Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom loves investigating the things that make our minds uniquely human, from fiction and art to religion and morality. But where many scientists would be content to research these phenomena in grown-ups, Bloom also studies how they develop in very young children. As his Big Think interview proved, the result is experiments that are as fun and fascinating as their subjects.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Dr. Bloom described the special problems (and laughs) that arise in working with kids in the laboratory and how his own kids have influenced his theories. He also recounted a number of studies that sound too fun to be scientific, including the one with the fart spray (which links moral reasoning and disgust) and the one with the broccoli (which links moral reasoning and spite). Bloom went on to explain the possible evolutionary benefits of fiction and why toddlers know more about art than most researchers think—as much, in fact, as the average grown-up squinting at a Pollock.