Professor Paul Bloom: On Monday we--I presented an introduction to evolutionary psychology, the looking at psychology from an evolutionary perspective, and trying to make a case and give some examples of how it can help illuminate and illustrate certain aspects of how the mind works. One of the advantages of an evolutionary perspective on the mind is that it forces us to look scientifically at what we would otherwise take for granted. There are a lot of aspects of how we are and what we are and what we do that seem so natural to us. They come so instinctively and easily it's difficult, and sort of unnatural, to step back and explore them scientifically but if we're going to be scientists and look at the mind from a scientific perspective we have to get a sort of distance from ourselves and ask questions that other people would not normally think to ask. And the clearest case of this arises with the emotions. And as a starting point there's a lovely quote from the psychologist and philosopher William James that I want to begin with. So, he writes:
To the psychologist alone can such questions occur as: Why do we smile when pleased and not scowl? Why are we unable to talk to a crowd as we talk to a single friend? Why does a particular maiden turn our wits upside down? The common man--[None of you are the common man.] The common man can only say, "Of course we smile. Of course our heart palpitates at the sight of the crowd. Of course we love the maiden. And so probably does each animal feel about the particular things it tends to do in the presence of certain objects. To the lion it is the lioness which is made to be loved; to the bear the she-bear. To the broody hen, the notion would probably seem monstrous that there should be a creature in the world to whom a nestful of eggs was not utterly fascinating and precious and never to be too-much-sat-upon object which it is to her.