The Blank Slate – Steven Pinker

Book review

Conclusive evidence that nature defines our personality not nuture

I read this book before I determined my ADHD, but it really confirmed and connected all my thoughts and ideas about my different brain and so was a critical step to my eventual self, then medical ADHD diagnosis. I always knew that my boredom, mood, self-esteem, passion and creativity were not factors from childhood upbring but were there from birth, from my genes –  just like my height and brown eyes too.

This seemingly obvious conclusion is still today a far from universally accepted. Personality is significantly more from nature than nurture and in this landmark boom,  Pinker refutes and rebukes the different models of human mind:

  • The Blank Slate – no human nature, our behaviours and motivations are formed by parents and the type of society we live in
  • The Noble Savage – no selfish instincts, in a state of nature without rule, social institutions humans live moral, good lives.
  • The Ghost in the Machine – independent of the body, we have a soul that affects our behaviour and can leave our body when it dies

The perspective that somehow humans are different from the rest of nature is shown to be seriously flawed and offers a more reasonable basis for considering who we are and how we react to life, that the slate is first written in the womb, as the embryo’s physical growth and brain’s development relate. In so called state of nature societies, violence was endemic.

Pinker contends that the mind is “software” and that every individual’s mind comes at birth with unique limitations and constraints. Physical brains are composed of a “took kit” that has evolved over millennia, that affects our behavioural responses to the environment, passed on through genetics.He argues for a more compassionate understanding of who and what we are.

Pinker uses reason and common sense to push past much political correctness showing how ludicrous most of it is, and sharing clear scientific evidence for a better understanding of what is meant by ‘human nature’. Share with anyone saying “it’s the parents’ fault”.

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ADHD Coach, Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis

Andrew Lewis is an ADHD Coach, writer and founder of SimplyWellbeing. He has over ten thousand hours and fifteen years of experience in coaching ADHD executives, business professionals and creatives. His expertise with ADHD is personal, with decades of his own experience, bringing up an ADHD child, running a large support group and in coaching clients often for years He has published his writing via this website and has ADHD online courses in development. His business expertise comes from a twenty years career in software, from programming, through marketing, sales and running a few start-ups.

Further reading

ADHD at work
Keep an optimistic outlook, calm mind and a realistic perspective, grounded advice from the Dalai Lama
ADHD at work
A guide to helping ADHD kids, though a little too focussed on "bad" behaviour
ADHD at work
A fascinating deep dive into neurons and synapses
ADHD at work
With alarmingly increasing rates of depression in the World and SSRIs poor results, better to seek a cause than manage the symptoms
ADHD at work
One of my favourite ADHD kid books, very readable and insightful suggestions and advice
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