Not so fast, Mr. Pinker: Making the case for human nurture

Document Type

Conference Presentation



Conference Title

Annual Meeting of the Association for Behavior Analysis


Association for Behavior Analysis


Atlanta, GA

Conference Dates

May 26-30, 2006

Date of Presentation



Steven Pinker has argued that 1) the prevailing "theory of human nature" held by intellectuals in our culture is "the idea that the human mind has no inherent structure and can be inscribed at will by society or ourselves"--the so-called Blank Slate theory; 2) there is a corresponding denial of human nature; and 3) modern cognitive neuroscience and evolutionry psychology together are convincingly challenging the Blank Slate position. In the paper, we 1) describe this Blank Slate position as straw person; 2)argue that there is a modern denial (or ignorance) of learning, not inheritance; and then 3) describe some of the evidence against an evolutionary psychology account of human nature and in favor of a learning account, acknowledging that the development of behavior always results from the constant interaction between genes (evolution) and environment (learning).

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