Kagan speaks The Boston Globe

OVER THE PAST four decades, Harvard's Jerome Kagan has established himself as one of psychology's most eloquent – and outspoken – voices, sounding off on everything from the rise of evolutionary psychology to intelligence testing to popular theories of mother-infant bonding.

On evolutionary psychology

"[A] rash of books published over the last 25 years claims that unconflicted self-interest is to be expected, given our evolutionary history. . . . However, anyone with a modest knowledge of the natural world and minimal inferential skill can find examples in nature that support almost any ethical message desired. Those who wish to sanctify marriage can point to pair-bonding gibbons; those who think infi delity is more natural can nominate chimpanzees. . . . If mothers should care for the infants, rhesus monkeys are the model; if fathers should be the primary caretakers, point to titi monkeys. . . . Nature has enough diversity to satisfy almost any ethical taste." — "THE LONG SHADOW OF TEMPERAMENT" (2004)

On the idea that there is a single measure of human intelligence

"The number of human cognitive talents, probably as numerous as the number of diseases to which we are vulnerable, include perception in varied modalities, distinct memory processes, imagination, inference, deduction, evaluation, and acquisition of new knowledge. All of this extraordinary diversity is ignored when one declares a commitment to g [general intelligence]. . . . Biologists are far less foolish. They do not suggest that humans differ genetically in a quality called 'general health'. . . ." — "THREE SEDUCTIVE IDEAS" (1998)

On his conversion to some biological explanations of psychology

"When I now look at a shy 2-year-old, I envision an excitable amygdala; twenty years ago, I saw a child who had been punished for particular social behavior or had experienced discomfort in peer or adult interaction." — "UNSTABLE IDEAS: TEMPERAMENT, COGNITION, AND SELF" (1989)

On excessive faith in the shaping power of parents

"Somewhere in America today a mother-to be-is playing a cassette recording of a Beethoven sonata near her abdomen in the hope that her unborn child will become sensitized to good music. Another expectant woman is reading aloud from Keats or Dickens so that her fetus might catch enough words to place her ahead of her peers in kindergarten. . . . These parents . . . are convinced that their infant's future is controlled in a nontrivial way by the events of the fi rst hours, weeks, and months of life. The rituals that fl ow from this conviction absorb anxiety like a sponge." — "THREE SEDUCTIVE IDEAS" (1998)