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Seriously, Read a Book!

Thoughts on books, often interpreted through the high-brow prism of cartoon (read: Archer) references. Wait! I had something for this...

Currently reading

The Sketchnote Handbook: The Illustrated Guide to Visual Notetaking
Mike Rohde
The Antidote
Oliver Burkeman
The Kind Worth Killing
Peter Swanson
Data Points: Visualization That Means Something
Nathan Yau
James Buchanan
Jean H. Baker, Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil - Paul Bloom

Before I go into a TL;DR-style review I'll give you my summary thoughts: interesting book if you're someone who is curious about developmental and/or moral psychology and experimental methods. I happen to be one of those people, but if reading the names of the grad students involved in qualitative methods studies is a big turn off for you, then you might want to skip this one.

I read this in tandem with Into That Darkness: An Examination of Conscience begins by examining some of the fundamental pieces that may or may not comprise "morality," empathy, compassion, disgust, a desire for "fairness" etc. What I found to be of particular interest were the mechanisms of justification for "bad behavior" that show up in early childhood development.

Such reflexive displays of guilt were replaced with explicit acts of moral self-justification as the children got older: the two-year-olds in the study attempted to “motivate the disobedience, for example, by claiming the toy as their own.

Bloom also examines mechanisms through which certain "natural" impulses toward acting morally are overriden:

Disgust is a powerful force for evil. If you want to exterminate or marginalize a group, this is the emotion to elicit (p.131).

He also examines the means through which religion can be used to include/exclude groups from our "moral circles":

When the moral circle contracts, perhaps because of war or some other external threat, people “tend to find a scriptural basis for intolerance or belligerence.” When it expands, “they’re more likely to find the tolerant and understanding side of their scriptures.” Believing that scripture itself causes these changes is like concluding that newspaper headlines cause plane crashes (p.205).

If you are not familiar with "trolley problems" then this book gives you a nice overview of their various versions and why human impulses can be seemingly illogical.

I fear this is more a "what I found interesting" list than it is a review, but, as I said, if these are the types of things you find to be of interest (particularly if you don't want to plod through the entirety of several studies summarized in this book), then definitely check it out.