The contours of the human soul emerge from the scamperings of mutant rodents in this sprightly exposition of the biological roots of behavior. Science journalist Holmes (The Well-Dressed Ape) tours neurology and psychology labs the world over where genetically engineered mice, rats, and voles explore mazes; survive shocks, dunkings, and being hung upside down by their tails; get hooked on cocaine and have their brains probed for chemicals. Amid their ordeals, Holmes contends, they display rudimentary, pint-sized versions of human personality traits like anxiety, cheerfulness, altruism, self-discipline, and even artsiness. Holmes links their travails to deft explorations of the latest research into human psychology and makes insightful firsthand observations of specific personalities, from her own shy neuroticism to her husband's impulsive extroversion and scientists' quivering dread of animal rights "terrorists." The author's take is relentlessly mechanistic: personality, in her view, is largely the product of genes, governed by the involuntary action of hormones and neurotransmitters, and explained by potted speculations about evolutionary advantages that are interesting if not always convincing. Fortunately, her tart reductionism ("Spark, schmark!... Humans have no more sacred spark in our personality than squirrels do") is softened by sympathetic reportage and whimsical humor. (Feb.)
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In this lively guide to how the brain works, nonscientist Holmes explains how biology can provide significant clues about why people feel and act as they do. She starts by explaining how four decades ago, military psychologists came up with five main personality factors: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. Accordingly, she organizes her book in five sections. Presumably because she is simply a curious regular person, not a scientist, Holmes lays out technical information in an engaging, understandable way. Have trouble remembering what the prefrontal cortex does? Holmes explains that it�s the �CEO� of the brain. Not sure why some people get attention deficit hyperactivity disorder? Holmes theorizes that ADHD helped hunters who needed to �hyperfocus.� One note: the book offers many short personality checklists. --Karen SpringenSee all Editorial Reviews
I agree with C.P. Anderson. The content is extremely interesting. It really takes the Myers Briggs and adds some more facets to it. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Drew
This book has the apparent rhetorical objective of bringing personality theory and evolutionary theory together to try to explain the elucidate individual personality by making... Read morePublished on December 14, 2012 by Todd I. Stark
A clear, neat and concise exploration of those complex interactions between genes and environment, and their expressions in the level of complexity we mammals live. Read morePublished on October 31, 2012 by Andre Lima
This is the second book I've read by Hannah Holmes, and as much as I enjoyed the first, I am deeply impressed by this one. Read morePublished on October 22, 2012 by the not-so-reverend bob
At first the style of the author, talking about herself so much, bugged me. But by the time I got to the end of the book I was OK with it. Read morePublished on March 2, 2012 by Book Fanatic
I cannot read things by authors who make disparaging remarks about Christians. Such intolerance!! I just couldn't take this author seriously because of this. Read morePublished on January 30, 2012 by bwponder
This book lets one look at personalities and why they do the things they do and it explains certain personalities down to a tee. I found this book very interesting. Read morePublished on October 23, 2011 by ked
Book review by Richard L. Weaver II, Ph.D.
One of the engaging and interesting features of this book is the way Holmes begins each chapter -- with a short self-survey... Read more
Do you ever wonder why some people are just so peculiar? (That is, why they act differently than you. Read morePublished on August 28, 2011 by Deb