The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature

Author: Steven Pinker
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by neoburkian   2019-07-12
If intelligence, conscientiousness, grit, drive, determination, etc were as visible as height, it would be immediately obvious why some people succeed and others fail. These traits are not evenly distributed. Some have them in spades, others don't.

The real myth is that "everyone has the capacity for success," and people who don't have success are "kept down by the system." These are feel good stories. If the only thing keeping everyone from eudaimonia is a broken system, then we fix the system and, presto, everything is great.

The hard pill to swallow is that differential life outcomes stem largely from differential capacities.

by Danihan   2018-01-07
To develop mental models you need to start at the ground floor, with understanding basic human nature.

by slphil   2017-11-29
You've heard nonsense. Please read some of the literature on intelligence research (1). Steven Pinker has also written a great book on why the ideas of the blank slate and social constructivism are purely ideological and do not hold up to analysis (2).

IQ is a very strong metric predictor of pretty much every aspect of personal success, from successful marriages to income to academic achievement to interpersonal skills. By no means is the relationship deterministic, but that isn't what we mean by predictors. (Many other psychological metrics, like the nonsensical "emotional intelligence", predict nothing when IQ is included in the mix.)



by slphil   2017-11-29
Because it's factually wrong. Biology matters, and I'm not trying to bring in concepts like race (which is a total intellectual disaster, since the term refers to multiple concepts that mean radically different things). Many studies do not account for simple heredity, when adoption studies have already shown that traits like IQ and even personality are heritable to some degree (1). There are genetic correlations with intelligence, aggression, etc that are difficult to untangle but undeniably real.

Humans are incredibly unique animals, but you are still a biological machine and your brain is not a piece of magic pixie dust. Without getting into the free will debate, biology does not determine behavior but does influence it heavily.

Edit: I'm not denying the existence of culture or social norms. These matter, but are also undoubtedly linked to the biological machinery of the human animal. Human society is an evolutionary result (2).

Second edit: It's very easy to find evidence that the social evolution of humans is a biological process. Here is one of my favorite papers on the self-domestication of the human species (3).




by jonloldrup   2017-08-19
> For example, it selectively cites a tiny corner of the > research literature, conveniently ignoring the mountains > of evidence that don't fit the stated thesis.

You really should provide some sort of reference on that claim.

I would say, that the consensus among psychologists in academia is the opposite of what you suggest: A majority of those people would admit that genes have a significant influence on differences in human behaviour, interests, capabilities etc.

Haidt & Jussim, May 16, 2016, Hard Truths about Race on Campus. Wall Street Journal.

Jussim, L. (2017). Why do Girls Tend to Prefer Non-STEM Careers? Psychology Today.

Jussim, L. (2017). Gender Bias in STEM or Biased Claims of Gender Bias? Psychology Today.

Ceci & Williams (2011). Understanding current causes of women’s underrepresentation in science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108, 3157-3162.

Duarte et al (2015). Political diversity will improve social psychological science. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, doi:10.1017/S0140525X14000430, e130

Pinker, S. (2002). The Blank Slate. New York: Penguin Books

Wang et al (2013). Not lack of ability but more choice: Individual and gender differences in choice in careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Psychological Science, 24, 770-775.

Williams & Ceci (2015). National hiring experiments reveal 2:1 faculty preference for women on STEM tenure track. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 112, 5360-5365.

(this list was copied from I have myself read 'The Blank Slate' by Steven Pinker. A very recommendable book)