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Join the International Conference on: How Might We Build a Culture of Empathy and Compassion?


Culture of Empathy Builder:  Paul Bloom

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 Paul Bloom

Paul Bloom is a Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Science at Yale University. His research explores how children and adults understand the physical and social world, with special focus on language, morality, religion, fiction, and art.


"I am interested in the development and nature of our common-sense understanding of ourselves and other people...  My students and I are becoming interested in certain fundamental questions within moral psychology."


Other Work by Paul Bloom



Against empathy | Robert Wright & Paul Bloom

00:11 Paul’s brand new book, Against Empathy
05:51 The damage empathy can do
13:01 The difference between empathy and compassion
25:18 Why our moral intuitions aren’t so moral
29:44 Are low empathy people more likely to hurt others?
43:52 Empathy as moral jet fuel
51:23 The costs and benefits of feeling other people’s pain


Paul Bloom on why VR empathy projects won’t save the world: Empathy is all too easy to exploit

"Can we save the world through empathy? For the past year, that idea has been a source of public debate as people try to figure out who deserves empathy, who doesn’t, and how to cultivate more of it to solve our problems.

Technology has been a key part of this conversation. Virtual reality proponents have long seen the potential of their work to do good, whether it’s using Oculus Rift to understand homelessness or trying to Kickstart an “empathy-increasing device to end avoidable violence.”

All of this is misguided, says Yale University psychology professor Paul Bloom, whose book Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion came out this week. First things first: Bloom is a fan of empathy. He thinks it’s an important and powerful experience. But using empathy alone to make decisions can cause real harm, and calling for “more empathy” in politics isn’t the solution to our problems."
by Angela Chen



Review: ‘Against Empathy,’ or the Right Way to Feel Someone’s Pain
DEC. 6, 2016
"Paul Bloom’s new book, “Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion,” is too highbrow to be a self-help or parenting manual, but parts of it could be. Its wingspan is too wide to be a simple guide to philanthropy, but parts of it could be that as well. And it’s a bit too clotted with caveats to be a seamless read, which is a shame, because it could have been, with more shaping.

Look past the book’s occasional loop-the-loops and intellectual fillips. “Against Empathy” is an invigorating, relevant and often very funny re-evaluation of empathy, one of our culture’s most ubiquitous sacred cows, which in Mr. Bloom’s view should be gently led to the abattoir."




Empathy, Schmempathy
By Tom Bartlett
NOVEMBER 27, 2016
Paul Bloom on why we should feel less

"No one argues in favor of empathy. That’s because no one needs to: Empathy is an unalloyed good, like sunshine or cake or free valet parking. Instead we bemoan lack of empathy and nod our heads at the notion that, if only we could feel the pain of our fellow man, then everything would be OK and humanity could, at long last, join hands together in song."



The Trouble With Empathy: Allyson Kirkpatrick interviews Paul Bloom
February 1, 2016

"My complaint is against empathy as a moral guide. But as a source of pleasure, it can’t be beat."



 Paul Bloom lectures "Against Empathy"
"His lecture at Holy Cross, held September 24, 2015, is one of the Deitchman Family Lectures on Religion and Modernity."



Paul Bloom: Against empathy - rethinking our common-sense beliefs about morality






 2015-06-06 - Imagining the Lives of Others  By PAUL BLOOM

What could be more exhilarating than experiencing the world through the perspective of another person? In “Remembrance of Things Past,” Marcel Proust’s narrator says that the only true voyage of discovery is not to visit other lands but “to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds.” This is one of the central projects of the humanities; it’s certainly part of the pleasure we get from art and literature



EMPATHY, IS IT ALL IT'S CRACKED UP TO BE? Paul Bloom 3 - The Aspen Institute (youtube)




Hillary has a point: In defense of empathy and justice
By John C. Gibbs and Martin L. Hoffman

"Yale psychologist Paul Bloom objected that we can’t actually do that (at least not as well as we think we can), especially when our neighbor is someone in a quite different situation or condition—say, a stressed-out single parent, a traumatically scarred war veteran, or an autistic child. Besides, declared Bloom, even if we could fully and accurately feel and see from another’s perspective, empathy is often too narrow and parochial to serve as a moral guide. Far less limited, Bloom asserts, is reason: specifically, the impartial principles and procedures of justice. We should “step back” from empathy and “apply an objective and fair morality,” a “dispassionate analysis” of distressing situations. Bloom has even declared that “empathy will have to yield to reason if humanity is to survive.” "






In "Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil" (Crown), the developmental psychologist and Yale professor takes on the nature of morality and vast research spanning evolutionary biology to philosophy, drawing on everyone from Sigmund Freud to Louis C.K.  By Leanne Italie

His conclusion? Babies have the capacity for empathy and compassion, possess a limited understanding of justice and have the ability to judge. Yet they navigate not along colour lines but as Us versus Them, usually landing squarely in the Us camp...

Bloom: I think we naturally have multiple moral systems, multiple responses. Some of our responses are created by disgust, some by empathy, some by a sense of justice, some by a sense of fairness, some by self-interest. We respond to kin, to our family members in different ways than we respond to strangers in all sorts of ways that don’t fall into any elegant philosophical theory. And I think this is true for babies, too.

Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil
Preface 1
1 The Moral Life of Babies 7
2 Empathy and Compassion 33
3 Fairness, Status, and
Punishment 59
4 Others 101
5 Bodies 131
6 Family Matters 159
7 How to Be Good 187
Acknowledgments 219
Notes 223
Index 265



Inquiring Minds: Paul Bloom - Babies and the Origins of Good and Evil

"On the show this week we talk to cognitive scientist Paul Bloom about the morality of babies. Most of us think of babies as selfish, impulsive, and for the most part out of control. We tend to think of their morality as shaped by experience—by society, by their parents, by early childhood events. But Bloom and his collaborators at Yale have some pretty compelling evidence that at least some parts of our moral compass are innate—that is that babies are born with the capacity to tell good from bad just as they are born with a capacity to develop motor or language skills."

Emotional contagion is empathy.

"If someone is suffering and your want to make it better, even if you don't know what it's like to be them, because you care about them, that emerges later. It's a more subtle story from a neurological standpoint and a developmental standpoint.  I think empathy is innate and compassion is innate, but compassion shows so much more develop over a lifespan...


A few things to nurture is reason and rationality. Ask yourself, what is the effect of this? Is this fair? If our positions were reversed would I be in favor of the same policy?

The second one is compassion. The Buddhists have it right, some attitude of loving kindness towards others. Not empathy, but valuing the fates of others is essential to morality...

Other things like self control, which I think play a huge role in our moral life. The difference between a psychopath and a non psychopath turns out to have very little to do with empathy.  Empathy scales don't predict bad behaviour very well at all. It has an enormous amount to do with self control. The scariest person to have walking next to you is not someone without empathy.  That person could have autism, and have low empathy. People with low empathy don't harm people as a rule. There's no relationship with lack of empathy and aggression. The worst person to have next to you who has a lot of aggression and has no self control...

Compassion Over Empathy?

"According to Bloom, in order to help people in need, we need to leave empathy at the door and bring compassion instead."




 The Psychology of Everything: What Compassion, Racism, and Sex tell us about Human Nature 

  • Compassion

  • Babies

    • morality - children

    • crying baby

  • 7:00  toddlers want to help

  • helping people close to us

  • Moral instincts - narrow close to us

  • 8:20 - response to strangers

    • fear

    • hatred

    • 10:00 disgust

  • In and Out group

  • People differ on disgust - relates to in-out groups

  • 13:00 connection in our minds with visceral feelings. put people in a stinky room, and they will have more of a disgust feeling towards out groups.

  • We have a natural compassion but it's limited in how it extends to others.

  • We can expand our circle of compassion - how?

    • Robert Wright - meet more people

    • self-interested altruism

    • persuasion - think of others as our friends

    • the one versus the mass

  • focus on the individual.  to raise compassion

  • 17:00 - Moral Progress

    • Slavery - with Uncle Toms cabin - people identify with..

    • David Hume - sense of empathy and compassion is central to moral

  • 18:40 Racisim



Are We Hard-Wired for Greed or Empathy?

  • psychology has had a running debate on if we're borne Tabla Rose or have innate qualities

  • relates to Morality

    • moral judgments of right and wrong

    • moral feelings of empathy and compassion

  • Are babies moral?

  • Data says babies have empathy

    • emotional contagion

    • pain distresses babies

    • babies share

    • will sooth - console

    • older children will try to help others