Steven Pinker is a linguist, psychologist, and writer best known for his role in disseminating various ideas related to evolutionary psychology, communication, visual perception and cognition, computational theory of mind, as well as ‘to his own theories on language development and the decline of violence.
In this article we will analyze the theory and contributions of Steven Pinker, Focusing on their views on communication, human nature and the decline of violence. To begin with, we will do a brief review of his biography and professional career.
Steven Pinker biography
Steven Pinker was born in Montreal in 1954 to a Jewish family who had emigrated to Canada from present-day Poland and Moldova. He received his doctorate in experimental psychology from Harvard University in 1979; its tutor was Stephen Kosslyn, a distinguished author in the fields of cognitive psychology and neuroscience.
later it was researcher and professor at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Commonly referred to as “MIT”. Between 1994 and 1999, he was co-director of the Center for Cognitive Neuroscience of this prestigious institution.
Pinker is currently a professor of psychology at Harvard University and continues his work as a theorist, researcher, writer, and science communicator. He is also a leading figure in the press and frequently participates in conferences and debates on various subjects related to science and to the human being in general.
Contributions, publications and merits
Pinker has produced numerous publications and research on visual perception, psycholinguistics and interpersonal relationships which have been awarded by very important institutions including the National Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association and the Cognitive Neuroscience Society.
He has also written 14 books on these topics and on human nature in general, with an emphasis on cognitive and evolutionary perspectives. The most famous are “The Instinct of Language: How Language Creates the Mind”, “How the Mind Works”, “The Clean Table: Modern Denial of Human Nature” and “The Decline of Violence and Its Effects. implications ”.
Communication and human theories
Early in his career, Pinker conducted research on the development and characteristics of language in children. Their findings led the public to support Noam Chomsky’s theory, which states that humans have innate brain capacities that enable the understanding of language.
Pinker’s methodology at that time was based on studying the behavior of people and looking back on phylogenetic evolution to explain the development of brain functions. Using this method, he developed hypotheses about language and other phenomena, such as three-dimensional vision and logical reasoning.
According to Pinker, the innate capacity of human beings for language fundamentally depends on two cognitive processes: memorization of words and their manipulation through grammatical ruless, also learned. These biological approaches have been the subject of criticism focusing on moral or philosophical aspects.
This author generally defends the idea that genes determine an important part of human behavior. Although she said she identified with egalitarian feminism, she was criticized for her claims that there are biological differences between people of different ethnicities, as well as between men and women.
The decline of violence
In his popular book “The Decline of Violence and Its Implications”, Pinker argues that, from a proportional and historical point of view, the frequency of violent behavior has tended to decline around the world, especially over the past two years. centuries. In this work, he explores the widely held perception that violence has become more prevalent today.
According to Pinker, the decline in violence began with the rise of states, Characterized by obtaining a monopoly on such behaviors, whereas they were punished in most individuals by the use of the law. This would have enabled a large number of people to live with a lower risk of murder.
Subsequently, factors such as the expansion of trade, the humanitarian revolution associated with the Enlightenment movement, the rise of cosmopolitanism or the rejection of slavery further contributed to the decline in the relative number of violent behavior.
Pinker suggests that the experience of the two world wars was crucial in the decline of violence which occurred during the twentieth century. He also cites as relevant variables globalization, movements for the rights of minorities and non-human animals, as well as a supposed decrease in the weight of ideologies.
This author attributes the common perception that violence is increasingly common to confirmation bias and states that we have entered the era of “the long peace”. Several authors have criticized these ideas arguing that they reinforce the lack of concern for violence and conflict of war and interpret digital data in a reductionist way.