How the Mind Works

How the Mind Works

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In this delightful, acclaimed bestseller, one of the world’s leading cognitive scientists tackles the workings of the human mind. What makes us rational—and why are we so often irrational? How do we see in three dimensions? What makes us happy, afraid, angry, disgusted, or sexually aroused? Why do we fall in love? And how do we grapple with the imponderables of morality, religion, and consciousness? How the Mind Works synthesizes the most satisfying explanations of our mental life from cognitive science, evolutionary biology, and other fields to explain what the mind is, how it evolved, and how it allows us to see, think, feel, laugh, interact, enjoy the arts, and contemplate the mysteries of life. This new edition of Pinker’s bold and buoyant classic is updated with a new foreword by the author.

“Undeniably brilliant.” —Newsday

“Big, brash, and a lot of fun.” —Time

“Hugely entertaining…always sparkling and provoking.” —Wall Street Journal

“Witty popular science that you enjoy reading for the writing as well as for the science.” —New York Times Book Review

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781491514962
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication date: 04/22/2014
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 670,385
Product dimensions: 5.25(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.67(d)

About the Author

Steven Pinker is Harvard College Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. 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.


Boston, Massachusetts

Date of Birth:

September 18, 1954

Place of Birth:

Montreal, Canada


B.A., McGill University, 1976; Ph.D., Harvard University, 1979

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How the Mind Works 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 19 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Pinker is overwhelmingly entertaining. Everything he says explains something about the society of feelings, about the seeming chaos of mind, about the meaning of life. I don¿t care whether Pinker got it right about our minds. At least we know how his mind works! Gisela Gasper Fitzgerald, author of ADOPTION: An Open, Semi-Open or Closed Practice?
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is quite impressive- very well researched, thorough, provocative, and very well written. Pinker has done an admirable job approaching such a massively complex problem. However, I think he's a little thick on the psychology, and thin on the neuroscience. For example, I'm not sure he mentions the word 'neurotransmitter'. Nonetheless, anyone remotely interested in how the mind works ought to read this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
... I'd be happy and smarter indeed. Unfortunately, the price to pay for the study is high. Maybe it's because I like to learn more from lists of facts as opposed to wandering through prose - as entertaining as it may be. That said, I have a problem remembering anything in the book for long because there's simply too much information spaced over too many words. Give me a concise textbook anytime. Make no mistake about it however, this guy certainly knows what he's talking about. If you're able to follow the information flow, you'll walk away with a great deal of insight into what you are and why. For that reason alone, I'll probably give the book another read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is the sort of book you dip into when you're feeling curious, or consult when you have a question about the squishy thing inside your head. Pinker knows what he's talking about, and answers most questions people ask about the mind. While it is very long, this is to be expected as the mind is a complicated thing. I recommended this book to a friend in high school because he kept asking me questions about the mind. It is now one of only two books listed in his Myspace page. Despite what people have said, it is not that difficult to read if you have half a brain. All in all, an excellent book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I, Jeremy T. Clark, think that How The Mind Works by Stephen Pinker was chosen as a part of the Independent Thinkers Series because it is an excellent example of an author pioneering his way through information that is unfamiliar to most by taking a different approach to a subject. He explains the amazing complexity of the human mind and how we use it to plan our actions. Our senses provide all-important input that we accumulate to create the outcome of our decisions. He explains that we as humans, 'wonder about the causes of fortune and misfortune'. Pinker goes on to identify the multiple meanings of life and how they control everything around us. We still maintain beliefs about the supernatural that contradict everything that we really do know about the world, or think that we know. Since the beginning of time, things have been withheld from mainstream knowledge seekers because it may not fit into their current streams of thought that have been intentionally provided by many credible institutions. When more independent critical thinkers that inhabit our world are exposed to an infinity of truths that could be available to them, we can begin to formulate an intelligent scientific hypothesis about each of the anomalies that still baffle us. Pinker concludes that we find pleasure in enlightenment through a vehicle that we call 'the arts'. Passionate seekers of truth can and will decide what facts are actually fiction and which works of fiction are actually closer to being facts.
frank_oconnor on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The title is misleading. The first part of the book discusses neural networking, the computational theory of mind and perception but it does so without connecting the dots or answering some major questions on these issues. Pinker then turns to an extended defence of evolutionary psychology that rattles over the big issues and relies on one or two experimental defences in each case. The question of consciousness is dismissed in a three page "I don't know" and Pinker even suggests that because the mind evolved we may never know the answer and that this might be a good thing! The book is somewhat interesting as an overview of the mind in terms of evolutionary psychology but it fails to live up to the promise of providing clear insights into how the mind itself works.
echaika on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I just don't like Pinker, often disagree with him, and find him arrogant
abraxalito on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Pinker really doesn't know how the mind works. Walter Freeman (How brains make up their minds) does though, as to some degree does Zaltman (How customers think).
robinhood26 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steven Pinker takes a scientific and particularly evolutionary view regarding the brain functions and development of the human mind. This view is (finally) gaining traction in the scientific community.* To me the approach is compelling, although the author feels it necessary to spend some time in this voluminous text (565 pages, not including notes and references) defending the proposition of the brain as a product of evolution.The book, however, reaches too far. It spends most of its time on functions of the brain and the needs that evolutionary development helped solve; very interesting. Later on in the book, we are given reasons to approach concepts such as gender differences from this view; although further down the road of conjecture, the logic is impelling. However, at the end we enter the realm of philosophy and religion, which simply goes too far. The fact that our brains are not designed to solve those questions is not very relevant. More relevant would be pondering why we ask these questions in the first place, and why we are often satisfied with answers that do not add any ueful information but in some cases tell us to willingly limit our thinking. But that would be the subject of another equally protracted analysis.-------------------*An aside: in fact, when read without the baggage of preconcieved religious beliefs, the belated scientific approach to "all things human" is quite shocking. There are other examples of science being used to pursue prejudices which are also losing traction. For example, the attempts to mix the European genetic lineage with Neanderthal shows more signs of an attempt to separate the races than asking questions of under what circumstances this kind of mix could possibly take place. It is scientifically ridiculous to attempt to explain some minor genetic variation in the population, e.g. hair colour, protruding fleshy nose, etc., with a story that would create a relatively massive change that would likely accompany it, i.e., much higher bone mass, strength, protruding cranial features.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book lacked the revelation quality The Blank Slate had for me. Written six years earlier than Blank Slate, it is more technical, more influenced by emerging computer science, and slightly less in its scope. I found the computational theory of the mind a bit dated, even though I am by no means an expert in the field, and my opinion may result from my lack of knowledge. For me as a language teacher, it was interesting to see that the semantic maps and visualization techniques (as described in Mind¿s Eye chapter 4) used so widely in language teaching must have come from the brain research described there. I generally enjoyed the chapters in the second part of the book much more. Good Ideas- how people make sense of their world, Hotheads- on emotions, Family Values and the Meaning of Life were really interesting, and I found the chapters on art and music quite satisfying. It is as if Pinker were a big locomotive that needed time to get really going. Both of his books take time to gain speed and then are very good by the end, to the point that both times I felt really sorry they were finishing.The style is as clear and good as ever.
_Greg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Just what it says. What everyone should know about the design of their own mind. Steven Pinker is extraordinarily brilliant and a delight to read.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The title of this book, while undoubtedly geared to sell copies, is a vast overstatement of what Mr. Pincker is actually selling. In fact, what we laymen generally refer to as 'mind'--the feeling of sentience and the sense of 'I'--are precisely the faculties that Mr. Pincker admits are currently beyond scientific explanation, indeed which he admits it may be impossible for science to adequately explain. But those admissions are late in the book, while most of the book discusses the current knowledge about how the brain constructs the world from sensory input and how it calculates (thus the bait and switch title to this review). Those descriptions of what science currently knows are actually very informative and worth the price of the book, had the book been adequately edited by the publishing company to remove the grandiose claims and disjointed digressions. Mr. Pincker also trots out a number of old straw men--such as the nonsensical 'Standard Social Science Model'--and then proceeds to cut them down with glee, followed by a wink and a nod to the reader to let us see how very clever he is. So, if you are a good skimmer of books, buy this and pick out the important information. If you are looking for an enjoyable read, then look elsewhere.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow...The book was well written. Pinker is obviously a well educated man, but he tries to cram too much material and information into his chapters. I found myself reading some paragraphs several times before I actually captured what he was trying to say. Some chapters were endless pages of repetitive information. I must give Pinker credit, however, for the chapters that did capture my interest, however long and confusing.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It takes quite a talent to turn a fascinating subject into such a chore to read. The analogies, digressions and arcane references from unrelated fields are without end. This amounts to the worst of both world a bloated and meandering literary style coupled with an egghead inability to see the woods for the trees.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The author puts too much information in his book. As reader your overwhelmed, sometimes excited and very interested, but mostly borred and tedious! all in all to me a disappointing work
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was full of information, but at a level that is beyond what many can grasp. It was difficult to read and understand. Not only that but he repeated himself over and over again. He used 565 pages to write about something that he could have written in less then 100 pages in laymen terms. He tried to hard to prove his point by making it more intricate then what it really is. His ideas great his presentation needs serious work. I do not recommend this book at all, if you really want to learn how the mind works look somewhere else. Reading this book is just a waist of time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
dude... This book is nothing but long, complicated, boring, pages after pages of torture. Sometimes you have to read these thick paragraphs over and over until you understand it. You also have to understand everything in every page because he will use it for the rest of the book. I got 1/4 through chapter 2 before i lost interest and quit reading it. I highly recommend you dont read it. Read the Bible instead..