The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

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“If I could give each of you a graduation present, it would be this—the most inspiring book I've ever read."
Bill Gates (May, 2017)

Selected by The New York Times Book Review as a Notable Book of the Year


The author of Enlightenment Now and The New York Times bestseller The Stuff of Thought offers a controversial history of violence.

Faced with the ceaseless stream of news about war, crime, and terrorism, one could easily think we live in the most violent age ever seen. Yet as New York Times bestselling author Steven Pinker shows in this startling and engaging new work, just the opposite is true: violence has been diminishing for millenia and we may be living in the most peaceful time in our species's existence. For most of history, war, slavery, infanticide, child abuse, assassinations, programs, gruesom punishments, deadly quarrels, and genocide were ordinary features of life. But today, Pinker shows (with the help of more than a hundred graphs and maps) all these forms of violence have dwindled and are widely condemned. How has this happened?

This groundbreaking book continues Pinker's exploration of the esesnce of human nature, mixing psychology and history to provide a remarkable picture of an increasingly nonviolent world. The key, he explains, is to understand our intrinsic motives--the inner demons that incline us toward violence and the better angels that steer us away--and how changing circumstances have allowed our better angels to prevail. Exploding fatalist myths about humankind's inherent violence and the curse of modernity, this ambitious and provocative book is sure to be hotly debated in living rooms and the Pentagon alike, and will challenge and change the way we think about our society.  
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Additional Information

Publisher
Penguin
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Published on
Oct 4, 2011
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Pages
832
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ISBN
9781101544648
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Psychology / Personality
Psychology / Social Psychology
Science / Philosophy & Social Aspects
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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Written by Dr Paul Seager, a social psychology specialist who teaches at the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, Social Psychology: A Complete Introduction is designed to give you everything you need to succeed, all in one place. It covers key areas that students are expected to be confident in, outlining the basics in clear jargon-free English, and then provides added-value features like summaries of key studies, lists of questions to test your understanding of the concepts covered, and a 'Food for thought' section at the end of each chapter which challenges you to put the academic theories to practical use.

The book uses a structure that mirrors many university courses on social psychology - starting off by explaining what social psychology is and how it is researched, before exploring a wide variety of the fascinating areas social psychologists have looked at in both classic and lesser-known studies. Areas covered include: the self; attributions; social cognition; interpersonal attraction; social influence; attitudes and persuasion; prosocial behaviour; aggression; groups; leadership; group decision making; intergroup behaviour; and prejudice. A final chapter looks at how social psychology can, and has been, applied in the real world to make a difference.

'Teach Yourself' titles employ the 'Breakthrough method', which is designed specifically to overcome problems that students face.

- Problem: "I find it difficult to remember what I've read."; Solution: this book includes end-of-chapter summaries and questions to test your understanding.
- Problem: "Most books mention important other sources, but I can never find them in time."; Solution: this book includes fully referenced quotes ready to use in your essay or exam, and each chapter lists further suggested readings for each topic.
- Problem: "Lots of introductory books turn out to cover totally different topics than my course."; Solution: this book is written by a current university lecturer who understands what students are expected to know.

From fads, crazes, and manias to collective delusions, scares, panics, and mass hysterias, history is replete with examples of remarkable social behavior. Many are fueled by fear and uncertainty; others are driven by hope and expectation. For others still, the causes are more obscure. This massive collection of extraordinary social behaviors spans more than two millennia, and attempts to place many of the episodes within their greater historical and cultural context. Perhaps the most well known example of unusual collective behavior occurred in 1938, when a million or more Americans were frightened or panicked after listening to a realistic radio drama about a Martian invasion of New Jersey, based on an adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel "War of the Worlds." Less known but equally remarkable scares based on Wells' book occurred in Chile in 1944 (when Army units were mobilized), in Ecuador in 1949 (when riots broke out, leaving more than a dozen dead), as well as in Buffalo in 1968, Rhode Island in 1974, and Europe in 1988 and 1998. The modern civilized world is by no means immune to such peculiar episodes. In the late 20th century, scores of people in the U.S. and Europe were wrongly incarcerated following claims of Satanic ritual abuse by authorities untutored in False Memory Syndrome. This episode recalls the European witch terror of the late Middle Ages, when innocent people were tortured and executed for consorting with the Devil based on the flimsiest of evidence. OUTBREAK! THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF EXTRAORDINARY SOCIAL BEHAVIOR is an authoritative reference on a broad range of topics: collective behavior, deviance, social and perceptual psychology, sociology, history, folklore, religious studies, political science, social anthropology, gender studies, critical thinking, and mental health. Never before have so many sources been brought together on the mesmerizing topic of collective behavior.
INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2018
ONE OF THE ECONOMIST'S BOOKS OF THE YEAR

"My new favorite book of all time." --Bill Gates

If you think the world is coming to an end, think again: people are living longer, healthier, freer, and happier lives, and while our problems are formidable, the solutions lie in the Enlightenment ideal of using reason and science.

Is the world really falling apart? Is the ideal of progress obsolete? In this elegant assessment of the human condition in the third millennium, cognitive scientist and public intellectual Steven Pinker urges us to step back from the gory headlines and prophecies of doom, which play to our psychological biases. Instead, follow the data: In seventy-five jaw-dropping graphs, Pinker shows that life, health, prosperity, safety, peace, knowledge, and happiness are on the rise, not just in the West, but worldwide. This progress is not the result of some cosmic force. It is a gift of the Enlightenment: the conviction that reason and science can enhance human flourishing.

Far from being a naïve hope, the Enlightenment, we now know, has worked. But more than ever, it needs a vigorous defense. The Enlightenment project swims against currents of human nature--tribalism, authoritarianism, demonization, magical thinking--which demagogues are all too willing to exploit. Many commentators, committed to political, religious, or romantic ideologies, fight a rearguard action against it. The result is a corrosive fatalism and a willingness to wreck the precious institutions of liberal democracy and global cooperation.

With intellectual depth and literary flair, Enlightenment Now makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.
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