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How The Mind Works Paperback – Jan 5 1999

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: WW Norton; 1 edition (Jan. 5 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318486
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318487
  • Product Dimensions: 15.5 x 3 x 23.6 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 998 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #419,601 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Amazon

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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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By algo41 on Jan. 14 2004
Format: Paperback
I found the title somewhat misleading as the greater part of this book reports on the findings of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology is not a new subject to me, but I found Pinker's chapter on the arts totally new and intriguing. The first part of the book explains Pinker's view on how the mind works. Pinker is at his best employing a fluent, discursive style with references to popular culture as likely as to scholarly works. He sometimes digresses, but hell, I finally understood what deconstructionism was. Unfortunately, while this discursive style works with evolutionary psychology, something more is needed when discussing neural nets, algorithmic implementations of artificial intelligence and the like. Pinker realizes this, but does not do a particularly good job. He does have a fine chapter on visual perception, and on just how much processing and innate assumptions are involved, but even here I would have benefited from more recapitulation. Pinker tends to give short shrift to ideas he doesn't hold, and has a truly absurd argument to buttress his claim that the only reason sex was an evolutionary success was to fight disease. More importantly, he dismisses any extended discussion of consciousness as not fruitful (cf Antonio Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Marc Cenedella on June 1 2003
Format: Paperback
Unlike most reviewers, I come to How the Mind Works *after* reading Blank Slate, which is by far the superior work, in what are two very similar themes. This volume could as well be entitled "How the Persona Works" as it delves very little in the science of the mind. This is not an introduction to neuroscience, but rather is much more focused on the psychology of social interaction and knowledge acquisition. I suppose I was hoping for a more structured scientific statement of how the brain is composed chemically, designed genetically, and structured systemically.
In a series of sections, Pinker somewhat dis-connectedly jumps through findings from psychology and brain science to illuminate interesting problems. I found the opening sections - on areas like the mind's eye and how the brain is a thinking machine - far less interesting and compelling.
Pinker describes the brain as a machine that has costs (in tissue, energy, and time) and confers benefits. Knowing where the gold is buried in your neighborhood - and whether it's broadly in the northwest quadrant, or specifically underneath the flowerpot - improves your position because it reduces the physical work required to unearth it. That one bit of information allows 1 man to find the gold which would have taken 100 if the digging was done indiscriminately.
There are some very nice thought experiments in this section:
"What if we took [a brain simulation computer] program and trained a large number of people, say, the population of China, to hold in mind the data and act out the steps? Would there be one gigantic consciousness hovering over China, separate from the consciousness of the billion individuals?
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Valerie Aurora on April 2 2002
Format: Paperback
Ugh! Horrible! If you're a computer scientist, or even a person who has occasionally dabbled in the field, you'll be disgusted with the constant mistakes and misunderstandings associated with every mention of computer science theory in this book. Considering that Pinker's theory of "How the Mind Works" is based on the computational model of the mind, his near-total ignorance of actual computer science means that his whole argument is based on material he doesn't understand. He also presents the computational model of the mind as far more universally accepted than it really is.
The number of mistakes Pinker makes in the fields I understand makes me wonder how many mistakes he makes that I am unaware of, lacking expertise in other fields. I treat everything I learned from this book as suspect and untrustworthy as a result.
"How the Mind Works" is a bad rehash of several books I've already read - "The Moral Animal," "The Emperor's New Mind," any introductory psychology text. I recommend it only to people who want a brief, shallow overview of a field they will never research further.
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By Ilaxi S. Patel on Feb. 12 2004
Format: Paperback
How the mind works or say better 'Digging Minds' - the author reveals the research on Minds and his survey is all 'Ahs' and 'Oops' coz as we read the book, Steven Pinker is cheering thru the chapters on Human brain. His arguments are quite unique esp. the Love chapter is all a 'ga-ga emotional swings' The powerful emotions override circumstances with ease and a glad heart is resourceful in finding joys! Mind itself is a 'Thought Factory' and it can make a heaven or hell out of it. The author digs into psychology - neuroscience effects and how the senses perform. With indepth views, the book might seem misleading at places but to sum up, the authors leaves room for the'free' flow of thoughts. Signs of anxiety, fear, insecurity is emotional outbursts seen in some people which is totally controlled by the thinking process of the brain. Hearing, speaking, thinking are all mind triggered emotions and even memories relate to Mindful thoughts. The book is a good read on Mind functioning and if one is interested in Psychology reads, this is good Pick!
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