J.D. Trout was born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1959, and spent most of his childhood in Fairless Hills and Levittown, Pennsylvania. As a teenager, he worked packing corn, clamming in Barnegat Bay, hauling auto parts at a junkyard, singing for hire at selected formal events, and driving a truck for a chicken hatchery. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and History in 1982 at Bucknell University, and his doctorate in Philosophy in 1988 at Cornell University, where he was a National Science Foundation Predoctoral Fellow in history and philosophy of science. While there, he also did graduate work in Psychology. He then spent a year as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Bryn Mawr College. Currently he is Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at Loyola University Chicago. He has been a Visiting Professor at Virginia Tech, University of Chicago, and the University of Innsbruck.
Trout is a philosopher, experimental language researcher, and cognitive scientist, interested in all features of science, language, and the mind. In graduate school he became interested in spoken language processing, both as an amazing cognitive feat and as a field of science. In addition to his early, technical papers in experimental psychology and the philosophy of mind and science, he co-edited a widely-used anthology in the philosophy of science, and another on the doctrine of materialism. For two decades, his work has focused on 4 issues: views of the world required to account for scientific progress, the reasoning strategies required for intellectual responsibility and improvement, the cognitive and social policies required to advance human well-being and, in Psychology, the modes of lexical address in running speech. When he can, he does experimental research in speech perception as well, and has published the results of this experimental work. These experiments use speech-like stimuli to probe a listener's reaction to specific dimensions of speech. He has used both noiseband and sinewave speech. Also, he has written about theoretical issues that divide practitioners in the areas of language and speech research -- such as the biologically "special" character of spoken language in humans.
He has written 5 books (two of them co-authored). Measuring the Intentional World argued that we could legitimately believe many of the contested posits and generalizations of the social and psychological sciences. Epistemology and the Psychology of Human Judgment (with Michael Bishop) contended that current theory of knowledge as practiced in the English-speaking world is intellectually irresponsible, inferior to empirically informed epistemology and to ready alternatives in psychology. He has also written a more orthodox textbook, The Theory of Knowledge, with Paul Moser and Dwayne Mulder. He wrote a book for a general audience. The Empathy Gap: Building Bridges to the Good Life and the Good Society, that explains how psychological science can be used in personal and policy decisions designed to improve well-being. His most recent book, Wondrous Truths: The Improbable Triumph of Modern Science, offers a realist interpretation of the fast rise of modern science.
Trout has served on a number of editorial boards. He has received a NSF Scholar’s Award, a Templeton Foundation grant, a Romanell Phi Beta Kappa Professorship, and a NEH fellowship. His first book, Measuring the Intentional World, received a Choice award. Trout lives in Wilmette, IL, with Janice Nadler and their two children, Jack and Jessica.