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Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are Paperback – April 30, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0199211432 ISBN-10: 0199211434 Edition: 1st
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Editorial Reviews


"The author unearths a few everyday characteristics shared by people who say they are happy, including good health, a feeling of autonomy, and social correctiveness. To that list, one might add browsing through this thought-provoking book."--O: The Oprah Magazine, on Happiness

"Excellent survey of the subject-a lucid, intelligent, and thoughtful essay."--Lancet

About the Author

Daniel Nettle teaches psychology at the University of Newcastle. With degress in both psychology and anthropology, he has written on many aspects of human nature and culture. His previous books include Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature and (with Suzanne Romaine) Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199211434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199211432
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #379,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

63 of 66 people found the following review helpful By Chris LaVesser on May 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always known I'm not like my family and friends. In our circle I'm definitely the odd man out. And I've known this since I was 19 or 20 years old. So fairly early in my life I was interested in why I was different, why I didn't mind being different, and why I always struggled when I tried to just fit in. I've read Myers-Briggs and other "modern" models of personality and took interest in them. And in them I usually found some nuggets of explanatory wisdom. So I had largely stopped reading about personality.

But I casually glanced at Nettles' book one day and found myself thinking, "A new model of personality? One with widespread support and evolutionary underpinnings? Damn. I'm going to have to read it."

And I'm glad I did. First, this book fills a void. Most psychology books for a consumer audience are so watered down and trite they fail to really teach anything. They're usually worse than the drivel you find in Cosmopolitan or Men's Health. Try searching for psychology books with a more intelligent bent to them and you quickly find yourself shoulder-deep in academic, jargon-laden prose. Nettles' book is a brilliant bridge between these two worlds. Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are is an excellent presentation of a newer model of personality theory. It is rich in back-story, supported by summaries of various experiments, bolstered by real statistical concepts instead of dumbing it down to "the average", and keeps itself wrapped in an evolutionary biology framework. And it does all of this without getting overly academic.

For those who lean toward Cosmopolitan and Men's Health, Nettles includes a personality inventory you can self-administer, and it makes the content of the book more personally relevant.
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29 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Elephantschild on November 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Daniel Nettle's writing is clear, attractive, and sometimes pleasantly humorous. He takes us through the emerging consensus on the 5 dimensional model of personality, with the genetic explanations, the neurological evidence, and some convincing speculation on the evolutionary reasons for how those dimensions, and the wide variety of scores along them, arose and continue. This is a wonderfully calm and compelling, and very human, book, for the major part of it which covers these aspects. I found, however, the small section on the possible explanations for the non genetically determined aspects of personality oddly frustrating. Nettle examines some potential factors, then demolishes each of them in turn, leaving us with pretty much no explanation. One reason may be that he requires a valid non-genetic factor influencing personality to 'make evolutionary sense', which is a way of ensuring that any candidate factor that passes the test can, hey-presto, be explained by genetics.
The 'bombshell', and it is major, concerns parental influence on personality, but I won't give any plot spoilers here.
His final section, on how to live with your personality once you've got it, is moving, illuminating, and convincing.
A great read for anyone who's either plain curious or looking for solid ground in the sea of 'psycho-babble'.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Avid Reader on October 30, 2007
Format: Hardcover
If you are a fan of evolutionary psychology, be sure to check out this great little book on personality. It has a short personality test (12 questions) that you can take before you dive into the book, which I highly recommend taking. Then you'll learn about each of the "big five" components of personality. Each component is convincingly tied to biological systems in the brain, and the author explains how both high and low scoring individuals in each of the five areas could have thrived as humans evolved.
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15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By fg on May 6, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Daniel Nettle explores the "big five" factor model or OCEAN model of personality. OCEAN is an an acronym that stands for openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These factors offer a nearly complete description of one's personality.

Five factors describe people in great detail. For instance, people who are extroverts, according to the book, are outgoing, talkative, competitive, enjoy traveling and sex (more than others). Because people's interests clump together, only these factors are necessary to describe people quite well. The OCEAN model supercedes many other peersonality models like Myers-Briggs.

I was impressed because this book is written with great detail and thoughtfulness. It is a _study_ on personality. Nettle investigates each personality descriptor. For instance, people high in neuroticism not only worry more, they also have more bad things happen to them, like higher divorce rates. First-born children are lower in agreeableness. While the book is fascinating, it sometimes reads like a journal article, and I wanted Nettle to lighten up. But, to his credit, the manuscript is thorough.

In the appendix, a simple 12 question test determines one's score on the OCEAN personality test. While it described me accurately, it seemed off when a friend took the test. Free OCEAN personality tests exist on the internet, like [...], which have more questions and provide better analysis of one's personality.

Overall, the book is a great read for people interested in personality. I recommend it. I may read the book a second time.

Nettle also wrote a book titled "Happiness."
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