Listen: 182: The Joy of Suffering and the Downside of Empathy
"Dr Boom is the brooks and Suzanne Reagan professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. His research explores how children adults understand the physical and social world with special focus on morality religion fiction and art. He is past president of the Society for Philosophy and psychology and Co editor of behavior and brain behavioral and Brain Sciences. One of the major journals in the field Dr Booms also author editor of seven books including being against empathy the case for rational compassion. What a delight to talk to you today against got we've known each other for awhile since you're Yale? Al Days. Yeah a long time I attending your lab meetings was one of the highlights of my graduate school career so I remember it was great having you there. Nice Nice Nice to see you again. Thanks to see too. Well we're GONNA talk about some like your classics as well as some of your newer stuff but before we get there I wanted back up a bit. Because I don't think a lot of people may know about your graduate research which I thought was pretty revolutionary as well the work you did with Steven pinker and that sort of stuff would you ain't going back to your graduate school days and talking about your earliest research in this field. Sure I was an undergraduate at McGill and AH lucky enough to connect with John McNamara when he's chance moments where you can for professor who changes your life and John was very interested in language and my early work as an undergraduate was on language development and work learning and so I went to graduate school at Mit might adviser with Susan Carey and I did work on semantics and on conceptual structure My dissertation was called something like semantic structure in language development development and after being in graduate school for five years. I think I had one paper. That was coming up on that worth so things are very different than they are now. Random a lot of pressure now. Nobody nobody just out I would never it. If with the record I had back then I would never get a the job now and but I also did some work with Steven pinker and together. We wrote an article called theoretical article called natural language. Natural selection awesome where we argued That human languages biological adaptation. It's a Darwinian adaptation and you might think you know a lot of time has passed and the united that an incredibly boring argument to make you know chorus land which is complicated in structure and natural selection is the only game in town for for the origin origin complex structures but at the time it was extremely controversial. You know on one hand you had people like Noam Chomsky strong nativist at MIT. Where where I was a student? Ram Who are who are very critical. Natural Selection. Still still is another and you had a lot of people who would argue that. There's nothing special about language language. There's no such thing as collusion of language because languages to buy part of what you get when you're smart you could learn language so we publish this journal Behavioral Sciences which was a lot of fun. We've got dozens of of heated commentaries got to respond to them and and many years later this is now. I'm going to say did you. Did you ever think that you would then then being the editor of it. No no no I didn't I didn't I didn't it's. It's actually a very fun during edit I am I get to to encourage most people to submit material on ideas interesting ideas as you get to encourage submissions. I get to see a lot of stuff before it comes out because we're a theoretical radical journal. We don't have to wrestle with replication crisis and Statistics. Wars that arrested field is involved in. It's it's a real pleasure being alternate journal. I imagine I I imagine it's a it's a great journal in the sense that it's high quality articles but also this debate aspect of it is something you don't often see in other journal. It used to take a one-shot deal with articles and then and then people just talk about you behind your back still get talked about behind your back Republican. Yes you have twenty to thirty maybe a bit more people saying bad things but you face and you have to deal with it and you get a response yet to deal with that so you have to deal with it. But it's many people find it a very exciting experience for sure. Well I mean just historically that time period Chomsky there and Yun Steven pinker. I mean that's that's just a very in the history of psychology. I feel like that was a very historic time. Period and that debate about is language language module so to speak or data is it sort of gnomes more gnomes. I mean that's to this day. I don't think that that's debated today. I think it's pretty much accepted. Have loosening psychologists that there is an evolved function there. But is anyone still arguing like that. Well no evolutionary forces specifically on the structure of language. I think there's a lot of people who would argue that. Language is better explained the trumps of cultural evolution than biological limitation. I see the thing to keep in mind. Is You know. I feel the developmental psychology. Having isn't that route pretty paris-est impure assists in the sense that there's a lot of rejection and skepticism donate ideas. It's about hard wiring And and I I think deep down a."