Steven Pinker (September 18, 1954) is a Canadian psychologist and writer, very popular today. In fact, a few months ago, he appeared on one of our lists as one of the 12 most influential psychologists today.
This exponent of evolutionary psychology has been interested in how our genetics predispose us to certain behaviors for a greater adaptation, and how language is a product of the evolution of our species carved by natural selection.
The most important phrases of Steven Pinker
In the following lines you can find some of Steven Pinker’s best phrases .
1. Culture rests on a neural circuitry that performs the feat we call “learning”
Although he has focused on the importance of genetics, Pinker believes that culture and learning are two closely related phenomena.
2. Everyone has a theory of human nature. We all have to anticipate the behavior of others, and that means we all need theories about what makes people tick
Human beings form hypotheses every day, because the simple relationship with others invites us to want to understand their behaviour and to anticipate it.
3. Contrary to popular belief, the gene-centered theory of evolution does not imply that the point of all human effort is to spread our genes
A quote that refers to human evolution.
4. The mind is a neural computer
Neurons form the human brain, and allow us to think, feel, experience emotions, etc.
5. The mind is not the brain but what the brain does; but not everything the brain does
A reflection on people’s unconscious.
6. Life is a series of deadlines that expire
Life must be enjoyed at every moment, for we will never live the past again.
7. As people grow older, they confuse changes in themselves with changes in the world, and changes in the world with low morale; the illusion of old times
Old age can be a time of great reflection on what life is and has been.
8. The special status of the brain comes from something special that runs, that makes us see, think, feel, choose and act. This special something is information processing, or computing.
A quote from his book: “How the Mind Works: Computing and Evolution by Natural Selection”
9. News is about things that happen, never about things that don’t happen
The news that circulates is intended to inform.
10. Since violence is largely a male pastime, cultures that allow women to escape from the exaltation of violence and are less likely to breed dangerous subcultures with uprooted youth
A reflection that invites the reader to think in depth.
11. Children acquire spoken language instinctively, but they learn written language only through the sweat of their brow, because spoken language has been a feature of human life for tens or hundreds of millennia, while written language was a recent and slowly spreading invention
People learn to speak naturally, but we don’t write well until we go to school.
12. Genes are like a game within a game, not the players’ inner monologue
Pinker finds a similarity between genes and play.
13. As technology accumulates and more people from all over the planet become interdependent, hatred between them tends to diminish, for the simple reason that you cannot kill someone without killing the trade as well
There is a relationship between the advance of new technologies and capitalism.
14. The belief that human tastes are nothing more than reversible cultural preferences has led social planners to prevent people from enjoying ornamentation, natural light and human scale, and has forced millions of people to live in grey cement boxes
A word that criticizes people who are passive towards cultural influence.
15. Solving a problem even within a hundred years is, for all practical purposes, the same as never solving it
Problems must be solved in time, because the consequences can be negative if this is not done.
16. It is natural to think that living beings must be the work of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun set around the earth. Overcoming naïve impressions to find out how things really work is one of mankind’s highest calls
People should not be perfectionists, because it negatively influences our well-being.
17. It is not right for parents to hit, humiliate, deprive or abandon their children, because it is frightening for a big and strong person to do these things to a small and helpless one.
Parents should be careful about punishing their children.
18. Whether adolescents smoke, have run-ins with the law, or commit serious crimes depends much more on what their peers do than on what their parents do
During adolescence, the weight of peers weighs heavily on adolescent behavior.
19. The psychology of morality is multifaceted. There is no single answer as to where morality lies in the brain
Morality is a social construction, as Steven Pinker makes clear with this phrase.
20. In every moment we choose, consciously or unconsciously, between good things for now and better things for later
People usually have expectations of a better future, it’s what keeps us motivated.
21. Fiction is the technology of empathy
To be able to act, it is necessary to have a good capacity for empathy.
22. Any ethnic group that has made it to the present probably had aggressive ancestors in the not too distant past
Human beings have not evolved simply by preferring peace to war.
23. Nothing offers life more meaning than the realization that every moment of sensitivity is a precious gift
A quote that invites questions about human existence.
24. The romantic idea that all evil is a product of society has justified the release of dangerous psychopaths who immediately murdered innocent people
Some social psychologists say that being good or bad depends on the situation. Something that, according to Pinker, should be taken with tweezers.
25. Our visual systems can play tricks, and it is enough to show that they are instruments of non-truth
The result of what we see is not reality, but our reality.
26. We will never have a perfect world, but it is not romantic or naive to work for a better one
To think that the world will be a paradise where everyone will respect each other and social classes will not exist is a utopia.
27. I don’t think evolution designed us to reproduce but to enjoy sex and love children
Pinker’s opinion on sex and reproduction.
28. A newborn is not a blank slate
Pinker thinks that when we’re born we’re not a tabula rasa.
29. I believe that the institutions that promote the search for truth, such as science, history and journalism, are aimed at strengthening to a great extent that muscle of reality
In the author’s opinion, the search for truth should be a primary value of people.
30. As technology accumulates and people from more parts of the planet become interdependent, the hatred between them tends to diminish, for the simple reason that you cannot kill someone and trade with them at the same time
Often, the economy takes precedence over prejudice.