What Do We Value Most?

Part 2 of the TED Radio Hour episode Our Buggy Brain

Why do we like an original painting better than a forgery? Psychologist Paul Bloom argues that human beings are essentialists — that our beliefs about the history of an object change how we experience it, not simply as an illusion, but as a deep feature of what pleasure (and pain) is.

Paul Bloom studies our common-sense understanding of the world — how we know what we know, why we like what we like.

TED/YouTube

Watch this Talk on TED.com

"People sometimes ask, how do you get more pleasure out of life? And my answer is extremely pedantic. It's study more." — Paul Bloom i i

"People sometimes ask, how do you get more pleasure out of life? And my answer is extremely pedantic. It's study more." — Paul Bloom James Duncan Davidson/TED hide caption

itoggle caption James Duncan Davidson/TED
"People sometimes ask, how do you get more pleasure out of life? And my answer is extremely pedantic. It's study more." — Paul Bloom

"People sometimes ask, how do you get more pleasure out of life? And my answer is extremely pedantic. It's study more." — Paul Bloom

James Duncan Davidson/TED

More From This Episode

About The Speaker

Paul Bloom's latest book is called How Pleasure Works — which is indicative of the kinds of questions he looks at, the big, basic ones: Why do we like some things and not others? How do we decide what's fair and unfair? And the million-dollar question: How much of our moral development, what we think of as our mature reasoning process, is actually hard-wired and present in us from birth? To answer this question, at his Mind and Development Lab at Yale, he and his students study how babies make moral decisions. (How do you present a moral quandary to a 1-year-old? Through simple, gamelike experiments that yield surprisingly adult-like results.)

He's a passionate teacher of undergraduates, and his popular Introduction to Psychology 110 class has been released to the world through the Open Yale Courses program. Many of the projects he works on are student-initiated, and all of them, he notes, are "strongly interdisciplinary, bringing in theory and research from areas such as cognitive, social, and developmental psychology, evolutionary theory, linguistics, theology and philosophy."

He says: "A growing body of evidence suggests that humans do have a rudimentary moral sense from the very start of life."

"People don't give enough credit to how important story is in giving us pleasure and in giving us meaning," says award-winning filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev. i i

"People don't give enough credit to how important story is in giving us pleasure and in giving us meaning," says award-winning filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev. Brian Nevins/Amir Bar-Lev hide caption

itoggle caption Brian Nevins/Amir Bar-Lev
"People don't give enough credit to how important story is in giving us pleasure and in giving us meaning," says award-winning filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev.

"People don't give enough credit to how important story is in giving us pleasure and in giving us meaning," says award-winning filmmaker Amir Bar-Lev.

Brian Nevins/Amir Bar-Lev

About Amir Bar-Lev

Amir Bar-Lev's directorial debut, Fighter, was released theatrically by First Run Features in fall 2001 and aired on IFC. The film was named one of the top documentaries of the year by Newsweek, Rolling Stone and The Village Voice. His second film, My Kid Could Paint That, was released internationally by Sony Pictures Classics in 2007, with broadcast on Starz, A&E and BBC. The Philadelphia Inquirer described it as "Fascinating ... a thought-provoking look at the world of abstract art, the relationship between a reporter and his/her subject, and, just for the heck of it, the nature of truth." London's Telegraph named it one of the top 100 films of all time.

Bar-Lev's other project include co-production of Trouble The Water, a 2009 Academy Award nominee and winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. He also directed The Tillman Story, a feature documentary about NFL safety Pat Tillman, who joined the Army Rangers in 2002 and was killed in a friendly-fire incident two years later.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.