Language as a Window into Human Nature [10:53]


This great RSA video by psychologist Steven Pinker dives into what we can learn about human nature and relationships from the way we communicate with others.  Pinker focuses on why we have veiled or suggested meaning to so much of what we say.  He gets into the purpose or use of language, the kinds of relationships we have, how we handle uncertain situations, and other topics.  Note: this video discusses sexual politics and relationships.

Discussion Questions

  • Why are veiled meanings when both people know what’s being said so odd?  What role do they play?
  • What are the two things language has to do?
  • What are Fiske’s three major human relationship types?  How is this related to the problem of veiled meanings?
  • What is the difference between innuendos and direct speech?  What role can innuendos play even when they’re obvious?

Keywords: language, psychology, human nature, politics, society, relationships, communication, social skills,


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