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

Oct 17, 2007 (Talk of the Nation)

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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.

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