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Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality Hardcover – February 22, 2011
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More About the Author
Hannah Holmes is a cheeky science writer whose expertise lies in the conversion of molehills to mountains. Bending her curiosity on the overlooked and the unassuming, she discovers the enormous miracles that nature and science have wrought in every living thing - and in unliving things, as well. She has written extensively for the Discovery Channel Online and dozens of national magazines; and has authored four books: The Secret Life of Dust; Suburban Safari; The Well Dressed Ape; and most recently Quirk, a gleeful examination of the evolution of personality in mouse and humankind.
Top Customer Reviews
The Five Factor model (also called the Big 5, OCEAN, and CANOE) is a way to parse out each individual's personality. Different factors include open-mindedness, conscientiousness (AKA orderliness), extroversion, agreeableness (AKA accommodation), and neuroticism (i.e., as opposed to Emotional Stability). It's kind of like Myers-Briggs, if you're familiar with that. The good thing about the Five Factor model, though, is that a lot of research went into it. It's typically recognized as THE model for serious research.
Neuroscience means fMRI images and experimenting on mice to see which chemicals affect which parts of the brain to produce what behaviors, attitudes, and - finally - personality traits.
Evolutionary psychology posits that some of the ways we behave and think and feel were selected through evolution. For example, humans evolved in an environment of limited nutritional choices. That's why we crave sweets, fats, and salt. While that was effective hundred of thousands of years ago, when these things were scarce in the natural environment, it's very unhealthy and counter-productive today, when these things are cheap and available everywhere.
So, why three stars? It's less the topic (which I love) and more the style. I generally like books like this, books that take something pretty complex and boil them down a little and present them in an accessible way that the average reader can appreciate. Probably the prime example here is someone like a Malcolm Gladwell.
Holmes attempts something similar. For me, though, she goes a little overboard.Read more ›
In one section she asks "Imagine you're on an airplane that crashes in the jungle (no injuries, of course.) Who do you want to hang out with? the Neurotics who stay near the familiar airplane licking salt out of the empty pretzel bags? Or the impulsives who venture forth, picking strange fruit and taking that first bite? Do you want to hitch your fate to the guy who has the discipline to start a fire by grinding one damp stick against a damp piece of wood? Or would you rather follow the one who seems to notice every creak, snuffle, and snort in the forest?"
Who knew a book about brain-science could be fun, funny, smart and really engaging all at the same time?
Not being a scientist myself, I can't vouch for the depth of her research, and I would certainly recommend double-checking statements she writes here with a more learned source before accepting them as solid facts, but at least she's honest about when she's speculating. In fact she even goes as far as to call herself out on some of the "coffee shop hyptotheses" she's drawing. Regardless, her conclusions do seem irrestitably logical and fairly grounded in research. You probably wouldn't want to use this book as a textbook for a masters degree in neuroscience, but as a layperson you could certainly do worse.
Stylistically she's a fun writer - short sentences and simple down-to-earth language make you feel more like you are chatting with a friend at the watercooler than learning about brain chemistry - and the book is nicely structured too, moving through a variety of common personality traits one by one and discussing what researchers are learning about each. She moves from the behavior of research rodents to the behavior of humans deftly but skeptically, and she follows each personality trait with a sensible speculation of how it may have evolved.
Overall, this book was a very worthwhile read. I zipped through it in a matter of a couple of days and felt somewhat enlightened about the actions of my friends and coworkers in the days that followed. If there's one valuable lesson to take from the book, it's perhaps that empathy for all types of personality traits - positive or negative - is warranted, because we're all at least in part slaves to the biology of our brains.
Most Recent Customer 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 7 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