62 Steven Pinker Quotes from Canadian-American Cognitive Psychologist

Steven Pinker born in 1954 in Montreal is a Canadian-American psychologist known for his evolutionary approach to brain functions language and behavior.

After earning a bachelor’s from McGill University and a doctorate from Harvard he taught at both institutions and then joined MIT.

His works including “The Language Instinct” and Pulitzer-nominated “How the Mind Works” introduce “reverse engineering” to understand brain development.

Steven Pinker Quotes

Other books such as “Words and Rules” “The Blank Slate” and “Enlightenment Now” cover language mechanisms human nature and the history of violence.

Although his work has faced criticism from various quarters Pinker remains a leading figure in psycholinguistics and cognitive science.

I have listed below some of the most popular quotes by Steven Pinker.

Best Steven Pinker Quotes


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


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. ~ Steven Pinker.


Writers acquire their technique by spotting, savoring, and reverse-engineering examples of good prose. ~ Steven Pinker.


My laptop has freed me to travel. ~ Steven Pinker.

The stuff of life turned out to be not a quivering, glowing, wondrous gel but a contraption of tiny jigs, springs, hinges, rods, sheets, magnets, zippers, and trapdoors, assembled by a data tape whose information is copied and scanned. ~ Steven Pinker.


Evolution is an indispensable component of any satisfying explanation of our psychology. ~ Steven Pinker.

All our behaviours are a result of neurophysiological activity in the brain. There is no reason to believe there is any magic going on. ~ Steven Pinker.


Overcoming naïve impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity’s highest callings. ~ Steven Pinker.

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


Everywhere you look for comparisons of life under anarchy and life under government, life under government is less violent. ~ Steven Pinker.

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

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. ~ Steven Pinker.


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

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? ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

Famous Steven Pinker Quotes


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

Energy channeled by knowledge is the elixir with which we stave off entropy, and advances in energy capture are advances in human destiny. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.


The theory that religion is a force for peace, often heard among the religious right and its allies today, does not fit the facts of history. ~ Steven Pinker.

The more you think about and interact with other people, the more you realize that it is untenable to privilege your interests over theirs. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

The problem with the emotions is not that they are untamed forces or vestiges of our animal past; it is that they were designed to propagate copies of the genes that built them rather than to promote happiness, wisdom, or moral values. ~ Steven Pinker.


Without goals the very concept of intelligence is meaningless. ~ Steven Pinker.

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

Top Steven Pinker Quotes

Everyone’s pedigree merges into everyone else’s pedigree. So if you go back far enough, everyone is related. ~ Steven Pinker.


Evolutionary psychology is one of four sciences that are bringing human nature back into the picture. ~ Steven Pinker.

Equality is not the empirical claim that all groups of humans are interchangeable; it is the moral principle that individuals should not be judged or constrained by the average properties of their group. ~ Steven Pinker.

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


Ancestor worship must be an appealing idea to those who are about to become ancestors. ~ Steven Pinker.

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.’ ~ Steven Pinker.

We instinctively fear snakes, but we appear not to be afraid of fast cars, which are a real danger now. This suggests our emotions were shaped by our evolutionary environment not the one we grew up in. ~ Steven Pinker.

No society can be simultaneously fair, free, and equal. If it is fair, people who work harder can accumulate more. If it is free, people will give their wealth to their children. But then it cannot be equal, for some people will inherit wealth they did not earn. ~ Steven Pinker.


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

I would argue that nothing gives life more purpose than the realization that every moment of consciousness is a precious and fragile gift. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

Popular Steven Pinker Quotes

It’s natural to think that living things must be the handiwork of a designer. But it was also natural to think that the sun went around the earth. Overcoming naive impressions to figure out how things really work is one of humanity’s highest callings. ~ Steven Pinker.

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


Fiction is empathy technology. ~ Steven Pinker.

I think that a failure of statistical thinking is the major intellectual shortcoming of our universities, journalism and intellectual culture. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

Democracy is an imperfect way of steering between the violence of anarchy and the violence of tyranny, with the least violence you can get away with. ~ Steven Pinker.

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


Disgust is intuitive microbiology. ~ Steven Pinker.

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

Adam Freedman points out in his book on legalese, What distinguishes legal boilerplate is its combination of archaic terminology and frenzied verbosity, as though it were written by a medieval scribe on crack. ~ Steven Pinker.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to compute it. ~ Steven Pinker.

Human nature is complex. Even if we do have inclinations toward violence, we also have inclination to empathy, to cooperation, to self-control. ~ Steven Pinker.


If anything, Powerpoint, if used well, would ideally reflect the way we think. ~ Steven Pinker.

As we care about more of humanity, we’re apt to mistake the harms around us for signs of how low the world has sunk rather than how high our standards have risen. ~ Steven Pinker.

Great Steven Pinker Quotes

In a high tech world the cure for the tragic shortcomings and perilous fallacies of human intuition is education, but education in economics, evolutionary biology, probability and statistics – unfortunately most High School and College curricula have barely changed since Medieval times! ~ Steven Pinker.

Adam Smith called it the paradox of value: when an important good becomes plentiful, it costs far less than what people are willing to pay for it. The difference is called consumer surplus, and the explosion of this surplus over time is impossible to tabulate. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

The European wars of religion were more deadly than the First World War, proportionally speaking, and in the range of the Second World War in Europe. The Inquisition, the persecution of heretics and infidels and witches, they racked up pretty high death tolls. ~ Steven Pinker.

Being smarter gives you a tailwind throughout life. People who are more intelligent earn more, live longer, get divorced less, are less likely to get addicted to alcohol and tobacco, and their children live longer. ~ Steven Pinker.

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. ~ Steven Pinker.

We will never have a perfect world, but it’s not romantic or naïve to work toward a better one. ~ Steven Pinker.

You can’t hear a word and just hear it as raw sound; it always evokes an associated meaning and emotion in the brain. ~ Steven Pinker.

So these were the 62 top Steven Pinker quotes and sayings.

If you like these quotes and sayings, then you can also read my other posts on Miguel Cabrera quotes and Duane Michals quotes.

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Chandan Negi
Chandan Negi

I’m the Founder of Internet Pillar - I love sharing quotes and motivational content to inspire and motivate people - #quotes #motivation #internetpillar