How the Mind Works Audio Cassette – Abridged, 9 Nov 1999
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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 marvellously fun, awesomely informative survey of modern brain science. Pinker argues that a combination of Darwin's theories and some 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 at the top of the 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.
Big, brash, and a lot of fun.
It alters completely the way one thinks about thinking, and its unforeseen consequences probably can't be contained by a book. --Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Pinker has a knack for making the profound seem obvious.... A fascinating bag of evolutionary insights.
Undeniably brilliant. "
Big, brash, and a lot of fun. "
Hugely entertaining . . . always sparkling and provoking.
Witty popular science that you enjoy reading for the writing as well as for the science.
Alters completely the way one thinks about thinking . . . its unforeseen consequences probably can't be contained by a book.--Christopher Lehmann-Haupt
Pinker has a knack for making the profound seem obvious.... A fascinating bag of evolutionary insights. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
The computational bits left me feeling out of my depth at several points, but also feeling reassured that this wasn't science lite. And while the evolutionary bits were less challenging - and easier to read - they offered more than enough food for thought.
Apparently some people find the computation plus evolution theory controversial. Others find the ideas old hat. And Pinker himself seems to rub plenty of people up the wrong way for various reasons. Myself, I find the arguments fresh and convincing, and Pinker very enjoyable to read. He covers an awful lot of ground with great gusto, he packs the detail in and makes his points with wry humour.
A book to read once to get the gist and a second time to get the detail.
Pinker marries Darwin's theory of evolution to the latest developments in neuroscience and computation. He shows in detail how the process of natural selection shaped our entire neurological networks; how the struggle for survival selects from among our genes those most fit to flourish in our environment. Nature has produced in us bodies, brains and minds attuned to coping intelligently with whatever our environment demands. Housed in our bodies, our minds structure neural networks into adaptive programmes for handling our perceptions. Pinker concludes, "The mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life."
Our beliefs and desires are information, allowing us to create meaning. "Beliefs are inscriptions in memory, desires are goal inscriptions, thinking is computation, perceptions are inscriptions triggered by sensors, trying is executing operations triggered by a goal." Pinker writes that the mind has a 'design stance' for dealing with artefacts, a 'physical stance' for dealing with objects, and an 'intentional stance' for dealing with people.Read more ›
Pinker uses evolutionary roots as the foundation for his presentation. Like it or not, our genes carry a large part of our mental processes. The mind is not a "blank slate," but is born with vast supply of historical information on which to build as it matures. The "cultural environment" so dear to some commentators makes only a small contribution to who we become as adults. Even a child's peer groups influence its development more than does parental input, and by a huge margin. This situation arises because the mind is an algorithmic processor. It is essentially independent of an individual's environment, with a built-in learning capability to select from the wide spectrum of inputs. To Pinker, this essentially unconstrained process is part of the evolutionary path. Children's independence reflects the need of natural selection to sort among "what is" to arrive at what "will be" in the future.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
All style, little substance. Although written in an engaging and readable way, needs to be better grounded in the science that it purports to explain.Published 10 months ago by Andrew Irving
Some spoilers ahead...
Steven Pinker's view is that much of what we perceive as intelligence, personality and thought is inherited; in other words is a product of... Read more
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