• You understood that individuals you saw over time would to act in certain ways.
• You recognized different emotions in those around you —fear, anger and happiness.
• You knew how to manipulate others as soon as you could move your body.
• When you saw people who were helpful and others who were hurtful, you understood the ones to avoid – even if you couldn’t.
Even before your first birthday, you knew all that according Paul Bloom, Yale psychology profession and author of Descartes’ Baby: How the Science of Child Development Explains What Makes Us Human, a fascinating book.
After reading it you may be sufficiently intrigued to read Bloom’s next book, due out on my birthday, How Pleasure Works: The New Science of Why We Like What We Like.
Within each of us “different selves are continually popping in and out of existence,” he writes. “They have different desires, and they fight for control—bargaining with, deceiving, and plotting against one another”….
He suggests that this might explain why we act in contradictory ways and sometimes against our best interests. It might explain “certain puzzles of everyday life” such as why:
• Addictions and compulsions are so hard to shake off.
• We insist on spending so much of our lives in worlds—like TV shows and novels and virtual-reality experiences—that don’t actually exist.” (For reducing stress, watching a high-definition TV was as worthless for patients as looking at a blank wall. Yet anxiety does goes down when they can see nature out a window.)
Bloom wonders: “Can one self bind another self if the two want different things?
Are you always better off when a Good Self wins?” For example Bloom seems conflicted about the attempts by some behavioral economists such as Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler to set up rules in business and government that reinforce our smarter self's ability to take hold. For example, those businesses that automatically put a portion of employees’ salaries into their retirement account, unless the employee opts out, have discovered that more people save more. In short, this practice supports the Good Self.Now I am going for a walk to ponder my weaker and wiser selves.