How The Mind Works Paperback – Jan 5 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 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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Top Customer Reviews
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?Read more ›
Unlike Chomsky, the man whose theories Pinker pushes (they're both at MIT), Pinker can keep the reader's attention for more than a few seconds. Maybe that's why he thought he could get away with a 600-page book devoted to exhaustive and pointless discourses on (a) what everybody knows and (b) what practically no scientist, even other computationalists, takes seriously. Unfortunately, it doesn't work, and unless you're that kind of reader who can turn off your ability to think coherently and let the information just siphon in, I can't imagine who'd want to own this book.
I give this book two stars instead of one because, gosh darn, he seems like such a nice guy, even when I think he's being intellectually bankrupt.
If one's brain really is a computer, as Pinker asserts, then how do you restart yours after it's been cluttered up by _How the Mind Works_ and _The Language Instinct_?
Most recent customer reviews
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 morePublished on Jan. 21 2010 by L. Young
with simple, familiar language MIT professor Pinker delves into how the mind evolved and how it works. Read morePublished on June 14 2004 by Thomas W. Meagher
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 morePublished on June 12 2004 by Larry M. van Hook
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 morePublished on May 18 2004 by Robert Huber
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. Read morePublished on May 13 2004 by A. G. Plumb
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 morePublished on May 4 2004
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 morePublished on Jan. 29 2004 by x-plorer
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 morePublished on Sept. 6 2003 by Gisela Gasper Fitzgerald
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 morePublished on Aug. 25 2003 by J. Richmond
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