Praise for The Empathy Gap
"The Empathy Gap is an important and engaging book, and Trout's
ideas are eye-opening and fascinating. Trout explains a large set of
new ideas about human rationality, emotion, and well-being, and connects
them to pressing social and political issues. This is an invaluable
enrichment of public discourse, which could lead to new ways of framing
our current dilemmas and to new solutions to them."
-- Steven Pinker, author of The Better Angels of Our Nature and The Stuff of Thought
"Trout identifies the issues facing citizens who worry about
others' exploiting their natural imperfections as decision makers, but
also worry about relying on paternalistic institutions to protect them.
Recognizing that those institutions are similarly flawed, Trout calls
for information sharing, public deliberation, and empirical evaluation
-- Baruch Fischhoff, Howard Heinz University Professor, Social and
Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University, and past president of the
Society for Judgment and Decision Making
"J.D. Trout's The Empathy Gap provides insightful answers to
explain how good people can look the other way and do so little to
respond to massive problems affecting other human beings. He uses the
latest findings in behavioral decision research, with his practical
understanding of philosophy, to outline a better world. We would all be
better off if the new administration in Washington read and understood
the messages that are outlined in this. In fact, Trout's The Empathy Gap
explains so much of what has gone wrong for the last eight years. This
work has the power to transform how we think about and act on challenges
to improve society."
-- Max H. Bazerman, Straus Professor, Harvard Business School, coauthor of The Negotiation Genius
“In a neuroscience-inflected heir to Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone,
Trout makes two assumptions: Humans want to reduce each other's
suffering, and this is the primary goal of our societies. Why, then, are
we so bad at it? Trout examines the unconscious habits that make us see
helping others as a zero-sum game, and advocates governance that
circumvents our unreliable gut decisions. While some will see that kind
of governance as the ultimate "nanny-statism," the argument provokes
thought on how much suffering we are willing to accept."
-- Named a "SEED PICK" for the February 2009 issue of Seed Magazine
“The Empathy Gap is a brilliant, empathic argument that policy
makers must take the limits of human decision-making abilities into
account in formulating public policies. Using the most up-to-date
research on the psychology of decision making as his weapon, Trout
argues that it would be the height of irresponsibility for politicians
to make policies on the assumption that people are perfectly rational
choosers. The book offers a cogent, compassionate general approach to
policy making, as well as many specific and smart suggestions about the
issues that face us today."
-- Barry Schwartz, Dorwin Cartwright Professor of Social Theory and Social Action, Swarthmore College, and author of The Paradox of Choice
The Theory of Knowledge
by Paul Moser, Dwayne Mulder, and J.D. Trout
(Oxford University Press, 1998)
Oxford University Press, 2005
"This is a brilliant and useful essay integrating theoretical
philosophy and empirical psychology to the benefit of both disciplines.
The essay is a paradigm example of how a philosophical perspective can
bring order and new insights into scientific practice."
-- Reid Hastie, Professor of Behavioral Science, University of Chicago
In this book, Michael Bishop and I call for Epistemology to take its
rightful place alongside Ethics as a discipline that offers practical,
real-world recommendations for living. To achieve this goal, we maintain
that Epistemology should aim to uncover the normative principles that
guide the prescriptions of (what we call) Ameliorative Psychology –
those branches of psychology that show how people can improve their
reasoning. These improvements are within reach, as demonstrated by the
dramatic successes of linear predictive models, among other findings.
We argue that Strategic Reliabilism guides the prescriptions of
Ameliorative Psychology. Strategic Reliabilism holds that epistemic
excellence involves the efficient allocation of cognitive resources to
robustly reliable reasoning strategies applied to significant problems.
This theory is unique in Epistemology: it takes Ameliorative Psychology
as its descriptive core; it is not a theory of knowledge or
justification; and it takes significance and cost-benefit considerations
to be ineliminable features of epistemic evaluation. Strategic
Reliabilism moves Epistemology away from abstract theorizing about
knowledge and toward a useful, empirically-informed guide to reasoning.
We demonstrate the practical power of our views by offering what we
hope are fresh insights on a wide range of issues in Psychology and
Philosophy. Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment contains a
novel critique of analytic epistemology and responses to standard
arguments against naturalistic epistemology. And it forges an original
cost-benefit framework for thinking practically about reasoning
excellence, a framework we employ to suggest some simple strategies that
can make people better reasoners.
From the back cover of Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment:
"Bishop and Trout have written a wonderful book. Their goal is nothing
less than a radical reorientation of contemporary epistemology.
Rejecting the analytic enterprise of explicating our concepts of
justification and knowledge, they instead seek a return to an
epistemology which would provide rules for the direction of the mind.
Empirically informed and philosophically sophisticated, this is a lively
and challenging book."
-- Hilary Kornblith, Professor of Philosophy, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
"Professors Bishop and Trout consider normative and experimental
evidence, as well as philosophical debate and many good examples, in
making a compelling case that epistemology ought to concern itself with
people's limited cognitive resources and reasoning strategies, as these
are likely to impinge on problems of great social significance. This
book should be read by anyone interested in the foibles and fallibility
of human reasoning, and in how an empirically informed view of human
knowledge and understanding may help yield not only good philosophy, but
also improved policy, better thinking and greater well being."
-- Eldar Shafir, Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs, Princeton University
"One of the surprising critiques Bishop and Trout offer of analytic
epistemology is that it is not normative enough. They argue that their
thoroughly naturalistic approach to epistemology does significantly
better on this score. All of this material is fresh, original and
exciting. It might even be right! But right or wrong, I think it is a
safe bet that it will attract a great deal of attention, and that Bishop
& Trout will be recognized as two of the most interesting and
innovative people working in the area where philosophy of science,
epistemology and empirical psychology come together."
-- Stephen Stich, Board of Governors Professor of Philosophy, Rutgers University
Edited by Paul Moser and J.D. Trout
Oxford University Press, 1998
Named a 1998 Outstanding Academic Book by Choice
"A radical book, and essential reading for courses in philosophy of science, statistics, and research methods."
"This is an interesting, complex, and important book. Indeed,
it may well be the most important book in the philosophy of the social
sciences since Rosenberg's Sociobiology and the Preemption of Social
Science (1980). In addition to developing an original and intriguing
naturalistic account of psychology and the social sciences, Trout offers
the reader a most nuanced analysis of various forms of scientific
realism, as well as a well-developed version of naturalistic
-- Teaching Philosophy
"There is much of value in Trout's book. The careful sorting
out of often confused realist claims is welcome. His recognition that
the social sciences sometimes have measurement and testing procedures
akin to those of the natural sciences is also a welcome antidote to the
long tradition of arguing about their scientific status without looking
at what they actually do. Trout's claim that assessments of realism
issues require carefully looking at specific theories seems to me
particularly valuable... ."
-- The Philosophical Review
The Philosophy of Science
Edited by Richard Boyd, Philip Gasper,
and J.D. Trout
(MIT Press, 1991)