Steven Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker

Steven
Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker
1954

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

Author Quotes

So men are not from Mars, nor are women from Venus. Men and women are from Africa, the cradle of our evolution, where they evolved together as a single species.

Savoring good prose is not just a more effective way to develop a writerly ear than obeying a set of commandments; it?s a more inviting one.

Science proceeds by studying particulars. No one has ever gotten a grant to study "the human mind." One has to study something more tractable, and when fortune smiles, a general law may reveal itself in the process.

Self-deception is perhaps the most cruel of all reasons, because it makes us deem correct when we are wrong and encourages us to fight when we should surrender. In cartoons and movies, the villains are degenerate winding mustaches and give joy of laughter by the evil. In real life, the villains are convinced of their integrity.

Semantics is about the relation of words to thoughts, but it also about the relation of words to other human concerns. Semantics is about the relation of words to reality?the way that speakers commit themselves to a shared understanding of the truth, and the way their thoughts are anchored to things and situations in the world.

Sex and excretion are reminders that anyone's claim to round-the-clock dignity is tenuous. The so-called rational animal has a desperate drive to pair up and moan and writhe.

Reason is up to these demands because it is an open-ended combinatorial system, an engine for generating an unlimited number of new ideas. Once it is programmed with a basic self-interest and an ability to communicate with others, its own logic will impel it, in the fullness of time, to respect the interests of ever-increasing numbers of others. It is reason too that can always take note of the shortcomings of previous exercises of reasoning, and update and improve itself in response. And if you detect a flaw in this argument, it is reason that allows you to point it out and defend an alternative.

Regardless of its causes, thoughtlessly blaming the present is a weakness which, even if it is never outlawed, ought to be resisted. Though commonly flaunted as a sign of sophistication, it can be an opportunity for one-upmanship and an excuse for misanthropy, especially against the young.

Richard Feynman once wrote, If you ever hear yourself saying, ?I think I understand this,? that means you don?t.

Roads, better harnesses for horses, time-keeping devices, financial instruments like a currency that was recognized everywhere in the kingdom, enforceable contracts - all of this made commerce more appealing than plunder.

Rule Seventeen. Omit needless words! Omit needless words! Omit needless words!

Random events can divert the trajectory of growth, but the trajectories are confined within an envelope of functioning designs for the species.

Reading is a technology for perspective-taking. When someone else's thoughts are in your head, you are observing the world from that person's vantage point.

Reason is overrated. Many pundits have argued that a good heart and steadfast moral clarity are superior to triangulations of overeducated policy wonks, like the best and brightest and that dragged us into the quagmire of Vietnam. And wasn't it reason that gave us the means to despoil the planet and threaten our species with weapons of mass destruction? In this way of thinking, it's character and conscience, not cold-hearted calculation, that will save us. Besides, a human being is not a brain on a stick. My fellow psychologists have shown that we're led by our bodies and our emotions and use our puny powers of reason merely to rationalize our gut feelings after the fact

Political equality consists of recognizing, as the Constitution says, that people have certain inalienable rights, namely life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Recognizing those rights is not the same thing as believing that people are indistinguishable in every respect.

Political power grows out of a regime's ability to command the fear of enough people at the same time? depends on seeing a culture as a product of human desires rather than as a shaper of them.

Pre-state societies were far more violent than our own.

Probably Hobbes got it right when he said that a leviathan, a third party with a monopoly on the use of legitimate use of force in a territory, might be among the biggest violence reduction techniques ever invented.

Psychologists have discovered that our personalities differ in five major ways: we are to varying degrees introverted or extroverted, neurotic or stable, incurious or open to experience, agreeable or antagonistic, and conscientious or undirected.

Psychologists have found that they can create instant intergroup hostility by sorting people on just about any pretext, including the flip of a coin.

Racism, because it favors color over talent, is bad for business.

Plants can't very well defend themselves by their behavior, so they resort to chemical warfare, and plants are saturated with toxins and irritants to deter creatures like us who want to eat them.

People today sometimes get uncomfortable with empirical claims that seem to clash with their political assumptions, often because they haven't given much thought to the connections.

Perhaps our history of collisions and near misses explains what made us what we are.

Perhaps the most extraordinary popular delusion about violence of the past quarter-century is that it is caused by low self-esteem. That theory has been endorsed by dozens of prominent experts, has inspired school programs designed to get kids to feel better about themselves, and in the late 1980s led the California legislature to form a Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem. Yet Baumeister has shown that the theory could not be more spectacularly, hilariously, achingly wrong. Violence is a problem not of too little self-esteem but of too much, particularly when it is unearned.

Author Picture
First Name
Steven
Last Name
Pinker, fully Steven Arthur Pinker
Birth Date
1954
Bio

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