Saturday, February 23, 2008

Five best books that explore human nature

Steven Pinker, a professor of psychology at Harvard University, is the author of several books, including How the Mind Works and, most recently, The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window Into Human Nature.

For the Wall Street Journal, he tagged a five best list of books that explore human nature.

One title on Pinker's list:
The Strategy of Conflict
By Thomas C. Schelling
Harvard, 1960

Only three years ago Thomas C. Schelling won the Nobel Prize in economics, but he has long been admired for a book that is more than four decades old. "The Strategy of Conflict" is not so much on human nature itself as it is on the rules of engagement that govern rational social creatures. But it introduced dozens of ideas on culture, emotion, conflict and communication that we are still in the early stages of exploring. Why is it sometimes advantageous to be an irrational hothead? Why do negotiators often split the difference between their positions or settle on a round number? Why do people use innuendo rather than blurting out what they mean? Other writers, including me, have addressed these topics in recent years, but Schelling had the ideas first.

Read about all five titles on Pinker's list.

Read or view Schelling's Nobel Prize lecture, and read his autobiography from The Nobel Prizes 2005, editor, Karl Grandin.

Influential books: Thomas C. Schelling.

Writers Read: Thomas C. Schelling.

--Marshal Zeringue