Top critical review
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Very interesting, but far too one-sided
on 27 October 2000
Steven Pinker starts this book by informing us that we DON'T know how the mind works, and that he hasn't found out how the mind works either; which is perhaps a stab at irony (not covered in the part on humour), or simply a bad book title. Pithy comments aside, this is a long but engaging read, which covers not only a lot of theory but investigates many ideas thoroughly. Unfortunately, the theories investigated remain of the cognitive/experimental/biological variety and little of the humanistic/social constructionist/etc perspectives are mentioned. Any alluding to these latter perspectives are single-sentenced; the arguments needed to actually be arguments, rather than simple dismissals. Much of his 'evidence' harks from assumptions of early man and hunter-gatherers - ancestors who have left few clues of their habits for us. However, Pinker's covering of human perception, neural networks, and other cognitive goodies is excellent and very well explained, and I believe that these, along with his humour, are the book's highlights. It is just a shame that he sought to explain the human mind and behaviour from the one viewpoint, with scant regard for any others.