Retrospectacle: A Neuroscience Blog

How to Get Steven Pinker to Say Yes?

Every spring, the University of Michigan Neuroscience program has a symposium with invited speakers, usually eminent people in the field who have been influential in some regard. This year one of the speakers we’ve settled on is linguist/philosopher/famous guy Steven Pinker, and I’ve been charged with inviting him. Or, more likely begging him to come. We invited him to the speak two years ago and he declined due to other scheduling conflicts, so we REALLY want him to come this year.

So, I’m wondering, how to pose the question so he’ll come? I’m sure he has lots of gigs that pay more and are higher profile. To all you scientists out there, how do you choose where to give a talk?


  1. #1 Michael Anes
    November 13, 2006

    Make it clear if he doesn’t say yes you’ll be inviting George Lakoff!

  2. #2 UndergradChemist
    November 13, 2006

    Or say that the alternative might by Marc Hauser. 😛

  3. #3 Mike
    November 13, 2006

    I live near him. I’ll give him a back rub.

  4. #4 Chris
    November 13, 2006

    I believe Susan Gelman, in the psych department, knows him a bit (Pinker isn’t actually a linguist, he’s a psychologist). You might ask her to help or advice.

  5. #5 Mustafa Mond, FCD
    November 13, 2006

    Why are you being charged with this? Is this a student-sponsored event? If so, be sure to mention that. Any good teacher will give priority to an invitation from students.

    It also couldn’t hurt to flatter him about his luxuriant flowing hair.

  6. #6 Shelley Batts
    November 13, 2006

    Thank for the idea Chris. And yes, its s student-sponsered event. I proffered Pinker’s name, it was voted on and approved. So, that means I’m in charge of convincing him to come…..And hair flattery surely couldn’t hurt…..

  7. #7 Michael Anes
    November 13, 2006

    In all seriousness, and with deference to Chris, I would say just contact him directly via email. Be forthright, but it certainly is OK to say how much the planners of the event and the attendees would appreciate his attendance. Famous people are just people, after all. In addition, you’re at the U of M, not a place high-powered Boston academics are unfamiliar with, believe me. If he’s got the time I’m sure he’d consider it – but the time is the issue.

  8. #8 Robert P.
    November 13, 2006

    When I was at Duke they always got top-flight people for their Developmental Biology colloqium because it was student organized, student run, with a long after-presentation chalk-talk with the students.

    Everyone always said they loved getting an invitation from students and they did it for cheaper than if it was a regular talk.

  9. #9 nick
    November 14, 2006

    have him read your blog?

  10. #10 Roy
    November 14, 2006

    I can’t offer any better advice than has already been given, but I can offer “ooooh!” as I’ve got a huge brain-crush on Pinker (and his dreamy hair).

    Here’s hoping he’s free for the occasion.

  11. #11 Shelley Batts
    November 14, 2006

    How can you help but have a brain-crush on someone who wears such a glorious mullet with pride??

  12. #12 vijayachandra
    November 16, 2006

    Did he say “yes’? If he says “NO”, just invite Chomsky or Brian McWhinney from Carnegie Mellon.

  13. #13 Shelley Batts
    November 16, 2006

    Actually, Pinker sent me a very nice reply saying he was teaching that day and couldn’t come. But, I am trying to finagle him to do an interview here, similar to the Pepperberg one I have coming up.

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