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Making Sense of People: Decoding the Mysteries of Personality (FT Press Science) [Kindle Edition]

Samuel Barondes
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (122 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Every day, we evaluate the people around us: It's one of the most important things we ever do. Making Sense of People provides the scientific frameworks and tools we need to improve our intuition, and assess people more consciously, systematically, and effectively.

Leading neuroscientist Samuel H. Barondes explains the research behind each standard personality category: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. He shows readers how to use these traits and assessments to do a better job of deciding who they'll enjoy spending time with, whom to trust, and whom to keep at a distance. Barondes explains:

  • What neuroscience and psychological research can tell us about how personality types develop and cohere.
  • The intertwined roles of genes, nurture, and education in personality development.
  • How to recognize troublesome personality patterns such as narcissism, sociopathy, and paranoia.
  • How much a child's behavior predicts their adult personality, and how personality stabilizes in young adulthood.
  • How to assess integrity, fairness, wisdom, and other traits related to morality.
  • What genetic testing may (or may not) teach us about personality in the future.
  • General strategies for getting along with people, with specific tactics for special circumstances.

Kirkus Reviews

A succinct look at personality psychology.

As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at the University of California, Barondes (Molecules and Mental Illness, 2007, etc.) has spent years studying human behavior, and this book reflects his systematic, scientific approach for personality assessment. The average person isn't likely to have time to research a difficult boss or potential love interest, but the author supplements intuition with a useful cornerstone for gauging human behavior: a table of the "Big Five" personality traits, among them Extraversion vs. Introversion and Agreeableness vs. Antagonism. To learn how to apply the Big Five, Barondes supplies a link for a professional online personality test, in addition to a basic introduction of troubling personality patterns–e.g., narcissism and compulsiveness. While genetics may play a heavy hand in influencing personality, Barondes writes, it's awareness of a person's background, character and life story that is paramount in unearthing reasons for adult behavior. Readers might like to see the author weave more everyday examples into the text–his exercise in fostering compassion by imagining an adult as a 10-year-old child is a gem–but there is plenty here to ponder.

Those looking for traditional "self-help" advice won't find it here, but this book clearly lays the groundwork for deeper human interaction and better life relationships.



Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

“This pioneering book does for our mental life what the periodic table did for chemistry; it breaks the mind down into elementary constituents and their interactions--thereby transforming personality research into science. In addition to being a rich treasure-trove of insights into human nature, it can potentially enrich your relationships with people. Barondes has written a masterpiece.”

--V.S. Ramachandran, author of Phantoms in the Brain and The Tell-Tale Mind

 

“We’re a fantastically social species, constantly taking the measure of everyone’s personality. In this wise, enjoyable book, the esteemed biological psychiatrist Sam Barondes considers ways to build up this vital skill. The book is clear, entertaining, and educational, and will not only make you a more adept social primate, but a more self-reflective one as well.”

--Robert Sapolsky, Professor of Biology, Stanford University; author of A Primate’s Memoir and Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers

 

Making Sense of People is a marvelous guided tour through the infinitely variable landscape of personality. Barondes truly illuminates how genes and environment shape human behavior, and he tells the story with an engaging armchair style that makes the book hard to put down!”

--John Oldham, President, American Psychiatric Association; author of The New Personality Self-Portrait

 

“Human beings judge personalities every day, but often in an unconscious muddle. Sam Barondes has taken a daunting research literature on personality and has made it remarkably accessible as well as useful. I suspect that many psychiatrists will find this book as valuable as lay readers will.”

--Steven E. Hyman, Professor of Neurobiology and Provost, Harvard University; former Director, National Institute of Mental Health

 

“In Making Sense of People, Sam Barondes, a superb teacher and writer, creates his own schema to help us better understand each other and make the right decisions about who to share our lives with. A highly readable and enjoyable introduction to the psychology of everyday life.”

--Eric Kandel, University Professor, Columbia University; Nobel Laureate; author of In Search of Memory

 

What really bothers you about your boss--or your daughter’s boyfriend? Could the person you’re dating really become your life partner? Can you really rely on your intuition about people? This book will help you find out.

 

Drawing on extensive research, renowned psychiatrist and neuroscientist Samuel Barondes gives you powerful, easy-to-use tools for understanding what people are really like and how they got to be the way they are. These tools will provide you with a system for assessing the person’s traits, character, and sense of identity, and then putting these elements together into a unified picture. Learning to think of people in this way will help you choose more satisfying relationships, recognize telltale signs of dysfunction and danger, and savor the complexity and uniqueness of everyone you meet.

 

Supplement your intuition!

•  Learn a system for understanding anyone

•  Identify character strengths and weaknesses

•  Make better decisions about whom to seek out and whom to avoid

•  Find out how all personalities are shaped by two great chance events:
   the set of genes we happen to be born with, and the particular world 

   we happen to grow up in

 

About the Author

Samuel Barondes is the Jeanne and Sanford Robertson Professor and Director of the Center for Neurobiology and Psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. A leading psychiatrist and neuroscientist, he is a member of the Institute of Medicine and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His books include Mood Genes, Better Than Prozac, and the Scientific American Library title Molecules and Mental Illness. He lives in Sausalito, California.


Product Details

  • File Size: 487 KB
  • Print Length: 241 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0132172607
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Up to 5 simultaneous devices, per publisher limits
  • Publisher: FT Press; 1 edition (June 21, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0050JKCI6
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #239,878 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
88 of 92 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Humans are psychologically complicated, and it would be nice if there was a way to classify people in a way that is both broad (making it convenient) and yet somewhat specific (making it accurate). Samuel Barondes provides the solution with this book - kind of.

This book focuses on two main points, classifying human personality, and how personality is formed. Barondes breaks down basic personality into what he calls the "Big Five." They are extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness. We all have varying degrees of each trait. For example, in terms of extroversion, some people are very outgoing, while others prefer being alone. Barondes classifies extremes in each category as a personality disorder. For example, an extremely extroverted person might have histrionic personality disorder, while someone who is an extreme loner might be schizotypal (like chess champion and misanthrope Bobby Fischer). After covering the "Big Five" in some depth, Barondes explains the interaction of nature (genetics) and nurture in forming personality, brain plasticity (the brain makes new connections even to adulthood, so personality is never rigidly fixed, although the adult brain is much less plastic than a child's brain), moral character, and ways we create our own stories.

I enjoyed this book, and I believe it did live up to its subtitle, i.e. it tries to "decode the mysteries of personality." The "Big Five" are helpful when sizing people up, including ourselves. The book provides a link to an online test that classifies where you (or someone else, if you fill it out with them in mind) fall under each category. I scored high on extroversion, openness, conscientiousness, and agreeableness. However, being too agreeable is often correlated with lower pay.
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60 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rosetta Stone for Personality July 17, 2011
Format:Hardcover
This book is an utterly fascinating and accessible tour of everything science reveals about personality. It gives us the tools to "decode" the people we meet: how to identify personality patterns and traits, gain insight into how genes influence personality, and learn how one's background and context might affect his/her brain and behavior.

At the end of this gem is a quote from Eisenhower: "In preparing for battle, I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable." Similarly, in life, the ability to "decode" other people -- our spouses, partners, kids, colleagues, bosses, and so on -- is indispensable, even if how to act on this knowledge is open-ended. This is no "how-to" book, but readers will surely figure out how to apply it to their own situations and relationships.

After absorbing this book, this reader found herself wiser, more understanding, and more effective in dealing with people. Here are tools for life.
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65 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
In this book the author gives a brief overview of how people think, and why they are believed to think that way. Despite the marketing copy, however, this book doesn't lay out an approach to evaluating and dealing with people you encounter.

The first part of the book explains the different personality types psychologists have defined, and also the personality flaws they have defined. The second part discusses the nature and nurture (my words, not the author's) of peoples' psychologies. To somewhat oversimplify, the author takes the common view that genes provide proclivities, and stimuli trigger, or don't trigger, those proclivities. These chapters make for a decent, short overview of the subject, but if you have been following research in this area at all you won't find any surprises here.

The final part has three chapters, the first two of which deal with character and with peoples' development of their life stories. As in the earlier parts, the author uses famous people as examples of how the categories identified by psychologists can be used to develop insight into why people act as they do.

Only in the last ten pages of the book does the author provide an outline of how he uses this material to understand the people he encounters. While the entirety of the book is useful for this purpose, the marketing copy makes it sound much more like a how to book than it is.

Were this book advertised as an overview of the psychological characterization of personality types, I might have given it four stars. But judging it against the product description I can't go beyond three.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Helpful for some; confusing for others August 25, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
You only need consider this book's endorsements by many neuroscientific luminaries (e.g. Eric Kandel, Robert Sapolsky, etc.) to know that Samuel Barondes is a highly respected expert.

I wish I could say I liked this book as much as Barondes' previous efforts, which made timely contributions to our collective ability to "make sense of people."

Instead, I'm left scratching my head a bit. While no psychiatric expert, I do have the expertise of an author and veteran advocate in the area of a common mental-health condition (Adult ADHD) and its comorbidities. I've learned that the old psychoanalytic paradigms for framing a person's traits and behavior leave much to be desired; old paradigms often lead us to be more judgmental than understanding. Old paradigms also mean that many adults with ADHD do not get the treatment they deserve, even from allegedly expert psychiatrists.

Yes, terms such as avoidant, narcissistic, and compulsive do help us "name" potentially troublesome behaviors in a future mate, a boss, a friend or a family member instead of explaining it away as stress, for example. I think it is critically important to recognize the "red flags" when you see them, and this book helps in that regard. As a culture, it seems we've come to mistake "tolerance" and "neurodiversity" as being tantamount to accepting clearly aberrant behavior. It wasn't too long ago, for example, that the Titans of Wall Street were held up as national icons of success; why did more people not see them for what they were, what only a few years would clearly show them to be? Because people didn't know what to look for - or they didn't want to see it. Who knows...

But these terms and others used throughout the book (e.g.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! I am a Med but I ordered an ...
Awesome! I am a Med but I ordered an xxL. I think, but it fits very nicely. It is very warm, and the material is very soft, I sometimes use it as a pillow!
Published 1 month ago by Mark
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
ok
Published 1 month ago by DAD
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Interesting reading, very helpful when dealing with employees
Published 4 months ago by vicsueb
2.0 out of 5 stars Not sure the objective of the book.
Parts of the background are intetesting. But did not really give any insight on how to associate personality traits with behaviour or observations. Read more
Published 5 months ago by Kristen
5.0 out of 5 stars Good tools for today's world.
The information is immediately applicable. I started using it and it made conversations with people much easier. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Radek
5.0 out of 5 stars good
It is very useful book. I learnd a lot of knowledge from this book. It is very nice. I love it.
Published 7 months ago by eric
4.0 out of 5 stars a psychological book which describes the types of personalities that...
I really liked this book because it is a psychological one, which describes the types of personalities that people can develop. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Pamela Angeles
1.0 out of 5 stars Captain Obvious
Not good. It's all common sense, doesn't go in depth at all. Very dry and unhelpful. The back discription is very misleading.
Published 8 months ago by Whitney Griffin
4.0 out of 5 stars Great insights and a fun read.
Barondes illuminates the many facets of personality as well as how they were discovered and how they are caused, both by genes and environment. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Ryan P Staley
2.0 out of 5 stars Probably good if you're a psych major?
I think perhaps you need a psych degree to enjoy this book. I felt like I was reading a text book the whole time. It was boring and I didn't feel like I was learning very much. Read more
Published 9 months ago by KC
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More About the Author

Samuel Barondes was born in Brooklyn and educated at Columbia, Harvard, and the National Institutes of Health. He joined the University of California in 1970 and is now Jeanne and Sanford Robertson Professor and Director of the Center for Neurobiology and Psychiatry at its San Francisco campus (UCSF) where he works to bring together modern biology and psychiatry. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He lives in Sausalito,CA.

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