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Steven Pinker's Quotes

Steven Pinker profile photo

Born: 1954-09-18
Profession: Scientist
Nation: Canadian
Biography of Steven Pinker

See the gallery for quotes by Steven Pinker. You can to use those 8 images of quotes as a desktop wallpapers.
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If anything, Powerpoint, if used well, would ideally reflect the way we think.

Tags: Powerpoint, Reflect, Used

If you give people literacy, bad ideas can be attacked and experiments tried, and lessons will accumulate.

Tags: Bad, Give, Ideas

In any dispute, each side thinks it's in the right and the other side is demons.

Tags: Demons, Side, Thinks

In societies no less than individuals, acknowledging our limitations may ultimately be more humane than denying them.

Tags: Less, May, Societies

Language is a window into human nature, but it is also a fistula, an open wound through which we're exposed to an infectious world.

Tags: Human, Language, Nature

Language mavens commonly confuse their own peeves with a worsening of the language.

Tags: Commonly, Confuse, Language

Like the early days of the Internet, the dawn of personal genomics promises benefits and pitfalls that no one can foresee.

Tags: Days, Early, Personal

M.I.T. has a reputation for turning out Dilberts. They may be brilliant in what they do, but no one can understand what they say.

Tags: May, Reputation, Understand

Most intellectuals today have a phobia of any explanation of the mind that invokes genetics.

Tags: Genetics, Mind, Today

Most wars are not fought over shortages of resources such as food and water, but rather over conquest, revenge, and ideology.

Tags: Food, Rather, Revenge

Mother Teresa was the very embodiment of saintliness: white-clad, sad-eyed, ascetic and often photographed with the wretched of the earth.

Tags: Earth, Mother, Often

No matter how inured you get to atrocities, you're still always stunned and shocked by how cruel and wasteful Homo sapiens can be.

Tags: Cruel, Matter, Shocked

One of the perks of being a psychologist is access to tools that allow you to carry out the injunction to know thyself.

Tags: Carry, Thyself, Tools

Paris Hilton, it turns out, is related to fellow celebrity jailbirds Zsa Zsa Gabor and G. Gordon Liddy.

Tags: Celebrity, Fellow, Paris

People are under the impression that dictionaries legislate language. What a dictionary does is keep track of usages over time.

Tags: Keep, Language, Time

Photography is a kind of virtual reality, and it helps if you can create the illusion of being in an interesting world.

Tags: Create, Illusion, Reality

Pre-state societies were far more violent than our own.

Tags: Far, Societies, Violent

Racism, because it favors color over talent, is bad for business.

Tags: Bad, Business, Racism

Societies that empower women are less violent in every way.

Tags: Less, Violent, Women

Statisticians tell us that people underestimate the sheer number of coincidences that are bound to happen in a world governed by chance.

Tags: Chance, Happen, Tell

Students do everything on laptops these days, so I definitely think electronic books are a trend that's going to expand.

Tags: Books, Days, Students

Technology, ideology, and social and cultural changes periodically throw out new forms of violence for humanity to contend with.

Tags: Humanity, Technology, Violence

The 9/11 strikes left an indelible impact on our minds, but in relative terms, the scale of casualties actually wasn't all that high.

Tags: Actually, High, Minds

The art of photography is all about directing the attention of the viewer.

Tags: Art, Attention, Directing

The brain is not a bag of traits. It's startlingly complex. There are few or no single genes with a consistent effect on the mind.

Tags: Brain, Mind, Single

The great appeal of the doctrine that the mind is a blank slate is the simple mathematical fact that zero equals zero.

Tags: Great, Mind, Simple
Much more quotes by Steven Pinker below the page.

The human capacity for compassion is not a reflex that is triggered automatically by the presence of another living thing.

Tags: Compassion, Human, Living

The rules of friendship are tacit, unconscious; they are not rational. In business, though, you have to think rationally.

Tags: Business, Friendship, Though

There has to be innate circuitry that does the learning, that creates the culture, that acquires the culture, and that responds to socialization.

Tags: Culture, Innate, Learning

Today we take it for granted that war happens in smaller, poorer and more backward countries.

Tags: Happens, Today, War

We are visual creatures. Visual things stay put, whereas sounds fade.

Tags: Put, Sounds, Stay

We can make fun of hockey fans, but someone who enjoys Homer is indulging the same kind of vicarious bloodlust.

Tags: Fun, Hockey, Someone

We really are creatures of a violent world, biologically speaking - watching violence and learning about it is one of our cognitive drives.

Tags: Learning, Violence, Watching

We're living in primate heaven. We're warm, dry, we're not hungry, we don't have fleas and ticks and infections. So why are we so miserable?

Tags: Living, Miserable, Why

Why are empirical questions about how the mind works so weighted down with political and moral and emotional baggage?

Tags: Emotional, Mind, Political

With violence, as with so many other concerns, human nature is the problem, but human nature is also the solution.

Tags: Human, Nature, Problem

You wouldn't believe the kind of hate mail I get about my work on irregular verbs.

Tags: Hate, Mail, Work

Parents provide their children with genes as well as an environment, so the fact that talkative parents have kids with good language skills could simply mean that and that the same genes that make parents talkative make children articulate.

Tags: Children, Good, Parents

People today sometimes get uncomfortable with empirical claims that seem to clash with their political assumptions, often because they haven't given much thought to the connections.

Tags: Political, Thought, Today

A decent government with an effective, but not gratuitously violent, police force and a fair court system are essential. This deters and incapacitates psychopaths, bullies and hotheads - and if it earns the confidence of the people, they don't have to become violent in self-defence.

Tags: Become, Confidence, Government

A word is an arbitrary label - that's the foundation of linguistics. But many people think otherwise. They believe in word magic: that uttering a spell, incantation, curse, or prayer can change the world. Don't snicker: Would you ever say, 'Nothing has gone wrong yet' without looking for wood to knock?

Tags: Change, Prayer, Wrong

Academics lack perspective. In a debate on whether the world is round, they would argue, 'No,' because it's an oblate spheroid. They suffer from 'the curse of knowledge': the inability to imagine what it's like not to know something that they know.

Tags: Imagine, Knowledge, Whether

America had, for one thing, lived in anarchy for - until much more recently than Europe. We had the Wild West, where the cliche of the cowboy movies was the nearest sheriff is 90 miles away, and so you had to pack a gun and defend yourself.

Tags: America, Movies, Yourself

An enormous amount of scientific language is metaphorical. We talk about a genetic code, where code originally meant a cipher; we talk about the solar system model of the atom as though the atom were like a sun and moon and planets.

Tags: Moon, Sun, Talk

An eye for beauty locks onto faces that show signs of health and fertility - just as one would predict if it had evolved to help the beholder find the fittest mate.

Tags: Beauty, Health, Help

Art works because it appeals to certain faculties of the mind. Music depends on details of the auditory system, painting and sculpture on the visual system. Poetry and literature depend on language.

Tags: Art, Music, Poetry

As a graduate student, I wrote a long paper connecting the dots between mathematical models of learning and language development in children. It was published in a major journal.

Tags: Between, Children, Learning

As every student in Philosophy 101 learns, nothing can force me to believe that anyone except me is conscious. This power to deny that other people have feelings is not just an academic exercise but an all-too-common vice, as we see in the long history of human cruelty.

Tags: History, Human, Power

As individual people, embedded in our daily lives, of course we're interested in what makes one person different from another. We've got to hire one person and not another, marry one person and not another.

Tags: Another, Daily, Makes

Astrology had an important role in the ancient world. You can't understand many things unless you know something about astrology - the plays of Shakespeare and so on.

Tags: Role, Understand, Unless

Broadly speaking, the Southern and Western desert and mountain states will vote for the candidate who endorses an aggressive military, a role for religion in public life, laissez-faire economic policies, private ownership of guns and relaxed conditions for using them, less regulation and taxation, and a valorization of the traditional family.

Tags: Family, Life, Religion

But the newest research is showing that many properties of the brain are genetically organized, and don't depend on information coming in from the senses.

Tags: Brain, Coming, Research

By exploring the political and moral colorings of discoveries about what makes us tick, we can have a more honest science and a less fearful intellectual milieu.

Tags: Honest, Political, Science

'Capitalism' is a dirty word for many intellectuals, but there are a number of studies showing that open economies and free trade are negatively correlated with genocide and war.

Tags: Free, War, Word

Climate change could produce a lot of misery and waste without necessarily leading to large-scale armed conflict, which depends more on ideology and bad governance than on resource scarcity.

Tags: Bad, Change, Misery

Cognitive psychology has shown that the mind best understands facts when they are woven into a conceptual fabric, such as a narrative, mental map, or intuitive theory. Disconnected facts in the mind are like unlinked pages on the Web: They might as well not exist.

Tags: Best, Might, Mind

Cognitive psychology tells us that the unaided human mind is vulnerable to many fallacies and illusions because of its reliance on its memory for vivid anecdotes rather than systematic statistics.

Tags: Human, Mind, Rather

Commerce is a noble profession, and Jews should get over any self-hatred they might harbor from contemplating the capitalist spirit of diaspora Judaism.

Tags: Might, Noble, Spirit

Commerce, trade and exchange make other people more valuable alive than dead, and mean that people try to anticipate what the other guy needs and wants. It engages the mechanisms of reciprocal altruism, as the evolutionary biologists call it, as opposed to raw dominance.

Tags: Dead, Mean, Try

Consciousness surely does not depend on language. Babies, many animals, and patients robbed of speech by brain damage are not insensate robots; they have reactions like ours that indicate that someone's home.

Tags: Brain, Home, Someone

Consciousness turns out to consist of a maelstrom of events distributed across the brain. These events compete for attention, and as one process outshouts the others, the brain rationalizes the outcome after the fact and concocts the impression that a single self was in charge all along.

Tags: Brain, Self, Single

Conventions are unstated agreements within a community to abide by a single way of doing things - not because there is any inherent advantage to the choice, but because there is an advantage to everyone making the same choice.

Tags: Choice, Everyone, Single

Economic libertarians and Christian evangelicals, united by their common enemy, are strange bedfellows in today's Republican party, just as the two Georges - the archconservative Wallace and the uberliberal McGovern - found themselves in the same Democratic Party in 1972.

Tags: Christian, Enemy, Today

Evolutionary psychologists seem to want to unmask our noblest motives as ultimately self-interested - to show that our love for children, compassion for the unfortunate and sense of justice are just tactics in a Darwinian struggle to perpetuate our genes.

Tags: Justice, Love, Struggle

For all the tribulations in our lives, for all the troubles that remain in the world, the decline of violence is an accomplishment that we can savor - and an impetus to cherish the forces of civilization and enlightenment that made it possible.

Tags: Lives, Possible, Violence

For one thing, before the 20th century, there were plenty of genocides. We tend to forget about them, partly because they weren't as well documented and partly because, until recently, people didn't care. We used euphemisms like 'sackings' and 'sieges' instead of calling them 'genocides.'

Tags: Care, Forget, Used

Gossip is certainly one of the things that language is useful for, because it's always handy to know who needs a favor, who can offer a favor, who's available, who's under the protection of a jealous spouse. And being the first to get a piece of gossip is like engaging in insider trading: You can capitalize on an opportunity before anyone else can.

Tags: Else, Gossip, Jealous

However much we might deplore the profit motive, or consumerist values, if everyone just wants i-Pods we would probably be better off than if they wanted class revolution.

Tags: Everyone, Revolution, Wanted

Human evolution, at first, seems extraordinary. How could the process that gave rise to slugs and oak trees and fish produce a creature that can fly to the moon and invent the Internet and cross the ocean in boats?

Tags: Fish, Human, Ocean

I do look for openings where I can overturn popular misconceptions, but unlike Christopher Hitchens, I am neither a contrarian nor a lone heretic. I like to have a significant number of academics watching my back.

Tags: Nor, Number, Popular

I have never been a fan of science fiction. For me, fiction has to explore the combinatorial possibilities of people interacting under the constraints imposed by our biology and history. When an author is free to suspend the constraints, it's tennis without a net.

Tags: Free, History, Science

I spent 20 years doing research on regular and irregular verbs, not because I'm an obsessive language lover but because it seemed to me that they tapped into a fundamental distinction in language processing, indeed in cognitive processing, between memory lookup and rule-driven computation.

Tags: Between, Language, Research

I think students should know something about religion as a historical phenomenon, in the same way that they should know something about socialism and humanism and the other great ideas that have shaped political philosophies and therefore the course of human events.

Tags: Great, Political, Religion

I think that communism was a major force for violence for more than 100 years, because it was built into its ideology - that progress comes through class struggle, often violent.

Tags: Often, Struggle, Violence

I think the reason that swearing is both so offensive and so attractive is that it is a way to push people's emotional buttons, and especially their negative emotional buttons. Because words soak up emotional connotations and are processed involuntarily by the listener, you can't will yourself not to treat the word in terms of what it means.

Tags: Emotional, Words, Yourself

I think this confusion leads intellectuals and artists themselves to believe that the elite arts and humanities are a kind of higher, exalted form of human endeavor.

Tags: Confusion, Human, Themselves

I try to jog in every city I visit, and I particularly enjoy harbour-front paths that let me ogle big ships, railroad bridges and the ruins of factories and warehouses.

Tags: Big, Enjoy, Try

If crime is going down, you shouldn't be increasing resources for crime prevention. Or you should be taking note of what has worked and concentrate the crime-prevention methods on policies that have a track record of success.

Tags: Crime, Success, Taking

If the myth of pure evil is that evil is committed with the intention of causing harm and an absence of moral considerations, then it applies to very few acts of so-called 'pure evil' because most evildoers believe what they are doing is forgivable or justifiable.

Tags: Evil, Few, Moral

If you aren't just brought up in your tribe but interact with other people either directly or vicariously, through journalism and literature, you see what life is like from other points of view and are less likely to demonize them or dehumanize others and more likely to empathize with them.

Tags: Less, Life, Others

If you look in general at people who live in anarchy, they have quite high rates of death from either homicide or warfare or both. Anarchy is one of the main reasons for violence, and it may be the most important.

Tags: Death, May, Violence

In the 1970s, many intellectuals had become political radicals. Marxism was correct, liberalism was for wimps, and Marx had pronounced that 'the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.'

Tags: Age, Become, Political

It is true that raids and battles killed a tiny percentage of the numbers that die in modern warfare. But in tribal violence, the clashes are more frequent, the percentage of men in the population who fight is greater, and the rates of death per battle are higher.

Tags: Death, Men, True

It's likely that taboo words are stored in the right hemisphere of the brain. Massive left hemisphere strokes or the entire surgical removal of the left hemisphere can leave people with no articulate speech other than the ability to swear, spout cliches and song lyrics.

Tags: Brain, Song, Words

Jews are known for many things, but strength, swiftness, and agility are not among them. There is one trait, as controversial as it is familiar, for which Jews are above all known, and that is shrewdness in business.

Tags: Business, Known, Strength

Language pedants hew to an oral tradition of shibboleths that have no basis in logic or style, that have been defied by great writers for centuries, and that have been disavowed by every thoughtful usage manual.

Tags: Great, Language, Thoughtful

Look at almost any passage, and you'll find that a paragraph has five or six metaphors in it. It's not that the speaker is trying to be poetic, it's just that that's the way language works.

Tags: Almost, Language, Trying

Morality is not just any old topic in psychology but close to our conception of the meaning of life. Moral goodness is what gives each of us the sense that we are worthy human beings.

Tags: Human, Life, Old

My opinions about human nature are shared by many psychologists, linguists, and biologists, not to mention philosophers and scholars going back centuries.

Tags: Human, Nature, Opinions

My politics were pretty anarchistic until 1969 when the Montreal police went on strike. Within hours, mayhem and rioting broke out and the Mounties had to be called in to restore order. It instilled in me that one's convictions can be subjected to empirical test.

Tags: Politics, Pretty, Until

No one knows what the nongenetic causes of individuality are. Perhaps people are shaped by modifications of genes that take place after conception, or by haphazard fluctuations in the chemical soup in the womb or the wiring up of the brain or the expression of the genes themselves.

Tags: After, Brain, Place

Northeastern and most coastal states will vote for the candidate who is more closely aligned with international cooperation and engagement, secularism and science, gun control, individual freedom in culture and sexuality, and a greater role for the government in protecting the environment and ensuring economic equality.

Tags: Equality, Freedom, Government

Obviously no language is innate. Take any kid from any race, bring them up in any culture and they will learn the language equally quickly. So no particular language is in the genes. But what might be in the genes is the ability to acquire language.

Tags: Language, Learn, Might

Of course, genes can't pull the levers of our behavior directly. But they affect the wiring and workings of the brain, and the brain is the seat of our drives, temperaments and patterns of thought.

Tags: Behavior, Brain, Thought

One of my favourite kinds of movie is the American picaresque, in which the characters make their way across the country, learning about life against the gorgeous backdrops of that vast land.

Tags: Country, Learning, Life

One of the things that people complain about is loneliness, disconnectedness. If you live in a society where your life is rarely threatened and most of your relationships are more on an economic exchange basis, then this could leave people feeling less connected.

Tags: Life, Loneliness, Society

People have long assumed that violence is necessary for political change. Rulers never cede power voluntarily, the argument goes, so progressives have no choice but to contemplate the use of force to bring about a better world, mindful of the trade-off between a small amount of violence now and acceptance of an unjust status quo indefinitely.

Tags: Change, Political, Power

People know there is a difference between what you do and what you accept. There is a difference between me knowing that people swear, me hearing people swear and me swearing, and everyone accepting that this is something you can do as much as you like.

Tags: Accept, Between, Everyone

Photography is a demanding action sport. The light can change so quickly. I often find myself sprinting so that I can catch the perfect light falling on a photogenic subject.

Tags: Change, Light, Perfect

Plants can't very well defend themselves by their behavior, so they resort to chemical warfare, and plants are saturated with toxins and irritants to deter creatures like us who want to eat them.

Tags: Behavior, Eat, Themselves