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How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works

Amazon.com Review

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 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 ) 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.

From Kirkus Reviews

With verve and clarity, the author of The Language Instinct (1993) offers a thought-challenging explanation of why our minds work the way they do. Pinker, director of the Center for at MIT, synthesizes cognitive science and Evolutionary Biology to present the human mind as a system of mental modules designed to solve the problems faced by our evolutionary ancestors in their foraging way of life, i.e., understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants, and other people. He brings together two theories: the computational theory of mind, which says that the processing of information, including desires and beliefs, is the fundamental activity of the brain, and the theory of natural selection. He suggests that four traits of our ancestors may have been prerequisites to the evolution of powers of reasoning: good vision, group living, free hands, and hunting. He believes that human brains, having evolved by the laws of natural selection and genetics, now interact according to laws of cognitive and social psychology, human ecology, and history. He considers in turn perception, reasoning, emotion, social relations, and the so-called higher callings of art, music, literature, religion, and philosophy. (Language is omitted here, having been treated in his earlier work.) What could be heavy going with a less talented guide is an enjoyable expedition with the witty Pinker leading the way. To get his message across he draws on old camp songs, limericks, movie dialogue, optical illusions, logic problems, musical scores, science fiction, and much more. Along the way, he demolishes some cherished notions, especially feminist ones, and has some comforting words for those who struggled through Philosophy 101 (solving philosophical problems is not what the human mind was evolved to do). Fascinating stuff. (b&w drawings) (Author tour) -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
--This text refers to an out of print or Unavailable Edition of this title.

Review

Pinker has breathed marvelous life into the computational models, the originals of which are buried in nerdish obscurity. He knows when to hold his readers' attention with an illustration or a joke. No other science writer makes me laugh so much.... He is a top-rate writer, and deserves the superlatives that are lavished on him. -- The New York Times Book Review, Mark Ridley
[A]n extended and often humorous exploration of the quirks that make us such an interesting species. It's a marvelous book for teachers, full of fascinating insights and stories that will lead to interesting classroom discussions. -- Educational Leadership, Robert Sylvester, November 1998
--This text refers to an out of print or of this title.

About the Author

Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor of Psychology at . A two-time Pulitzer finalist and the winner of many prizes for his research, teaching, and books, he has been named one of Time's 100 most influential people in the world today and Foreign Policy's 100 Global Thinkers. He lives in Cambridge.

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