Steven Pinker

Violence has been in decline for thousands of years. We may be living in the most peaceful era ever.

One of the World’s Leading Cognitive Scientists

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Steven Pinker | One of the World’s Leading Cognitive Scientists
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Steven Pinker asks audacious questions about the human mind—then boldly sets out to answer them. Named one of TIME magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in The World, he’s a brilliant speaker, is enormously popular in the media, and highly respected in scientific circles. And for good reason. 

“It’s not just a question for historians, but a profound statement about human nature and the possibility for a better future. This book may have shaped my outlook more than any other.”

— Bill Gates on The Better Angels of Our Nature

Known for his verve, his wit, and his profound ideas—many of them explained by referencing pop culture—Steven Pinker helps non-specialists understanding the science behind human thought and action. One of the world’s leading cognitive scientists, Pinker translates his groundbreaking research into articles (he’s written for The New York Times and Nature) and books that are accessible to the general reader. His books include new title The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (about the power of communication, language, and good writing), The Better Angels of Our Nature, which garnered a New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year award and was chosen for Mark Zuckerberg’s book club, and The Blank Slate and How The Mind Works, both bestsellers, and both finalists for the Pulitzer Prize. His acclaimed “language” series includes The Language Instinct, Words and Rules, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature, and The Sense of Style.

 

The Better Angels of Our Nature is a supremely important book.”

The New York Times

A native of Montreal, Pinker is Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard and has also taught at Stanford and at MIT. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has won a number of teaching prizes, and was named among Newsweek’s “100 Americans for the Next Century.” His research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has received numerous awards, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences.

Speech Topics

Psychology
A History of Violence
Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new talk, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millennia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species’ existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, pogroms, gruesome punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows audiences how all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?

This groundbreaking talk continues Pinker’s exploration of the essence of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives—the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away—and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind’s inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative talk is sure to be hotly debated, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.  
College
The Sense of Style The Thinking Persons’ Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
Why is so much writing so bad, and how can we make it better? Do people write badly on purpose, to bamboozle their readers with highfalutin gobbledygook? Is the English language being corrupted by texting and social media? Should we bring back the lost art of diagramming sentences? Have dictionaries abandoned their responsibility to safeguard correct usage? Do the kids today even care about good writing? Why should any of us care?

In this talk, Steven Pinker argues that we need to rethink usage advice for the 21st century. Rather than moaning about the decline of the language, carping over pet peeves, or recycling spurious edicts from the rulebooks of a century ago, we can apply insights from the sciences of language and mind to the challenge of crafting clear, coherent, and stylish prose.

Don’t blame the Internet, or the kids today; good writing has always been hard. It begins with savoring the good prose of others. It requires an act of imagination: maintaining the illusion that one is directing a reader’s gaze to something in the world. A writer must overcome the Curse of Knowledge—the difficulty we all have in imagining what it’s like not to know something we know. Skillful writers must be sensitive to the ways in which syntax converts a tangled web of ideas into a linear string of words. They must weave their prose into a coherent whole, with one sentence flowing into the next. And they must negotiate the rules of correct usage, distinguishing the rules that enhance clarity and grace from the myths and superstitions.