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How the Mind Works | [Steven Pinker]

How the Mind Works

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?
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Publisher's Summary

In this delightful, acclaimed best seller, 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.

©2011 Steven Pinker (P)2011 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

“Undeniably brilliant.” (Newsday)

"Big, brash, and a lot of fun.” (Time)

“Hugely entertaining.... always sparkling and provoking.” (Wall Street Journal)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Jennifer 08-19-14
    Jennifer 08-19-14 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Sometimes Dense, But Still Held Interest"

    This book took me longer than average to get through, but I think it was well worth the undertaking. Slow going to start, but was rewarded for persistence through the pretty dense times. Chapter 1 felt never-ending, just a prolonged overview and intro it seemed, and the next chapters went on and on about the evolutionary aspects of how are brains developed, only finally making its ultimate justification for the discussion afterwards when I was losing patience for the topic. In fact, based on some of the negative reviews on audible, it makes me think they only got that far. I was rapt for the chapter all about the visual processes, leading off with some incredibly cool stuff about illusions and what we *don't* see and what we think we see... That is the kind of thing I think is really interesting and love to hear more about. Later chapters delved into family and social theory, which I am less riveted by but still find interesting.

    I liked the approach Pinker took, and how he drew attention to or gave new perspectives to lots of everyday phenomena - how we look at paintings, why/how relationships develop, what is funny, and even how we think about thinking and try to explain the unexplainable. He gave a logical progression, building on topics from introducing the foundational theory (which was referred to and relied on throughout) and working through the various levels of the brain, how we make sense of the world and interact with it, how we make sense of others and interact with them, and how we have fun and find meaning in it all.

    My particular interests were in the sections on perception, vision, language, and even a little in his brief discussion of the arts, fiction and music. I loved the time and detail he devoted to stereograms (which he mentions in the afterword as his favorite part)- not only could I visualize everything, but I actually recalled playing with stereoscopes as a kid, even an early 20th century one with photo panel inserts of Paris and other European destinations, just like he described. I was less keen on the long discussions of the evolutionary theory (mostly because I had some familiarity with it already, but it was clear he made the effort not to be misunderstood by creationists or people misconstruing the role of genes in our daily motives) and the chapter on family and social theory, though I thought it was well laid out; I have always found certain aspects of personality and social psychology to be interesting or illuminating, I just them less intriguing and cool than cognition.

    Also a great part of his argument structure that i could appreciate - the computer science and mathematical metaphors he employed in explaining the information processing. I am sure my familiarity with the topics helped me get more out of some of the discussions, but I am sure his overall style would be accessible to a novice who was willing and able to take this book on, as he often gives clear explanations of new ideas and seems to assume no level of expertise. I found myself wanting more from the discussion on language than he gave, but then he dedicated an entire book to that topic, which I will be delving into soon.

    A hefty and occasionally dense read, but sprinkled with lots of fun or interesting tidbits and pop culture references to keep it lively. Narrator did wonderfully giving voice to the style.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-30-14
    CHESTER LAS VEGAS, NEVADA, United States 07-30-14 Member Since 2007

    Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.

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    "HOW THE MIND WORKS"

    “How the Mind Works” delves into the process of thought; i.e. how it is tied to an evolutionary process and how it is common to all humans but emotively different in males and females.

    In completing Steven Pinker’s book, it seems that some mind modules are inherited and others are learned. What seems puzzling is why Pinker suggests that the evolution of man and the way the mind works is near an end rather than a beginning or mid-point. Humankind has gotten this far through adaptive evolution, why will adaptation not continue to evolve? With a changing environment, it seems logical to believe that the human species will either adapt or parish, and knowing which will happen, is probabilistically unknowable. Are we headed for dystopia and extinction, utopia and eternal life, or happiness and a fulfilled life?

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    RT LA, CA 05-18-14
    RT LA, CA 05-18-14 Member Since 2010

    RT

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    "Amazing book"
    Would you consider the audio edition of How the Mind Works to be better than the print version?

    Without a doubt the most amazing book I have ever come across. Brilliant mind who can communicate his thoughts clearly and backs up his ideas with data.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jean-Philippe Préverenges, Switzerland 03-04-13
    Jean-Philippe Préverenges, Switzerland 03-04-13 Member Since 2011
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    "not on target"
    What disappointed you about How the Mind Works?

    too many lengthy discussions about research on visual perception for example, or too long on theory of evolution. The author seems happy to display an encyclopedic knowledge about various subjects connected to the question of "how the mind works". But he fails to bring out the essence, unless this is done at the end of the book - but I did not have the patience to listen to 40 hours of this material to get to this point, if it is there.


    What do you think your next listen will be?

    Another book on the mind, much shorter and I hope, much more to the point.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    L. Burbach 02-19-13
    L. Burbach 02-19-13

    Retired economics professor. Looking for something funnier than Republicans bitching about Obama's handling of the economy they created and have done everything possible to keep from recovery hoping to beat the Democrats in 2012. Hard to beat that scenario.

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    "Outstsnding author reveals human Mind"
    What did you love best about How the Mind Works?

    The author explors the subject in many unique ways. He opens the reader's mind to show how it works.


    What did you like best about this story?

    His quirkey humor


    Which character – as performed by Mel Foster – was your favorite?

    The reader is excellent. Every word is clear.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    A ride through the brain to explore the mind.


    Any additional comments?

    This is our second Pinker book. A gifted researcher, a brilliant mind, and an interesting writer.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Diana Kanata, Ontario, Canada 02-04-13
    Diana Kanata, Ontario, Canada 02-04-13 Member Since 2008
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    "A wee bit outdated"
    What was most disappointing about Steven Pinker’s story?

    The information needs to be updated to stay relevant. While the ideas were interesting in the early 2000s, they're a bit out of date now.


    If this book were a movie would you go see it?

    A documentary, yes, but again, not a sound one.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Tim United States 01-24-13
    Tim United States 01-24-13 Member Since 2010

    My reviews are honest. No sugar coating here.

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    "PBS Nova on the Mind"

    Discovery Channel used to have Shark Week. PBS Nova should have a full month on "How the Mind Works" base on Steven Pinker's theories. While it was interesting to read, it was also frustrating to finish because the subject just got draining after a while.

    Some of his examples, like family incest, almost became unbearable to read. I really wanted to skip that part because it seemed like Pinker went on for over an hour on incest. It just seemed like that they author was being infatuated on incest and I still don't understand how the mind works on this disgusting sexual taboo.

    This book is hard to understand because there are so many examples that you will be overwhelm and after a while none of it makes any sense.

    I still don't understand at what I read. There are far better books out there on this subject, like "The Mind and the Brain". That book has a better structure and course of plan to tell you what you need to know.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Alexia West Lawn, PA, United States 01-17-13
    Alexia West Lawn, PA, United States 01-17-13 Member Since 2011
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    "Slow Start. Very strong finish"

    I was pretty bored with the first 2 or 3 hours of the book. It sounded like one long introduction. A lot of "People think this... yea but here's proof that it's not like that!" I think the first few hours were boring for me for 2 reasons: 1) it had a funny flow; but 2) I already knew a lot of the introductory stuff. I was getting ready to put it down, but then it got interesting.

    If you're interested in getting insights into virtually every aspect of life and thinking, then this book is for you. It was very worth the slow start in my opinion and I most definitely would recommend it to anyone that's interested in the science, evolution, and meaning behind who and how we are as people.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ryan Braybrook, Australia 12-24-12
    Ryan Braybrook, Australia 12-24-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Very Very Insightful"

    Most chapters are brilliant, however a few are far too technical to understand at first go. But definitely very insightful.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Errol Saskatoon, SK, Canada 12-08-12
    Errol Saskatoon, SK, Canada 12-08-12 Member Since 2011
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    "Interesting at times"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    It is far too long. I'm sure it would be great for those more interested in the topic but I was looking for a brief explanation of how the mind works. The start of the book was great but then went into far more detail than I was prepared to listen to. There are many parts of the book that are fascinating and some great humour but a chore to get through the tedious parts.


    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
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