Steven Pinker The Blank Slate

1173 Words5 Pages
The theory of the blank slate is the idea that humans are born with no predisposed characteristics and abilities, and that we are shaped by our upbringing and culture. Everything a person becomes can be traced back to their environment. This theory has been explored and supported by many psychologists, philosophers and other researchers in the past century. Steven Pinker’s book The Blank Slate gives his readers an argument against this theory, as he believes that human behaviour is the result of evolutionary psychosomatic adaptations: that there are aspects of human behaviour that are innate. Despite his opinion opposing the Blank Slate theory, Pinker does discuss that human behaviour is a concoction of both nature and nurture, meaning our…show more content…
Amongst the many supporters of the blank slate included in Pinker’s book, Walt Disney was one, and said that “A child’s mind is a blank book. During the first years of his life, much will be written on the pages. The quality of that writing will affect his life profoundly”. (pg. 11) Pinker mentions how the rise in popularity of the blank slate theory amongst psychologists in the 1920s-60s lead to many behavourists including B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) creating studies and writing very influential books without consideration of the brain or the genetic makeup of organisms. At this point in time, behaviourism became the dominant field in psychology and permeated the public perception. Pinker puts significant attention on the fact that behavioural psychologists such as John B. Watson (1878-1958) and Skinner wrote books on childrearing and books arguing that harmful behaviour, such as aggression, is nor instinctive nor freely chosen to show how it had corrupted the public. Watson (1924/1998) also came up with one of the most famous quotes of the century on the theory of the blank slate: “Give me a dozen healthy infants, well-formed, and my own personal world to bring them up in and I’ll…show more content…
Such include dualism (the ghost in the machine) and romanticism (the noble savage). Empiricism, dualism, and romanticism are the three linked doctrines that Pinker argues have been challenges by modern science and includes these doctrines in his writing to emphasize to his readers the importance of realizing how much our conduct is rooted in the physical nature that we are born with, as opposed to being constructed by society. This physical nature, Pinker says, is a significant and legitimate heritage. Although evolution may have given us excellent neuroplasticity, our recent development into the humans we are today could not have left us lacking in innate behaviour for dealing with life. Pinker writes “The mind was forged in Darwinian competition and an inert medium would have been outperformed by rivals outfitted with high technology - with acute perceptual systems, savvy problem-solvers, cunning strategists and sensitive feedback circuits. A malleable mind would quickly be selected out” (pg. 54). He insists that our ignorance and denial of our human nature, as well as our oblivious devotion to the corrupt doctrine of empiricism (blank slate theory), will do us harm as it “torments mothers who work outside the home”, “blinds us to our cognitive and moral shortcomings” and “perverts education, child-rearing and the arts”. Without the influence of

More about Steven Pinker The Blank Slate

Open Document