Steven Pinker How The Mind Works


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Excellent But A Difficult Listen

Steven Pinker: How the Mind Works

What made the experience of listening to How the Mind Works the most enjoyable?

Pinker answers a lot of questions about how and why people think the way they do. As always, he doesn’t just make assertions, he backs everything up by explaining the state of the research and the ideas of the researchers in the field . It’s a much easier read than actual research papers, and has wit and good story telling to leven the large doses of information, but it’s not easy to follow when listening. It requires a lot of concentration or you can do what I did and just listen to everything twice, sometimes three times, until you get it. If you consider yourself an intellectual, you’ll want to be familiar with Stephen Pinker’s work. The Better Angels of our Nature, and The Blank Slate are easier to pick up just listening once so I would recommend one of those as a place to start.This book was written more than 10 years ago. It’s holding up very well though and an afterword written only a couple of years ago is included which explains how recent research relates to the book.

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Worst Narrator Imaginable Except For Paris Hilton

The ideas are solid and well layed out albeit long-winded and sometimes tenuously connected between book sections. What is annoying, however, is the narrator. Staid American accents impair my ability to take in the information from so many good books like The Book of Why, other Pinker written titles, The Secret of Our Success and so on. The way these narrators narrate it’s as though they *are* a program who just reads out in a level voice without any understanding of the topic. Pinker’s voice would even have been better. Why does Penguin and other publishers inflict this in audio? Especially on an audience like the UK, why not Jonathan Kebble, Simon Vance, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Irons, Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson or any actor able to emote and speak in a clear variable intonation.

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The Best Book I’ve Read About The Way We Work

This erudite Harvard professor explains in minute detail the functioning of the mind. This is achieved from first principles and evidence based. It gets better and better on the way through and is endlessly applicable to life. The post-script where he considers how the modern evidence has affected it is fascinating. There is a lot of detail but he explains to a non-medical audience in terms that are easy to grasp.I’m a doctor by training and wish I’d read this twenty years ago. Brilliant stuff.

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Chapter : Standard Equipment

Steven Pinker starts the book with a question: Why are there so many robots in fiction, but none in real life? He answers that question by saying that even simple actions like putting away a toy or walking require complex organization. Thats why we need to understand our minds and how they work.

The human body is amazing. We take for granted the things it does every day, such as seeing and hearing. The eyes process brightness in individual patches of our visual field as well as identify boundaries between objects and somehow create their three-dimensional relationships from two-dimensional impressions. Our brain then identifies those objects to make sense of what we see around us so quickly that we dont even notice theyre happening.

Robots can be programmed to do simple tasks, such as processing the brightness of patches in a visual field. However, identifying objects is more difficult than it seems. Robots would need to have seen these objects before and have a large catalog of possible objects based on shape and size. They would also need to understand relations and context between those objects to pick out the one most likely being viewed at that time.

How The Mind Works By Steven Pinker

How the Mind Works Audiobook

by Steven PinkerNorton. 606 pp. $29.95

Nothing is more fascinating than how we think, why we think that way, and how our thinking affects our actions. In this book Steven Pinker, a professor in the department of brain and cognitive science at MIT, takes on the general task of explaining the process, and in so doing he finds something to say about almost every propensity of the mind at which a stick could be shaken: why we see colors as we do, why we are disgusted by worms, what attracts us in the opposite sex, why we are given to emotions, why we are or are not promiscuous, why mothers sometimes kill their newborns, and on and on.

Pinker is only forty-three, but he has been publishing professional and popular articles and books since 1979, and enjoys a reputation as something of an enfant terrible. It is easy to see why from How the Mind Works, a long and loosely organized book written in a style that blends vernacular expressions and witticisms with sophisticated ideas presented in fairly technical language. The book is both fun and, deliberately, outrageous that is no doubt why it commanded a very large advance, why it was made a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, why it has been widely and controversially reviewed, and why its ideas are likely to be influential. Unfortunately, those ideas happen to be wrong.






Science is silent.



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How The Mind Works

How the Mind Works

Cover of the first edition
Words and Rules

How the Mind Works is a 1997 book by the Canadian-American cognitive scientist Steven Pinker, in which the author attempts to explain some of the human mind’s poorly understood functions and quirks in evolutionary terms. Drawing heavily on the paradigm of evolutionary psychology articulated by John Tooby and Leda Cosmides, Pinker covers subjects such as vision, emotion, feminism, and “the meaning of life“. He argues for both a computational theory of mind and a neo-Darwinist, adaptationist approach to evolution, all of which he sees as the central components of evolutionary psychology. He criticizes difference feminism because he believes scientific research has shown that women and men differ little or not at all in their moral reasoning. The book was a Pulitzer Prize Finalist.

Old Book And Obviously Not How The Mind Works

This book came out in the 90s and I read it then, and forgot it entirely because it was so obviously wrong about “how the mind works”, even for what was known then. The mind doesn’t work as Pinker says at all – it’s not even close – and even lay people know it. The book is so intellectually dishonest that the title really amounts to defrauding the reader / listener. The narrator, Mel Foster, gets a good rating, but I cannot rate the book itself low enough.Since AI is highly Topical now, the re-marketing of this stinker is more than a little mercenary – unimpressed all over again.

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Everyone Should Be Familiar With Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker, a Harvard-based, evolutionary psychologist, is one of the world’s top thinkers. You simply have to come to terms with what he has to say about the mind, language and human nature. His books are long. Having read some and listened to some, I’d say listening is best. This is probably his seminal work – it is certainly the one he is most proud of. I enjoyed ‘The Blank Slate’ and ‘ The Better Angels’ more because they apply his ideas more widely to politics, history and society. But in this book he is developing his core idea – that the mind is a natural phenomena, a product of evolutionary change, and that if we understand how it has adapted, particularly during the millennia when we were hunter-gathers, we will appreciate both how remarkable it is and what its limitations as a tool for thinking and perceiving are. As other reviewers have said, it is very detailed. This is essential for Pinker to show how deeply he has thought about the issues and to display his command of the available research. Some bits will appeal more to some readers, I was more interested in the behavioural stuff about the way we interact with each other, than the way the mind interprets and uses data from our eyes. All in all it is a tour de force, which lives up to its title. I was utterly convinced by it and have accepted what he calls the ‘computational theory of mind’. Now I want to read his crtics to see if there is a viable alternative view.

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How The Mind Works Book Summary By Steven Pinker

Steven Pinker How The Mind Works

Want to learn the ideas in How The Mind Works better than ever? Read the worlds #1 book summary of How The Mind Works by Steven Pinker here.

Read a brief 1-Page Summary or watch video summaries curated by our expert team. Note: this book guide is not affiliated with or endorsed by the publisher or author, and we always encourage you to purchase and read the full book.

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Excellent But Long Winded

Having listened to “The Better Angels of Our Nature” with great pleasure, I was perhaps primed to expect too much from this earlier and equally lengthy audiobook. But where as the aforementioned kept my interest throughout, there are some parts of this book that are deeply, deeply dull to anyone but the specialist. The second six-hour block of the book is given over entirely to optics and perception, a subject difficult enough to grasp in written words, let alone being read out aloud. – As this section drags on it becomes more and more of chore to listen to, which is a shame because there is so much in this book worth listening to on both sides of that abyss.An editor with a bit more nerve might have insisted that Pinker truncate that section of the book which was clearly the author’s person hobby horse, alas listeners will have to suffer for the sake of it.

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Reviews For How The Mind Works

UNITED STATESThe New York Times Book Review, October 5, 1997.Review by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt in The New York TimesReview by Oliver Morton in The New YorkerReview by Steve Jones in New York Review of Books, November 6, 1997.Review by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi in The Washington Post Book World, November 16, 1997.Review by Mihaly Cziksentmihalyi in The Seattle TimesReview by Colin McGinn in The New RepublicReview by George Scialabba in The Boston Sunday GlobeReview by JoAnn Gutin in NewsdayReview by Jim Holt in The Wall Street JournalReview by Adam Kirsch in 1997 Fall Preview of The Boston PhoenixReview by Cyrus Taylor in The Plain DealerReview by Daniel Robinson in National ReviewReview by David Forrest in American Journal of PsychiatryReview by Edward T. Oakes in First ThingsReview by Nancy Schapiro in St. Louis Post-DispatchReview by Steven Gaulin in Evolution and Human BehaviorReview by Melvin Konner in Science, 281, 653-654, July 31, 1998.Review by Michael Gazzaniga in Trends in Cognitive Science, 2, p. 38, May 1998.Review by Thomas Ostrom in the Rochester, Minnesota Post-BulletinReview by Robert Berwick in Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 15, 1998, p. 3.Review by Jeremy Ahouse and Robert Berwick in Boston Review, April/May, 1998, p. 36. See “Questionable Tactics: A Reply to Ahouse and Berwick”, which appeared in Boston Review in the Summer 1998 issue, p. 45.Review by Paul Reid in Palm Beach Post

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A Deep Insight Into The Mind M

I listened to this 25 hours audio book in just a few days as I couldnt think of doing anything else! It helped me to better understand the origins of human behaviour both in individual and social scale. To listen/read this book one need to be interested in fundamental and philosophical questions about us, life and outside world.In this book Pinker explains how a natural and blind system of genetic mutation, adaptation and natural selection, over time, can end up creating an organism like human brain and its highly complex functions. Highly recommend

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Why Did He Bother

Steven pinker how the mind works epub

What disappointed you about How the Mind Works?More than 1/2 way through, and still didn’t have any idea where the book was going.What was most disappointing about Steven Pinkers story?No point was being made. Just a string of thoughts. Kind of like Kurt Vonnegot’s “Breakfast of Champions”. Have you listened to any of Mel Fosters other performances before? How does this one compare? No. He did an excellent job.What reaction did this book spark in you? Anger, sadness, disappointment? TEEEEDEEEEUUUUUUM.Any additional comments?Maybe, if I could have held out longer, I’d have seen a point to it. But, life is way too short. On to the next book.

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Excellent Treatment Of A Broad Topic

Where does How the Mind Works rank among all the audiobooks youve listened to so far?

I have consumed countless books, lectures, seminars, and podcasts about science, skepticism, critical thinking, behavioral economics, evolution, meta-cognition, and everything else that this book touches on. Pinker goes above and beyond by linking it all together in an engaging way. The concepts are deep but he breaks them down in such a way that they become simple.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Not applicable – this is non-fiction.

What does Mel Foster bring to the story that you wouldnt experience if you just read the book?

Excellent pace and tone. Auditory cheesecake!

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I laughed several times, and it made me think very deeply and in new ways about many very basic concepts about life, relationships, and thinking.

Any additional comments?

Though we may be sacks of meat through-and-through we still manage to find each other beautiful, and that itself is beautiful.

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There Are So Many Better Books On This Topic

Any additional comments?

I got this audiobook on sale for $4.95 and probably wouldn’t have gotten it otherwise. I really liked Eagleman’s Incognito, Lehrer’s How We Decide, Nørretranders’ User Illusion and even Kahneman’s plodding Thinking Fast and Slow, so How the MInd Works seemed like a good fit. The author is not particularly interested in how the mind actually works . The book is actually about evolutionary biology, and Pinker spends a huge amount of the book bashing feminists and sociologists. The book was written in the 90’s, so the author had probably been on the receiving end of a lot of fuzzy thinking about everything being socially constructed, but his harping makes the book seem incredibly dated . I would also say that as the mother of a truck-loving toddler girl who has been told by other mothers that “girls don’t like trucks,” I see gender roles being socially constructed every day.

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How The Mind Works Journal Entry Notes:

This is my book summary of How the Mind Works. My notes are a reflection of the journal write up above. Written informally, the notes contain a mesh and mix of quotes and my own thoughts on the book. Sometimes, to my own fault, quotes are interlaced with my own words. Though rest assured, I am not attempting to take any credit for the main ideas below. The Journal write up includes important messages and crucial passages from the book.

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, in particular, outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants, and other people.

Each of our mental modules solves its unsolvable problem by a leap of faith about how the world works, by making assumptions that are indispensable but indefensible- the only defense being that the assumptions worked well enough in the world of our ancestors. Theres nothing common about common sense. No database could install the facts we tacitly know, and no one ever thought them to us. Human evolution is the original revenge of the nerds. Cognitive niche: Using knowledge of how things work to attain goals in the face of obstacles. The mind is what the brain does.

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What Is Intelligence

Steven Pinker – How the Mind Works – Computation, Emotion, Romance, Revenge

Human beings are different from other species on earth because we are intelligent beings. But what exactly is intelligence? According to Pinker, it is the ability to attain goals in the face of obstacles by means of decisions based on rational rules.

Intelligence is based on information, and processing information is the fundamental activity of the brain. So how do we humans make sense of the world around us?

One way in which the brain stores information is by categorizing it. Organizing information into categories brings order into the mental chaos. By ordering January, February, and December into the category months, or by organizing Africa, Asia, and Europe into continents we can make sense of the daily load of information that the brain is confronted with.

More importantly, categorizing allows us to infer. We cannot know everything about every object, but we can predict properties with the help of categories. As an example: Mopsy has long ears, so he is a rabbit. This means he likes carrots and can jump. If we only knew that Mopsy was a mammal, we could make very few predictions about what Mopsy is or does.

All human brains work in similar ways. So you are not that different from people like Mozart or Einstein! In fact, Pinker writes: The genius creates good ideas because we all create good ideas that is what our combinatorial, adapted minds are for.

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