How the Mind Works and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Vous voulez voir cette page en français ? Cliquez ici.

Have one to sell? Sell yours here
Start reading How the Mind Works on your Kindle in under a minute.

Don't have a Kindle? Get your Kindle here, or download a FREE Kindle Reading App.

How The Mind Works [Paperback]

Steven Pinker
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (141 customer reviews)

Available from these sellers.


Amazon Price New from Used from
Kindle Edition CDN $10.84  
Hardcover --  
Paperback CDN $16.57  
Paperback, Jan. 1 1999 --  
MP3 CD, Audiobook, MP3 Audio, Unabridged CDN $10.79  
Save Up to 90% on Textbooks
Hit the books in's Textbook Store and save up to 90% on used textbooks and 35% on new textbooks. Learn more.
Join Amazon Student in Canada

Book Description

Jan. 1 1999
In this extraordinary bestseller, Steven Pinker, one of the world's leading cognitive scientists, does for the rest of the mind what he did for language in his 1994 book, The Language Instinct. He explains what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and ponder the mysteries of life. And he does it with the wit that prompted Mark Ridley to write in the New York Times Book Review, "No other science writer makes me laugh so much. . . . [Pinker] deserves the superlatives that are lavished on him." The arguments in the book are as bold as its title. Pinker rehabilitates some unfashionable ideas, such as that the mind is a computer and that human nature was shaped by natural selection, and challenges fashionable ones, such as that passionate emotions are irrational, that parents socialize their children, and that nature is good and modern society corrupting.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought

Product Details

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.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Why are there so many robots in fiction, but none in real life? Read the first page
Explore More
Browse Sample Pages
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
Search inside this book:

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Computer scientists - don't buy this book! April 2 2002
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.
Was this review helpful to you?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By algo41
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).
Was this review helpful to you?
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars good cognitive science, very fuzzy biology Aug. 3 1999
By A Customer
How the Mind Works shows what happens when a solid scholar in one field becomes enamored of another. Pinker is a wonderful writer and very effective when explaining language; but his understanding and feel for evolutionary biology are truly shallow, and his resorts to adaptation are usually simplistic that they read like a college term paper. So the book is very much a mixed bag.
Was this review helpful to you?
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The Worst Book Ever Written on the Human Mind Oct. 9 2002
.....and here's why.
Let's say you are a space alien on the moon busily engaged in observing human beings and their various aircraft. You write a book on aerodynamics wherein you provide a mathematical model of computation that describes the outward behavior of what you see. But in the introduction of the book you claim that you can model the flight of planes, rockets, and balloons without any need to consider air. Of course aerodynamics without air is as stupefyingly dumb as claiming to understand the mind without understanding the neuronal basis of the brain. But this is what Pinker actually does in his book, and even trumpets the fact!!
Thus to quote Pinker: "This book is about the brain, but I will not say much about neurons, hormones, and neurotransmitters. That is because the mind is not the brain but what the brain does... That special thing is information processing, or computation." (p7)
In other words, by saying that "the mind is what the brain does", Pinker neglects to define the brain! By reverse engineering the mind, and attributing behavioral functions to wholly inferred computational modules somehow selected by evolution, Pinker neglects the massive corpus of findings in neuro-psychology that have detailed in painstaking detail the motivational systems in human and mammalian brains. The sub-cortical systems that are critical for the generation of human emotions and human motivation are not 'computational' by any stretch of the imagination, and must be incorporated in any model of how the brain actually works. Without this, understanding the mind is impossible. Nonetheless, Pinker wears this ignorance like a badge, a badge that discredits his own argument even before its substantive products are considered.
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
3.0 out of 5 stars Families not Species? May 13 2004
I enjoy Mr Pinker's books - this is not the first one I have read.A nd yet I find myself balking at some of it. Indeed I have a personal characteristic, not unique of course, that separates me from a lot of what is said here. A physical characteristic, not an emotional one. Consequently I keep finding myself challenging, defending, objecting .....
Previously I had read 'Why Sex is Fun?' by Jared Diamond and during this book I realised that the title is totally misleading. It suggests that sex was developed by a conscious entity who thought - 'How can I make this work? I know, I'll make it fun.' For me this is back to front. We are here - our species - because sex just happens to be fun. If it were unpleasant or a chore we probably wouldn't be here.
So here we are again looking at evolution and trying to justify human behaviour as somehow driven by genetic imperatives - as if the genes are trying to meet objectives. For me, this is crazy. The genes are the accidental vehicles that keep the species going, but they don't do it by design.
And midway through the chapter on families in Mr Pinker's book I realised something new. All we can tell about our existence from evolution is that the species is still here, and something about the way we do things has contributed to that. But Bonobos are here too and they behave in an entirely different way - despite that, they are successful in terms of evolution. But as soon as Mr Pinker talks of the individual male wanting to promote his genes in advance of another man's I know the argument has gone off the rails. We are now talking about - not persistence of the species (which is demonstrable), but persistence of the particular family (which I suspect is not demonstrable).
Read more ›
Was this review helpful to you?
Want to see more reviews on this item?
Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Natural Selection is the Blind Programmer
Being the first book I have read of Steven Pinkers, it met all expectations and then some. I wouldn't recommend this book to someone who doesn't have any basic understanding of... Read more
Published on Jan. 21 2010 by L. Young
5.0 out of 5 stars brilliant
with simple, familiar language MIT professor Pinker delves into how the mind evolved and how it works. Read more
Published on June 14 2004 by Thomas W. Meagher
3.0 out of 5 stars In and Out of his element
Steven Pinker certainly knows his stuff when it comes to how our brain works. If you have the endurance and are a scientist already, you may get through this incredibly monotonous... Read more
Published on June 12 2004 by Larry M. van Hook
5.0 out of 5 stars Three pounds of hamburger
Great book about how the Brain works but should be titled, "How the Brain Works". Without the Soul, there is no mind. The Soul IS the mind operating within the brain. Read more
Published on May 18 2004 by Robert Huber
5.0 out of 5 stars Illuminating information from neuroscience
Not since Daniel Goleman's, Emotional Intelligence published in 1995, have we been the recipients of meaningful insight into the way the mind and emotions work. Read more
Published on May 4 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Digging Minds!
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... Read more
Published on Feb. 12 2004 by Ilaxi S. Patel
2.0 out of 5 stars Don't start here if easily bored!
Pinker is no doubt knowledgeable in the subject matter. He also seems to be an avid student and conscientious worker of the cognitive science field. And that's just fine. Read more
Published on Jan. 29 2004 by x-plorer
5.0 out of 5 stars At least we know how Pinker's mind works!
I still don't know how MY mind works, but I don't care: It works and the more I read by Pinker, the more I think I know how HIS mind works! Delightful! Read more
Published on Sept. 6 2003 by Gisela Gasper Fitzgerald
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinker does it again
WHy this book doesn't average more stars than it does is beyond me. I image it is because it occasionally ruffles ideological feathers. Read more
Published on Aug. 25 2003 by J. Richmond
5.0 out of 5 stars Pinker is a genius
With good form, good argument and good humor, Mr. Pinker again has explained the complex facets of the human mind in a way that is clearly understood. Thank you, good sir.
Published on Aug. 6 2003 by A. Sullivan
Search Customer Reviews
Only search this product's reviews

Look for similar items by category