Steven Pinker

Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. 

Pinker has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his nine books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, and The Sense of Style. He is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Humanist of the Year, a recipient of nine honorary doctorates, and one of Foreign Policy’s “World’s Top 100 Public Intellectuals” and Time’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” He is Chair of the Usage Panel of the American Heritage Dictionary, and writes frequently for The New York Times, The Guardian, and other publications. His tenth book, published in February 2018, is called Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.

Pinker grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard.

Podcast Guest Appearances

Are Human Lives Improving?

In their 1968 book The Population Bomb, Paul and Anne Ehrlich warned of the dangers of overpopulation. These included mass starvation, societal upheaval and environmental ruin. This and other dire predictions about humankind earned Ehrlich a reputation as a prophet of doom, and fifty years later he doesn’t see much in the way of improvement. Harvard cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker, on the other hand, prefers to look on the bright side: people are living longer, extreme poverty has been decreasing globally, worldwide literacy is on the rise. Is the glass half empty, or half full?