The greatest takeaway I have from this book is that humanity appears to be changing its psychological ideals toward violence and war. Pinker does allude to the possibility that we may be evolving towards a nonviolent mentality- and he rejects the common sci-fi climate catastrophe warfare of the future because humans tend not to war over food and water like they do other resources.

Our world and its people have become increasingly averted towards violence and aggression. Where it may once have been the norm to beat a man who sleeps with your wife, it is now a socially damning move to make that could involve severe punishment and isolation from future mating partners. From an Evolutionary Psychological perspective, the violent solution is increasingly becoming disadvantageous: Thanks to abortion, rape in most cases no longer provides a viable solution to lack of offspring; Killing someone, previously being a zero sum game, leads to immediate removal from society and the gene pool entirely, thus becoming a negative sum game.

Humans, with our vastly superior exposure to communication technologies, appear better able than they used to to empathize with each other. Where two thousand years ago Crucifixion was a normal punishment for crimes such as robbery, even the most hardened conservative today in the United States would agree that we should not crucify or even kill a thief. And one only needs to go to any campus to see that the younger generations are increasingly intolerant of bigotry- avoiding words like retarded and racial slurs to the point that even uttering them in an explanation elicits anger and fear responses.

While this is more of a cognitive exercise its trends are readily available to see in daily life. Our social media platforms provide us with immediate sources of people willing and open to being offended on our behalf. And PC culture has spread so far to an extreme that comedians are apologizing for jokes that sit on a particular side of the spectrum of what is deemed “offensive”. We openly and publicly ostracize those who carry beliefs we collectively agree are amoral- like that gay marriage or abortion should be legalized or vise versa.

I have to say that there is no doubt in my mind that humans are evolving not just socially but mentally to avoid the violent impulses we have. We have gone far enough to believe that natural thoughts of violence (i.e. thinking about hurting someone, which Pinker describes as a common male trend) are an abnormal unhealthy behavior that few people have. While it may be true that males are more likely to have these thoughts than females, it is also completely normal. I would argue that these thoughts, because they are de-normalized, are either suppressed (causing an individual to act out), or dealt with and somehow satiated (possibly through exposure to violence in media).

The latter option is the one Pinker agrees with. He suggests that violent video games and violence in TV and movies is a modern sort of bread and circuses that satisfy humanity’s craving for violence while juxtaposing it with the more negative and disgusting aspects of it. From what I could tell from my own research- the data is not sufficient:

Studies show mixed results about violence and videogames- though we know that violent games do not increase violence in teens, there is a trend towards children with aggressive tendencies and their likelihood of becoming more violent on exposure to violent games.

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9 thoughts on “An Uplifting Reality; Steven Pinker and a Revelation on violence- ABKpsych/ In Reviewniverse

  1. This is a very well written, thoughtful, confronting and challenging read – I am a New Zealander and am still utterly devastated by the very recent atrocity against Muslim people, while they were praying, in their mosque. 50 innocent people were murdered in what I thought was my peaceful and largely accepting country. I read somewhere that for our population size, this is equivalent to a mass murder of over 3000 people in the US. So, for me, the idea that hate and violence may be actually decreasing on the whole is a hard to see but a little comforting. It seems radicalization and extremism is rife, and I fear so much for the current global political environment. What I would say is that the response from the NZ community has been one of togetherness and deepest respect and empathy. There are some amazing photos of our priminkster wearing a hijab, and there has been a public outpouring of grief and support.
    On a personal level, I admire you so much in sharing that you have been a victim yourself. It takes courage and strength. Many find this too hard to do themselves but draw strength and inspiration from people who do…
    Thank you for posting this.

    1. I’m glad to see that after so much violence from hatred and anger the response in New Zealand is inclusive and sane. I hope the best for your country in these times.

      As always thank you so much for reading and leaving such a thoughtful comment- it means a lot to me!

  2. Powerful article, arguing is became part of our lives, it became so normal, that it doesn’t even surprise people anymore..The world is changing and sadly in to the dark part

    1. I’m sorry you feel that way! Hopefully this article shed some light on how the world is actually getting better for us over time. I really recommend The Better Angels of our Nature. I think it gives a much nicer view of our world and a good case for optimism!

      Thanks for reading and for commenting. Keep writing my friend.

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