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Jan 28, 2021

The idea we have ‘innate knowledge’ seems quite wrong to most of us. But we do! And the intuitions leading us astray here also blind us to other aspects of human nature. 

We are all ‘blind storytellers’. Professor Iris Berent reveals what misleads us, and what we are missing.

18:55 Newborns have basic knowledge of the nature of objects. Eye-tracking experiments reveal that they have a grasp of the 3 c’s - cohesion, contact and continuity. 

22:35 How do you get expectations about the nature of the world coded into genes? Do genes somehow give rise to computational ‘rules’ in the brain? Is my inability to grasp this illustrating Iris’ argument!? A deep mystery remains. 

26:51 Birdsong is innate. So why not aspects of language and human object cognition?  

28:20 “People know how to talk in more or less the sense that spiders know how to spin webs“ says Steven Pinker. 

37:44 We learn a particular language from those around us - but some argue that the deep structural rules underlying all languages are innate. How does that work? Are there ‘rules’ of language somehow inscribed in neural structures? 

47:39 Our intuitive biases to *dualism* and *essentialism* lead us to get lots of things wrong about human nature. 

55:05 Why we go ‘insane about the brain’, and get weirdly impressed by neuroscience-y explanations, even when they are bad. 

1:00:44 Why is our thinking about mental disorders so biased and confused? 


Check out Iris Berent's book The Blind Storyteller here, or find her on Twitter @berent_iris

To get in touch with Ilan or join the conversation, you can find NOUS on Twitter @NSthepodcast or on email at