Do psychologists know anything?
By Amy Willis
Psychologist Paul Bloom says yes–but not the things that you might think. In this episode, Bloom returns to discuss his new book, Psych, with EconTalk host Russ Roberts. Bloom’s goal with this book was to provide a review of all of psychology, not a specific concept like empathy or suffering. He describes is it as a labor of love, and Roberts loved it bin turn, in part because of the nuance it offers.
Let’s hear what you took from this conversation. (And if you were prompted to read the book, we’d love to hear you general reactions to that, too!) We’re here for the conversation.
1- Roberts did not pose only the question in this post’s title. Unsurprisingly, he also asked, “Do economists know anything?” What does Russ suggest economists know the most about, and why does Bloom think you might be better off reading novels instead? What does Bloom point to as the most surprising and interesting discoveries we can attribute to psychology?
2- Bloom agrees that learning how to think like an economist is helpful. How, then, does he describe how to think like a psychologist? What value does such a perspective add?
3- How does Bloom describe rationality? To what extent does he find it to be a useful psychological concept, and to what extent do you agree? What’s the best argument against rationality, according to Bloom?
4- The conversation turns to motivation, and Bloom cautions us to not try to pin singular principles to people’s behavior. He suggests that behaviors often have two sets of motivations- evolutionary and personal. What does he mean by this? And why do he and Roberts seem to agree that others may have more insight into why we behave the way we do than we do ourselves?
5- What are Bloom’s views on peer review and the replication crisis? How does Bloom defend peer review, and what is his concern about the alternative raised in this episode with Adam Mastroianni?
Bonus Question: Is it rational to give gifts? Compare what Bloom and Roberts have to say in this episode with what Sarah Skwire and I have to say in this conversation.