Hand Me the Fart Spray in the Name of Science

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.

Related Articles

A controversial theory claims past, present, and future exist at the same time

Our experience of time may be blinding us to its true nature, say scientists.

Back to the Future.
Surprising Science
  • Time may not be passing at all, says the Block Universe Theory.
  • Time travel may be possible.
  • Your perception of time is likely relative to you and limited.
Keep reading Show less

Six disastrous encounters with the world’s most hostile uncontacted tribe

From questionable shipwrecks to outright attacks, they clearly don't want to be bothered.

Culture & Religion
  • Many have tried to contact the Sentinelese, to write about them, or otherwise.
  • But the inhabitants of the 23 square mile island in the Bay of Bengal don't want anything to do with the outside world.
  • Their numbers are unknown, but either 40 or 500 remain.
Keep reading Show less