There is not a single version of “you” and “me,” writes Adam Alter in his recent article (shared below) in the New York Times (Where We Are Shapes Who We Are, 6.14.13). Though we’re all anchored to our own distinct personalities, contextual cues sometimes drag us so far from those anchors that it’s difficult to know who we really are — or at least what we’re likely to do in a given circumstance. Drawing upon several research studies, he demonstrates how we behave differently, given circumstance, context, and environmental cues.
Harvard evolutionary psychologist and linguist Steven Pinker has always been deeply curious about how humans work. In a series of best-selling books, he has argued that our mental faculties — from emotions to decision-making to visual cognition — were forged by natural selection.
In his newest book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, Pinker investigates one of the most primal apects of life: Violence. He argues that violence has fallen drastically over thousands of years — whether one considers homicide rates, war casualties as a percentage of national populations, or other measures.