about to deal with. And the game is, when I say "go," simply show the person your choice.
To be clear, if you are player one and you cooperate and player two cooperates as well, you each get three dollars.
If you are player one and you cooperate while player two defects, player two gets five dollars and you get bupkis and so on.
On three, just show the card to your opponent, to your person you're playing with. One, two, three. [laughter] Okay. How
many people in this room cooperated? How many cooperated? How many defected? [laughter] Okay. How many people are
now five dollars richer? Okay. How many of you got nothing? [laughter] Okay. So, you're learning. You're learning that the
person next to you is really an SOB. [laughter] Now, find the person next to you and you get to play again. And you get to
play five games in a row. Play five games in a row and keep score. You just show it to each other, record the numbers, show
it, show it, show it, show it. Go now. [laughter] Anybody here win twenty-five dollars? Yes, twenty-five? So you-Student 1: He cooperated four times and I defected-Professor Paul Bloom: That's twenty, twenty-one. [laughter] Okay. That's good. That's good. So, it really is a measure of
honesty. [laughs] Anybody win twenty or more? Fifteen or more. Fourteen or less. Anybody do five or less? You're a good
person. It's good. It's good. You played it with him?
Student 2: Yes.
Professor Paul Bloom: Bad person. [laughter] It's not really about good or bad. There was a great game once. It's a simple
game, but it was a great game, a great, famous competition a long time ago, about 20 years ago, set up by the great
computer scientist Robert Axelrod. And he put together a competition where people brought in computer programs to play
this game, to play The Prisoner's Dilemma. And there were sixty-three competitors. And these computer programs were
incredibly--Some of them were very simple, always be nice, always be--always cooperate, always defect. Some were
elegant, prime number solutions and prototype responses, genetic algorithms crafted to figure out what the other person was
doing and suss them out.
But the winner was developed by Anatol Rappaport. And Anatol Rappaport actually died about a month ago at quite
an old age, a great scientist. What was interesting about this was he was the winner with his program but his program was
also one of the simplest. It may well have been the simplest. It was called "Tit-for-Tat" and it worked very simple. It took four
lines of basic code. The first time you meet a new program, cooperate. The first time you meet somebody, be nice. After that,
do on each trial what the other program did on the previous trial. This beat sixty-two others.
And here is why. It had certain beautiful features. It starts friendly. Remember the best long-term solution is
everybody's be--everybody's nice. It starts off nice but you can't--it's not a sucker. If you screw with it, it will defect back on


the next turn. It is, however, forgiving. Do you want to get nice with it? Be nice. If you're nice, it'll be nice back at you later on.
It's also transparent, nothing complicated about it, and that's actually important. It's not merely that it's not a sucker and
forgiving. More to the point, it is--you could tell it's not a sucker. And you could tell it's forgiving. And this very powerful
algorithm learned to cooperate even in the situation--and helped--learned to make it out the best even in a situation where
there's a risk of cheating and betrayal.
Some psychologists have argued that our emotions correspond to the different permutations on The Prisoner's
Dilemma. We like people who cooperate with us. This motivates us to be nice to them in the future much as the Tit-for-Tat
algorithm says, "If you are nice to me now, I'll be nice to you back." We don't like being screwed with. We feel anger and
distrust towards those who betray us. That motivates us to betray or avoid them in the future. And we feel bad when we
betray somebody who cooperates with us. This motivates us to behave better in the future. You can break down the cells of
The Prisoner's Dilemma in terms of emotions that they give rise to.
I did an experiment last night with my seven-year-old and my ten-year-old. I explained to them The Prisoner's
Dilemma. I didn't give the divorce lawyer example but-- [laughter] and we gave them a big thing of chocolate chips and--the
good chocolate chips. We had the good chips and we had the matrix and we had them play. Now, what they did isn't so
interesting, but what's interesting is they were furious at each other. One of them, the younger boy, was--kept being betrayed
by the older boy including tricks like he'd say, "Okay. Let's both cooperate." "Yeah. Okay." Then he'd cooperate-- "defect!"
And [laughter] the response was anger, though not actually guilt on the part of the other boy [laughter] but rage. And we see
these sort of things all the time in real life.
You're familiar with The Prisoner's Dilemma but there's another game, which you might not be familiar with. It's
called The Ultimatum Game. How many of you have encountered The Ultimatum Game? Okay, some of you. Very simple.
Choose a partner. It's a very simple game. When economists study this they actually do this with real money. I do not have
real money to let you do this too. One of you is "A," one of you is "B." The one on the right most from this side is "A." The
other one is "B." Here is a very simple rule. I'd like "A" to turn to "B" and make an offer. "A" has ten dollars. You can give "B"
any amount you choose from that ten dollars, from one dollar to ten dollars. "B" can do only one thing. "B" can accept it; if
you accept it, you agree to take home the money and "A" keeps what ever's left--or reject it. If you reject it, you get nothing.
Nobody gets anything.
Is everybody clear? So "A" is going to say, "I'll give you so and so dollars." "B" would say, "Okay," in which case "B"
walks away with so and so dollars or--and "A" walks away with whatever rest or "B" could say, "Reject," in which case
nobody gets anything. So, this game comes in two steps. The first thing: I would like "A" to turn to "B" and make your offer.
Don't--"B" doesn't do anything yet. Make your offer. Your offer should be one word. People are explaining their offer. Make
your offer. Okay. Stage two. Do not negotiate. [laughter] You're not--I see people waving their hands and it's complicated. It
should be a number from one to ten, a positive integer. Now, "B" --I would like "B" to say one word and you can say it really
loud on three. Accept or reject. One, two, three. [laughter]
Wow. How many people accepted? Anybody reject it? Good. Okay. How many people offered ten dollars?
[laughter] How many people offered more than five dollars? Okay. How many people offered one dollar? Okay. When you
offered one dollar did you accept? Anybody else offer one dollar? When you offered one dollar did your partner accept?
Okay. How many people offered either four or five dollars? Okay. This is an interesting game because the person who
offered--who accepted one dollar was being rational. One dollar is better than no dollars. So, the psychology of human
rationality is such that, from a logical point of view, you should reason one dollar is better than nothing. A rational person
should accept one dollar. And because we're smart, a--you should offer one dollar but not many of you offered one dollar.
Why? Because you knew people are not purely rational. People, even in a one-shot game, won't accept unfair distributions.
They'll reject them just out of spite. And so, you need to offer more. And this has been studied from a neuro-economic point
of view, which basically provides neuroanatomical evidence that people--if you offered them one dollar they get really pissed.
[laughter] Nobody likes to be offered a dollar.
Now, there's a more general moral here, which is actually an interesting surprise of some relevance to everyday life.
A rational person is easily exploited. A rational person's responses to provocations, to assaults will always be measured
inappropriate. If you know I'm rational and you're in a sharing situation with me, you could say to me, "Hey. Here's a dollar.
Hey, Mr. Rational, a dollar's better than nothing." "Well, okay," because I'm rational. Similarly, you could mess with me
because you could harass me in all sorts of ways, take things that I own, as long as you reason that a rational person
wouldn't start a fuss about this.
There is some advantage to being irrational, to having a temper. Because if you have a temper and you're known to
be irrational, people are forced, by dint of your irrationality, to treat you better. Who am I going to take from? The person
who's extremely reasonable or the person who has a hair-trigger temper? Well, I'm going to pick on a reasonable person
because the unreasonable person might do unreasonable things. And this is faintly paradoxical, but often to be irrational, or
at least to have a reputation for mild irrationality, gives you an edge.
Now, this isn't focus of provocation but this has also been presented in the theory of why people fall in love.
Suppose you're choosing who to devote your life to, and it's a matter of huge trust. We're going to raise kids together. It's
very important for you that I don't leave. And I am very rational so I say to you, "We should mate and have children because I


find you the most attractive of everybody who was available that I've met so far. I'm very rational and so long as this
continues to be the case we'll be together." Well, that's reasonable and rational but wouldn't you rather be with somebody
who's head over heels in love? Head over heels in love is irrational but it's also, within certain parameters, endearing
because the irrationality of the person means you could trust them more in the long run, just like the irrationality of somebody
who has a temper means you don't mess with them as much.
The studies have been done more with regard to violence than with love. And in fact, the irrationality--the benefits of
irrational violence have been translated in terms of the study of homicide and other crimes. Daly and Wilson describe the
cause of murder. Most murder is not caused by reasonable provocation. Most murder is not rational in its response. Most
murder is generated by insult, curse, petty infraction, but this is not crazy irrationality. It's adaptive irrationality. Daly and
Wilson point out, "in chronically feuding and warring societies an essential manual--manly virtue is the capacity for violence.
To turn the other cheek is not saintly, but stupid or contemptibly weak." If I show myself a rational person when picked on or
harassed, I'll be known as somebody you could pick on and harass.
And in fact, it turns out even in the modern world--This is from a New York Times I just picked up a year ago today.
And the point is that the violence is due to people disrespecting each other or giving a dirty look. And you might think "isn't
that irrational?" But it's not irrational in circumstances where people live together in an environment where they have to deal
with each other over and over again, and often where there's not much support by the police as indications they talked about
here. What's particularly interesting is this sort of importance of a reputation for violence differs from culture to culture. And
I've been talking so far in this class--and in fact, so far in this course--about universals, about things that are built in, things
that show up across humans and other animals. I want to turn now and end this lecture by talking a little bit about a cultural
difference. And it's a psychologically interesting cultural difference with regard to the emotions. And it's built around the
difference turning around what sociologists call "cultures of honor."
A culture of honor has certain properties. You can't rely on the law. And it has resources that are easily taken. And
sociologists have argued that when those conditions are met it becomes important to develop a reputation for violent
retaliation. That becomes important. Examples of culture of honors include Scottish highlanders, Masai warriors, Bedouin
tradesmen, and Western cowboys all cases where there's resources such as cattle that are vulnerable and easily taken,
but you can't count on calling 911 and having people come help you. But the culture of honor that's been studied the most by
modern psychologists is the American South.
This was settled by herdsmen and traditionally has less centralized legal control. So, the sociologists say the
American South has more of a culture of honor than the American North. But how do you know? What does that do? We're
interested in this class in claims about psychology. So, it took Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen to study cultures of honors
and look at differences. And they found some interesting differences. Gun laws tend to be more permissive in the southern-in the American South than the American North. Corporal punishment and capital punishment tend to be more approved of.
Attitudes towards the military are more positive. In questionnaire studies, people are more forgiving towards cultures of
honor. Somebody insults my woman and I punch him in the face. This is considered less bad in the American South than the
American North. There's a higher rate of violence but only in certain circumstances. The streets of the American South as a
rule are not more dangerous than the American North. The difference is there's a higher rate of crimes that are crimes of
honor such as, for instance, if somebody breaks in to my house, me shooting him. Or if somebody insults me, me killing him.
Now, this is sort of survey studies. So, Nisbett and Cohen did one of the more interesting psychological studies I
have ever heard of. And they did this at--This--Sorry. This is Nisbett and Wilson. They did this with University of Michigan
undergraduates. They did a subject pool thing like you're doing now, and on it your demographic information was listed. And
what they did was they took white males who are not Hispanic and not Jewish. That was their sample. Culture of honor is a
phenomena limited to males and they wanted to make it sort of a clean study so they wanted to focus--get a homogenous
sample. So, not Hispanic, not Jewish. And they provoked them. And the provocation was genius.
What they did was they said--they brought people in to the psychology building, as you'd be brought in to Kirtland or
SSS or Dunham [psychology buildings at Yale] and they said--they had somebody go in to the desk and they said, "Yeah. Go
down the hall for the experiment." There was a hallway and then you walked through the hallway. And walking in the other
direction at that moment a graduate student--a male graduate student would start to walk. And he's holding some files. And
what he does is he bumps the person, looks at him and says, "Asshole" [laughter] and keep walking. Now, to be fair, the
graduate student survived bumping into hundreds of males, calling them assholes and then walking to--Fights did not break
out, nobody was shot. But then they brought the men--now went in to a room and they were tested. And it turned out that
there were differences in the stress response.
On average, males from the American South showed higher hormone response and stress response than males in
the American North--increases in testosterone and cortisol. There's always differences in later behavior, the people-suggesting that they were made angry. They gave differences in fill-in-the-blank questions, for instance. I don't remember the
examples but it's examples like "John went to the store and bought a 'blank'" and then the northerners would say "and buy
an apple." And the southerners would say "an AK-47 [laughter] to kill that freaking graduate student." [laughter] Now, again,
the American South--people in the American South were not overall more violent than the American North, but they were
more sensitive to provocations of honor.


Now, when I gave this lecture a few years ago, a southern student contacted me afterwards and said that she felt
that picking out the southern minority at Yale was in some regard offensive and that people say things at Yale about
southerners--American southerners that they would never say about any other minority group. So, there's two points I want
to make regarding this. One is, of course, these are average differences. Not every northerner and southerner would differ
along these lines. But another one is I think the effect is real, but it's not entirely clear that it reflects poorly on the cultures of
honor as opposed to the other cultures. So, Nisbett, for instance, is himself a southerner and he points out that he went to
the North he was most astonished by how rude people are. And this is because the North--the American North is not
particularly a culture of honor, and so there's less proper behavior towards other people because there's no fear of retaliation
or response. Moreover, the culture of honor virtues like honor, loyalty, courage and self-reliance, are on the face of it not
necessarily bad things.
In any case, this is an interesting example of how there's an evolutionary background but culture modifies and shifts
it in different ways. More generally, I've suggested over the last couple of lectures that emotions like fear, the love you have
towards your children, anger, gratitude are not aberrations or noise in the system. Rather, they're exquisitely complicated
motivational systems that are crafted to deal with the natural and social environment. And we know this only from an analysis
that starts from an evolutionary approach. So, to bring us back to D'Arcy Thompson, "everything is the way it is because it
got that way." And your reading response for this week is that. [referring to a slide] And I'll wish you good luck on the exam
on Wednesday. And I'll see you there.


Lecture 13
Professor Paul Bloom: What we've been talking about so far in the course are human universals, what everybody shares.
So, we've been talking about language, about rationality, about perception, about the emotions, about universals of
development, and we've been talking about what people share. But honestly, what a lot of us are very interested in is why
we're different and the nature of these differences and the explanation for them. And that's what we'll turn to today.
So first, we'll discuss how are people different, different theories about what makes you different in a psychological
way from the person sitting next to you, and then we'll review different theories about why people are different. And this is the
class which is going to bother the most people. It's not dualism. It's not evolution. It's this because the scientific findings on
human psychological differences are, to many of us, shocking and unbelievable. And I will just try to persuade you to take
them seriously.
Okay. So, how are people different? Well, there's all sorts of ways. Your sexual identity--It is at the core of your
being for almost all of us whether you're male or female. How we refer to you in language, what pronoun we use, is indexed
on how we--on your--on how--whether you're male or female and related to that though imperfectly is your sexual orientation,
who you're attracted to. The question of why some of us think of ourselves as males and others as females, and the question
of why some of us would ideally want to have sex with males, others with females, others with both, and then a few others
who have harder to define desires, is such a good question that we're going to talk about it after spring break while all the
sexual desire has been spent and you could focus on [laughter] on a scientific discussion of this--not that I recommend you
do that on spring break.
How happy are you? This is also such a good topic it's going to get its own class. The very last class of the
semester is devoted to happiness and the question of what makes people happy, what makes people unhappy, and what
makes people differ in their happiness. If I asked you to rank how happy you are from a scale of 1 to 10, the numbers would
differ across this room. And there's different theories as to why. Your success and failure in life--This is somewhat interesting
because you could study this in more or less objective ways. We don't have to ask people. We could look at your
relationships, how they begin, how they end, your job satisfaction. We could look at your criminal records. Some of you are
going to see time. Most will not. Some of you will get into little troubles all through your life. Some of you already have seen
the inside of a police station, possibly a lineup. Others couldn't go near such a thing. What determines that?
And at the root of all human differences are two main factors. And so, I want to talk about the two main interesting
factors. One is personality. The other is intelligence. And this is what--These are the differences I'll talk about today first from
the standpoint of how do we characterize them, how do we explain them, and then from the standpoint of why these
differences exist in the first place.
One way to characterize personality is in terms of people's style with dealing with--in dealing with the world and
particularly their style with dealing--in dealing with other people. So, you take a simple character you know of and you could
talk about that person's personality. You could talk about it in terms of being impulsive, irresponsible, sometimes lazy, goodhearted. You could compare that person's personality with other people's personalities such as my colleague who gave a talk
last class. He's wonderful. He's responsible and reliable and very kind [laughter] and different from Homer. And so, this
difference is a difference in personality.
Now, when we talk about personality we're talking about something else as well. We're talking about a stable trait
across situations and time. So, if all of a sudden the person next to you kind of smacks you in the head, you might be angry
but we wouldn't call that "personality" because that's something that's a result of a situation. We'd all feel that way in that
situation. It's "personality" if you walk around all the time angry. That'd be a stable trait. That'd be something you carry
around with you and that's what we mean by personality.
Now, how do we scientifically characterize differences in personality? And it's a deep question. There's been a lot of
attempts to do so. Any assessment has--Any good assessment has to satisfy two conditions. And these are terms which are
going to show up all over psychological research but it's particularly relevant for this sort of measure. One is "reliability."
Reliability means there is not measurement error. And one crude way to think about reliability is, a test is reliable if you test
the same person at different times and you get the same result. My bathroom scale is reliable if whenever I stand on it, it
gives me more or less the same number. It's not reliable if it's off by ten pounds in the course of a day. Similarly, if I give you
a personality test now and it says that you're anxious and defensive, well--and then give it to you tomorrow and it says you're
calm and open minded, it's not a reliable test. So, reliable is something you could trust over time.
"Validity" is something different. Validity is that your test measures what it's supposed to measure. So, validity
means it's sort of a good test. Forget about how reliable it is. Does it tap what you're interested in? So, for example, suppose
I determine your intelligence by the date of your birth. I figure out what day you were born and I have a theory that, from that,
predicts how smart you are. That's my intelligence test, the date of your birth. Maybe people born in January are the
dumbest, people born in December are the smartest. Is that--I was born on Christmas Eve. [laughter] Is that a reliable test?
Yes, it's a wonderfully reliable test. I'll test you today; I'll test you tomorrow; I'll test you next year; I'll test you the day you die;
I'll get the same IQ score. Is it a valid test? It's a joke. It's absolutely not a valid test. It has nothing to do with intelligence. But


you noticed these are two different things. Something can be reliable but not valid and something can be valid and not
Now, there are no shortage of personality tests. You could get them all over the place including on the web. So, I
took one recently. I took "which super hero are you?" [laughter] And it's a series of questions determining what super hero
you are. You could take this yourself if you want to. The same web page, by the way, offers you a test in whether you're "hot"
or not. We'll discuss that later. And when I did this [laughter] it told me I was Batman [laughter] and "you are dark, love
gadgets, and have vowed to help the innocent not suffer the pain you have endured." Now, the honest-- [laughter] Now, to be
honest though, it's neither reliable nor valid. When I first did the test I came up as "The Incredible Hulk." I then changed my
answers a bit and was "Wonder Woman." [laughter] And finally, out of frustration, I carefully tailored my answers so I would
be Batman. But the fact that I can do that, well, raises questions about both the reliability of this measure and its validity.
Here is an example a real world example. This is, in black and white form, a version of the Rorschach test, the
Rorschach inkblot test. How many people have heard of the Rorschach test? Okay. Is there anybody here who has actually,
in any sort of situation, taken a Rorschach test? Some people scattered in the room have taken them. It was originally used
only for psychiatric cases but then became extremely common. About eighty percent of clinical psychologists claim to use it
and most graduate programs in the American Psychological Association who are accredited teach it. Catholic seminaries
use it for people who want to join the seminary.
It was invented by a guy named Herman Rorschach. He devoted his entire life to the inkblot test. His nickname
when he was a teenager I am not kidding you was "Inkblot." [laughter] And the idea is by looking at these inkblots and
then seeing what somebody says you get great insights into the nature of their personality, into what they are. Anybody want
to try it? Come on. Yes. What do you see?
Student: I see two people holding hands pressed together.
Professor Paul Bloom: Two people holding hands pressed together. Very good. Anybody have a different reading? Yes, in
back. Yes. Yes.
Student: Dancing bears.
Professor Paul Bloom: Dancing bears. Okay. Good.[laughter] Good. Okay. I got to write your name down-[laughs][laughter] report you to health-- No. Dancing bears, very good. Anybody else? One other. Yes.
Student: A man in a ski mask.
Professor Paul Bloom: A man in a ski mask. Well, it turns out that there are right answers and wrong answers to the
Rorschach test. According to the test, and this is from a real Rorschach test, "it is important to see the blot as two human
figures, usually females or clowns." Good work over there. "If you don't, it's seen as a sign you have problems relating to
people." [laughter] If you want to go for "a cave entrance" or "butterfly" or "vagina," that's also okay. [laughter]
Now, the Rorschach test is transcendently useless. It has been studied and explored and it is as useless as
throwing dice. It is as useless as tea leaves. Nonetheless, people love it and it's used all over the place. It is used for
example in child custody cases. If you have broken up with your partner and you guys are quarreling over who gets to keep
the kids, you might find yourself in a shrink's office looking at this. And in fact, this is why they end up on the web. There are
services. There are people who have been kind enough to put on the web these inkblots, including the right answers to them.
But they are worthless as psychological measures.
Can we do better? Well, we probably can. Gordon Allport did a study where he went through the dictionary and took
all of the traits that he believed to be related to personality and he got eighteen thousand of them. But what was interesting
was they weren't necessarily independent traits. So, the traits like "friendly, sociable, welcoming, warm-hearted" seemed to
all tap the same thing. So, Cattell and many others tried to narrow it down, tried to ask the question, "In how many ways are
people's personalities different from one another?" How many parameters of difference do you need? How many numbers
can I give you that would narrow you in and say what personality you are?
One approach was from Eysenck, who claimed there were just two. You could be somewhere on the scale of
introverted-extroverted, and somewhere on the scale of neurotic and stable. And since there's basically two types of traits
with two settings for each, there are basically four types of people. Later on he added another trait which he described as
"psychoticism versus non-psychoticism" that crudely meant whether you're aggressive or empathetic. And then you have
three traits with two settings each giving you eight types of people. Later on Cattell dropped it down into sixteen factors. So,
these sixteen personality factors are sixteen ways people would differ. And so, if I asked you to describe your roommate
along these sixteen dimensions, you should be able to do so.
More recently, people have come to the conclusion that two or three is too few, but sixteen might be too many. And
there's a psychological consensus on what's been known as "The Big Five." And "The Big Five" personality factors are
these, and what this means is when we talk about each other and use adjectives, the claim is we could do so in thousands of
different ways, but deep down we're talking about one of these five dimensions. This means that when a psychological test
measures something about somebody, about their personality, if it's a good test it's measuring one of these five things. And it
means that, as people interacting with one another in the world, these are the five things that we're interested in. So, one of
them is "neurotic versus stable." Is somebody sort of nutty and worrying or are they calm? "Extrovert versus introvert." "Open
to experience versus closed to experience." "Agreeable," which is courteous, friendly versus non agreeable, rude, selfish.


And "conscientious versus not conscientious," careful versus careless, reliable versus undependable. A good way to think
about these things is in terms of the word "ocean," o-c-e-a-n. The first letter captures openness, conscientiousness,
extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. And the claim is those are the four--the five fundamental ways in which
people differ from one another.
Well, why should we believe this? Why should we take this theory seriously? Well, there's actually some evidence
for it. It seems to have some reliability in that it's stable over time. So, if you test people over years--If I test your personality
now on the five traits and test you five years from now, it will not have changed much. And once you pass the age of thirty,
it's very stable indeed. If you think about your parents and then give Mom and Dad a mental test on where they stand on
each of the five traits, ten years from now Mom and Dad will still be there. It also seems to get agreement across multiple
observers. So, if I ask for each of their five traits--If I ask your roommate what he or she thinks of you, then I ask your
professor what he or she thinks of you and your mom what he or--what she thinks of you, [laughter] how would--back to
gender--How would they match up? They tend to overlap a lot. You walk around and you leave--and your personality leaves
a trail in the minds of people around you. And this trail is characterized in terms of these five dimensions.
Finally, it seems to be--predict real-world behavior. If this didn't have anything to do with the real world, you wouldn't
be very happy calling it valid, you wouldn't take it seriously as a test, but it does. So, conscientiousness--how you score on a
conscientious scale, relates to how faithful you are to your spouse. How openness--open you are on a psychological
personality test relates to how likely you are to change your job. "Extroverts" look people in the eye more and have more
sexual partners because they're extroverts. So, these are real scales. The "Batman, Hulk, Wonder Woman" doesn't
correspond to anything in the real world, but where you stand on each of these five dimensions does seem to capture it.
As an example of the agreement, by the way, somebody did a study of several of the characters on the television
show "The Simpsons" because they wanted to find characters which everybody knew. And they had thirteen subjects judge
these Simpson characters on each of the five dimensions. These is "openness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and
extroversion" and they found considerable agreement. And this isn't actually--What I've covered up [on the slide] is the
"agreeableness." So, for those of you who have never seen the television show, this is all going to be confusing, but those of
you who have, can you guess which characters would be particularly agreeable? Anybody guess. Yeah.
Student: Flanders
Professor Paul Bloom: Flanders. You are right. The most agreeable people are Flanders and Marge. Who would not so
Student: Krusty
Professor Paul Bloom: Krusty is actually--Krusty is a complicated case [laughter] but Mr. Burns--but also--Where is he?
Oh, he's not--Nelson, where's Nelson? Anyway, there's Nelson. You get strong consensus that Ned Flanders and Marge
Simpson are highly agreeable people, 6.27 and 5.46, while Mr. Burns and Nelson are very low. Nelson's the little kid that
when trouble happens he goes, "Ha ha." And that's a psychological sign for low agreeability. [laughter]
Okay. That's all I want to say at this point about personality and how we measure it and, again, we're going to get
back to it later when we talk about differences in personality. Now, I want to deal with the second big difference. The second
big difference is intelligence. Now, how do you define intelligence? There's no easy definition. Like personality, it's kind of
difficult to get your fingers on what we're talking about here. In one survey they asked 1,000 experts to define intelligence.
And some answers showed up over and over again. So, just about everybody said intelligence involves abstract reasoning,
problem solving, and the capacity to acquire knowledge. That's at the core of being smart. Other people mentioned things
like memory, mental speed, language, math, mental speed again, knowledge, and creativity also as hallmarks for
intelligence. And again, it might be difficult to define it but you have a gut feeling about what it is.
So, you know Homer is actually--and this is part of the show--is actually of limited intelligence. My colleague is of
very high intelligence, a wonderful fellow, [laughter] but he's probably not as smart as that guy [pointing to a picture of
Einstein] who is really, really smart. And this guy, Ralph Wiggum, is particularly stupid. [laughter] And so you have a range.
And it's important to figure out how to characterize it; this is what research does, but there's a gut feeling that there are some
people who are smart and other people who are very smart and some people who are dumb and others who are very dumb.
What you want to do, from a scientific standpoint, is characterize this in a more robust and interesting fashion. And the
textbook has a nice review of the history of attempts to define and measure intelligence, but there is a couple of ideas I want
to focus on.
One is an idea developed by Spearman, which is there's two types of intelligence. There is "G" and there is "S." "S"
is your ability on specific tests. So, if there is ten tests that you're given as part of an IQ test, ten subtests, you'll get a
different score on each of the subtests. There'll be a math test and a reading test and a spatial test and you'll get different
scores. "G" refers to a general intelligence. And the general intelligence is something you bring to each of the tests in
common. So, this is diagrammed here. You have these six tests. For each of them there is an "S" and then above that there
is a "G."
Now, "G" is a very important notion. The term "G" is used by psychologists a lot even in casual conversation.
People say, "So, what do you think of him?" "I think he is high 'G.'" And what you mean is he's a smart guy. Why do you
need "G?" Well, you wouldn't need "G" if your performance on each of these tests had nothing to do with each other. If the


tests were genuinely separate, there'd be no general intelligence. But what people find over and over again is that when it
comes to explaining people's performance on multiple intellectual tasks, there's two things going on. There's how good there
is--they are on the specific task, but then there's also a sort of general correlation that people bring to the tasks.
And I could express this with an athletic analogy. Imagine I'm running a gym and we have all of these different
athletic tests. So, we have a running test, we have a basketball shooting test, a swimming test, fencing, a list of ten of them.
Now, each of you go through each of the tests and then you'll each get ten scores. But what we'll discover is that the scores
are not independent of one another. People who are good at one athletic thing tend to be good at another. If there's
somebody who's really good at running and swimming, odds are they're probably pretty good at climbing. And the same
thing holds for IQ, which is above and beyond how good people are at specific things there seems to be a factor as to how
well they are in general. And this factor is known as "G."
Now, there's, again, an extensive history of modern intelligence tests and what's really interesting is the tests now.
What you need to know about the modern tests, the Wechsler test for both adults and children, is how they're scored. The
way they are scored is that 100 is average. So, it's just automatic. Whatever the average is is 100. It's as if I did the Midterm-graded the Midterm, computed the average, gave everybody who got the average 100, said your score is 100. It's just the
average. It works on the normal curve and what this means is that it works so that the majority, 68%, get between 85 and
115 on their IQ test. The vast majority, 95%, get between 70 and 130. If you are, say, above 145 IQ, which I imagine some
people in the room are, you belong to 0.13% of the population. That's the way IQ tests work.
Now, this is about IQ tests. We could now ask about their reliability and their validity. What do they mean? Well, this has
turned out to be a matter of extreme debate. This [slide] just reiterates what I just said. A lot of the debate was spawned by
the book by Herrnstein and Murray about--called The Bell Curve. And in The Bell Curve these authors made the argument
that IQ matters immensely for everyday life and that people's status in society how rich they are and how successful they
are follows from their IQ as measured in standard IQ tests. Now, this book made a lot of claims and it's probably before
many of you--many of your time, but spawned huge controversy. And as a result of this controversy some interesting papers
came out.
One response to the Herrnstein and Murray book was by the American Psychological Association, which put
together a group of fifty leading researchers in intelligence to write a report on what they thought about intelligence--what
they thought about, "Does IQ matter? How does IQ relate to intelligence? How does--what's the different--why are people
different in intelligence? Why do different human groups differ in intelligence?" and so on. At the same time, there was also
another group of IQ researchers, not quite the same as the first group, got together and wrote another report. And if you're
interested in this, the links to the reports are on the Power Point slide.
Well, what did they conclude? The conclusions were slightly different but here's the broad consensus by the experts
regarding the importance of IQ tests. And the claim is IQ is strongly related more so--probably more so than any other single
measurable human trait to many important educational, occupational, economic, and social outcomes. In some cases, the
correlation is very strong such as success in school and success in military training. In other cases, it's moderate but robust
such as "social competence." And in other cases it's smaller but consistent, "law abidingness," and they conclude whatever
IQ test measure it is of great practical and social importance.
So, IQ matters. More particularly, IQ matters for "social achievement," for "prestigious positions," and for "on the job
performance" and other work-related variables. If I know your IQ score, I know something about you that matters. It's not
irrelevant just as if I know your score on a personality test of The Big Five I would know something about you that actually
would tell me something interesting about you in the real world.
On the other hand, there's a lot of controversy about why this connection exists. So, to some extent, people have
worried that the effectiveness of IQ is a self-fulfilling prophecy. And here is why. If society takes IQ tests important--seriously,
they become important. So, it's true that your IQ is very related to your success in getting into a good school like Yale. But
the reason for this, in large extent, is because to get to Yale they give you an IQ test, the SAT. So, the same for graduate
school. There is the GRE, which is yet another IQ test. So, to some extent, it's a self-fulfilling prophecy. I could make-Society could choose to make how tall you are extremely important for educational success. They could say nobody under
six feet tall gets into Yale. And then some psych professor would stand up and say, "Of course, height is profoundly related
to educational accomplishment," and it would be because people made it so.
So, to some extent, the society that draws highly on IQ tests regarding promotion and educational achievement and
military status and so on--it's just going to follow that IQ then becomes important. At the same time, however, the role of IQ is
pretty clearly not entirely a social construction. There is some evidence that your IQ score relates to intelligence in an
interesting sense including domains like mental speed and memory span. So, your score on an IQ test, for instance, is to
some extent related to how fast you could think and your memory abilities.
Now, I want to shift to the second half of the class and talk about why. So, we talked about two differences, one in
"personality", one "intelligence." I want to talk about why people differ but before I do, do people have any questions? Yes.
Student: About personality--This morning I took a test--The way the test was, they asked you 100 questions and [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: It's a good question. The question is this young man took--just took a personality test. He was
accepted into Slytherin, which is a Hogwarts reference. I'm hip to that [laughter] and--but the question is a good one. You're


a clever man, high "G," and you wanted to be in Slytherin. How do we know you didn't work the test? You're going to get
these personality tests all the time and the personality tests--You're applying for a business and one of the tests says "I like
to steal from my bosses." Well, I don't think so. No. That's a little IQ test right there. So, the question is how do you avoid that
problem? The test constructors have done so in certain clever ways. For instance, there are often catch questions designed
to catch a liar. Some of these questions pose very unrealistic phenomena so you might have a question in there saying "I
have never done anything I am ashamed of." Now, some people will say, "Yes, that's true of me," but they tend to be liars.
And so, unrealistic questions tend to catch liars.
Also, you get the same question asked in different ways across the one hundred items and they could use the
correlations to figure these things out. Again, the proof is sort of in the pudding. The reliability and validity of a test is
determined, in part, by just how well it does at predicting your future performance on the test and your real world
performance. And a test that is easily fooled--easily tricked by smart people wouldn't survive long as a personality test. So,
we know the test you got is a pretty good test because it seems to work for most people. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: It's a good question. The question was about "Emotional IQ," which is something I'm actually going
to touch upon a little bit later in the course, but people have talked about different forms of intelligence. And emotional
intelligence, social intelligence, is arguably a candidate for success across different domains. The evidence for its predictive
power is not as strong as for regular IQ tests so you might be right. It might turn out to be a much better predictor but one, it's
not clear that we know that yet. Peter Salovey has actually done some very interesting research on this and is continuing
work along those lines. The second thing is emotional intelligence is actually related to good, old-fashioned intelligence. They
kind of pull together a lot. So, it's not entirely separate but that's a good point and I'd like to return to it a little bit later on in
the course. Yes.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Good question. How do you determine when--what a good test is? And again, it's a real art going
through the details of how to do that but the broad answers involve reliability and validity. It's a good test if I test you today
and I test you tomorrow and I get the same score. It's a really good test if your score on that test predicts your grades or, if
it's a personality test, predicts how many girlfriends you have or predicts whether people think you're a nice guy. So, you
have to see both the replicability of the test over time but also its relationship to real world phenomena. And that's important,
again. Why do we know the Batman, Wonder Woman, Hulk test is a bad one? Well, one answer is because what I--how I
score on that test isn't going to tell you anything about me. It's not going to relate to my grades. It's not going to relate to how
well I'm liked. How do we know the SAT is useful? Well, it actually corresponds with other things like grades. Yes, in back.
Student: [inaudible]
Professor Paul Bloom: Absolutely. The question is--When I'm talking about personality I'm defining it in terms of something
which is stable over time. And your question, which is a good one, is, "How do we know it's stable over time?" Can't it
change? And the answer is "yeah." A lot of personality does change over time. A personality test you give to a ten-year-old
will relate but not so strongly with that individual when he's fifty. On the other hand, we know that the psychological claim that
there exists such a thing as personality and it is stable over time. It's supported by the fact that if you're an extrovert now
you'll likely be an extrovert twenty years from now. Not perfectly, so you're right. You could change. You could become an
introvert, you could become more of an extrovert, but wherever you stand now is significantly related to where you'll be in the
future. And that justifies talking about it as a stable trait. Same with IQ. Your IQ might change. It might go up, it might go
down, but it won't go up and go down that much and this is why it makes sense to talk about intelligence as a more or less
stable trait.
Okay. Why are we different? Well, you're different because of two things: Your genes and your environment, your
nature and your nurture, your heredity and your experience. And this doesn't say anything. This is just defining the question.
But the question of the role of genes and the role of environment in explaining human differences is an interesting one and it
could be explored in different ways.
But before talking about it I have to clear up a common misconception. I'm going to talk about the effects of genes
and I'm going to talk about heredity but I want to be clear. I am talking about the role of genes and also the role of
environment in explaining human differences, not in explaining human characteristics. So, the distinction is we're interested
in the amount of variation due to genetic differences, not the proportion of an individual's trait that's due to genes.
So for instance, you could pull these apart. The question of--When we ask what's the role of genes, what's the role
of heredity in how tall people are, the question is not asking for you--what is the role of your genes in determining how tall
you are? It's not clear that's even a sensible question. The question is there's a height difference between you and me and
him and her. How do we explain that difference? And I could illustrate why heredity doesn't mean the same thing as the
contribution of the genes. Height is reasonably heritable, meaning the differences between people in the population and how
tall they are is due in large part, not entirely, but in large part to their genes.
What about the number of legs people have? Well, the number of legs people have from zero, one or two, is
actually not very heritable at all because almost everybody has two legs and people who have fewer than two legs typically
have lost one or both legs in an accident. It's not due to their genes. So, of course, whether or not you have legs is a very


genetic matter but the differences in number of legs is not usually genetic. And so, heredity is a claim about differences, not
a claim about the origin of any specific trait.
Well, now we--That's what heredity, which is genetic--Now, we could talk about environment. And we could break
up environment into two sorts of environment. One is shared environment. And shared environment is the extent to which the
differences are caused by things--by phenomena that people raised in the same household share. So if one--Suppose some
of you are neurotic. And suppose we want to say part of that's due to your environment. Well, suppose you're neurotic
because you have lousy parents. That would be part of your shared environment because presumably siblings raised in the
same household would have the same lousy parents.
This is contrasted with non-shared environment, which is everything else. Suppose I think you're neurotic because
when you were five years old somebody threw a snowball at you and it bounced off your head. That's non-shared
environment. Suppose you're neurotic because you won the lottery when you were twenty-one and all the money messed
you up. That'd be non-shared environment.
So, what you have here is heredity, shared environment and non-shared environment, and this equals one. That's
everything. Non-shared environment is a sort of garbage can category that includes everything that's not heredity and not
shared environment. Suppose you think you're neurotic because aliens from the planet Pluto are zapping your brain.
Suppose you're right. Well, that would be non-shared environment because they're, presumably, not necessarily zapping
your siblings' brains. Everything else is non-shared environment.
It becomes interesting to ask, for all of these differences, the physical differences like height, but psychological
differences like personality and intelligence, how do we parcel it out into what's genetic and what's environmental? This
proves to be really difficult in the real world because in the real world it's hard to pull apart genes and environments. So, you
and me will have different personalities. Why? Well, we were raised by different parents and we have different genes. We
can't tell--My brother and me might share all sorts of things in common but we have the same parents and the same genes,
fifty percent of the same genes. So how do we tell what's causing us to be alike?
So to do--to pull these things apart you need to be clever. You need to use the tools of behavioral genetics. And to
use these tools you have to exploit certain regularities about genes and about environment. One thing is this. Some people
are clones. Monozygotic twins are genetic duplicates. They share one hundred percent of the same genes. That's kind of
interesting. Dizygotic twins are not clones. They share fifty/fifty. They are just like regular siblings. And adopted siblings have
no special genetic overlap. That's zero percent above and beyond randomness. Those three groups then become rather
interesting particularly when we keep in mind that by definition two people raised in the same house by the same parents
have one hundred percent the same shared environment.
So now, we can start to answer these questions. Suppose you find that monozygotic twins are much more similar
than dizygotic twins. Well, that would suggest that there's a large role of genes in those traits that you're interested in. It
would not cinch the matter because there are other factors at work. For instance, monozygotic twins look more alike than
dizygotic twins and maybe they have different and--they have more similar environments because of this similarity in
Are monozygotic twins just as similar as dizygotic twins? If so, then it would show that that extra overlap in genes
doesn't really matter. And so, it would suggest a low role of heredity. Are adopted children highly similar to their brothers and
sisters? If so, then there's a high role of shared environment. Suppose the Bloom children, and there are seven of them, all
have an IQ of 104 and we adopt three kids and then at the end of the day those three kids each have an IQ of 104. That
would suggest that--And we do this over and over again across different families. That would suggest that there's something
about the Bloom family being raised by me that gives you an IQ of 104. On the other hand, if the IQ of the adopted kids had
no relationship to those of the biological Bloom children, it would suggest that being raised by me has no effects really on
your IQ. It's sort of separate.
A separate--A second--A final contrast, which is the thing that psychologists love, is identical twins reared apart.
That's the gold standard because you have these people who are clones but they're raised in different families. And to the
extent that they are similar this suggests it's a similarity of their genes. And in fact, one of the most surprising findings in
behavioral genetics--The caption here [a cartoon on a slide] is "Separated at Birth, the Mallifert Twins Meet Accidentally."
[The cartoon twins] ended up at a patent office with the same device. One of the hugely surprising findings from behavioral
genetics is how alike identical twins reared apart are. They seem to have similar attitudes to the death penalty, to religion
and to modern music. They have similar rates of behavior in crime, gambling and divorce. They often have been found to
have bizarre similarities. They meet after being separated at birth and they meet at age thirty and then it turns out that they
both get in to a lot of trouble because they pretend to sneeze in elevators. There was one pair of twins studied by behavioral
genetics who were known as the "Giggle Twins" because they were--both would always giggle, they'd burst into giggles at
every moment even though it couldn't be environment because they weren't raised together.
More objectively, the brain scans of identical twins reared apart show that their brains are so similar in many cases
you can't tell whose brain is who. I could tell your brain from my brain from a brain scan and my brother's brain from my brain
from a brain scan. But if I were to have an identical twin it would be very difficult to tell whose brain is whose even if we had
no environment in common.


So, this leads to two surprising findings of behavioral genetics. This is the first one. There is high heritability for
almost everything. For intelligence, for personality, for how happy you are, for how religious you are, for your political
orientation, there--for your sexual orientation, there is high heritability. There's a high effect of genes for just about
Now, that's actually not the controversial thing I'm going to tell you. But before getting to the more controversial
thing I want to raise another issue which often gets discussed and has a good treatment in the textbook. This suggests that
individual differences within this--within a group have genetic causes. Does that mean that group differences are largely the
result of genetic causes? So, we know that there are clear differences in IQ scores among American racial groups, between
whites and Asians, African Americans, Ashkenazi Jews. There's clear and reliable IQ differences as well as some other
Now, to some extent, these groups are partially socially constructed. And what this means is that whether or not you
fall into a group it's not entirely determined by your genetic makeup. It's often determined by social decisions. So, whether or
not you count as a Jew, for instance, depends not entirely on genetic factors but also on factors such as whether you're
reform or orthodox and whether you--so whether you would accept that a child of a Jewish man and a non-Jewish woman is
Jewish. Similarly, categories like African American and white and Asian often overlap broad genetic categories and they
don't make fully coherent genetic sense.
At the same time though, there is plainly some genetic differences across human groups and say with regard to
vulnerability to disease. Ashkenazi Jews for instance are vulnerable to Tay-Sachs. And the fact that you could have this sort
of genetic vulnerability suggests that there is some sort of reality to these groups. So, you have to ask the question now, to
what extent does the high heritability in individuals mean that there has to be a heritable explanation across groups? And the
answer is "not at all." I'm not saying that this means that there's no genetic explanation for human group differences. All I'm
saying is the question of the phenomena of--within-group genetic differences does not mean that there is across-group
genetic--sorry, between-group genetic differences.
There is a nice example by Richard Lewontin, the geneticist, where he imagines two plots of--what are you--some
sort of wheat, yeah, two plots of land and each one has a set of seeds and--Oh, no. They're over there. [pointing to slide] No.
Anyway, one of them you fertilize a lot. The other one you fertilize a little. Now, within each plot how much the seed grows is
actually largely determined by the genetics of the seed. And so, you'd find high heritability for growth in the seeds. But the
difference between groups has no genetic cause at all. It's caused by which groups you fertilize more than others.
Here's another way to do the logic. Suppose from the middle [aisle of the classroom] down here, you guys, [pointing
to the people on the right] I hate you, I really hate all of you, and [pointing to the people on the left] I like you, so I make up
two Midterms. You probably didn't notice but there were two Midterms. This Midterm was fiercely hard, savagely hard
[pointing to the people on the right]. It took many of you until the end of class to do it. This Midterm [to the people on the left]
was, "Which is bigger, a dog or an elephant?" [laughter] because I like you and I want you all to succeed.
So, you have two different groups, you guys and you guys. Within each group some people are going to do better
than others. The explanation for that might actually have to do with your genes. It might have to do with your environment,
how much you study, but all sorts of reasons for that. Within each group some of you will do better on the hard test than
others on the hard test, some better on the easy test than others on the easy test. But how do we explain the group
difference? Well, it has nothing to do with genes. The group difference, the fact that you will do much worse than you, has to
do with the exams I give. My point, again, is that there is a logical difference between a within-group difference, within this
half of the class, and a difference between groups, within--between this group and this group.
What do we know about--;So, that just shows they're not the same thing but what's the fact of the matter? What do
we know about human differences between different human groups? Again, the textbook has a good discussion of this but
I'm going to give two reasons from the textbook that at least group differences are at least to a large extent due to
environmental and not genetic causes. One is that the differences we find in IQ seem to correspond better to socially defined
groups than genetically defined groups. They seem to correspond to groups defined in terms of how people treat you and
how people think about you as opposed to your DNA. And to the extent that turns out to be true that would mean that a
genetic explanation is not reasonable for those differences.
A second factor is that we know IQ can differ radically without any genetic differences at all. And the most dramatic
evidence of that is the Flynn effect. The Flynn effect is one of the freakier findings. The Flynn effect is the finding that people
have been getting smarter. You are much smarter on average than your parents if--and the IQ tests hide that. Here is why
they hide that. They hide that because they always make 100 the average. So, you come home and you say, "Dad, Dad, I
just did an IQ test. I got 120." And your father says, "Good work, Son. I got 122 when I was your age," but what neither of
you acknowledge is your test was much harder. As people got better, they had to make the test harder and harder. And this
is plotted by the Flynn effect.
[referring to a graph] One of these lines is American and one is Dutch. I don't know which is which but the gist of it
is that somebody who would have--that if you in 1980 would take the 1950 test, your average person in 1980 would score
120 on the 1950 test. What this means is if you take your person who's average now and push him back through time twenty
years, thirty years, he would do much better than average. Nobody knows why people are getting smarter and there's


different theories of this. And in fact, well, wait until you see your reading response. But what this illustrates is that IQ can
change dramatically over the span of a few decades without any corresponding genetic change. And that leaves open the
possibility, in fact, maybe the likelihood, that the differences we find in human groups, existing human groups, are caused by
the same environmental effects that have led to the Flynn effect.
Okay. This is not the surprising claim though, the high heritability for almost everything. This is the surprising claim.
Almost everything that's not genetic is due to non-shared environments. The behavioral genetic analyses suggest that
shared environment counts for little or nothing. When it comes to personality or intelligence then, an adopted child is no more
similar to his siblings than he or she is to a stranger. To put it a different way, the IQ correlation in genetically unrelated
adults who are raised in the same family is about zero. Suppose the Bloom family all has an IQ of 104 and we adopt a kid.
What will this kid's--We adopt him as a baby. We raise him to be a twenty-year-old. What's his IQ? Answer? We have no
idea because the IQ of the Bloom family who are unrelated to him has no effect at all.
Now, if you think about the implications of it, it becomes controversial and Newsweek, I think, caught the big issue
when they put in their title the question "do parents matter?" And the question--And the issue is parents are shared
environment. To say shared environment does not affect your intelligence or your personality suggests that how your parents
raised you does not affect your gene--your intelligence or your personality. This isn't to say your parents didn't have a big
effect on your intelligence and personality. Your parents had a huge effect on your intelligence and your personality, around
0.5 actually. They had this effect at the moment of conception. From then on in, they played very little role in shaping you-what you are.
The case for this which generated the Newsweek cover came up in a controversial book by Judith Harris called The
Nurture Assumption which has a very long subtitle, "Why Parents Turn--Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Parents
Matter Less than You Think and Peers Matter More." Judith Harris has had an interesting history. She was kicked out of
graduate school at Harvard and told that she wouldn't amount to much. The person who wrote the letter saying that she was
not going to amount to much was the department chair, George Miller. In 1997, she won the George Miller award for her
astounding accomplishments. And when she wrote the book she took as a starting point, her point of disagreement, a
famous poem by the poet Philip Larkin and many of you have probably heard this. The poem goes like this:
They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra just for you.
The last line of the poem, the last bit of the poem, ends: "Man hands on misery to man. It deepens like a coastal
shelf. Get out as early as you can and don't have any kids yourself." It's beautiful. [laughter] Harris wrote a rebuttal: "How
sharper than a serpent's tooth to hear your child make such a fuss. It isn't fair. It's not the truth. He's fucked up, yes, but not
by us." [laughter]
Just to show that academic debates never end, a British psychoanalyst named Oliver James, outraged by Judith
Harris' book The Nurture Assumption, wrote another book in response called They Fuck You Up. [laughter] Now, how do you
tell your grandparents, "I wrote a book." "What's it called?" "Can't tell you." [laughter]
Anyway, look. If you're paying attention, this has to sound wrong. You must be thinking of course there must be an
effect of shared environment. Of course parents have an effect. After all, good kids have good parents. There is no doubt at
all that this is true. There is a high correlation between parent and child for everything. If your parents read a lot and there's a
lot of books in your house, you will become a reader. If your parents are religious, you will be religious. If you're raised by
Bonnie and Clyde, you will be a young thug. [laughter] If your parents are poor, you're likely to be poor. If your parents are
brilliant, you're likely to be brilliant. No doubt at all. It is an extremely robust correlation. But the problem is this correlation
could be explained in different ways. Everybody thinks it's because parents do something that affects their kids. Your parents
are bookish, they read to their kids, so their kids become bookish, but another possibility, which we know is true, that almost
always parents share their genes with their kids.
Another possibility is it's the parents who are affecting--sorry, it's the child who is affecting the parents, not vice
versa, and to illustrate this, these different possibilities, I want to tell you a little bit about a study. And I really find this a
fascinating study. It was reported last year and it was a study shown that--suggesting that family meals help teens avoid
smoking, alcohol, drugs. It involved a phone questionnaire where they phoned up teenagers and their parents and said,
"Hey, teenager. Do you do a lot of drugs?" "Yes." "Do you have dinner with your parents?" "No." And they take it off--and
then they ask other people and they find that the kids who are the good kids have meals with their parents, suggesting this
I like this study because I have read--I must have read in my career a thousand studies and this is the worst study
ever done [laughter] in the history of science. And it's almost--We could devote a week to discussing what's wrong with this
study. Let's just--But here's the idea. It is possible that they are right. It is actually possible--there's no--I have no evidence
against it that having meals with your kids makes them into good, drug-free, non-promiscuous, non-drinking kids. Of
course, it's equally possible it's the other way around. If little Johnny is kind of--is out there smoking pot and cavorting with
prostitutes and stuff like that, he's not going to come home for the family meal. It's the other way around. While if he's a good


kid, he might be more likely to have a family meal. So, the direction--It might actually be not family meals make good kids but
rather good kids stick around to have--if they have nothing better to do and have meals with Mom and Dad. [laughter]
Another possibility is there's good families and bad families. A good family is likely to have drug-free kids and a
family meal. A bad family is likely to have stoned kids and no family meal. [laughter] So, there--maybe there's an effect of
that. The parents had nothing to do with the family meal.
Here's the even weirder part. They didn't factor out age so think about this. Their sample included children ranging
from twelve to seventeen but let me tell you something about twelve-year-olds. Twelve-year-olds don't use a lot of drugs and
are likely to eat with their family. Seventeen-year-olds are stoned all the time and they don't eat with their family. [laughter]
I've just begun on this study but the point is when you hear something like--So now, take something which you may be more
likely to believe. Maybe you believe that having parents who read to their kids, that's good for their kids. Well, maybe it is but
most of these criticisms apply to that study too. A bookish kid is more likely to get his parents to read to him. A good family-Parents who are good parents in general are more likely to do all sorts of good things to their kids and have good kids
Take another case, the so-called cycle of violence. Yes, it's true. Parents who smack their kids tend to have
statistically more violent kids. But maybe the causality goes the other way around. Maybe if you have a kid who is a
troublemaker you're more likely to smack him. Maybe, which seems to be entirely likely, the propensity for violence is to
some extent heritable. And so, even if the kid was not raised by the smacking parent, whatever properties of that parent
caused him--led to that violence got inherited by the kid.
Now, again, this isn't going to sit right for you and I've had--I put this down because last year when I gave this talk
people ran up to me and told me this. They said, "Look. I know my mom and dad had a huge role in my life. That's why I'm
so happy and successful," then other people said, "That's why I'm so miserable and screwed up," but either way blame it on
Mom and Dad or thank Mom and Dad. And you might think you know. When you become famous and you stand up and you
get your awards maybe you'll thank your mom and dad. When you go to your therapist and explain why you're so screwed
up maybe you'll blame Dad. "He never took me to a baseball game." Well, maybe, [laughter] but you don't know. Were you
adopted? If you weren't adopted, you can't even begin to have the conversation about how your parents messed you up
because if you're a lot like your parents you might be a lot like your parents because you share their genes. Of course, you
resemble your parents. Moreover, how do you figure out which is the cause and which is the effect? "Mom smacked me a lot
and that's why I turned out to be such a rotten person." Well, maybe she smacked you because you were rotten. [laughter] I
don't want to get personal but it's very difficult to pull these things apart.
A final point on this. One response to Harris' book is this. "Look. Even if this is true, you shouldn't let this get out
because if parents don't mold their children's personalities maybe why should they treat their kids nicely?" And you might be
wondering this. You might be thinking, well, gee, if you don't have any effect on how your kids turn out, why be nice to them,
but there are answers. You might want to be nice to them because you love them. You might want to be nice to them
because you want them to be happy. You might want to be nice to them because you want to have good relationships with
them. And I have a little bit more but I'm going to skip it and I'm going to move right to your reading response, which is very,
very simple, easy to answer, easy to grade: Explain the Flynn effect. It's a toughie so just explain that. Okay. Have a
wonderful spring break and I'll see you when you get back.


Lecture 14
Professor Paul Bloom: Sex is really strange. You ask people, "What's your favorite activity?" and if you ask people,
particularly college students, particularly just fresh from spring break I've seen teen movies they'll often answer, "Sex." or
some word that is synonymous with sex. But there's a kind of a puzzle about how much time we spend on sex. And it turns
out there is data on this. So, people say sex is their favorite activity, but it turns out we actually know how much time the
average American spends on sex. And the data I'm going to follow from was summarized in this wonderful book by James
Americans tell pollsters their single favorite activity is sex. In terms of enjoyability, they rank sex ahead of sports,
fishing, bar-hopping, hugging and kissing, talking with the family, eating, watching television, going on trips, planning trips,
gardening, bathing, shopping, dressing, housework, dishwashing, laundry, visiting the dentist, and getting the car repaired.
On the other hand, these same studies suggested the average time per day devoted to sex is four minutes and three
seconds. [As Gleick says,] This is not much, even if the four minutes excludes time spent flirting, dancing, ogling, cruising the
boulevard, toning up in gyms, toning up in beauty parlors, rehearsing pick up lines, showering, thinking about sex, reading
about sex, doodling pornographically, looking at erotic magazines, renting videos, dreaming of sex, looking at fashion
magazines, cleaning up after sex, coping with the consequences of sex, building towers or otherwise repressing,
transferring, and sublimating.
And I like this passage because it illustrates two points, two important points. One is we don't actually spend that
much time on sex. In fact, the four minutes and three seconds is an interesting number because when you do times studies
on how much Americans spend filling out tax-related forms for the IRS, it's four minutes and a few seconds. But the passage
also points out that regardless of the brute time we spend on it, it is extraordinarily important. Everything in life follows from it
marriage, family, children, much of aggression, much of competition, much of art and music and creative pursuits. Much of
everything follows from it. If we were a creature without sex, everything would be different.
And what's interesting is, there are creatures without sex. There are creatures that reproduce by cloning. And in
fact, this basic fact about people that we fall, roughly, into males and females is an evolutionary mystery. It's not clear
why animals that are somewhat large have two sexes. From a biological Darwinian perspective, having two sexes is bizarre
because each time you have an offspring you toss away half your genes. My children only have--each of them have half my
DNA. If I were to clone, they would have all of it. And so, it's a puzzle how sex ever evolved.
This is not a course in evolutionary biology, and that's not the puzzle we're going to be looking at today. We're going
to look at a few questions. First, we're going to talk from first a theoretical point of view and then an empirical point of view
about how males and females are different. Then we're going to talk about sexual attractiveness, some research about what
people find to be sexually attractive, and then we'll talk a very little bit at the end about the origins of sexual preference: why
some people are straight, others gay, others bisexual, and others harder to classify.
Now, of all the topics I'm presenting, sex is one of the sort of dicey ones from an emotional point of view. These are
difficult issues because sex is, by definition, an intimate part of our lives, and it matters a lot. Moreover, sex is fraught with
moral implications. And since I'm talking about this from, at least at the beginning, from a Darwinian evolutionary perspective,
I'm obliged to start off by dealing with some of the moral consequences and moral implications.
So, for instance, many biologists all biologists I would say will have argued that sexual behavior, sexual action,
sexual desire is, to some extent, a biological adaptation existing to spread our genes. From that perspective then, nonprocreative sex including gay sex, sex with birth control, sex by post-menopausal women does not serve this
reproductive goal and, in some sense perhaps, is unnatural. And one might argue then, "Does this mean it's wrong?" We'll
also be talking about sex differences, differences between men and women, for instance, in how much you want anonymous
sexual encounters, differences between men and women in social intelligence, in aggression and empathy. And regardless
of what you think about these differences, whether you think they're right or wrong or it doesn't matter, you'll ask the
question, "To what extent are they mutable?" That is, if they exist through Darwinian natural selection, to what extent can we
ever get rid of them? And I want to address those two issues, the issues of morality and inevitability, from the very start. And
I want to start off with--for each of them have a quote by a prominent evolutionary scholar. So, the first one is by Steve
Pinker in How the Mind Works. And he writes,
Nature does not dictate what we should accept or how we should live our lives. Well into my procreating years, I am
so far voluntarily childless, having squandered my biological resources reading and writing, doing research, helping friends
and students, and jogging in circles--ignoring the solemn imperative to spread my genes. By Darwinian standards, I am a
horrible mistake, a pathetic loser, but I am happy to be that way, and if my genes don't like it they can go jump in the lake.
Pinker's point, I think, is a reasonable one. It is true that certain things we do exist to serve the dictates of natural
selection, but that doesn't make them right? If you think that something is only right if it leads to the generation of more
genes, if it leads to reproduction, then you're not going to think very much about birth control. You're not going to think very
much about any sort of non-procreative sex. On the other hand, if you're--Moreover, if you think something's wrong if it's
unnatural, you're going to think much about flying in a plane or refrigerating food or surviving a severe infection. More
generally, our bodies and brains have evolved for reproductive success, but we can use these brains to choose our own


destinies. Nothing moral necessarily follows from the facts of biology. That's all I'm going to say about morality. But I want
you to keep it in mind when we discuss different claims about what's evolved and what hasn't.
What about inevitability? Here I want to turn to Richard Dawkins. Richard Dawkins writes,
If a child has had bad teaching in mathematics, it is accepted that a resulting deficiency can be remedied by extragood teaching in the following year. But any suggestion that the child's deficiency might have a genetic origin is likely to be
greeted with something approaching despair. If it's in the genes, it is determined and nothing can be done about it. This is
pernicious nonsense on an almost astrological scale. Genetic causes and environmental causes are in principle no different
from each other. Some may be harder to reverse, others may be easy. What did genes do to deserve their sinister,
juggernaut-like reputation? Why are genes thought to be so much more fixed and inescapable in their effects than television,
nuns or books.
I like the nuns. And the point here is what causes something is logically separate from what can reverse it. And you
can think of clear cases where something is plainly genetic but is fairly easily reversed and where something is cultural and
is very difficult to reverse. Here's an example. My eyesight is quite poor. The reason why my eyesight is quite poor is not due
to the patriarchy, television, culture or "the man." Rather, my eyesight is quite poor due to the crappy genes Mom and Dad
gave me. It is genetically determined if anything is. It is also fairly easy to fix. There are these machines where they put
panes of glass in front of your eyes and help you to see better. More advanced machines known as contact lenses actually
stick the thing into your eyes, and at the cost of occasional infections you come to see better. It's biologically caused but
fairly easy to fix.
On the other hand, take an example of society's treatment of the obese. It turns out when we and we'll get to this
a little bit when we talk about sexual attractiveness how thin somebody is or how fat they are; what you think of that is
actually not particularly hard-wired. It varies a lot from culture to culture. But once it's in a culture, it is almost impossible to
shake. So, the point, there is just that genetic does not mean inevitable, and cultural does not mean easy to fix.
Okay. That's general background. Let's start with basic Sex Ed. What's the difference between males and females?
Well, don't even think penis and vagina. There are a lot of animals that have neither one. And the difference actually runs
deeper. By definition, when biologists talk about this, animals that are males have a little sex cell, which carries genes and
nothing else sperm cells. Animals that are females have a big sex cell, which has genes but also food and a protective
cover and all sorts of other stuff. Typically, the little sex cell is much littler than the big sex cell. This is the only erotic picture
I'm going to show you today. It's a bunch of these little sperm circling around the egg. It's romantic.
But this raises a puzzle. I just described male and female roughly in terms of a size difference. Males are the
smaller of the sex cells; females are the bigger. Why is it then that for so many animals males are the bigger ones,
physically, and the more aggressive ones. This has been a puzzle that has occupied scientists for a long, long time. And
we're pretty--there is now a pretty clear answer to it. And the answer goes like this. It is based on an idea by Robert Trivers
called "parental investment." And what parental investment is, it's defined here as, any investment that's going to increase
the offspring's chance of survival at the cost of the parent's ability to invest in other offspring.
So, for example, suppose an animal could create an offspring by blinking an eye and then the offspring would run
off? That would be extremely little investment. Suppose another animal had to work for ten years, and during those ten years
could not create another offspring. That would be a huge investment. Trivers points out that within a species, females
typically have a much higher parental investment than males. Because females have these big sex cells, they typically
incubate them internally. They carry them. If they're eggs, they might have to sit on them. And hence, each potential child is
a huge cost.
For males, which have the small sex cell, you don't have the same thing. For males, it might just be a few moments
of copulation and that's it. If you could ask yourself, for humans, each one of you in the room, "What is the minimum effort
you can do to create a child that has half your genes?" And it's apparent that the male investment, on average, is lower than
the female investment. Males can choose, or might do better off in some circumstances by putting a lot of investment into
their offspring, but females don't have a choice. Females, barring technological advance, have a huge investment into any
offspring; not investment in the sense or hard work and effort, though there's that too. Investment in the sense that when
you're--when you're pregnant with one offspring, you can't have another.
What this does is it has ramifications that percolate upwards. So, it leads to different psychologies. Males--and a
single male could fertilize several females, forcing some males to go mate-less and giving rise to competition to see who can
mate with the most females. For females, however, females can always find mates. So, sheer numbers don't count. But
there's competition to mate with the right males, those whose offspring have the best chance of surviving. The competition
now explains the puzzle we started with. It explains why males are typically larger, and often why males have evolved
special weapons. These special weapons evolved for fighting other males for reproductive access. It also explains
something else. Females, biologically, are choosy. And so males have to compete not merely with other males to get
reproductive access but also to woo females. And so often, males have evolved special displays like this [showing a picture
of a peacock's plumage], which exist only to be beautiful, only to be attractive and to attract mates.
This cold evolutionary logic was captured in this cartoon, which really does sum up a hundred of mate-selection
research. The logic goes like this then: difference in the size of sex cells leads to differences in typical parental investment,


leading to differences in the sorts of psychological and physiological mechanisms that evolved. Okay, that's a good story.
What sort of evidence is there for it? Well, it turns out this could explain some otherwise surprising things. For instance, there
should be--there are some cases where the parental investment is switched, some cases where it turns out--where the
males end up with more investment than the females. And it--and the theory predicts that in these cases you should get an
So, in cases like pipefish, for instance, the male takes the eggs into a pouch and plugs them into his bloodstream.
The females shoot off. They have less of an investment than the males. In this case, you would predict, as is true, the
females should be larger, the females fight other females more than males fight males, and the females try to compete for
the attention of the males. Recall the movie "March of the Penguins." We saw a clip from it, and this was in the context of
discussing the emotions that have evolved toward our offspring. But remember the story and how both the male and the
female have to go to tremendous lengths to protect the egg. And if one of them fails, the egg dies and neither one has it. You
should then not even have to remember whether male penguins are much bigger than female penguins. You should realize
they should not be, and in fact they aren't. They're about the same size because the parental is equal.
You should be able to predict the size differences and aggression differences based on differing parental
investment. So for instance, elephant seals are four times--the males are enormous. They're four times bigger than the
females. And this is in large part because elephant seals compete for harems of females. It's a "winner take all." Gibbons are
about the same size. And this is because gibbons are pretty monogamous; they raise children together.
This illustrates something, which is, it's not always the case that male parental investment is low. There are some
species, including gibbons, where it's in the male's reproductive advantage to care for the offspring. Imagine a situation, for
instance, where an offspring would die if both parents didn't watch it for many years and where the effort devoted to that
offspring had to be exclusive. If you focused on another family or went away, the offspring would die. In that case, you'd have
equal investment. It would matter equally to the male and the female to invest in their offspring, and the cost would be the
same. There's no species--it's hard to see species that have that much of an equal system, but some primates are close to it.
And this raises the question then, "What about humans?" What about us? What do we know about the differences between
males and females?
Well, humans are a relatively polygamous species. Most cultures--most human cultures are polygamous. American
culture is what they call "serial monogamy." So, we're not like some species of birds. We don't mate for life. We do a series
of peer-bondings for some period of time. It could be for life, but indeed may not be and usually isn't. Males are bigger than
females. Human males--the size estimates vary so much, but the average human male is about fifteen percent larger than
the average human female. This suggests that there's some--there's been, in our evolutionary history, some male-male
competition for access to females, which suggests, in turn, that the parental investment is not quite equal. Males have
smaller testicles for their body size than chimpanzees, but larger testicles than gorillas and gibbons. And this suggests that
there was some intermediate amount of competition for the capacity to create sperm. And this is relevant for a different sort
of competition, which regards the impregnation of females that have multiple mates. And this suggests that over evolutionary
history women were not wantonly promiscuous, but were not entirely monogamous either; so much so that it paid from an
evolutionary point of view to evolve--males to evolve the capacity to produce more sperm than other males.
Aggression. Males are meaner. I mean I'm summarizing here. Meaner is not a technical term. Yes, females can be
meaner, but males are at least more physically violent. They're more violent in the womb, in utero; they're more violent as
children, and they're more violent as adults. Again, this is not to say that you can't find violent women or non-violent men. It's
just on average there is this difference. They kick more; males kick more in the uterus. As children they're more involved in
play fighting and violent combat-like sports. And as adults, wherever you go you will find a prison. And wherever you go you
will find that prison is mostly full of men. They are far more likely to kill one another and to harm one another. Male sex
hormones, like testosterone, are not the sort of thing one would want to inject in somebody unless you want them to turn kind
of mean. They increase aggressiveness, both in humans and in other primates.
What about sexual choosiness? Do male humans and female humans differ in the extent to which they will favor
anonymous sex? And this is relevant from an evolutionary perspective, because the parental investment theory predicts
males should be more receptive to anonymous sex. Because for males, to impregnate somebody else might fortuitously lead
to another offspring; it might be good for you and doesn't carry the sort of harm that females, on the other hand, have to be
very picky. Because they have to choose carefully. Remember, these systems evolved before birth control and vasectomies
and so on. So, what do we know cross-culturally and psychologically?
Well, prostitution is a universally, or near universally, male interest. There are male prostitutes, of course, but
contrary to some various fantasies and sitcoms, they cater to male customers. Pornography is a human universal. In every
society, males have done some sort of depictions of naked females for the purposes of arousal. Often they carve them into
trees or do sort of sculptures. One of the weirdest findings in the last decade or so is that this extends as well to monkey
porn. And so, some scientists at Duke set up a situation where monkeys could pay in fruit juice, by giving up fruit juice, to
look a picture either of the female's hindquarters or of a celebrity monkey, a socially dominant monkey, some sort of
combination of People Magazine and Penthouse. And so, there's some interest in this even by non-human primates.


What about actually preference for sexual variety? Well, you can get at this in different ways. There is what
biologists describe as the "Coolidge Effect." I have this here [on a slide]. And the Coolidge Effect is based on President
Calvin Coolidge. And it's a story about Calvin Coolidge and his wife, who were being shown around a farm separately. And
the person showing around his wife pointed out that there were a lot of hens; she noticed that there were a lot of hens but
only one rooster. And she asked the guy showing her around, "Is one rooster enough?" And the guys said, "Well, you know,
the rooster works very hard. The rooster has sex dozens of times a day." And she said, "Well, be sure to tell that to the
president." The story goes, the president went around, the guy tells the story to the president. The president asks the man,
"Huh. Has sex dozens of times each day. Same hen every time?" The guy says, "No, different hen every time." And he says,
"Tell that to Mrs. Coolidge."
Now, there are two responses to this sort of story, and they're both kind of negative. One thing is, "Well, everybody
knows males prefer anonymous sex with strange women. Duh." The other response is, "That's sexist claptrap." You might
think--you might be a male and say, "That's not me." You might know males and say, "The males I know are not like that."
So, how do you find out? Well, there are indirect measures, such who goes to prostitutes. But there are also fairly direct
measures. One fairly direct measure is you could ask people in anonymous surveys. So, in fact, I'll give you some
anonymous surveys. I'm not going to ask people. And you just ask them. So, for instance, I want everybody to consider this
question. How many sexual partners do you want to have in the next month? What is it--we're coming up to April. How many
sexual partners do you want in April? Next two years? Take many of you through graduation. When you leave Yale, what do
you want--like, "I had X sexual partners, and that's what I wanted." Or your lifetime? We get people to answer these
Professor Chun last year in this course had clickers, and he got people to do it. We are not so high tech, so we'll
just do it in our heads. But here is the way the answers come out. Women say less than one in the next month. That doesn't
mean they want less than one; that means many of them--many of them say zero, some say one and so on. One--four to
five. Men--two, eight, eighteen. You can ask other questions from this population. So, you could ask, "Would you have sex
with a desirable partner you have known--so somebody really desirable--for a year; women say yes, six months--unsure,
week or less--no. Men [slide reads "yes, yes, yes"] [laughter]--and with men you could get a majority going to five minutes.
This is all Q & A, pen and pencil sort of things. Some brave scientists have actually done experiments. And in one
experiment somebody--I don't, you know, this is the sort of thing which you probably wouldn't do nowadays. This work has
been done ten years ago, where they have an incredibly attractive man and an incredibly attractive woman and they
approach people on campus. They're not from campus; they're actors brought in. And they go to people, to strangers, and
they say, "I've been noticing you around campus. I find you very attractive. Would you go out with me tonight? Would you
come over to my apartment tonight? Would you go to bed with me tonight?" The experiment you wouldn't think anybody
would've done has been done, and women about--a very attractive man, over half of the women approached say, "Yeah, I
will. [go out with you tonight]" Very few agree to this ["Would you come to my apartment tonight?"], and nobody agrees to this
["Would you go to bed with me tonight?"]. For men, the data are like this, they go up to there and then up to there [they say
yes 50%, 69% and 75% of the time respectively]. In this study, the twenty five percent of males who said "no" apologized
profusely, and they said, "Oh, you know, my fianc's in town, and [unintelligible]."
What about behavior? Well, you--if we're interested in sex differences, you can't actually figure out what people
want, male female differences, by looking at simply at the average number of times people have sex because if males and
females have different priorities, then heterosexual sex is a compromise between two groups of people with competing
interests. What's a more clear reflection then is gay sex between two women or between two men, because then you get a
pure reflection of sexual desire. Now, the data here tend to be very messy. Again, they're survey studies but by and large
every study done tends to find a difference in the expected direction, which is that females tend to be--lesbians tend to be
much more monogamous than gay men. Some studies prior to AIDS this was many years ago found gay men to be
extremely promiscuous, often having over a hundred or over a thousand partners. You wouldn't find this sort of promiscuity in
females. And a way to think about this is, what these gay men are doing is exactly what your average heterosexual man
would do if he had that degree of willing females who were as willing as he was. And this all suggests that there's some sort
of difference along lines expected in sexual choosiness in humans.
What about sexual attractiveness? What about mate preference? What do we find attractive? Well, unlike the
choosiness studies, here we actually have some pretty good cross-cultural data. So one study, for instance, was done in
10,000 people from thirty-seven countries, asking people, "Who do you want to be with?" And there are different studies,
some of them asking, "Who do you want to marry?" Other studies, "Who do you want as a mate? Who do you want as a
sexual partner?" And one main finding is kind of reassuring, everybody likes kindness and intelligence, or at least everybody
says they like kindness and intelligence. These are valued pretty highly.
But at the same time, there are sex differences. Females focus more on power and status and more on interest in
investing in children. And think about that from an evolutionary point of view and it makes sense. It doesn't matter hugely,
from the standpoint of reproduction, how old the man is. The difference between fifteen and twenty-five and thirty-five and
forty-five may matter a lot for his status in the community, his physical strength, his lifespan but from the standpoint of his
sperm it doesn't matter hugely. Later on there's a drop off and it does begin to matter, but it doesn't matter hugely. What


does matter is his interest in being a good father, in protecting you from predation, from murder, from assault by other
people, and in taking care of the kid. Women's brains are wired up to find males with those properties.
Similarly, males focus a little bit differently. They're more interested in all of these things, but also on the ability to
have children. So, from an evolutionary point of view, there's actually a very big difference between a twenty-year old and a
fifty-year old, from a male standpoint looking at a female, because the one can have offspring and the other cannot. So, this
is a difference.
But what I want to focus more on right now is back to another similarity. Everybody likes beauty. And I want to
devote a little bit of this lecture to talking about physical beauty. Physical beauty, as these beautiful people say, is a curse.
So she--she's like a big model, a supermodel, maybe even a super-supermodel--points out the arbitrariness of finding her
devastatingly beautiful. Famous actor points out how frustrating it is that people only ignore his accomplishments and focus
merely on his physical beauty. This is very frustrating. So what is beauty? What does this mean we say we find--you know,
yeah, they really are very attractive people. What is it about that that makes you look and say, "Yeah, that makes sense?"
Well, we kind of know the answer. We know some universals.
Beauty seems to signal two things. Beauty seems to signal youth--I mean, not pre-school youth, but youth like
sexually mature but young. And so the cues we find beautiful are cues to that large eyes, full lips, smooth, tight skin.
Beauty signals something else. Beauty is a marker for health. And so what we find beautiful, things like the absence of
deformities, clear eyes, unblemished skin, intact teeth that's very big and an average face. And that last part might seem
a little bit strange. What would be so good about an average face? And there are different answers to that, but one answer
is, an average face, on average, should be considered attractive because any sort of deformities are variations from the
average. And if you average every face together, you get a face that--where nothing bad has happened to it. There's no
distortion, there's no deviation. As one gets older, the face gets less symmetrical and so on. Average-ness seems to factor
out all the bad things that could happen.
Good theory. How do we know it's true? Well, there's a photo roster that comes--that I have access to for this class.
So, I can look at each of your pictures, and I will make you a bet about who has the most beautiful face in this course. The
bet is it would be all of you. Aw. Wouldn't it be funny if I shouted out somebody's name? And you know, A) I don't have the
energy to do this, and B) it would probably violate four hundred different privacy laws or whatever. But if I took all those faces
and morphed them together, I would get a very pretty face. And how do we know this? Well, people have done this. They've
done it with--so look at the faces from here to here. And if you are like most people, you see as you're going to the right
they're looking better and better and better. It's subtle, but it's actually not so subtle that babies don't notice it. The same
researchers who constructed this--these face--these average Caucasian faces, male and female, have shown these faces to
babies and find that babies that prefer to look at average faces--suggesting that our preference for averaging is not the
product of culture but rather is to some extent hard-wired.
These two people don't exist. They're computer composites. They're a heavily averaged male face and a heavily
averaged female face, both from a Caucasian data sample. They don't look bad right? They're good faces. They don't cheat.
So the hair, for instance, is identical--so they don't--you can't use hair cues. But they're pretty attractive. But the story of
attractiveness does not end there. How do you get a better than average face? What can you do to these faces, these
average faces, and make them look even better? Well, I'll have a vote. Who's prettier? Who says the one on the right? Who
says the one on the left? Left is average face, and there might be variation in this class. There are definitely variations in
what people favor. This is a feminized version of the average face where certain prototype features were made more
feminine than average to cue this as more of a sexual object.
This is more complicated. Who thinks face A is more attractive? [face A has exaggerated chiseled jaw and square
chin] Who thinks face B is more attractive? Okay. Most people like face B. The exception is, and this has been statistically
replicated, I think, now in three labs. Face A is preferred by women who are ovulating, and the story about why is
complicated and will take us beyond the scope of this class. But currently the idea is that this [face B] is a really handsome
guy; he's young, he's healthy, he looks strong, good provider; this guy [face A] is really hot, and he may not be a good
provider and everything, but I'm sure he has wonderful genes. So, the idea is that one should have sex with him [face A] and
then have him [face B] raise the kids.
We've talked so far about things, about sex and sexual attractiveness largely from a biological perspective, looking
at universals. And in fact, there are some universals in what men and women have in common and what distinguishes men
and women. And in some of the sex differences, particularly related to aggression and mate preference, seem to be
universal. They seem to show up to some extent across every culture you look at and, hence, are likely candidates for
biological adaptations. But there are other sex differences that people are aware of where the origins are far less clear. And I
think that intelligent, reasonable people could disagree about this, but I am personally quite skeptical about the extent to
which these reflect biology. I'll mention them to capture the debate, but the thing to keep in mind here is that biology, natural
selection, is one reason why the men in this class might differ from the women in this class. But of course, there are other,
social, factors.
Babies are treated differently. There have been many studies where you take a baby and swaddle it in blue and
describe it as a boy versus swaddle it in pink and describe it as a girl, and people treat it differently when they think it's a boy


than when they think it's a girl. You're treated differently too. It matters a lot--and there's study after study suggesting, for
instance, that when you send an email or a job application or a paper to a scientific journal, it matters whether it has the
name John Smith on it versus the name Joan Smith. It matters because people have different expectations and different
reactions to males versus females. Some if you may have firsthand experience with this if you're a man with a name that
could be taken as a woman's name friend of mine is named Lynn, and often people think he's female or if you're a
woman who has a name that could be taken as a man's name, or if you have a name sufficiently foreign to Western ears that
people can't easily tell. You'll often find people saying, "Oh," people are high-fiving each other there [referring to students in
the class]--you'll often find some degree of surprise and some degree of people saying, "Oh my, I didn't know you were a
man. Now I will treat you differently." And so, these social factors could play a role in explaining some male and female
Also, there are the facts of gender self-segregation. So here something very interesting happens developmentally.
Males segregate with other males; females segregate with other females--for a period lasting, it depends on the culture, but
say from age four to age eleven. This self-segregation might exaggerate and enhance sex differences. It might be, for
instance, as Eleanor Maccoby has proposed, that boys are slightly more aggressive than girls. But then boys go into groups
of boys, and that enhances and exaggerates their aggression while the girls' non-aggressive behavior is enhanced and
exaggerated in different ways by them falling into girls' groups.
So, what sort of differences are we talking about when we say we're not sure of their cause? Well, one difference is
one in empathy. So Simon Baron-Cohen wrote a wonderful book called The Essential Difference where he argues that men
are by nature less empathetic, women are by nature more empathetic, and that this is a core sex difference. So, what do you
know? Well, what's the source for this? One thing is men are more violent. Simon Baron-Cohen describes violence as the
ultimate act--murder as the ultimate act of a lack of empathy. There's some relationship between how much testosterone you
have in your system and how social you are more testosterone, less social. Boys tend to be less empathetic than girls, and
there's some evidence, though it's not conclusive, that boys do worse than girls on social cognition theory of mind tasks.
That's what I have here, though that is quite debated.
And the biggest effect, which isn't debated at all, is problems with empathy, problems of social cognition, are much
more frequent in men than in women. So, these disorders like autism, Asperger's Syndrome, conduct disorder and
psychopathy are predominately male. And Simon Baron-Cohen suggests that--basically, he has this slogan where he says,
"To be a man is to suffer from a particularly mild form of autism." That males are just socially clueless relative to women.
Final bit of trivia--This is Simon Baron Cohen, who is a very famous developmental psychologist, but his cousin Sasha Baron
Cohen is far more famous. Another debate is a debate concerning sex differences in the capacity for math and science.
A few years ago there used to be a president of Harvard known as Larry Summers. There are so many reasons to
hiss at this point. And Larry Summers is no longer president of Harvard for various reasons, but one reason was this quote,
which included in his speculations about sex differences, " the special case of science and engineering, there are issues
of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude..." He argued, or suggested, that the under-representation of
women in the sciences in academia is because of an intrinsic aptitude difference; women are, on average, less biologically
predisposed to do this sort of reasoning. The variability point is that he wasn't suggesting that there's just a difference on
average. In fact, he agreed that the average skills of men and women are identical. The claim is that males show more
variation. This means that there are more male retarded people and more males who are just horribly bad at this, but it also
means there are more male geniuses. And he suggested that this plays a role.
This, as you can imagine, proved to be an extremely controversial claim, and rather than go through it because it
would take me a class to treat the pros and cons of this argument responsibly I'm going to refer you to a wonderful debate
between Steve Pinker, who was quoted earlier, and Liz Spelke who's one of the big infant cognition people. And we spoke a
lot about her work earlier on in the course. And they have a wonderful debate between two of the smartest people I know
on The Edge, which was done at Harvard about a year ago and is on video here
So, if you're interested in sex differences and different theories about the mechanism of sex differences, this is
where you should go.
Finally, and a final topic, some of us, about 98%--and the numbers are very difficult to pin down. Maybe it isn't 98%;
maybe it's ninety-seven, maybe it's ninety-nine. Let's say 98% of women are sexually attracted to men. About 96% of men
are sexually attracted to women. And the numbers vary and it's very difficult to estimate it properly. As you could imagine,
there are all sorts of problems with this sort of research. But there's some proportion of the population that's exclusively
homosexual--some proportion of the population of men who are only attracted to other men, some proportion of the
population of women who are only attracted to other women. When people talk about sexual orientation here, it's important to
realize we are not talking here about behavior. There are all sorts of reasons why somebody might have sex with somebody
of the same sex. You know, they might be bored. You may, you know, be experimenting, be whatever. The question is,
"What do you want to do?" All things being equal, what sort of person--if you could be sexually or romantically involved with


any person, who would it be? And most people are heterosexual. There's a considerable amount that varies cross-culturally
of people who are bisexual. But the real puzzle is exclusive homosexuality. So, why?
Well, nobody knows. We know some reasons, some answers are probably not right. It is not the case, almost
certainly maybe there are some exceptions but it is not the case that people choose their sexual orientation. I'm not going
to do this in this room, but if you asked people to raise their hands as to how many people decided who to become sexually
attracted to, very few people would. Part of the issue rises in the fact that people who are gay are often extremely
discriminated against, and they have no wish to be gay. They might even think it's morally wrong for them to be that way.
That makes it implausible that their sexual orientation is a conscious choice.
What about experience after puberty? So, there is a view that keeps coming up over and over again in the literature
that people who are gay have in some sense been seduced by people, by other people--or something happened to them
afterwards. This seems unlikely. There are in particular the seeds of sexual orientation later on in life seem to show up quite
early in life. Again, the studies are sort of suspect, but there's some reason to believe that people who are gay and people
who are straight are different long before they hit puberty with regard to their sexual and romantic fantasies.
You would now expect me to say, "Well, being gay and being straight is built in. It's hard-wired. None of these
stories seem right. It seems to be built in." And the answer to that is, sort of. So, if you do the standard behavioral genetic
tests, and you by now know how to do them--you'd look for differences between monozygotic and dizygotic twins, you'd do
the adoption comparison--you know adopted siblings and biological siblings. The answer is yes, you find that there is some
sort of genetic predisposition towards homosexuality. But it can't be entirely genetic. One reason why it can't be entirely
genetic is, if I'm gay and I have an identical twin, the odds that my identical twin will be gay--it's about fifty percent. Those are
very high odds compared to the average in the population. But if it was truly genetic, entirely genetic, what should the
number be? A hundred percent he's my clone. He should be exactly as I am. And it's not. So, we know then that some sort
of experience, possibly prenatal experience, is what explains it.
Why is it so I said before this is a huge puzzle why is it such a huge puzzle? Well, exclusive homosexuality is an
evolutionary mystery. Again, do not think that this carries any moral weight to it. What it does mean though is that it doesn't
seem to follow as a biological adaptation. The puzzle is not why is it that some men have sex with men. That's not a big
puzzle. Maybe they have sex with men as some sort of recreational things or pair bonding or whatever. That's not the puzzle.
The puzzle is why are there some men who don't want to have sex with women? Similarly, why are there some
women who don't want to have sex with men? From an evolutionary adaptive standpoint, you would think that the genes that
give rise to such a behavior would be weeded out because creatures with that behavior typically, putting aside modern
technology, don't have offspring. And that's what makes it such a puzzle. So, your reading response for this week is "solve
that puzzle." I know I said early on in the course that reading responses would be really easy and just require you reciting
back things, but that proved to be too boring. So, just solve this deepest of all puzzle. The thing in brackets at the end is very
important. Your account, whatever it is, should bear some relationship to the facts as discussed in lectures and readings. We
have about five more minutes. Any questions or thoughts? Yes?
Student: I like your leather jacket.
Professor Paul Bloom: Thank you very much. She likes my leather jacket. Any questions or thoughts, just like that one?
No. Yes?
Student: My question's not exactly like that one, but in other animals do they--is there similar data on other species?
Professor Paul Bloom: On sexual preferences? That's a very good question because certainly your answer to the origin
give me two more minutes certainly your answer about the origin of sexual preference in humans will be informed by the
question of cross-species data. What we do know is that there are many animals that engage in homosexual behavior; they
engage in sex with members of their own sex. What I don't know is whether you get exclusive homosexual behavior. So, I
don't know what the rate is in nonhuman primates, for instance, of primates who do not want to have sex with members of
the opposite sex. Okay, I'll see you all Wednesday.


Lecture 15
Professor Paul Bloom: Let me begin by just reminding us where we are in this course, reminding us of what we've done
and what we have yet to do. We started by talking about the brain, the physical basis of thought. And then we moved to
some general introductions to some foundational ideas in the study of psychology, Freud and Skinner. We spent a bit of time
on more cognitive stuff: development, language, vision, memory. Then we took a little break and the dean told us about love.
Then we dealt with the emotions, rationality, and evolution, and a lot of that. What we learned particularly regarding the
evolution of the mind provided supporting material for what follows. We learned about cognitive neuroscience using the study
of face recognition as an important case study--human differences, behavioral genetics, nature and nurture, sex and food.
My lecture was on sex. Dr. Brownell came and spoke to us about food. Today, morality. Next week, social thought and social
behavior, mysteries; basically, a series of topics that don't fit anywhere in the course and really make psychologists scratch
their heads. These topics are sleep, laughter, and religion, mental illness, two lectures on madness, what can go wrong in
your minds, and a last lecture on happiness. And then you're just done. You know a lot of psychology and a lot of stuff and
you're well prepared for your ultimate major in psychology, ultimately graduate training at a good school.
How many people here are either psych majors or expect to become psych majors or cognitive science as though
you could raise your hand to? Okay. Good. It's nowhere near enough [laughter] and so I'll ask the question again. Once you
deal with happiness and then mysteries, you're really not going to want to--What is there? Chemistry? Anthropology?
[laughter] Pre-med? Give me a break. [laughter]
Okay. We're going to deal with three facets of morality. I'm going to talk about moral feelings, moral judgments, and
then moral action with particular focus on why good people do bad things, which will lead us to review and discuss the
Milgram study, which was presented in the movie on Monday. Now, moral feeling is what we'll start off with and we've
already discussed this in a different context. The question is, 'How could moral feelings evolve?" So, moral feelings we could
view as feelings of condemnation, shame, emotions like that--shame, condemnation, pride, righteous anger, but also simple
affection, caring for other people, wanting to do well by them, being upset if an injustice is to be done by them. And you might
think that the existence of these feelings is a mystery from an evolutionary point of view. If evolution is survival of the fittest,
nature red in tooth and claw, how could animals evolve moral feelings? But in fact, we know the answer to this. And there are
two answers to this.
One answer is kin selection. So, evolution works at a level of the genes and because of that it could give rise to
animals that are themselves altruistic. And they're altruistic because they act to preserve other animals that share the same
genes. And so, I'm not going to spend any time on this because we've discussed it in detail, but we know from previous
lectures that people will be generous to others. And there's an evolutionary explanation for your generosity towards kin. It
could be mathematically worked out. Your caring, your moral feelings towards other creatures to the extent of the proportion
of genes that you share with them. The most altruistic behavior of all, giving your life to help another, can be explained in
cold-blooded evolutionary terms. Animals that are altruistic even to the point of dying to help another, those genes will, under
some circumstances, be preserved over the genes of people who are less caring. And that is one force towards kindness.
A second force towards kindness is cooperation. Even if animals are unrelated, they are nice to one another.
Animals will give warning cries, they will groom one another, they will exchange food, and the reason for this is that animals
have evolved, our minds have evolved, to enter into sort of cooperative situations with other people and to surmount
prisoner's dilemmas, to surmount deception and cheating. This gives rise to some emotion including emotions that could be
viewed as moral emotions, like guilt and anger, and again, grounds altruistic behavior in an evolutionary perspective.
This is all by means of review but the question you can now ask is, "Fine. That's why moral feelings might evolve,
but what do we know as psychologists about the emergence in nature of moral feelings in individuals? What's the
psychology of moral feeling?" And this is an issue I'm going to talk about now but I'm going to return to next week when we
deal with issues such as liking and disliking, racial prejudice and other things. But I want to deal now with a couple of
interesting case studies about moral feelings from a psychological point of view.
The first one I want to deal with is empathy. And empathy has different definitions but we can simply view it as the
feeling that your pain matters to me. If you are hurt, that is, in some sense, painful for me. If you are sad, that affects my own
mood. I am not a selfish creature. I am built, I am hard wired, to be attuned to your pain. This is an old observation. Adam
Smith, who is often falsely viewed as a proponent of selfishness and hardheadedness, was quite explicit about the pull this
has. He notes:
When we see a stroke aimed and just ready to fall upon the leg or arm of another person, we naturally shrink and
draw back our own leg or arm and when it does fall we feel it in some measure and are hurt by it as well as the
sufferer. If you see somebody being kicked in the groin in a movie, you might yourself tense up. If you see
somebody bang their thumb with a hammer, you might cringe.
Here is a good illustration of somebody in anticipatory pain. [laughter] Now--It's a very British face actually.
[laughter] Now, we know certain things about this empathy, some which might be surprising. The pain of others is aversive
even for babies. We know this because if babies hear other babies crying they will get upset. The crying of babies is aversive
to babies.


Now, some of you may be sufficiently cynical to say, "That could be explained in other ways. For one thing, one
theory is that babies hear other babies cry, because babies are so stupid they think they themselves are crying; if they're
crying they must be in some sort of pain so they cry some more." But clever psychologists have ruled this out. What they did
was a study where they exposed babies to tape-recorded sounds of other babies crying and tape recorded sounds of
themselves crying. Babies cry more to this pain of other babies than they do to their own pain, suggesting that their response
is to some extent a response to the "otherness" of the characters.
We know pain is--of others is aversive for chimpanzees and we know this in certain ways. But we know this, in
particular, from a series of studies that would be unethical if they were to be done today. In these studies, they put a
chimpanzee in a room and there's a lever. And when the chimpanzee slaps the lever, it gets some food. Trivial, smart
animal, piece of cake. But the room has a window leading to another room. And in the other room another chimpanzee is
placed. This second chimpanzee is not a relative of the first chimpanzee and they've never seen each other before. Now,
when the first chimpanzee hits the lever the second chimpanzee gets a painful electric shock, putting the first chimpanzee in
a horrible dilemma. In order to feed himself, he has to torture another animal. Chimpanzees do not starve themselves to
death. It's very unlikely any of you would either but they go a long time without food, suggesting they do not want to cause
this other chimpanzee pain. It only works within species. So, in another experiment they put a rabbit in the other room and
the chimpanzee would slap the lever repeatedly to make the rabbit scream in pain [laughter] and jump.
Now, we've known for a long time that empathetic feeling is not logically linked to morality. This is a point made by
Aristotle. I could see you writhing in pain. That could cause me pain but it doesn't mean I'm going to be nice to you. I could
run away from you. I could turn my head or I could blame you for causing me this misery. But it does happen that emotional-that this sort of empathy does lead to moral concern and action. If we do an experiment and we induce you to feel
empathetic to somebody, we get you to feel what they're feeling, you're more likely to be nice to them. And people differ in
the extent to which they feel empathy. People differ to the extent it will hurt them to watch me slam my thumb with a hammer.
If you are high empathy, you're more likely to be a nice person than if you're low empathy, suggesting there is some
connection between empathetic feeling and liking.
Now, empathetic feeling, like any other human capacity, differs across people. Some of us have a lot of it. Some of
us don't have much of it. There is some reason to believe that in the population known as "psychopaths," a population we'll
return to later on when we discuss mental illness, this sort of instinctive empathy is broken and the pain of others just doesn't
bother them very much. I have some illustrative quotes here. In Damon's book, a wonderful book on psychopathy, he talks
about a thirteen-year-old mugger who specialized in mugging blind people. And when asked about the pain he caused his
victims he responded, "What do I care? I'm not her," which is logically correct but, in a sense, inhuman. The fact that it's
another person should make you care.
The serial killer Gary Gilmore basically said the pain of others gratified him and caused him no unhappiness at all. "I
was always capable of murder. I can become totally devoid of feelings of others, unemotional. I know I'm doing something
grossly--" and here is a very bad word "--wrong. I can still go ahead and do it." And Ted Bundy, when interviewed at one
point, said he was astonished that people made such a fuss about all of his murders because he said, "I mean, there are so
many people." And if any of you here are nodding in agreement at these sentiments, [laughter] that's not such a good sign.
These are particularly callous and cold-blooded statements suggesting that this instinctive empathy, this aspect of moral
thought, is not--is present in most of us but not in all of us.
The second case study of moral feeling is "in-group" and "out-group." In our affections, in our caring, who we like,
who we feel close to, whose pain bothers us, we are not indiscriminate. I care a lot more about my children than I do about
my friends and I care more about my friends than I care about strangers. We're all like that. We also favor our group over
others in every possible way. You are a member of many groups. You are men. You are women. You're Yale students.
You're young. You're white, you're black, you're Asian. You're a member of these groups and, as we will discuss repeatedly
when we talk about social cognition and social behavior, this membership matters a lot to you. What's particularly interesting
is even groups that are formed, that you were not born with, that are formed on the fly, exert a huge amount of control over
your moral feelings and moral attitudes. And the best example of this is discussed in detail in the textbook. And this is the
Robber's Cave study. And this Robber's Cave study serves as a nice illustration of morality in everyday life.
The study was, eleven- and 12-year-old boys at a camping program. These were well-adjusted, pretty rich kids,
racially homogeneous, and they were put into separate cabins. And the cabins were given leaders and they gave themselves
names. Being unimaginative boys, they called themselves "The Eagles" and "The Rattlers" but as--what happened was,
being separated they developed distinctive cultures. And when these groups were set in competition against each other, the
Eagles versus the Rattlers, the within-group intensity grew. The Eaglers began--Eagles began to care a lot more about other
Eagles than about anybody else.
So, there's within-group solidarity. And then there were negative stereotypes. So, these groups developed different
cultures. It was a randomly cut apart--kind of like Yale College is actually, where you get a random assortment of people. But
despite the fact that the assortment is random, the division is random, cultures begin to emerge. The Eagles prided
themselves on being clean living, not using cuss words and treating each other with respect. They viewed the Rattlers as
dirty and tough and kind of slovenly slobs. The Rattlers viewed the Eagles as goody-goody kids. It's cruel.


Finally, [laughter] it all evolved into hostilities, raids and violence. The Eagles burnt a Rattlers banner, cuss words
were occasionally used, and so Sherif, the psychologist designing all of this, went, "Excellent," [laughter] and then the
problem--He then says, "Now we've created two different warring cultures. That was fun. [laughter] What do we do to make
them friends again? And then we figure out how to--now we've done that and this'll solve all sorts of problems." So they
started off. They wanted to have--They set up peace talks where a representative of the Eagle and a representative of the
Rattler were set to meet and plan ways so that they could disarm and stop using cuss words and everything like that. This
failed. The kids who engaged in the peace talks were ostracized by their own groups as treasonists. That failed. They
decided to set up individual competitions like the Olympics where they--where people wouldn't compete as Eagles or Rattlers
but rather they would compete as individuals. That failed too. Like the Olympics, people--the teams took their--they took their
individual accomplishments as reflecting on the group and it evolved into Eagles versus The Rattlers.
They shared meals, they turned--which turned into food fights and more cuss words. They shared movies, more
fights, more cuss words. They shared fun with firecrackers, [laughter] which was a disastrous thing which nearly brought the
experiment to an end. [laughter] They brought in a religious figure to give them sermons on brotherly love. [laughter] The
sermons were entirely unsuccessful. What's interesting is they--the Eagle--they took them to heart. These were good kids.
They were respectful of religious authority but the lessons they took from them is "I should learn to love my neighbor." If I'm a
Rattler, I should learn to love my fellow Rattler and appreciate him as a fellow, as a person. "I love him. It's love, not like
those scummy Eagles." [laughter] They all failed.
Here's what worked. Sherif told the kids--all of the kids--that the water line to the camp was cut and they all had to
defend the camp. What this did was it established a super ordinate goal, that is a goal that everybody shared, and perhaps
more important a common enemy. This is where the solution, by the way, to bringing together--and you could write this
down--to bringing together all the warring countries and religions of this planet is an alien attack. [laughter] By the logic of the
Sherif it will bring us all together as a group.
A different question is, there in that experiment the "groupiness" was established in a very powerful way. They lived
separately, they interacted with each other, they had their own names. The psychologist Tajfel after World War II was
interested in the question of what could make a group. In other words, what do I have to do to you to put you in a different
group from him? What do I have to do to this class--this side of the class to put you in a different group from this side and
different from that side? And what would I have to do for those groups to matter such that, for instance, if I separate you in
one group and you're in another group and I give you a hundred dollars will you give the money more to him or to him, will
you give it more to your own group or to another group? And what he found was you don't need much.
In one experiment he showed people pictures of modern art and based on their responses he described them as
Klee lovers or Kandinsky lovers. Now, this is all made up. They were just random assignments but the Klee lovers viewed
themselves as more similar to other Klee lovers. They thought the Klee lovers tended to be smarter than the Kandinsky
lovers and the Klee lovers would devote more resources to themselves than to others. This is why it's called "minimal
groups." You don't need much to make you into a group.
And in fact, later experiments just flipped a coin. So the lot--the experiment goes like this. I ask everybody in this
class to take out a coin. You all flip it. Everyone who has heads, you're one group. Everyone who has tails, you're the other
group. Then I ask people in the heads group, "Which group do you--Putting yourself aside, which group on average do you
think is smarter?" You'd say, "Well, you know, it kind of works out that the heads group is kind of really--heads, smart."
Which group--"Here is some money. You have to distribute it." You're more likely--It's a subtle effect when you make the
groups so minimal but you're more likely to give it to your own group than to others and this suggests that moral feelings are
exquisitely attuned not necessarily only to individuals but also to the psychology of groups.
Any questions at this point about moral feelings? Yes.
Student: How you formed the groups--How is that morality?
Professor Paul Bloom: It's morality--It bears on morality because it bears on--So, the question is, "How does group
membership, how does that relate to the topic of morality?" And the answer is the moral feelings we're talking about are
feelings like empathy and caring. For me to have a moral feeling towards you means you matter to me. If you were to be
harmed, I would view it as wrong. And the group experiment suggests that the extent to which these moral feelings operate
are partially determined by the groups to which we belong to. If I'm American and you're from another country, I will view
myself--this is a very--kind of obvious finding--my obligations to you will be seen as less than if you were another American.
If I'm a Klee lover and you're a Kandinsky lover, I don't think you quite deserve as much as me.
Moral judgment is an area that is tremendously exciting and there's a lot of recent research on this. By moral
judgment I mean not empathetic feelings, not feelings of caring and love or approval and disapproval, so they're not feelings
of caring and love and empathy, but notions like something is good or bad, something--like something is fair or unfair. So,
there are three hallmarks for moral judgments. So, suppose I say I don't like strawberry ice cream. That's an evaluation.
That's a judgment but it's not a moral judgment. Why not? Because I don't think it carries a sense of obligation. I don't think
anybody's obliged to eat or not to eat strawberry ice cream. And it doesn't carry a notion of sanctions, meaning I don't think
anybody should be punished for eating strawberry ice cream. On the other hand, if I say I don't like baby killers, that actually
is a moral judgment in my case. So [inaudible] I say, "Well, I don't like baby killers. You like to kill babies. I actually think we


are obliged not to kill babies." If you disagree with me, you're wrong and you should stop killing those babies. [laughter]
Should you fail to stop killing those babies, I think you should be punished for killing babies." And that's what my judgment
about "no killing babies" makes it a moral judgment.
Now, some people attempted to look at this the wrong way and say, "Look. What a weird topic, morality. I don't
believe in morality. I believe in Nietzsche. I don't believe in ethics," but I don't believe you if you were to say that because
morality isn't--morality as we talk about it in this context isn't just regarding your position on big questions like political issues
or big moral questions like abortion or capital punishment. Rather, some sort of moral judgment happens all the time, often
unconsciously. So, as you live your life you have to answer questions like what should you eat? Any moral vegetarians here?
I'm just raising my hand to encourage people. [laughter] Okay. Anybody give to charity? Anybody not give to charity? Good.
[laughter] Different from the moral vegetarians I noticed. Who do you socialize with? There's homeless people around Yale
and New Haven. What do you give to them? Do you avoid their eyes? Do you--What do you want to do with your life? Who
do you have sex with? Under what context or conditions? These are moral questions.
My favorite moral dilemma is as I'm walking down the street and I see somebody I sort of know, do I avoid eye so
we don't have a conversation [laughter] or do I say, "Hey. How are you doing?" or do I kind of do the nod hoping that there
won't be more than this nod? [laughter] And then after I leave and I say, "Oh, I should have made eye contact with that
person. I'm such a jerk. [laughter] There is a homeless person [simulating making great eye-contact with them]" [laughter]
and--but these are day-to-day moral questions we struggle with all the time and so there's a centrality in the study of how we
do moral reasoning.
So, what do we know about moral reasoning? Well, we know that there are some universals. There are some
aspects of moral reasoning that show up everywhere on earth. And there is some evidence, though it's not particularly strong
at this point, that these same intuitions show up in young children and in nonhuman primates like chimpanzees, capuchins,
macaques and so on. And these are things like anger at cheaters, gratitude toward sharers, the sort of things you'd expect to
come out in a prisoner's dilemma, feelings that some things are right and some things are wrong. These are foundational.
But at the same time the study of moral reasoning is a fascinated--fascinating issue for those of us interested in crosscultural psychology because there are plain differences across cultures. So, the anthropologist Richard Shweder gives a list
here of human differences:
People have found it quite natural to be spontaneously appalled, outraged, indignant, proud, disgusted, guilty and
ashamed by all sorts of things. Then there's a long list: "masturbation, homosexuality, sexual abstinence, polygamy,
abortion, circumcision, corporal punishment, capital punishment, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, capitalism, democracy, flag
burning, miniskirts, long hair, no hair, blah blah, parents and children sleeping in the same bed, parents and children not
sleeping in the same bed, women being allowed to work, women not being allowed to work.
If I put it down in a list and got people to tick it off, what you all thought, there would be some differences. Some of
you think meat eating is okay. Some of you do not. Some of you--You might have different views about divorce. Most of you
believe women should be allowed to work. Most of you will be in favor or not morally scolding of homosexuality. You'll be
lukewarm about polygamy. Nobody would like abstinence and so on. [laughter] But if we gave that same list to people in a
different culture, they'd tick off entirely different things. These are ways in which people vary. I don't think people vary in their
feelings about baby killing. I don't think people vary about the feelings of I do something for you and then you don't do
something for me. I think that's gut-level, hard-wired, evolved to solve prisoner's dilemmas. But these are important issues
and these vary a lot from culture to culture and a good theory of psychology has to explain how these differences arise.
And Shweder has a theory which is quite interesting. Shweder argues that there are three styles of thought, three
different frameworks of moral thought, three different ethics. There's an ethics of autonomy. This is what moral philosophers
within our culture view as morality, notions of rights, of equality, of freedom. But many cultures focus on an ethics of
community, bringing together duty, status, hierarchy, and interdependence. Other cultures focused more on an ethics of
divinity where notions such as purity, sanctity, pollution and sin are relevant.
So for example, when we're talking about the rights of men and women and what they should be allowed to do,
many people in our society following an ethics of autonomy will argue that they should have equal rights in all domains of
behavior. Since they are sentient, free creatures, they should have a right to do whatever they want unless there is a
compelling argument against it and a compelling argument would have to involve some infringement of the freedom of other
people. On the other hand, if you're in an ethics of community you might argue that men and women have different rights and
different responsibilities. They may be born to perform certain things and as such they're duty bound to follow them. If you're
from an ethics of divinity, you may appeal to religious injunctions against certain actions and behaviors and these may
differentially restrict the behavior of men and women. You might believe for instance, that women should not prepare food
when menstruating because it would contaminate the food. You may believe that there's--there are severe restrictions about
who could have sex with one another that don't have to do with human rights and human freedom. It has to do with the way
things should be because of issues of pollution and sin.
Now, Western cultures, as I've said, are highly invested in an ethics of autonomy and so debates we have in our
culture tend to be framed in terms of an ethics of autonomy. If we have a debate about abortion in this class, people--some
people might say, "Look. The fetus is a sentient being and as such it has a right to survive and shouldn't be killed by its


mother." Other people would argue, "No. A woman has full freedom over her own body and as long as a fetus is within the
body they--she has a right to control it." If we're arguing about hate speech, we could talk about the balance between the
rights of the freedom of speech versus the right to a certain quality of education free of harassment and humiliation. Those
are the ways we frame things but one of the more interesting discoveries in this field is that although people think that they're
governed by the ethics of autonomy, even people within our culture, even highly educated people within our culture, even
people like you show moral judgments that are not quite as simple.
So, this is the work of Jonathan Haidt at University of Virginia. And Haidt finds if you ask people, they believe in our
culture that they hold to an ethics of autonomy. If it doesn't harm anyone, it's okay. So, if I was to ask you your attitudes
about sex, most of you--not all of you, you come from different cultures, you have different attitudes--but most of you would
say sex between consenting adults is okay as long as nobody gets hurt, as long as nobody gets hurt people's rights are
respected. So, gay marriage, for instance, or gay sex would be okay with you because it is--nobody is harmed and these are
consenting adults. Haidt points out that there are certain problems with this argument and he illustrates this problem--these
problems with stories like this:
Julie and Mark are brother and sister. They are traveling together in France on summer vacation from college. One
night they are staying alone in a cabin near the beach. They decide it would be interesting and fun if they tried making love.
At the very least, it would be a new experience for each of them. Julie was already taking birth control pills but Mark uses a
condom too just to be safe. They both enjoy making love but they decide not to do it again. They keep that night a special
secret which makes them feel even closer to each other. What do you think about that? Was it okay for them to make love?
Who says yes? Good. I know that some people would say yes, shoot up their hands, and they look around in
astonishment that no one else is with them. [laughter] Who says no? Okay. Who is not sure? You're not sure. That's the
weirdest of all. [laughter] Haidt finds that the distribution even among this--If you--Look. If you go home and you ask your
parents, they say, "Ew. What is--What are you learning at Yale?" [laughter] This is a very unusual culture and where some
people will say it's okay.
What Haidt finds is most people say it doesn't and then he simply asks them, being a good psychologist, "Okay.
What's wrong with it?" And this is the brother/sister case. And the responses are interesting. Because people view
themselves as committed to an ethics of autonomy, they can't just say it's disgusting. So, they exhibit what Haidt describes
as "moral dumbfounding," meaning that they struggle to find an explanation. They say it's terrible because they'll have a kid
and the kid'll grow up freaky [laughter] and then the experimenter--it's an interview situation--says, "Well, no. Remember
they're both using a lot of birth control." "Maybe she's under age." "No, not under age." And finally, "Well, it's just wrong."
Similarly, another one of the scenarios--[laughter] This isn't as bad as you might expect. [laughter] The family dog is
playing outside and gets hit by a car. [laughter] They bring it in and they say, "Oh, Fido's dead, Fido's dead, but what's for
dinner?" So, they cook it and eat it. Who says it's okay? Good. [laughter] Who says it's not okay? Okay. Then they notice
that their toilet is kind of dirty. "But whoa, there is an American flag." [laughter] They then use the toilet to clean the flag. Who
says that's okay? [laughter] Anybody think it's not okay? And just keep in mind we're getting sort of even responses here. On
all of these, the majority of people who are not college students in elite universities say, "Oh, that's so wrong."
Finally, there is this one. And this one really is as bad as one might expect. [laughter] A guy is lonely so he
purchases a frozen chicken from the supermarket, brings it home and has relations with it. [laughter] Then he cooks it and
eats it. [laughter] Look. This is a scientific paper in the Psych Review. [laughter] Okay. Who says that's okay? [laughter]
Good. And I notice there is consistency among people. The people who think it's okay have every right to say that they
believe, if they really, sincerely believe it's okay, they are committed to an ethics of autonomy. Those of you who think it's not
okay, none of these, should ask yourself why and should then scrutinize your reasons. People are very smart and they could
present--easily present reasons why. They could say, "Oh, disease," but these reasons tend not to be sincere. If you take
away the considerations that the reaction stays. And these are then interesting case studies of how our moral judgment is
governed by factors that we might not be conscious of. Our moral intuitions can surprise us.
The motivation for Milgram's work, and this is the final thing we'll talk about in the context of morality--The
motivation for Milgram's work was the Holocaust and he was interested in exploring why such a thing could happen. I should
note by the way--you know from the movie that Milgram was a Yale professor. He left Yale when he didn't get tenure, moved
to Harvard, didn't get tenure there too. He was--He had a reputation by then as a mad doctor. He ended up at City University
of New York, became a full professor at age thirty three, died in his early '50s, did not lead a good life but had extraordinary
discoveries. Another discovery which we'll talk about next week is--Has anybody heard the phrase "six degrees of
separation?" Milgram, and we'll talk about that later. Milgram had a powerful imagination.
Okay. So we know--This is all review. There is the guy. How many of you laughed when you saw the movie [A
movie on Milgram's conformity studies called "Obedience"]? Interesting question why and we'll talk about that in a little while.
Shocks, "slight shock" to "XXX." There is--This is just repeating what you've seen. The learner protests as he's being
shocked more and more but the experimenter continues to request obedience. For those of you who haven't seen the movie,
again, the setup is someone is a subject. They don't know--They think that they're teaching somebody in a memory game but
actually the person who is being shocked is a confederate who is trained to react in certain ways as he's being increasingly


shocked. And the finding is that the majority of people will deliver fatal shocks to this person who they had never met based
on the instructions of another person.
Now, there are some immediate bad explanations for this. One explanation is these are really strange people.
"These are an abnormal group of psychopaths." But we know that's not true. It's been replicated with many subjects. There's
no reason to believe that the subjects in Milgram's original study were in any way unusual. It's also a misreading to say that
people are, in general, sadistic. You remember from the movie nobody got pleasure from giving the shocks. They felt acutely
uncomfortable, embarrassed, conflicted, under a huge amount of stress. They weren't liking doing this.
There were follow-up studies. This is the original study. If you take it away from Yale, some of the authority goes
away, and similarly, the extent to which there are fatal shocks goes down. As the teacher is with the learner next to him, it
goes down. If you have to put the guy's hand on it, you're less likely to kill him. If the experimenter gives you instructions by
phone, you're less likely to do it. If an ordinary man, not the guy in a white lab coat but an ordinary guy, says, "Hey, keep
shocking him, that's okay," you're less likely to do it, and if there is a rebellion, if somebody else rebels and says, "I won't do
it," you are much more likely not to do it yourself. There are some--Oh, sorry. Yeah, and if you could get to choose your own
shock level, you could keep--then very, very few people go all the way. So, these are an important list of factors as to the
factors that can make somebody less likely to bring it up to the killing level. And as a result we can look at those factors and
think about what is the perfect situation for making somebody do something like this and the perfect situation not to.
Some more serious critiques of Milgram: Milgram's experiment is why we have human-subjects committees. This is
a terribly stressful experiment to do to people and, as I say now about a lot of studies that I describe in this class, it would not
today be done. People did say they were happy to have participated and only 2% said that they were sorry, but still serious
damage could have been done and perhaps was done. These people left the lab having learnt about themselves that they'll
kill another person if someone tells them to, and as psychologists I don't think we have any right to do that to people. I think
people can learn this--these things about themselves. We have no right to put you in a circumstance where you believe you
killed somebody and then tell you it was just pretend--we just made you kill somebody. And that's a serious ethical criticism.
Historians and sociologists have brought in things back to the questions that Milgram was interested in and argue-and this is controversial--the extent to which obedience really is a good model for acts of genocide. So, just to take one
example among many, Goldhagen argued that the participants in Nazi Germany and in the Holocaust were actually not
people who were obediently following orders but rather were enthusiastic, people who volunteered to do it. Still Milgram's
work is interesting in many--for many reasons, in large part because he provides an illustration of the perfect situation for
getting somebody to do a terrible thing and the perfect situation has certain ingredients. It includes authority, in this case the
authority of Yale and the authority of science. "This is an experiment that must go on." The notion of a self-assured
experimenter--The results would be very different if the experimenter himself seemed nervous, unwilling to proceed,
confused, but he was confident and he kept saying that he will take responsibility. There was distance between the learner
and the experimenter. Recall you get less of an effect if you have to touch the guy but distance makes it easier for you to kill
him. And finally, there's a new situation and no model of how to behave. One of the reasons why the Milgram experiment is
so nice to know is that if this ever happens to you, not as an experiment but in real life, it will no longer be new to you. You'll
know what sort of thing this is and you'll be able to examine it in that light.
I want to end this lecture summing up, drawing a lot upon Milgram and some other work, and talk first about two
forces for evil and then to end by talking about two forces for good. The first force for evil is deindividuation of self. And what
this means is--one reason why people are so bad in groups is because you could diffuse your responsibility. If I'm running
through the street alone with a baseball bat smashing through windows, it's me and I know it's me. If I'm with twenty other
people, it's not me anymore. It's part of the group and I don't feel as bad. Responsibility becomes diffuse. One of the powers
of a group then is it diminishes responsibility.
You could diminish responsibility in other ways. Another way of diminishing responsibility is you could accept
orders. It's not me. I'm just an instrument of somebody else telling me what to do. And yet another way of diminishing
responsibility is anonymity. Here's a question. In so many violent acts and so many people go to war, what they do is they
paint their faces or they put on masks. Why? Well, there's anonymity from others. If I'm wearing a mask as I do my terrible
stuff, nobody will know it's me, but there's also a psychologically liberating effect. If I'm anonymous, it's not me and I could do
terrible things without feeling the same moral responsibility.
This analysis has explained why people don't always help others in need. If there's a group, responsibility to help
decreases and this is captured in different ways but the main idea is we all think someone else will help so we don't. There's
a diffusion. This [slide] just summarizes some studies--some famous studies supporting this. And the classic example, which
is discussed in detail in the textbook, is the Kitty Genovese case where somebody was murdered in the common lot that
apartment buildings surrounded while dozens of people watched, dozens of good, normal people watched and did nothing. If
there's some advice I've heard on this, which is pretty good advice: If you're ever in a predicament on a city street, you have
a heart attack, you broke your leg, you're being mugged and everything, and there's--this is based on the research,
screaming "Help" is often not very successful because if I'm with ten people and there's somebody screaming "Help," I look
at the other nine people. They're not doing anything. They're looking at me. I'm not doing anything. We keep walking. What is
useful is point to somebody and say, "You in the green sweater, call the police," and the psychological evidence is if you--if


somebody's--if I am wearing the green sweater and somebody asks me to call the police I will call the police. I'm a good guy.
I wouldn't sit aside when somebody's being harmed. On the other hand, if somebody says, "Somebody call the police," well, I
got things to do and so diffusion of responsibility explains both when we're willing to do terrible things and also when we're
willing to help people who are in trouble.
Denigration of others. There's a lot of ways to make other people matter less. So, this is the flip side. The way to do
terrible things--One way to do terrible things is to lose yourself so you're not an individual anymore but another way to do
terrible things is so that the person you're doing it to isn't an individual. How do you do that? Well, you have psychological
distance or physical distance. I'm more likely to kill you if you're very far away than if you're close. I don't--I could describe
you and start to think about you not as a person and language can be used for this. Instead of people you could use terms
like "cargo," instead of murder, extermination. Humor is very powerful in denigrating and demoting people. When you start
laughing at somebody you think of them as less of a person and we'll get to that a little bit more when we talk about laughter.
You could take away their names. One of the more interesting things in the United Nations Declaration of Human
Rights is a very interesting right. It says, "Every person has a right to a name." And you might think what a strange right but
there's a cleverness to it. When you take away somebody's name they matter less. People have names. People have
distinct, individual names that mark them as people and once you know somebody's name you are less likely to do bad
things to them. And another option which I'm interested in from the standpoint of my own research is you could see them as
Disgust is what Paul Rozin has called "the body and soul emotion." And we know certain things about disgust. It is a
human universal. It is a basic emotion with a characteristic facial expression. Remember Paul Ekman's work on the basic
emotions, the universals of emotional expression? Disgust is one of them and it is universally elicited by certain things like
this list. Wherever you go, feces, urine, blood, vomit, rotten flesh and most meat will be disgusting. Now, if that was all we
had to say about disgust, it wouldn't affect morality very much but we know that people can be seen as disgusting. And
Charles Darwin actually, who was an astute observer of human behavior, tells a nice story to illustrate this: how "a native
touched with his finger some cold preserved meat and plainly showed disgust at its softness whilst I felt utter disgust at my
food being touched by a naked savage though his hands did not appear dirty."
People can be disgusting and if people are seen as disgusting they matter less. The philosopher and legal scholar
Martha Nussbaum nicely summarizes this: "Thus, throughout history certain disgust properties have repeatedly and
monotonously been associated with Jews, women, homosexuals, untouchables, lower class people. All of those are
imagined as tainted by the dirt of the body." Any--I won't read this but this is a typical bit of Nazi propaganda. Any genocidal
movement that has left behind a written record has been shown to use the mechanism of disgust to dehumanize people and
make them easier to kill. I'll skip that.
I want to end though on a positive note. And the positive note are forces for good. So, forces for bad are to lose
yourself as an individual, lose yourself in a crowd, lose yourself because there is some authority using you as an instrument,
lose yourself because you're anonymous, plus treat others not as people, as numbers, as objects, as disgusting things, but
there are some forces for good. These include "contact" and "interdependence." What this often--What this can be viewed
as, as an extended version of selfish gene theory, which is that to the extent you're interconnected with other people you
care about them more for purely selfish reasons. Robert Wright presented this in a very blunt way, but I think his quote is
quite moving: "One of the many reasons I don't want to bomb the Japanese is that they built my minivan." And the idea is he
has economic codependence with these people. They're a different group. He might want to kill them under normal
circumstances but the interdependence gives rise to a moral connection.
Thomas Friedman proposed the "Golden Arches Theory of Human Conflict," which said that no two countries which
each have a McDonald's will ever go to war because McDonald's forces global interdependence. This was falsified in the
NATO bombing of, I think, Sarajevo but still his heart's in the right place, the idea that interconnection makes you more likely
to get along with other people.
More generally, there's what's been called "The Contact Hypothesis." So, interdependence is one thing but what's
maybe more interesting is that simple contact with other people. Particularly if you're of equal status, you have a common
goal, and you have social support makes you like people more. There are now dozens, probably hundreds, of studies that
show that people who would otherwise show animosity towards one another, like blacks and whites in the United States, like
each other more if they're brought together. And there's a lot of social psychology research as to the conditions in which you
have to bring them together. The Robber's Cave study talked about before is a nice example. It was not easy to bring them
together but when they had a common goal that brought them--that caused the interconnection and then the contact led to
moral feeling.
The military is a superb example. The military in the United States was a situation which brought together people
who wouldn't otherwise have any contact and they liked each other. There has been study after study showing that people in
the military who were otherwise, for instance, racists after working with people of different races liked them more because
you had all of the right ingredients. You had--They had--They worked together for a common goal, the military supported
bringing these people together, and they were brought together on an equal and fair footing.


There is, of course, a lot of debate about universities like Yale to the extent in which they promote interdependence-sorry, they promote positive contact between groups. And you could think of yourself as an exercise. If these are the
conditions for contact, to what extent are they met in the university setting between, say blacks and whites, people from the
American South versus people from the American North, people from other countries versus people from the United States?
And I know there's debate on campus about the extent to which there is segregation within the Yale community. And you
could ask yourself the--about the extent of that segregation and how that reflects--what role that should play with regard to
the Contact Hypothesis.
Finally, and this is the last thing I'll say: If you take another person's perspective, you'll care more about them. This
is the final force for good from a moral perspective. JFK, when making the plea for equal rights, didn't produce an abstract
philosophical argument but rather tried to invite his listeners who were white to engage in perspective taking.
If an American, because his skin is dark, cannot eat lunch in a restaurant open to the public--[and so on and so on and so
on], then who among us would be content to have the color of his skin changed and stand in his place? Who among us
would be content with the counsels of patience and delay?
Again, Nussbaum goes on and talks about how in Greek dramas--Greek dramas invited people to take the
perspectives of those who they would never imaginably be or even be in contact with and argue that this gave--led to an
empathetic expansion. I think one of the greatest circles for moral good is storytelling where you're invited to take the
perspective of another and see the world as they do.
Finally, there are direct ways. You can ask people--and this is a way which we talk to our children when we try to
get our children to expand their moral concern of compassion. We say, "Try to see it from their point of view. How would you
feel if--"Then there's indirect ways. You can, for instance, use the power of metaphor. There could be familiar things that you
are close to and you could bring in together new things as falling under the rubric of these familiar things. So, if I wanted to
cause you to feel moral concern for a fetus, I would do well to describe it as a pre-born child. If I wanted you to care about an
animal, I would do well to describe it as if it were human. If I wanted to think about all of you and get--and establish more of a
connection with you, I would not describe you as unrelated strangers. Rather, you are my brothers and my sisters. And of
course, any political movement that tries to bring us together--people together says--uses a family metaphor.
Finally, when Steven Spielberg tried to get us to entertain the notion that computers and robots are sentient moral
beings he did not show us one that looked like this [a faceless mechanical-looking robot]. He showed us one that looked like
that [a cute child actor].
Okay. The reading response for next week is a simple one. I know I've been giving difficult reading responses. This
is simple. You could write it up very short and that will be a passing grade if you just write it up very short. You could also
write it up a bit longer. Suppose the Milgram experiment had never been done and it was being done for the first time here.
What would you do? What do you think everyone else would do? Okay. I'll see you next week.


Lecture 16
Professor Paul Bloom: This is going to begin a two-lecture sequence on social psychology on how we think about
ourselves, how we think about other people, how we think about other groups of people. We've talked a lot about the
capacities of the human mind and some of these capacities involve adapting and dealing with the material world. So, we
have to choose foods, we have to navigate around the world, we have to recognize objects, we have to be able to
understand physical interactions. But probably the most interesting aspect of our evolved minds is our capacity to
understand and deal with other people.
We are intensely interested in how other people work. The story that was a dominant news story in 2005 was this.
And some of you--this--for those of you who aren't seeing the screen, is the separation of Jennifer Aniston and Brad Pitt. I
remember where I was when I first heard about this. [laughter] And it's an interesting sight. Just remember--stepping back.
As psychologists we have to question the natural. We have to take things that are commonsense and explore them. And one
thing which just happens is, we're fascinated by this stuff. We're fascinated by the lives of celebrities. We're fascinated by the
social lives of other people. And it's an interesting question to ask why. And this is one of the questions which I'm going to
deal with in the next couple of lectures but before I get to the theory of social psychology I want to talk about an individual
So, we devoted a lecture early on--of a couple of weeks ago, to individual differences across people in intelligence
and personality. I want to talk a little bit about an individual difference in our social natures and then I want people to do a
test that will explore where you stand on a continuum. That test is the piece of paper you have in front of you. Anybody who
doesn't have it please raise your hand and one of the teaching fellows will bring it to you. You don't know what to do yet with
it so don't worry. The test was developed actually by Malcolm Gladwell who is a science writer--in his wonderful book The
Tipping Point. And as he introduces the test, Gladwell recounts another experiment done by Stanley Milgram, of course
famous for his obedience work but he did a lot of interesting things.
And one classic study he did was he gave a package to 160 people randomly chosen in Omaha, Nebraska and he
asked these people to get the package somehow and this was many years ago before the internet, before e-mail to get
the package to a stockbroker who worked in Boston but lived in Sharon, Massachusetts. What he found was that most
people were able to do it. Nobody, of course, knew this man but they knew people who might know people who would know
this man. So, most people succeeded. Most people were able to get the packages to this man and it took at maximum six
degrees of separation, which is where the famous phrase comes about that we're all separated from another person by six
degrees of separation. This is not true in general. This was a very--a single experiment done within the United States, but the
idea is appealing, that people are connected to one another via chains of people.
But what Milgram found that was particularly interesting was that in about half of the cases these packages went
through two people. That is, if you plot the relationships between people--We can take each person in this room, find
everybody you know and who knows you and draw a line, but if we were to do this you wouldn't find an even mesh of wires.
Rather, you'd find that some people are clusters. Some people are what Gladwell calls "connectors." It's like air traffic. Air
traffic used to be everything flew to places local to it but now there's a system of hubs, Chicago O'Hare for instance or
Newark where planes fly through. Some people are hubs. Some people are the sort of people who know a lot of people.
Some people in this room might be hubs, and it is not impossible to find out.
The piece of paper you have here is 250 names chosen randomly from a Manhattan phone book. They capture a
range of ethnicities, different parts of the world, different national origins. Here's what I'd like you to do. And I'll give about five
minutes for this. Go through these names and circle how many people you know. Now, the rules of this are, to know
somebody you have to--they have to know you back. So, if it's a celebrity--Well, here--one of the names here is Johnson.
Now, I've heard of Magic Johnson but Magic Johnson has never heard of me, so I cannot circle it. On the other hand, our
department chair is Marcia Johnson. She has heard of me, so I could circle it. Go through and circle it. Circle all the people
you know who know you. Those are the people you're connected to. If you know more than one person with the same last
name, circle it twice. If you don't have this piece of paper and you want to participate, please raise your hand and one of the
teaching fellows will bring it to you. I'm going to talk a little bit more about this while people go through this.
The issue of connections between people is intellectually interesting for many reasons and might allow us to
develop some generalizations about how people interact. The game of Six Degrees of Separation has, of course, turned into
a famous movie trivia thing revolving around the actor Kevin Bacon, I think chosen just because it rhymes with "separation."
And the game of "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" is played by taking any actor and computing how many steps it would take to
get to Kevin Bacon. And some computer scientists have developed this. They've gone through each of the quarter million
actors and actresses on the international movie database and computed their "Bacon number." And the Bacon number is the
number of steps it takes for them to get to Kevin Bacon. So for instance, Ed Asner was in the movie Change of--;"JFK" with
Kevin Bacon. So, Ed Asner has a Bacon number of one. Elvis Presley was in the movie "Change of Habit" with Ed Asner and
that's his closest connection to Kevin Bacon. So, Elvis Presley has a Bacon number of two.
It turns out that if you look at the 2.5--sorry, the quarter million people on the movie database and compute their
Bacon number, the average Bacon number is 2.8. That's how many steps your average person is away from Kevin Bacon.
You could then, for any actor or actress, compute the most connected one. So, the most connected one would be the one for


whom the quarter million are, on average, the most connected to. And the answer of the most connected actor or actress is
reasonably surprising. Does anybody want to guess? I'll start you off with the wrong answer and this, by the way, can be
found on this web site. It's not John Wayne. John Wayne has been in many movies, 180 movies, in fact, over sixty years, but
he isn't well connected at all because mostly he was in westerns so we saw the same people over and over again. Meryl
Streep also isn't it because Meryl Streep has the misfortune of playing only in good movies. [laughter] So, she has no
connection with people like Adam Sandler and John-Claude Van Damme. [laughter] Guess. Any guesses?
Student: Christopher Walken
Student: Nicholas Cage
Professor Paul Bloom: Christopher Walken is a good one. We could look it up. I only know a few names here. Christopher
Walken is not a finalist. Nicolas Cage is an interesting case. Has Nicolas Cage been in good movies? I don't want to get--I'm
going to get more controversial than I want to.
Student: A guy who is one step above an extra. He's like a B-list actor at best.
Professor Paul Bloom: Pardon me? The most connected guy? The most connected guy, and I think this shows that you're
right, is Rod Steiger. He's the most connected actor in the history of acting because it isn't that he's been in more movies
than everybody else. Michael Caine has probably been in the most movies of any person on earth, but he's [Rod Steiger]
been in all sorts of movies. He was in "On the Waterfront," "In the Heat of the Night," and really bad movies like "Carpool."
He's been in dramas and crime serials, thrillers, westerns, horror movies, science fiction, musicals. Now, some people are
like Rod Steiger. So, some people in their day-to-day lives have many interactions and I think one of the things we know from
interacting with people is we can distinguish them from other people.
How many people have finished their things right now? Okay. I know one person in the department who is one of
the most connected people I know on earth. If I wanted--If I really had to talk to Rumsfeld, I'd go to this person and say, "Can
you get me in touch with Rumsfeld?" If I wanted to get somebody whacked, I'd ask this guy. [laughter] Then I know someone
else in the department and, as best I know, I'm the only person she knows. [laughter]
So, how many people scores below ten on this? How many between ten and twenty? Between twenty and thirty?
Thirty and forty? Between forty and fifty? Fifty and sixty? How many people scored above sixty? Anybody above sixty?
Gladwell has done this in a lot of places. The average is twenty-one among a college crowd. Some people score as high as
over 100. The older you are, the more--the higher you tend to score, maybe obviously, not--the longer you've been in the
country the higher you tend to score. Journalists tend to score reasonably high, academics not so high, and--but what
Gladwell points out is some people have the gift. Some people are more social than others and this connects in all sorts of
interesting ways.
The issue of connection has social factors and it's one answer that sociologists give for why it's good to go to Yale.
So, one answer is, well, because of the great intellectual benefits. Put that aside. Let's be more cynical here. Another answer
is that you develop powerful friends. And that's closer, but the interesting answer sociologists come to is it's not so much you
develop powerful friends; rather, you develop powerful acquaintances. Through Yale you know a lot of people and they don't
have to be close friends but they are acquaintances. And sociologists point out that for a lot of aspects of your life, like
getting a job, acquaintances matter, connections matter, and the connections you establish by going to a place like Yale hold
you in good stead for the rest of your life, above and beyond any intellectual qualities that this place may offer.
Here's what we're going to do for the next lecture and a half, two lectures. We're first going to talk about the self.
Then we're going to talk about the self and other; basically, differences between how we think of ourselves and how we think
about other people. Then we're going to talk exclusively about how we think about other people and then we'll talk about how
we think about groups like Harvard students or gay people or black people. I'll start with my favorite finding of all time and
this is about the self. And this is about the spotlight effect.
So, my mornings are often rushed because I have two kids. So, I get up and sometimes I don't set the alarm and I
get up late; I stagger out of bed; I wake the kids; I greet the servants; I get ready; [laughter] I make breakfast. I run out of the
house and then usually around 3 o'clock somebody points out, in one case a homeless man, that I have a big glob of
shaving cream in my ear or--because I neglected to actually look in the mirror while I shaved. Or I have once been to a party
and I found my shirt was misaligned, seriously misaligned, not one button but--Anyway, [laughter] so--and so I feel when this
happens I'm very immature. And I basically feel this is the end of the world, this is humiliating and everybody notices. And so
the question is, how many people notice when something happens? And the spotlight effect--Well, before talking about my
favorite experiment ever, there is an episode of "The Simpsons" that provides a beautiful illustration of the spotlight effect.
And then it has a beautiful illustration of psychological testing, so I'll give you them quickly one after the other. [clip playing]
So, Tom Gilovich, a social psychologist, was interested in the question of the spotlight effect, which is when we
wear a pink shirt to work, shaving cream in our ear or whatever, do we systematically overestimate how much other people
notice? He did a series of experiments. And in one experiment what he did was he got in the subjects standard Intro Psych
drill and said, "I want you to wear a T-shirt for the next day and I want it to have a picture on it," and he got them to wear Tshirts that had pictures on it that were the most embarrassing pictures that they could have on it. It turns out that if you ask
people what's the worst picture to have on the T-shirt that you are wearing, the number one answer is Hitler tied with Barry
Manilow. [laughter] The best pictures to have on your T-shirt are Martin Luther King Jr. and Jerry Seinfeld.


It turns out that people--And then he had them go about their day and asked them, "How many people noticed your
T-shirt?" And then the psychologists went around and they asked the people, "How many of you noticed this person's Tshirt?" And it turned out they got it wrong by a factor of about two. They thought, say, 100 noticed, but fifty people noticed.
And across study after study after study Gilovich and his colleagues have found support for the spotlight effect, which is that
you believe that people are noticing you all the time but they aren't. They're busy noticing themselves. And this is actually a
useful thing to know.
Gilovich got interested in this because he's interested in the psychology of regret. And it turns out that if you actually
ask dying people, or really old people basically, "What do you regret from your life?" they regret the things as a rule that they
didn't try. But when you asked them why they didn't try it the answers tended to be "I would look silly." And it turns out,
interesting to know, that people just don't care as much as other people think you are. You could take that as good news or
bad news but the spotlight is not on us as much as we think it is.
There's a second effect Gilovich discovers called "the transparency effect." And the transparency effect is quite
interesting. The transparency effect is that we believe that we're more transparent than we are. I need somebody up here
who thinks that he or she is a bad liar. Just--I just need you to say three sentences. I'll even tell you what it is ahead of time.
I'm going to ask you three questions: "Have you been in London? Do you have a younger sibling?" and "Do you like sushi?" I
want you to answer with one of those answers there. I want you to lie about one of them. The task will be for everybody else
to recognize and guess which one you're lying about. Do you want to go up? Yeah. And I will even write down which one you
should lie on. So, I want you to lie as to that number. Okay? Have you ever been in London?
Student: No, I have not been in London.
Professor Paul Bloom: Do you have a younger sibling?
Student: Yes, I have a younger sibling.
Professor Paul Bloom: Do you like sushi?
Student: No, I do not like sushi.
Professor Paul Bloom: Okay. Let's have a vote. She was lying about one of them. Who votes for one? Who votes for two?
Who votes for three? Pretty much of a tie between two and three. You could say which one you were lying.
Student: Three.
Professor Paul Bloom: The effect--there are two aspects of the effect. One aspect is people are actually quite good at lying.
It is a rare person who couldn't stand up there and everybody would figure out what they're lying about, but the transparency
effect is we don't feel that way. We often feel like things bleed out of us and so people will systematically overestimate the
extent to which other people notice their secrets. And this is actually, in general, why it's sometimes difficult to teach or to tell
stories because we constantly overestimate how much other people know. We think of ourselves as more transparent than
we are.
A second social psychological phenomena is you think you're terrific. If I asked people, "How well are you doing in
Intro Psych this semester?" and I asked you to give yourself a percentage rating relative to the rest of the class, then if
everybody was accurate, or at least not systematically biased, the number should add up to 50%. Roughly half of you are
doing better than average and roughly half of you are doing worse than average. It turns out though that people will
systematically and dramatically view themselves as better than average. They will view themselves as better than average
when asked how good they are as a student, as a teacher, as a lover, and particularly, as a driver. [laughter] Everybody who
drives thinks that he or she is a wonderful driver.
This has been called the "Lake Wobegon effect" based on Garrison Keillor's story about a place where all the
children are above average. And the Lake Wobegon effect in psychology involves a systematic bias to see ourselves as
better than average. What psychologists don't really know is why the Lake Wobegon effect exists, and there are a couple of
proposals. One is the nature of the feedback we get. So, for a lot of aspects of your life you only get feedback when you're
good, when you do something good. In a normal, productive, healthy, happy environment, people don't scream at you about
how bad you're doing but they compliment how good you are and that could lead to an inflated self-esteem on the part of
people in certain domains.
Another possibility is there's different criteria for goodness. For a driver, for instance, when I ask you to rank how
good you are as a driver, what people often do is they think--they say, "I'm better than average," but what they do is they
focus on one aspect of their driving. So, some of you might say, "Hey, I'm just a great parallel parker so I'm a great driver."
Others might say, "I'm very careful, great driver." Others might say, "I take chances no one else will--great driver," [laughter]
but above and beyond that there does seem to be a psychological effect manifested here and manifested elsewhere, which
is a motivation to feel good about yourself. You think you're important, which is why the spotlight effect exists. You think your
thoughts bleed out, which is why the transparency effect exists. But above and beyond that, in a normal, healthy mind you
think you're terrific.
And so, this shows up in all sorts of ways. It shows up as well in what's been called "the self-serving bias." Half of
you did above average on the Midterm; half of you did below average on the Midterm, but if I went up and asked each of you
why the answers would not be symmetrical. People who did well in the Midterm would describe it in terms of their capacities
or abilities. They'd say, "It's because I'm smart, hardworking, brilliant." People who did poorly would say, "The Midterm was


unfair. I was busy. I have better things to do with my time." Professors as well--When people get papers accepted it is
because the papers are brilliant. When they got them rejected it's because there's a conspiracy against them by jealous
editors and reviewers. There is this asymmetry all the time. The asymmetry has been found in athletes, in CEOs and in
accident reports. And again, this is sort of a positive enhancement technique. You think that you're terrific and because
you're terrific the good things that happen to you are due to your terrific-ness; the bad things are due to accident and
The final aspect of self that I want to talk about is the idea that what you do makes sense. And this is one of the
more interesting sub domains of social psychology. The idea was developed by the social psychologist Leon Festinger and
it's called "Cognitive Dissonance Theory." And what Festinger was interested in was the idea that what happens when
people experience an inconsistency in their heads. And he claimed it causes an unpleasant emotional state, what he
described as "dissonance." And he argued that we act so as to reduce dissonance. When there's a contradiction in our
heads we're not happy and will take steps to make the contradiction go away.
This all sounds very general but there are some striking demonstrations of this and how it could work in everyday
life. So, this very simple example is that--is the confirmation bias. Some of you are politically right wing. Some of you are
politically left wing. If I asked you what magazines you read, it turns out people who are right wing read right wing
magazines, people who are left wing read left wing magazines, because people don't as a rule enjoy getting information that
disconfirms what they believe in. They want to have information that confirms what they believe in and that supports it. If you
support Bush you're going to be looking for good news about Bush, if you don't support him you'll be looking for bad news.
And this manifests itself in all sorts of interesting ways. I'll tell you about a very simple experiment. I'll--It was done
by Louisa Egan here at Yale and it illustrates a point which is going to--which--and then I'll talk about real world implications
of this. Very simple. You have three M&Ms. You pretest to make sure that the person doesn't like any M&M more than the
other. And there are three M&Ms. Who cares? But then you ask them to choose between two of them. So, suppose they
choose the red one. You've got to choose one. So, they get to eat the red one. Now, they're offered--You take the red one
away and now they're offered a choice between the two remaining ones. It turns out, to a tremendous degree, and you could
imagine yourself in that situation, they choose this one, the one that wasn't the one they turned down. And the claim is that
when you choose this, in order to justify your decision, you denigrate the one you didn't choose. And so this one you didn't
choose is then tainted and you turn and then when compared to a third one you favor that third one. What's particularly
interesting is you get this effect easily with undergraduates but you also get it with four-year-olds and with monkeys. So, the
same denigration tends to be more general.
Well, that's a laboratory effect but there are some more interesting manifestations of cognitive dissonance. One is
the insufficient justification effect, which is so famous it had a cartoon based on it. The guys says, "Why should I hire you as
my consultant?" The dog--Some dog says, "I use my special--the special process of cognitive dissonance to improve
employee morale." "How does it work?" "Well, when people are in an absurd situation their minds rationalize it by inventing a
comfortable illusion." Not quite right. When people are--have an internal conflict, when there's something uncomfortable-Well, that's right. So says to this person, "Isn't it strange you have this dead-end job when you're twice as smart as your
boss? The hours are long, the pay is mediocre, nobody respects your contribution, yet you freely choose to work here. It's
absurd. No. Wait. There must be a reason. I must work here because I love this work, I love this job." [laughter]
This actually works. Here is the classic experiment by Festinger. Gave two groups of people a really boring task,
paid one of them twenty dollars, which back when this study was done was real money, gave another group of subjects one
dollar, which was insultingly small, then asked them later, "What do you think of the task?" It turns out that the group that
had--were paid a dollar rated the task as much more fun than the group given twenty dollars. So, think about that for a
moment. You might have predicted it the other way around, the twenty dollars, "wow, well, twenty dollars, I must have
enjoyed it because I got twenty dollars," but in fact, the logic here is the people with twenty dollars when asked, "What do
you think of the task?" could say, "It was boring. I did it for twenty dollars." The people paid one dollar were like the character
in the Dilbert cartoon. When paid a dollar they said, "Well, I don't want to be a donkey. I don't want to be some guy who does
this boring thing for a dollar. It wasn't that bad really, it was kind of interesting, I learnt a lot," to justify what they did.
This has a lot of real world implications. Festinger did a wonderful study with people--a group of people, and he
wrote this up in a book called When Prophesy Fails, who were convinced that the world was going to end so they went on a
mountain and they waited for the world to end. They had a certain time and date when the world was going to end. He hung
out with them and then the time passed and the world didn't end. What people then said, and this is what he was interested
in--;So, people's predictions were totally proven wrong and they left their families, they gave away their houses, they gave
away all their possessions, they lost all their money, but what Festinger found was they didn't say, "God, I'm such a moron."
Rather, they said, "This is fantastic. This is exactly--This shows that us going to the mountain has delayed the ending of the
world and this shows that we're doing exactly the right things. I couldn't have been smarter." And in general, when people
devote a lot of energy or money or expense to something, they are extraordinarily resistant to having it proven wrong.
Now, people have manipulated cognitive dissonance in all sorts of ways and, for instance, hazing. Hazing is
cognitive dissonance at work. Fraternities and med schools and other organizations haze people. What they do is when
people enter the group they humiliate them, they cause them pain, they cause them various forms of torture and


unpleasantness. Why? Well, because it's very successful at getting somebody to like the group. If I join a fraternity--it is also
by the way illegal so but if I were to join a fraternity and they say, "Welcome to the fraternity, Dr. Bloom. Here. Have a
mint," and then we have a good time and everything. I'm thinking "okay, sounds like a fun idea." But if I join a fraternity and
they pour cow poop on my head and make me stand in the rain for a month wearing pantyhose while they throw rocks at me
[laughter] I then think--after it I think "God, I went through a lot of stuff to get into this fraternity. It must be really good." And in
fact, hazing through cognitive dissonance draws the inference that this is really, really valuable and this is why it exists.
If you are a political--If you are running for office, you will tend to have volunteers and not necessarily pay people.
One reason for this is obvious; it's cheaper not to pay people, but the other reason is more interesting. If you don't pay
people, they are more committed to the cause. Again, it's cognitive dissonance. If you pay me ten thousand dollars a month
to work for you, I'll work for you and I'll think "I'm doing it for ten thousand dollars a month, that makes a lot of sense," but if I
do it for nothing then I have to ask myself, "Why am I doing it?" And I will conclude I must think very highly of you.
Therapy for free tends to be useless therapy. This is one-- [laughs] Therapists ask for money for all sorts of
reasons, including they like money. But one reason why they ask for money is if you don't pay for therapy you don't think it
has any value. You have to give up something. So, cognitive dissonance will lead you then to think that what you are giving it
up for has some value and then you establish a liking for it.
Finally, cognitive dissonance shows up with children. One of the most robust and replicated findings in education or
developmental psychology is very simple. You take two groups of kids and you ask them to do something like draw pictures.
Half of the kids you reward. Maybe you give them a sticker or a toy. The other half you don't reward. Now, according to sort
of a simple-minded view of operant conditioning in behaviorist psychology, the children you reward should do it more. That's
how operative conditioning works. In fact though, the children who you reward later on think that this activity has less value
and they are less likely to do it when there's no reward present. And the idea, again, is the kids who don't get rewarded say
to themselves, "Well, I just spent time doing it, it must have an intrinsic value," while the children who get rewarded say, "I did
it for the sticker. I did it for the toy. I don't care much for this." And so, rewarding children has a danger, which is if you give
them too much reward and too much a value for what they're doing they will denigrate the activity.
Now, we need to be careful here about what's going on. It's not simple inconsistency. So, go back to this insufficient
justification effect. So, the dollar group rated a task as more fun than the twenty dollar group. And it's true; each group
needed a justification for lying about the task. Each group needed a justification for saying how interesting the task was, but
they each had a justification. They were each doing it for money after all. So, cognitive dissonance is a little bit more subtle.
It's not just that there's a clash. Rather, we adjust our beliefs to make ourselves look more moral and rational than we are.
Go back to hazing. There's a perfectly good reason why I let them do all those things to me. I'm the sort of person who will let
people do those things to me. The problem is that's not an answer I could live with. So, cognitive dissonance motivates me to
create an answer that's more comfortable for me, an answer such as "This must be a really wonderful group with a wonderful
bunch of people." And in other words, we are biased to believe that we are terrific.
So, to sum up, there are three main findings about you that come out in social psychology. One is you believe
everybody notices you even when they don't. You're the hero of your story. The second one is, you're terrific, you are better
than average in every possible way, each one of you. And finally, what you do makes sense. If it doesn't make sense, you'll-If it doesn't make sense or, more to the point, if it's something that you do that's foolish or makes you look manipulative or
cheap, you'll distort it in your head so that it does make sense.
I want to move now to how we think about self and other, how we think about ourselves relative to how we think
about other people. And this brings us to the notion of attribution. So, an attribution is a claim about the cause of somebody's
behavior and Heider--;Now, there's all sorts of reasons for somebody's behavior. Suppose you insult me or suppose you're
very kind to me. I could say you're a kind person or you're a rude person. I could say "this must be a great day for you" or
"you must be a lot of--under a lot of stress or you must want something." There's different sorts of attributions we could make
to people but Heider's insight is we tend to attribute other people's actions to their personality characteristics, to longstanding aspects of what they are. And this is known as a person bias. And more generally, people tend to give too much
weight to the person and not enough weight to the situation. This is also sometimes known as the fundamental attribution
error. The fundamental attribution error, which is one of the core ideas in psychology, is that we tend to over-attribute things
to a person's personality or desires or nature and not enough to the situation or the context.
There's a lot of demonstrations of this. A lot of the demonstrations have to do with intelligence so, for example,
there's actually been studies showing that people tend to overestimate the intelligence of professors. Why? Because I stand
up here and I talk about the one or more than one thing I know about and so it's easy to infer that I must know a lot but in fact
by the time this semester ends I will have tell you--told you everything I know. [laughter] And if you stood up and started
talking about everything you knew you'd look really smart too.
The best study to show this is a quiz show study, which is you take two people and you flip a coin. And one of them
is the quiz master and the quiz master gets to ask questions, any question he or she wants. And the other person has to
answer the questions. And if they play seriously, the quiz master's going to destroy the other person. "What was my dog's
name?" [laughter] "Well, I don't know." "What's the capital of the city in which I was born?" "Well, I don't know." And then
you'd expect a third person watching this to say, "Who cares? It's just--They're just doing this because of the coin they


flipped." But in fact, when the person watching this has to assess their intelligence they give the quiz asker a higher
intelligence rating than the other person. After all, "He seemed to know a lot of answers. The other person didn't get much
We tend to fail to discount the situation. If you were giving a job talk--and this is for people in graduate school
particularly--If you were giving a job talk and the slide projector breaks, you're screwed. Nobody is going to say to
themselves, "Oh, well, it's not such a good talk because the slide projector broke." They'll say, "It's not such a good talk
because of the person." Somebody could give a talk and we could throw smarties at them the whole time and then you
could--then the other people would say, "The person looked kind of upset during the whole talk. [laughter] I wonder--They
seemed like a nervous type." [laughter]
This can be taken to extremes and the biggest extreme is the case of actors, which is if there's ever a case-Anybody know who this is, the actor? [laughter] Have none of you been alive in 1950? [laughter] This is Robert Young. Does
anybody know the part he plays? He played an--He played a doctor called Marcus Welby in this famous show "Marcus
Welby, M.D.," and Marcus Welby was a wonderful doctor. He was compassionate and kind, he made house calls, he saved
lives, he counseled people, and it turned out that Robert Young was then deluged with mail, thousands of pieces of mail, by
people asking for his advice on health matters. [laughter] And he then, in a twist, exploited the fundamental attribution error-people confusing the actor for the role--exploited this by going on TV and espousing the benefits of Sanka decaffeinated
coffee where he produced the famous line "I am not a doctor but I play one on TV," [laughter] whereupon people heard this
and said, "Well, he must have some authority then about medical matters." [laughter]
It turns out that the confusion between actors and their roles is extremely common. Many people, for instance, view
Sylvester Stallone as either an actual hero during the Vietnam War or sort of a hero during the Vietnam War given all his
Rambo stuff but in fact, of course, he played--he was in a Swiss boarding school teaching girls age twelve through fifteen
during the Vietnam War. But it doesn't seem that way because the role infects how we think about the person. When this
movie came out twenty years ago they needed a character to play a gay man. According to IMDb, [The International Movie
Database] where I get all my information, they hit up all the big stars, Harrison Ford, Michael Douglas, and Richard Gere,
and they all turned it down because they didn't want to play a gay man because people would think that they were gay.
Finally, they got Harry Hamlin to do it, who was kind of a B-list sort of guy.
The biggest extreme of the fundamental attribution error, confusing the actor for his role, is Leonard Nimoy who,
because he played the emotionless Vulcan, Spock, on Star Trek, was then repeatedly viewed by people who saw him on the
street as if he was an actual Vulcan. [laughter] He got sufficiently upset about this to write a book called I Am Not
Spock where he described all the ways in which he was not a Vulcan. [laughter] His career, where he attempted many times
to play roles that were different from his Vulcan nature, stalled until finally many years later he gave up and wrote another
book called I Am Spock [laughter] where he finally conceded to the fundamental attribution error. [laughter]
If I gave this lecture ten years ago, I would say that the fundamental attribution error is a human universal,
something that we're born with, a fundamental aspect of human nature. This is not entirely true though and we know that
through some very interesting cross-cultural research that compares these biases across different countries, in this study
between the United States and India. And it turns out that for whatever reason, and it would take another course to talk about
the different explanations, but people start off at, say, age eight not committing the fundamental attribution error but in
Western cultures, where there's an ideology perhaps that people are in charge of their own destiny, the error occurs and
people over-attribute the role to the person.
In some Eastern cultures there's more of a view about faith and more attributions to situation. And this has been
shown in many ways. For instance, if you look at newspaper reports about murders, in cultures like the United States the
report tends to emphasize the personal characteristics of the person accused of the murder. In countries like India, the
reports tend to emphasize, to a greater degree, the situation that the person found himself in that might have driven him to
commit a murder. So, this is an important reminder that just because we find something in our culture and just because it
might well be pervasive doesn't mean necessarily that it's universal.
So, to summarize so far, and we're going to look at this a little bit more for the rest of this lecture, we've talked about
two morals in social psychology. One is enhancement of the self but the other is what you can call "oversimplification of the
other." So, we know ourselves that our behavior is due to a complicated cluster of the situation and our personal natures.
When things go badly, in fact, we'll blame the situation. When things go well, the self-serving attribution bias, we'll credit
ourselves. We don't do this for other people. For other people we're a lot less forgiving. You do something stupid, that's-you're a stupid person. I do something stupid, it's an off day. And so, you have this difference between how we think about
ourselves and how we think about other people.
Let's talk a little bit about what we think about other people and start by talking about why we like other people. And
here I'm going to some extent to go over material that was raised earlier in the course in Peter Salovey's wonderful lecture.
So, some of this, our liking of other people, is obvious and we talked about it in Dean Salovey's lecture, we talked about it
when we talked about sexual attractiveness. We like people who are honest, who are kind, who are smart, who are funny,
but study after study finds more fundamental processes are also at work and here is a list of three of them.


One is proximity. We tend to like people who we're close to physically, who we are physically and spatially close to,
who we spend a lot of time with. In one study they looked at a housing project in Manhattan and they asked people where
their best friend was and 90% of them said, "My best friend is in the same building as me," and 50% of them says the same
floor. Ask yourself who is your best friend at Yale. For how many of you is it somebody in your same college? Okay. How
many in a different college? So, call it a tie but then there's a lot more colleges that aren't yours than the one--How many of
you would you--say your best friend is somebody your--currently on your same floor? Yeah. If you were going to marry
somebody from this class, it is the person you are sitting next to? [laughter]
Now, in some sense this is an--a rather trivial finding. Of course you're going to get more involved in people you
encounter frequently. How else is it going to work? But it's actually more than that. The more you see something the more
you like it and this is sometimes known as "the mere exposure effect." The mere exposure effect is simply seeing something
makes it likable perhaps because it becomes comfortable and safe. In one study by James Cutting, Cutting taught an
Introduction to Psychology course and before each lecture he'd flash pictures on the screen. He'd have a screen saver
showing pictures on the screen, paintings, and didn't say anything about them. People would sit down, look at them while
they prepared their notes. At the end of the semester he then asked people to rate different pictures as to how much they
liked them, and even though people had no memory of seeing one or--versus the other they tend to like the pictures more
that they had seen before. They were somehow familiar and somehow more likable.
If I showed you a picture of yourself versus a mirror image of yourself and asked which one you'd like more, the
answer is very strong. You'd like your mirror image more because the mirror image is what you tend to see from day to day.
If I showed your best friend a picture of you versus a mirror image picture of you, your best friend would say he or she likes
the picture more because that corresponds to what he or she sees each day. Familiarity is itself a desire for liking, a force for
Similarity--we like people who are similar to us. Friends tend to be highly similar to one another. So do husbands
and wives. Now, to some extent, similarity is hard to pull apart from proximity. So, the fact that you are similar to your friends
at Yale might just be because you are close to your friends at Yale and people who are at Yale tend to be fairly similar to one
another. But there's a lot of evidence that similarity, above and beyond proximity, has an effect on attractiveness and on
liking. Similarity predicts the success of a marriage and through a phenomena people aren't exactly sure about, couples
become more and more similar over the course of a relationship.
Finally, people like good-looking people. People like attractive people. Physically attractive people are thought to be
smarter, more competent, more social and nicer. Now, some of you who are very cynical and/or very good looking might
wonder "yes, but good-looking people like me actually are smarter, more competent, more social and morally better." This is
not a crazy response. It is--it could be, for instance, that the advantages of being good looking make your life run a lot easier.
Teachers are more responsive to you, people treat you better, you have more opportunities to make your way through the
world, you make more money, you have more access to things, and that could, in turn, cause you to improve your life. This
would be what's known in the Bible as a "Matthew effect." A Matthew effect is a developmental psychology phrase for the
sort of thing where, well, as Jesus said, "For unto everyone that hath shall be given and he shall have abundance." That
means if you're good looking you'll also be smart but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. It's
a long version of the rich get richer and the poor even lose what they hath. So, there's a variety of studies suggesting that
teachers rate attractive children as smarter and higher achieving. Adults think that when an ugly kid misbehaves it's because
they have an ugly soul [laughter] while the attractive kid, "oh, that little scamp, somebody must have been bothering him."
When I was in the University of Arizona and we lived next--and all I remember of my neighborhood is we lived next
to this little boy and his name was Adonis. [laughter] Cute kid, but come on. [laughter] Also in mock trials judges give longer
prison sentences to ugly people. [laughter] That's the Matthew effect, those who hath little get even that taken away and
thrown into prison.
There is a recent study, which I'll tell you about but I am not comfortable with it as an experiment. The study
observed people in a shopping--in a parking lot of a supermarket and found that parents were a lot rougher to the kids if their
kids are ugly than if their kids are good looking. And they attribute it to the fact that, for all sorts of reasons, the ugly kid just
matters less to the parent. I was watching a poker game once on TV and somebody who lost said, and I quote, "They beat
me like an ugly stepchild" [laughter] and the fate of the ugly stepchild is, in fact, not a very good fate but this is not a good
study. For one thing, and I don't know how to phrase this in a politically correct way, but the parents of ugly kids are likely to
themselves be ugly people [laughter] and maybe what they're finding is just ugly people are more violent than good-looking
people. [laughter] This is an excellent time to stop the lecture [laughter] so I'm going to stop the lecture and we're going to
continue social psychology on Wednesday.


Lecture 17
Professor Paul Bloom: Just to review, here's where we left off. The discussion from last lecture and for about half of this
lecture is going to be social psychology. And so, we started off by talking about certain fundamental biases in how we see
ourselves. We then turned to talk about a bias and how we see other people, the fundamental attribution error. And now
we're talking a little bit about some aspects of how we see other people. So, we quickly talked about certain aspects of why
we like other people including proximity, similarity, and attractiveness, and where we left off was a discussion of the Matthew
effect, which is basically that good things tend to compound. If you're rich you'll get a better education, if you're smart people
will like you more, if you're attractive and so on. Nobody bring up their papers at this point. They'll collect them at the end of
class. What I want to talk to-- [laughter] Okay, except for you. Just hand me it now. [laughter] I'm going to ask the teaching
fellows to stop anybody from approaching that area.
I want to begin by talking about [laughter] impression formation, how we form impressions of others, and tell you a
couple of interesting things about impression formation. The first one is, first impressions matter a lot. They matter a lot for
different reasons. They might matter a lot because humans have, in general, a confirmation bias such that once you believe
something other information is then encoded along the likes to support what you believe. So, the classic study here was
done by Kelley where a guest speaker comes in and some of the students received a bio describing the speaker as very
warm, the other as--do not bring your paper up if you're coming in late. Just--at the end of class, yeah. [laughter] Others got
a bio saying--thanks, Erik--the speaker was rather cold and then it turned out later on [laughter] when they're asked for their
impressions of the speaker people are very much biased by what they first assumed. If I'm described to you as a vivacious
and creative person and you see me and I'm all kind of bouncing around and everything, you could then confirm this as,
"Look how vivacious and creative he is." If I'm described as somebody who drinks too much, you might think he's an
alcoholic. If he's described as somebody who's insecure and nervous, you could interpret my activity as nervous twitches.
Your first impression sets a framework from which you interpret everything else.
This was the theme of an excellent movie called Being There starring Peter Sellers. And the running joke of the
movie "Being There" was that the main character, the character Chauncey Gardner, somehow through accident had the
reputation for being a genius but while, in reality, he was actually mildly retarded. But he would go around and people would
ask him his opinions on politics and he would say things like "Well, I like being in the garden." And because of his reputation
as a genius people said, "Wow. That's very profound. I wonder what he means." And--or people would talk to him and he'd
just stare at them and say--and people would say--would be intimidated by his bold and impetuous stare when actually he
just totally didn't know anything. So, first impressions can shape subsequent impressions not just when dealing with people.
A little while ago there was a sniper, actually a pair of snipers killing people in Washington and the one thing everybody knew
about it was there was a white van involved. It turned out there was no white van at all but in the first incident somebody saw
a white van, this was reported in all the newspapers, then every other incident people started seeing the white van. So, they
started looking for them and they started to attending--attend to them. So, first impressions matter hugely when dealing with
people because it sets the stage for how we interpret everything else.
A second finding building on the first is that we form impressions very fast, very quickly, and this is a literature
known as "thin slices." The idea is you don't have to see much of a person to get an impression of what they are. The first
studies done on this were actually done on teachers, on university professors. So, university professors have teaching
evaluations and you could use this as a rough and ready approximation of what students think of them. So, what you do then
is--the question that these people were interested in, Rosenthal and Ambady, two social psychologists, were how long do
you have to look at a professor to guess how popular a teacher he is? So, they showed these clips for a full class. Do you
have to see them for a full class? Do you have to see them for two classes? Do you have to see them for a half hour? How
long do you have to be around a person to see him, to estimate how good a lecturer that person is? And the answer is five
seconds. So, after clips of five seconds people are pretty good at predicting what sort of evaluations that person will have.
Remember "The Big Five," how we evaluate people on "The Big Five?" Well, you have a roommate and your
roommate you could evaluate on "The Big Five." You've had a lot of experience with him or her. How much time do you need
to evaluate somebody on the five dimensions of personality? The answer is, again, not much time at all. After very brief
exposures to people, people are very accurate at identifying them on "The Big Five." One of the more surprising findings is-concerns sexual orientation or "gaydar." That's not a scientific term [laughter] but the same psychologists were interested in
studying how quickly you can--if at all how long does it take to figure out somebody's sexual orientation?
Now, what they did was--they were clever psychologists so they set it up in a study where the people did not know
sexual orientation was at issue. So, for instance, they may be people like you who filled in a form, one question along a very
long form was your sexual orientation, and then you're sitting down being interviewed by somebody and your interview is
being filmed, and then other people are shown--who don't know you are shown the film. And the finding is that people based
on thin slices are quite good at detecting sexual orientation. Everybody's good at it, gay people are better at it than straight
people, and, again, you don't need much time. You just need about a second. You see somebody for about a second, you
could make a guess. You're far from always right. In fact, you're just a bit better than chance but you are better than chance
at telling sexual orientation. So, these two facts taken together, thin slices and the power of first impressions, means that just
by a brief exposure to somebody it shapes so much of how you're going to think about them in the future.


Now, we can look at this from the other direction. We're talking about the perceptions of other people, how we
perceive other people, but social psychologists are also interested in the question of what happens to other people as a
result of being perceived in a certain way. So, one question is, "What would cause me to perceive somebody as intelligent or
stupid, gay or straight, anxious or level-headed?" A second question is, "What are the effects of being judged that way?" And
psychologists have coined a term, talk about self-fulfilling prophesies, and the claim here more specifically is what's known
as "the Pygmalion effect." And the Pygmalion effect is if I believe you have a certain characteristic this might cause you to
behave as if you have that characteristic.
The name comes from the play by George Bernard Shaw Pygmalion, and the quote here is "The difference
between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves but how she's treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor
Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will," made into a better known movie, My Fair Lady. But I
think that the same theme is better exemplified in a far better movie, La Femme Nikita, where a cold-blooded killer is treated
with respect and affection and then she becomes a much more warm and accessible person, and then she kills a lot of
people but that--[laughter] but still it illustrates the point.
And this point has tons of empirical validity. The classic experiment was by Rosenthal and Jackson where they told
teachers that some of their kids were really smart and other kids were less--were not really smart, they weren't expected to
show a huge jump or spurt in their IQ, and this was of course trickery. The children were chosen at random but the children
who were described as showing--as expected to show a jump in IQ, in fact, did show a jump in their IQ scores and this isn't
magic. It's basically--if I am told that you're a genius and your genius is about to be in full-flower throughout this class and it's
a small class as these classes were, I'll focus more on you, I'll give you more of my attention. If I'm told "not so much for
you," you'll suffer relative to him. And so the Pygmalion effect shows how our expectations can really matter.
This brings us to the final--the issue of expectations and how we judge people is a story that could be told about
individuals but it's also a story that could be told about groups. And this is where I want to end this section on social
psychology by talking about groups. A lot of social psychology is concerned with the question of how we think about human
groups and we've already discussed this in the lecture on morality when we talked about the human dynamic pushing us to
think in terms of "us" versus "them" as shown in the Robber's Cave study and also shown in the minimal group research by
Tajfel showing that from a motivational, emotional standpoint it's not difficult for us to think in terms of "my group" versus
"your group." And this way of thinking has real consequences for our emotional life, our affective life, and how we choose to
distribute resources. What I want to talk about here though is a different aspect of how we think about human groups. I want
to talk a little bit about stereotypes.
Now, "stereotypes" in English often just is a bad word. To have a stereotype is to be--is to have something wrong
with you. You might say it's not good to have stereotypes. Psychologists tend to use the term in a broader sense. We tend to
use the term to refer to information we have about categories and intuitions we have about the typicality, our frequency of
certain features of categories. And it turns out that collecting information about categories is essential to our survival. We see
novel things all the time and if we were not capable of learning and making guesses, educated guesses, about these novel
things we would not be able to survive. So, when you see this object over here you categorize it as a chair and you recognize
that you could probably sit on it. This apple is probably edible, this dog probably barks and has a tail and eat me--eats me
and doesn't speak English. These are all stereotypes about chairs and about apples and about dogs. It doesn't mean they're
logically true. This could be a vegetarian dog, a poison apple, an explosive chair, but [laughter] they're typically true. And if
you were suddenly stripped of your ability to make generalizations, you'd be at a loss. You wouldn't know what to eat, how to
interact. So, some sort of ability to record information and make generalizations is absolutely essential to making it through
What's interesting though is we also categorize types of people. So, we have stereotypes in our heads about men
and women, about children, adolescents or adults, whites, blacks, Asians and so on. Now, this is not essentially a bad thing
for a couple of reasons. First, some of these stereotypes are positive. You might have positive stereotypes about certain
groups. You might believe some groups are unusually creative or intelligent. You might have a particularly positive
stereotype about your own group even if your own group is Yale students or your own group is people from France or your
own group is people from such and so college. You might have positive stereotypes. More importantly, we collect
stereotypes about groups of people through much the same way we collect stereotypes about categories like chairs and
apples and dogs. And so they're pretty often accurate.
When there are studies which ask people who is more likely to be a lawyer, someone who's Jewish or someone
who is Hispanic, who is likely to be taller, somebody from Japan or somebody from Sweden, people can answer these
things. They have their stereotypes that guide their answers, and the answers are not arbitrary or random. Their answers are
often correct and often possessing stereotypes lets us make reasonable and correct generalizations about the world.
That's the sort of good news about stereotypes but there's also bad news. One problem is that they're not always
accurate and there's a couple of factors that could lead them away from accuracy. One is what we talked about before
regarding first impressions, which is a confirmation bias. If you believe that homosexuals are effeminate, that gay men are
effeminate, then this is going to shape how you see future gay men. If you see an effeminate gay man, you'll probably say,
"Ah, more evidence for my theory." If you see a man who is not effeminate, you might ignore it or say maybe he's not really


gay after all. If you believe black men are criminals, then when you see a black man who is a criminal you'll chalk it down as
support but you'll pay less attention to evidence that white men are criminals and some black men are not criminals. You
won't look at this as a scientist objectively scanning data. Rather, you'll be biased in certain ways. You'll be biased to put
extra weight on the cases that support your theory and diminish cases that refute it.
Furthermore, our data is not always reliable. So--oh, and this is actually an example of this at work. It turns out in
the world of classical music there's a stereotype of women being simply less proficient than men: they play smaller than men,
they don't have the same force and they have smaller techniques, they're more temperamental and so on. If you asked
somebody who was a judge, the judge would say, "Look. This is just the way things are. I'm not being biased at all." The test
of this then is to have blind auditions where people do their auditions behind a screen so you can't tell whether they're man
or a woman, or for that matter, white or black or Asian or whatever. It turns out when you do that women get hired far more
suggesting that the stereotype is A, incorrect and B, has a real negative and unfair effect on people getting hired.
A second problem is what I was talking about immediately before this is some of our data are misleading so we
get a lot of the information about the world from the media. The media would include television and movies but would also
include plays and books and stories. And to the extent these portray an unrealistic or unfair or biased perception of the world
we could construct stereotypes that are faithful to the data we're getting but the data is not representative. And so people, for
instance, object to the fact that when there's Italian Americans on TV they're often members of the Sopranos, a mobster
family. Throughout history Jews have been upset at the portrayal of Shylock in "Merchant of Venice," not a very nice guy.
And often in response people who want to foster more positive views will often try to--will often put in representatives from
other groups in unusual ways to make that point. Anybody here ever see the television showBattlestar Galactica? Okay.
Who's that? He's the star of "Battlestar Galactica." You don't know because you're too young. In the original "Battlestar"-[laughter] and I hate you. [laughter] In the original "Battlestar Galactica," this was the star. This was the main character
known as "Starbuck," who got transformed into a woman in the more recent one, a sort of example of how portrayals are
shifting in interesting ways.
There's also, of course, moral problems over stereotypes. So, it's fine to judge chairs and apples and dogs based
on the stereotypes. It's even fine to judge breeds of dogs. If I told you that I decided to buy a greyhound instead of a pit bull
because I wanted a dog of a gentle temperament, nobody would scream that I'm a dog racist [laughter] involving--and--but
honestly, it's a stereotype. Greyhounds are supposed to be more passive and gentle than pit bulls. I think it's a true
stereotype but it's a stereotype nonetheless. But we have no problems when it comes to things like breeds of dogs with
stereotypes. We have serious problems judging people this way. So, for instance, it's a moral principle that some of us would
hold to that even if stereotypes are correct it is still immoral to apply them in day to day life. The term for this would be
Now, it gets complicated because there are some cases where we do allow stereotypes to play a role. When you all
go and get driver's licenses or when you did get driver's licenses you have to pay higher auto insurance premiums than I do.
I think this is perfectly fair because young people like you get into a lot more accidents with your reefer and your alcohol
[laughter] and so it is--now, some of you are saying "that's a stereotype." And it is a stereotype but it's a statistically robust
one and nobody lines up to protest this. It's an acceptable stereotype to make a generalization from. On the other hand, what
if insurance companies determined that people from Asia got into more accidents than people from Europe? Would people
be equally comfortable charging people from Asia higher rates of insurance? Almost certainly not. So, the issues are
complicated as to what sort of generalizations we're--are reasonable to make and what aren't.
There's also a second problem. Stereotypes have all sorts of effects. Now, some of them are obvious effects. If
people--for instance, if people pull you over while you're driving because you're black, this could have a huge effect on how
you feel welcome in this society on race relations and so on. But some of the effects are more subtle and more interesting
and you might not expect this. And this is some work done by the psychologist Claude Steele and his colleagues at Stanford.
And the issue is called "stereotype threat." Imagine you have a math test and this is th