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

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

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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