Subscribe
Subscribe
MY AMERICAN SCIENTIST
LOG IN! REGISTER!
SEARCH
 
Logo IMG

BOOK REVIEW

Forced to Choose

et al., Roald Hoffmann

STEVEN PINKER

Author of The Language Instinct (on our list) and more recently the provocative bestseller How The Mind Works

I've been influenced professionally by three clusters of great books:

The first, which I read as a college student, introduced me to the "cognitive revolution," which overthrew behaviorism and set out a research agenda for the study of memory and language. They include George Miller's The Psychology of Communication, Eric Lenneberg's New Directions in the Study of Language and Noam Chomsky's Language and Mind and Reflections on Language. Almost as influential was a delightful textbook that summarized the first burst of science inspired by the revolution: Peter Lindsay and Donald Norman's Human Information Processing.

The second, which I read on sabbatical in 1987–88, introduced me to evolutionary biology and its applications to human psychology. Dawkins's The Blind Watchmaker is brilliantly reasoned and written, and first allowed me to think systematically about evolutionary theory. (Previously I had gotten my evolution from Stephen Jay Gould, but he was more intent on revising evolutionary theory according to his own agenda than on explaining it, and I had always been confused by his arguments but attributed the confusion to my own lack of expertise. Dawkins's rigorously logical approach clarified everything.) His book The Selfish Gene was equally eye-opening for the asides he made about human psychology, which were developed in much greater depth and rigor in two brilliant (and beautifully written) books: Donald Symons's The Evolution of Human Sexuality and Martin Daly and Margo Wilson's Homicide.

The third bunch, which I have read in the past five years, helped remedy my woeful ignorance of economics, after an education and professional ambience in which Marx was considered to be the only academically correct economist. Thomas Sowell's Knowledge and Decisions, Robert Frank's Choosing the Right Pond and, in a lighter (but basically serious) way, Stephen Landsburg's The Armchair Economist are lucid introductions to classical economics and modern revisions of them. Frank's book Passions Within Reason, an economist's look at human emotions, completely changed my view of emotions and influenced my discussion of them in How the Mind Works.




comments powered by Disqus
 

Connect With Us:

Facebook Icon Sm Twitter Icon Google+ Icon Pinterest Icon RSS Feed

Sigma Xi/Amazon Smile (SciNight)


Latest Multimedia

VIDEO: Citizen Scientists Aid Researchers in Studying Camel Crickets

MJEpps CricketsThey may bounce really high and look strange, but don't worry, they are harmless...they even scavenge for crumbs off of your floor! A continental-scale citizen science campaign was launched in order to study the spread and frequency of native and nonnative camel crickets in human homes across North America.

Mary Jane Epps, PhD, an author of the paper, went into more detail about the study and significance of citizen scientists in an interview with Katie-Leigh Corder, web managing editor.

To view all multimedia content, click "Latest Multimedia"!


Subscribe to Free eNewsletters!

  • Sigma Xi SmartBrief:

    A free daily summary of the latest news in scientific research. Each story is summarized concisely and linked directly to the original source for further reading.

  • American Scientist Update

  • An early peek at each new issue, with descriptions of feature articles, columns, Science Observers and more. Every other issue contains links to everything in the latest issue's table of contents.

  • Scientists' Nightstand

  • News of book reviews published in American Scientist and around the web, as well as other noteworthy happenings in the world of science books.

    To sign up for automatic emails of the American Scientist Update and Scientists' Nightstand issues, create an online profile, then sign up in the My AmSci area.


EMAIL TO A FRIEND :

Subscribe to American Scientist