Steven Pinker is a professor of cognitive science (the study of the human mind) who writes about language, mind and human nature.

Why you should listen

Steven Pinker grew up in the English-speaking community of Montreal but has spent his adult life bouncing back and forth between Harvard and MIT. He is interested in all aspects of human nature: how we see, hear, think, speak, remember, feel and interact.

To be specific: he developed the first comprehensive theory of language acquisition in children, used verb meaning as a window into cognition, probed the limits of neural networks and showed how the interaction between memory and computation shapes language. He has used evolution to illuminate innuendo, emotional expression and social coordination. He has documented historical declines in violence and explained them in terms of the ways that the violent and peaceable components of human nature interact in different eras. He has written books on the language instinct, how the mind works, the stuff of thought and the doctrine of the blank slate, together with a guide to stylish writing that is rooted in psychology.

In his latest book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, he writes about progress -- why people are healthier, richer, safer, happier and better educated than ever. His other books include The Language InstinctHow the Mind Works, The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human NatureThe Stuff of Thought, and The Better Angels of Our Nature.

More news and ideas from Steven Pinker


Why this might just be the most significant TED Talk ever posted

March 17, 2014

I want to give you the back story behind today’s TED Talk and make the case that it’s one of the most significant we’ve ever posted. And I’m not just talking about its incredible animation. I’m talking about its core idea. Two years ago the psychologist Steven Pinker and the philosopher Rebecca Newberger Goldstein, who are […]

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Your weekend reading: In defense of the red line, a public health heroine

September 14, 2013

Intriguing reads from around the Internets this week: Two journalists on why the red line on chemical warfare is necessary. [Foreign Affairs] The story of Sara Josephine Baker, a doctor who saved 90,000 inner-city children by the time she died in 1945. [NYRB] “You can’t defend the humanities by declaring it off limits to amateurs.” […]

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