How the Mind Works and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Buy Used
$9.39
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Condition: Used: Very Good
Comment: Qualifies for Free Super Saver Shipping and Amazon Prime!
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

How the Mind Works Hardcover – October, 1997


See all 27 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$11.95 $0.01

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Best Books of the Month
Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 660 pages
  • Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc; 1St Edition edition (October 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393045358
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393045352
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 2 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (216 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,286 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on average, increase $600 with each inch of his height? When a crack dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton, whose face is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful, cheeky, occasionally outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above and more in his marvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin plus canny computer programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws in apt references to Star Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history, literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart, Marilyn Monroe, surrealism, experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his 888 children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would be scalped for $100. This book deserved its spot as Number One on bestseller lists. It belongs on a short shelf alongside such classics as Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life, by Daniel C. Dennett, and The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright. Pinker's startling ideas pop out as dramatically as those hidden pictures in a Magic Eye 3D stereogram poster, which he also explains in brilliantly lucid prose.

From Library Journal

MIT's Pinker, who received considerable acclaim for The Language Instinct (LJ 2/1/94), turns his attention to how the mind functions and how and why it evolved as it did. The author relies primarily on the computational theory of mind and the theory of the natural selection of replicators to explain how the mind perceives, reasons, interacts socially, experiences varied emotions, creates, and philosophizes. Drawing upon theory and research from a variety of disciplines (most notably cognitive science and evolutionary biology) and using the principle of "reverse-engineering," Pinker speculates on what the mind was designed to do and how it has evolved into a system of "psychological faculties or mental modules." His latest book is extraordinarily ambitious, often complex, occasionally tedious, frequently entertaining, and consistently challenging. Appropriate for academic and large public libraries.?Laurie Bartolini, MacMurray Coll. Lib., Jacksonville, Ill.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Steven Pinker is one of the world's leading authorities on language and the mind. His popular and highly praised books include The Stuff of Thought, The Blank Slate, Words and Rules, How the Mind Works, and The Language Instinct. The recipient of several major awards for his teaching, books, and scientific research, Pinker is Harvard College Professor and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. He also writes frequently for The New York Times, Time, The New Republic, and other magazines.

Customer Reviews

The book has been researched very well.
Dan McCreary
Oh, and I shouldn't forget to mention that the book is well-written, and a pleasure to read -- worth your time in its own right.
dougr@earthlink.net
Too many out-of-hand dismissals of contrary theories do NOT make Pinker into a forcible advocate of HIS point of view.
D. S. Heersink

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

594 of 610 people found the following review helpful By Ethan Hein on September 4, 2002
Format: Paperback
It seems from reading over the reviews that your response to this book depends heavily on who you are and what your background is. I'm not a scientist, but I have a strong general science education. The book was recommended to me by a neurobiologist friend. I went in looking for a good general overview of the subject matter written by someone with a good prose style, and that's exactly what I got. If you have a general liberal artsy science grounding and want to be pointed at some new lines of inquiry, the book is terrific. I think Pinker does a better job making potentially dry subject matter exciting than just about anyone. Very few of the ideas in the book were completely new to me, but I hadn't encountered them all between two covers before and I very much enjoyed watching Pinker draw connections. It's especially interesting to compare this book to the Selfish Gene, which Pinker refers to quite a bit. Richard Dawkins is more concise and clear, but has such a gratingly obnoxious and condescending authorial voice that I find it distracting. Pinker, on the other hand, is a treat to read; it's like sitting at a table with an old friend. Some scientist friends of mine have complained that Pinker speculates too much for their tastes and tries to overextend his Darwinian ideas. Fair enough, but Pinker is careful to warn the reader when he's speculating and when he's summarizing the results of actual research. I felt like I had room to think critically about his arguments while he was making them. The book is very clear about its intentions and its limitations. If you're looking for a highly focused argument backed up by hard data, this book isn't it (The Language Instinct does that better.) If you're looking for Evolutionary Biology For Dummies, this also isn't it.Read more ›
8 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
150 of 161 people found the following review helpful By Marc Cenedella on June 1, 2003
Format: Paperback
Unlike most reviewers, I come to How the Mind Works *after* reading Blank Slate, which is by far the superior work, in what are two very similar themes. This volume could as well be entitled "How the Persona Works" as it delves very little in the science of the mind. This is not an introduction to neuroscience, but rather is much more focused on the psychology of social interaction and knowledge acquisition. I suppose I was hoping for a more structured scientific statement of how the brain is composed chemically, designed genetically, and structured systemically.
In a series of sections, Pinker somewhat dis-connectedly jumps through findings from psychology and brain science to illuminate interesting problems. I found the opening sections - on areas like the mind's eye and how the brain is a thinking machine - far less interesting and compelling.
Pinker describes the brain as a machine that has costs (in tissue, energy, and time) and confers benefits. Knowing where the gold is buried in your neighborhood - and whether it's broadly in the northwest quadrant, or specifically underneath the flowerpot - improves your position because it reduces the physical work required to unearth it. That one bit of information allows 1 man to find the gold which would have taken 100 if the digging was done indiscriminately.
There are some very nice thought experiments in this section:
"What if we took [a brain simulation computer] program and trained a large number of people, say, the population of China, to hold in mind the data and act out the steps? Would there be one gigantic consciousness hovering over China, separate from the consciousness of the billion individuals?
Read more ›
1 Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By D. S. Heersink on June 14, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pinker's "How the Mind Works" is an interdisciplinary tome, relying on linguistics, computer science, philosophy, evolutionary psychology, anthropology, history, and evolutionary biology. It is supposed to be a strict Darwinian account of how the mind works. Does it succeed?

Yes and no. On the level of explicating mental functions and psychological behavior along a computational theory of the mind, I believe the book fails. By explicating behaviors from a Darwinian perspective, the book generally succeeds. The Modern Synthesis (the combination of Darwin's theory of evolution and Malthus' theory of genetics) has no fiercer advocate than Steven Pinker, although he can be sloppy about it sometimes (for example, calling Environment of Evolutionary Adaptedness [EEA] as ancestral history, when the two are not synonymous). Still, his explication of human dynamics from intelligence to emotion to sociability onto religion from the new paradigm of the Modern Synthesis is literally encyclopedic. This last point is also both a positive and a negative; oftentimes Pinker's claims are obscured by all the tangential information he loads onto them, such as experiment after experiment, jokes, television programs and movies, lyrics, personal experiences, and a host of other qualia.

Disagreeably, Pinker's believes in the computational theory of mind. Pinker is known as a "Strong Artificial Intelligence" (SAI) advocate. He frequently oscillates between the "mind is a computer" and the "mind is like a computer." While clearly not identifying the human mind as computers, he believes the two things, computers and minds, do exactly the same thing: They both "compute." Well, that's partially true, and partially false.
Read more ›
5 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Recent Customer Reviews