Steven Pinker Comes to the 'F' Word's Defense In his new book, The Stuff of Thought, psychologist Steven Pinker sorts through some of the paradoxes of profanity. He points out that in a society that prides itself on free speech, certain words pertaining to sex and excretion remain off-limits.

Steven Pinker Comes to the 'F' Word's Defense

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Psychologist Steven Pinker dissects language — foul language included — in his new book, The Stuff of Thought. Rebecca Goldstein hide caption

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Rebecca Goldstein

In his new book, The Stuff of Thought, Harvard psychology professor Steven Pinker sorts through some of the paradoxes of profanity.

He points out that in a society that prides itself on free speech, certain words pertaining to sex and excretion remain off-limits.

Pinker says taboo words are particularly powerful for humans because they spark activity in the amygdala — a part of the brain involved in storing emotionally salient memories.

Guests:

Steven Pinker, author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature; professor of psychology at Harvard University

Janet Coleman, arts director for WBAI radio

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Note: This article contains language that some readers may find offensive.

The Stuff of Thought
Language as a Window into Human Nature
By Steven Pinker

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The Stuff of Thought
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