“Steven Pinker, a native of Montreal, studied experimental psychology at McGill University and Harvard University. After serving on the faculties of Harvard and Stanford universities he moved to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he is currently Professor of Psychology and Director of the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience. Pinker has studied many aspects of language and of visual cognition, with a focus on language acquisition in children.
He is a fellow of several scientific societies, and has been awarded research prizes from the the National Academy of Sciences and the American Psychological Association, a teaching prize from MIT, and book prizes from the American Psychological Association, the Linguistics Society of America and the Los Angeles Times. His classic The Language Instinct is also available in Penguin.
Any book called How the Mind Works had better begin on a note of humility, and I will begin with two. First, we don’t understand how the mind works—not nearly as well as we understand how the body works, and certainly not well enough to design Utopia or to cure unhappiness. Then why the audacious title? The linguist Noam Chomsky once suggested that our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries.
When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery, however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation would even look like. I wrote this book because dozens of mysteries of the mind, from mental images to romantic love, have recently been upgraded to problems (though there are still some mysteries, too!). Every idea in the book may turn out to be wrong, but that would be progress, because our old ideas were too vapid to be wrong.
Second, I have not discovered what we do know about how the mind works. Few of the ideas in the pages to follow are mine. I have selected, from many disciplines, theories that strike me as offering a special insight into our thoughts and feelings, that fit the facts and predict new ones, and that are consistent in their content and in their style of explanation. My goal was to weave the ideas into a cohesive picture using two even bigger ideas that are not mine: the computational theory of mind and the theory of the natural selection of replicators…”
- Standard Equipment
- Thinking Machines
- Revenge of the Nerds
- The Mind’s Eye
- Good Ideas
- Family Values
- The Meaning of Life