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How the Mind Works Paperback – June 22, 2009
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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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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 an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Because we are speaking about huge amount of content, he made most things very short, and the discussions not as deep as they should. The result is that I either agreed with him (most of the time) or disagreed with him (occasionally) but didn't learn much, and I cannot say that I see things in a different manner after reading his book. It also seemed that he presented opinions he disagree with, in a shallow manner that does not represent the common deeper arguments (a kind of a straw man's fallacy).
If you are new to some of the related fields and want to know a little about a lot, then I guess that you will find this book of value.
Had I known there was such greatness in me, I would have been a greater man today. However, it's better late than never and I will certainly share the knowledge with my family, young and old. Also anyone who crosses my path.
I love it.
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.
Pinker is constantly (confidently, convincingly) presenting plausible theories and then providing evidence that they are true. In at least one place, that confidence is misplaced. He speaks favorably of Frank Sulloway’s Born to Rebel theory that later born children are substantially more likely than firstborns to accept new ideas–because the later borns have to find a place in the world different from the firstborns. However, the theory is no longer taken seriously (Judith Rich Harris provides a nice explanation in Appendix 1 to The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do, Revised and Updated).
Many readers will feel that he has made similar mistakes in the many pages on “male and female.” He thinks that there are, on average, more differences between human males and females than just size and strength. My advice: understand what he has to say and compare it to your own experience and the experience of people you know. Be your own scientist testing his hypotheses.
Pinker is at pains to say that just because differences are natural doesn’t mean they are good or that we are a slave to them. A later book of his, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, argues that we have a capacity for violence (more male than female!) but that violent behavior has drastically declined over the course of history