Recipients of the 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Awards Announced

Yale Professor Paul Bloom’s research into the origins, nature and development of children’s moral thought and behavior resonates beyond the United States. The Swiss-based Jacobs Foundation awards to him the 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize endowed with one million Swiss francs (USD 1,03 Mio.). Each year, the Jacobs Foundation honors an outstanding researcher for his scientific work of high social relevance as well as an institution who puts innovative solutions to the development of children and young people into practice. The 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize goes to War Child, based in the Netherlands. The 2017 awards will be presented on December 1, at a festive ceremony in Zurich, Switzerland.

Zurich/New Haven/Amsterdam, October 2, 2017 – Are children born with an innate sense of morality or are babies little sociopaths that need to be taught morality and empathy? How children’s appreciation of good and evil develops has profound implications on how and when to promote moral development and provide intervention programs that ultimately aim to establish more just and fair communities. 

Prof. Paul Bloom – 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Research Prize Recipient

Despite this ability to reason, adults’ actions are still often motivated by their emotions, particularly the capacity for empathy. In his latest book, Against Empathy, Bloom argues that empathy blinds our actions, muddles our judgement and often leads to cruelty. This holds especially true for war situations when sympathy for the victims leads to emotional reactions. That is why Bloom suggests relying on compassion, reason, and cost-benefit analysis defining compassion as caring for people, wanting them to thrive. It is a feeling of goodwill toward humans in general, not just toward the own nation and is therefore fairer and more moral. With the prize money, Bloom plans to explore the nature of moral psychology and how it changes over the course of development.

War Child – 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize

Respecting the lives of people from different ethnicities and backgrounds is where the 2017 Klaus J. Jacobs Best Practice Prize recipient’s work complements Yale Professor Paul Bloom’s research. The Best Practice prize is awarded to War Child based in the Netherlands, for their global efforts to improve the lives of children exposed to war by promoting psychosocial well-being and fostering emotional resilience for their future.

Bloom’s research on children’s moral development and behavior is highly relevant in the settings where War Child is active, where people often favor their own ethnic, religious, political or national group over ‘the other’. Under such circumstances children rarely build what Paul Bloom calls “rational compassion” for those outside their own circle.
“With our intervention programs, we promote the development of compassion beyond their circle of concern allowing children to develop cognitive empathy in addition to emotional empathy, says Tjipke Bergsma, Managing Director of War Child.

War Child’s most widely implemented intervention is “I DEAL” where children in creative group sessions learn to express their emotions, communicate and confront difficult situations, and build relationships with their peers, family members and other adults. Other interventions are aimed at teachers, parents and other caregivers to support and protect children as well as at reducing stigmatization within the communities. With the prize money, War Child will continue to rigorously test and evaluate its programs to produce a comprehensive and evidence-based system of care for children affected by armed violence, which can be scaled up and replicated by other organizations. At the moment, War Child works in 15 countries in which it reaches almost 400,000 children.

The 2017 awards will be presented on December 1, at a festive ceremony at the University of Zurich in Switzerland with international guests of politics, science and business. Before the ceremony a scientific symposium titled “Research Frontiers in Human Development: From the moral intuitions of babies to the messy morality of adults” is held in honor of the laureate Paul Bloom.

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Alexandra Guentzer