Steven Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker

Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker

Canadian-born U.S. Experimental Psychologist, Cognitive Scientist, Linguist, and Popular Science Author, Psychology Professor at Harvard University

Author Quotes

Whatever the pedagogical merits may be of feeding children misinformation, it is inappropriate for adults. There is nothing wrong with beginning a sentence with a coordinator.

When it comes to attitudes that are heritable, people react more quickly and emotionally, are less likely to change their minds, and are more attracted to like-minded people.

We live in an era of social science, and have become accustomed to understanding the social world in terms of forces, pressures, processes, and developments. It is easy to forget that those forces are statistical summaries of the deeds of millions of men and women who act on their beliefs in pursuit of their desires. The habit of submerging the individual into abstractions can lead not only to bad science (it?s not as if the social forces obeyed Newton?s laws) but to dehumanization.

We may be seeing a coming together of the humanities and the science of human nature.

We really are creatures of a violent world, biologically speaking - watching violence and learning about it is one of our cognitive drives.

We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.

We are primates, with a third of our brains dedicated to vision, and large swaths devoted to touch, hearing, motion, and space. For us to go from I think I understand to I understand, we need to see the sights and feel the motions.

We are visual creatures. Visual things stay put, whereas sounds fade.

We can make fun of hockey fans, but someone who enjoys Homer is indulging the same kind of vicarious bloodlust.

we can remind ourselves of the reasons to strive for good style: to enhance the spread of ideas, to exemplify attention to detail, and to add to the beauty of the world.

We have to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the discrimination is justifiable.

We hear speech as a string of separate words, but unlike the tree falling in the forest with no one to hear it, a word boundary with no one to hear it has no sound. In the speech sound wave, one word runs into the next seamlessly; there are no little silences between spoken words the way there are white spaces between written words. We simply hallucinate word boundaries when we reach the edge of a stretch of sound that matches some entry in our mental dictionary. This becomes apparent when we listen to speech in a foreign language: it is impossible to tell where one word ends the next begins. The seamlessness of speech is also apparent in 'oro?nyms', strings of sound that can be carved into words in two different ways: The good can decay many ways / The good candy came anyways.

We know about every massacre that has taken place close to the present, but the ones in the distant past are like trees falling in the forest with no one to hear them.

Until recently, psychology ignored the content of beliefs and emotions and the possibility that the mind had evolved to treat biologically important categories in different ways.

Violence and religion have often gone together, but it's not a perfect correlation and it doesn't have to be a permanent connection. Religions themselves change?they are not completely independent of behaviour and they respond to the very currents that drive violence down. Religions have become more liberal in response to these currents.

Violence between the combatants may be called war; violence by the bystander against the combatants may be called law. The Leviathan theory, in a nutshell, is that law is better than war.

Violence is a social a political problem, not just a biological and psychological one.

Violent movements attract thugs and firebrands who enjoy the mayhem. Violent tactics provide a pretext for retaliation by the enemy and alienate third parties who might otherwise support the movement.

Visual thinking is often driven more strongly by the conceptual knowledge we use to organize our images than by the contents of the images themselves. Chess masters are known for their remarkable memory for the pieces on a chessboard. But it's not because people with photographic memories become chess masters. The masters are no better than beginners when remembering a board of randomly arranged pieces. Their memory captures meaningful relations among the pieces, such as threats and defenses, not just their distribution in space.

We are all members of the same flawed species. Putting our moral vision into practice means imposing our will on others. The human lust for power and esteem, coupled with its vulnerability to self-deception and self-righteousness, makes that an invitation to a calamity, all the worse when the power is directed at a goal as quixotic as eradicating human self-interest.

Unlike features of a landscape like trees and mountains, people have feet. They move to places where opportunities are best, and they soon invite their friends and relatives to join them.

Today the campaign for world government lives on mainly among kooks and science fiction fans.

Today there are movements in the arts to reintroduce beauty and narrative and melody and other basic human pleasures. And they are considered radical extremists!

Today we take it for granted that war happens in smaller, poorer and more backward countries.

Together with the topic of a text, the reader usually needs to know its point. He needs to know what the author is trying to accomplish as she explores the topic.

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Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker
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Canadian-born U.S. Experimental Psychologist, Cognitive Scientist, Linguist, and Popular Science Author, Psychology Professor at Harvard University