- Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Later prt. edition (January 17, 1999)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393318486
- ISBN-13: 978-0393318487
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars See all reviews (270 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #851,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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How the Mind Works Later prt. Edition
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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. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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. --This text refers to the Preloaded Digital Audio Player edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
It is not in my opinion as good a book as The Language Instinct, nor as good as The Blank Slate, which it resembles in some ways (I am reading them simultaneously, though I read TBS years ago for the first time, and you can't help but notice the cross-over). So, I considered giving it four stars. But, then I decided, it is such a powerful performance, and so well written, that it shouldn't get less than five stars just because he didn't surpass himself. I have another book of his on tap and I'm going to get right to it.
I will offer this minor criticism. Have you ever sat through a fireworks display that just never ended? It might have benefitted from a little tighter editing, but it seems like he just doesn't want to leave anything out. If he knows it, he want us to know it too.
Fun and worth reading, particularly the sections on language.
Pinker also shows how the mind was designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their hunter/gatherer existence, which may be why we have such trouble explaining such esoteric concepts as consciousness and sentience.
Pinker does not have a whole lot of respect for Freud, B.F. Skinner, or the Standard Social Science Model, which views the mind as a blank slate at birth. He disdains a moral approach when discussing natural selection, which gets him in trouble with feminists among other value-laden "isms". Instead, he argues for a "module-packed mind" that "allows both for innate motives that lead to evil acts and for innate motives that can avert them."
When discussing the computational mind, Pinker spends a lot of time on the eye. He shows how the eye evolved from light sensitive skin tissue, how humans developed stereoscopic vision leading to a bigger brain, how the brain tricks us into believing that matter is solid, and how seeing in color and in three dimensions led to more brain capacity. Pinker even shows us how the "Mind's eye" works. The eye connects to the brain, but the brain also connects to the eye.
Emotions began with the family and extended to non-family because foragers lived in groups. We love people who carry our genes. Pinker shows how the emotions evolve from the family to non-family relationships using reciprocal altruism. If you grant a favor to another (such as supplying him with meat) and he later returns the favor, you like him. If he cares for you when you are sick with no apparent compensation, you grow to love him. Cheaters inspire other emotions such as anger and resentment and the list grows. Guilt happens when we're cheating and we know it. Sympathy is an emotion for gaining gratitude. Body language ensures that emotions are hard to fake. Most people have scam detectors; you can tell the difference between a real smile and that of a beauty contestant.
Pinker also discusses bi-products of natural selection such as religion, music, philosophy and art. As mentioned earlier, we are blessed (or cursed) with a forager's brain. "The intellect evolved to crack the defense of things in the natural and social world," not answer such questions as "Why do bad things happen to good people?" We are lucky our stone-age minds do as well as they do when tackling complex scientific problems.