The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


EPISODE # 328

Paul Bloom — Psych: The Story of the Human Mind

Psych: The Story of the Human Mind (book cover)

Shermer and Bloom discuss:

  • Brain. What do findings from neuroscience tell us about human nature? How do they challenge core religious notions, such as the idea of a soul?
  • Consciousness. What do we really know about perhaps the biggest mystery of all?
  • Freud. Does sex really matter as much as he thought? How much of Freud should we take seriously?
  • Skinner. Is it all reinforcement and punishment? How similar are we to rats in a cage?
  • Development. How much do babies know? What’s the real difference between the minds of children and the minds of adults?
  • Language. Does the language you speak influence how you think?
  • Perception and memory. Anaïs Nin once said that we don’t see things as they are — we see them as we are. Was she right? And can we trust our memories? How much is repressed — and how much is false?
  • Rationality. Are we really, as Aristotle put it, the rational animal?
  • Appetites. Which sexual desires do all humans share, and what differs across societies and between men and women?
  • Our social selves. How do we form impressions of others?
  • Differences. Why do we differ in our intelligence and personality? How much is genes; how much is experience?
  • Disorders. Why do some people suffer from illnesses like depression and schizophrenia, and what can be done to help them?
  • The good life. What have psychologists learned about the secrets of happiness?

Paul Bloom is Professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, and the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Yale University. His research explores the psychology of morality, identity, and pleasure. Bloom is the recipient of multiple awards and honors, including, most recently, the million-dollar Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize. He has written for scientific journals such as Nature and Science, and for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Atlantic Monthly. He is the author or editor of eight books, including Against Empathy, Just Babies, How Pleasure Works, Descartes’ Baby, The Sweet Spot, and Psych: The Story of the Human Mind.

About the Book

How does the brain — a three-pound gelatinous mass — give rise to intelligence and conscious experience? Was Freud right that we are all plagued by forbidden sexual desires? What is the function of emotions such as disgust, gratitude, and shame? Renowned psychologist Paul Bloom answers these questions and many more in Psych, his riveting new book about the science of the mind.

Bloom is an expert and passionate guide to the most intimate aspects of our nature, serving up the equivalent of a serious university course while being funny, engaging, and full of memorable anecdotes. But Psych is much more than a comprehensive overview of the field of psychology. Bloom reveals what psychology can tell us about the most pressing moral and political issues of our time — including belief in conspiracy theories, the role of genes in explaining human differences, and the nature of prejudice and hatred.

Bloom also shows how psychology can give us practical insights into important issues — from the treatment of mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety to the best way to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on February 28, 2023.

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