Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion

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New York Post Best Book of 2016

We often think of our capacity to experience the suffering of others as the ultimate source of goodness. Many of our wisest policy-makers, activists, scientists, and philosophers agree that the only problem with empathy is that we don’t have enough of it.

Nothing could be farther from the truth, argues Yale researcher Paul Bloom. In AGAINST EMPATHY, Bloom reveals empathy to be one of the leading motivators of inequality and immorality in society. Far from helping us to improve the lives of others, empathy is a capricious and irrational emotion that appeals to our narrow prejudices. It muddles our judgment and, ironically, often leads to cruelty. We are at our best when we are smart enough not to rely on it, but to draw instead upon a more distanced compassion.

Basing his argument on groundbreaking scientific findings, Bloom makes the case that some of the worst decisions made by individuals and nations—who to give money to, when to go to war, how to respond to climate change, and who to imprison—are too often motivated by honest, yet misplaced, emotions. With precision and wit, he demonstrates how empathy distorts our judgment in every aspect of our lives, from philanthropy and charity to the justice system; from medical care and education to parenting and marriage. Without empathy, Bloom insists, our decisions would be clearer, fairer, and—yes—ultimately more moral.

Brilliantly argued, urgent and humane, AGAINST EMPATHY shows us that, when it comes to both major policy decisions and the choices we make in our everyday lives, limiting our impulse toward empathy is often the most compassionate choice we can make.

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About the author

Paul Bloom is the Brooks and Suzanne Ragen Professor of Psychology at Yale University. An internationally recognized expert on the psychology of child development, social reasoning, and morality, he has won numerous awards for his research, writing, and teaching. His previous books include Just Babies and How Pleasure Works, and he has written for Science, Nature, The New York Times, and The New Yorker. He lives in Guilford, Connecticut.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Dec 6, 2016
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Pages
304
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ISBN
9780062339355
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / General
Psychology / Social Psychology
Social Science / Sociology / General
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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A leading cognitive scientist argues that a deep sense of good and evil is bred in the bone.
 
From John Locke to Sigmund Freud, philosophers and psychologists have long believed that we begin life as blank moral slates. Many of us take for granted that babies are born selfish and that it is the role of society—and especially parents—to transform them from little sociopaths into civilized beings. In Just Babies, Paul Bloom argues that humans are in fact hardwired with a sense of morality. Drawing on groundbreaking research at Yale, Bloom demonstrates that, even before they can speak or walk, babies judge the goodness and badness of others’ actions; feel empathy and compassion; act to soothe those in distress; and have a rudimentary sense of justice.

Still, this innate morality is limited, sometimes tragically. We are naturally hostile to strangers, prone to parochialism and bigotry. Bringing together insights from psychology, behavioral economics, evolutionary biology, and philosophy, Bloom explores how we have come to surpass these limitations. Along the way, he examines the morality of chimpanzees, violent psychopaths, religious extremists, and Ivy League professors, and explores our often puzzling moral feelings about sex, politics, religion, and race.

In his analysis of the morality of children and adults, Bloom rejects the fashionable view that our moral decisions are driven mainly by gut feelings and unconscious biases. Just as reason has driven our great scientific discoveries, he argues, it is reason and deliberation that makes possible our moral discoveries, such as the wrongness of slavery. Ultimately, it is through our imagination, our compassion, and our uniquely human capacity for rational thought that we can transcend the primitive sense of morality we were born with, becoming more than just babies.

Paul Bloom has a gift for bringing abstract ideas to life, moving seamlessly from Darwin, Herodotus, and Adam Smith to The Princess Bride, Hannibal Lecter, and Louis C.K. Vivid, witty, and intellectually probing, Just Babies offers a radical new perspective on our moral lives.




From the Hardcover edition.
The acclaimed New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller from Robert Cialdini—“the foremost expert on effective persuasion” (Harvard Business Review)—explains how it’s not necessarily the message itself that changes minds, but the key moment before you deliver that message.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? With the same rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

Named a “Best Business Books of 2016” by the Financial Times, and “compelling” by The Wall Street Journal, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini outlines the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.” His book is “an essential tool for anyone serious about science based business strategies…and is destined to be an instant classic. It belongs on the shelf of anyone in business, from the CEO to the newest salesperson” (Forbes).
Emotional Intelligence was an international phenomenon, appearing on the New York Times bestseller list for over a year and selling more than five million copies worldwide. Now, once again, Daniel Goleman has written a groundbreaking synthesis of the latest findings in biology and brain science, revealing that we are “wired to connect” and the surprisingly deep impact of our relationships on every aspect of our lives.

Far more than we are consciously aware, our daily encounters with parents, spouses, bosses, and even strangers shape our brains and affect cells throughout our bodies—down to the level of our genes—for good or ill. In Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman explores an emerging new science with startling implications for our interpersonal world. Its most fundamental discovery: we are designed for sociability, constantly engaged in a “neural ballet” that connects us brain to brain with those around us.

Our reactions to others, and theirs to us, have a far-reaching biological impact, sending out cascades of hormones that regulate everything from our hearts to our immune systems, making good relationships act like vitamins—and bad relationships like poisons. We can “catch” other people’s emotions the way we catch a cold, and the consequences of isolation or relentless social stress can be life-shortening. Goleman explains the surprising accuracy of first impressions, the basis of charisma and emotional power, the complexity of sexual attraction, and how we detect lies. He describes the “dark side” of social intelligence, from narcissism to Machiavellianism and psychopathy. He also reveals our astonishing capacity for “mindsight,” as well as the tragedy of those, like autistic children, whose mindsight is impaired.

Is there a way to raise our children to be happy? What is the basis of a nourishing marriage? How can business leaders and teachers inspire the best in those they lead and teach? How can groups divided by prejudice and hatred come to live together in peace?

The answers to these questions may not be as elusive as we once thought. And Goleman delivers his most heartening news with powerful conviction: we humans have a built-in bias toward empathy, cooperation, and altruism–provided we develop the social intelligence to nurture these capacities in ourselves and others.


From the Trade Paperback edition.
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