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Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are Hardcover – December, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0471252207 ISBN-10: 0471252204 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 202 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (December 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471252204
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471252207
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.8 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #409,077 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Twins and their implications are illuminated by a staff reporter for the New Yorker in this compelling, well-researched overview. Anchoring the reader in the historical mystique of twinship, Wright (Remembering Satan) documents humanity's low point in studying the special nature and possibilities of twins by recapping the horrific experiments of Josef Mengele. Wright proceeds to outline the newest research being conducted regarding twins, describing how separated-twin studies have thrown open the door on the nature-vs.-nurture debate. This is tricky ground fraught with political and social-policy land mines, but Wright does an admirable job of sorting through the differing research in a well-reasoned, clearheaded manner. He also provides a plethora of anecdotes of eerie similarities between twins separated at birth, such as personal habits and choices in spouses and careers. One notable British pair who were reunited later in life shared such puzzling traits and life events as frugality, marriage to men they met at local dances at age 16 and an avoidance of voting, except for a single instance when they worked as polling clerks. They even shared the habit of pushing their noses up, which they inexplicably called "squidging." Clear and compulsively readable, Wright's slim book sheds light on the allure of twinship: "The fantasized twin that we carry about in our minds is not only an idealized partner in the experience of being who we are, he is also a means of escape from the life we are living." Informative if brief, it shows us that even in identical lives there is no escape from the solitary experience of selfhood. For those seeking more information, Wright's extensive bibliography offers a treasure trove of leads.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-Twin girls are given up for adoption. One is doted on, the center of her upper-middle-class family's existence, the other is subtly rejected by her mother, and is not the center of her lower-class family's life. Which would most likely be the one described as, "tense, demanding...clinging to her blanket...crying when left alone"? Surprisingly, the description aptly describes both girls. Wright presents the conflicting, and often confounding results from twin studies done primarily over the last 50 years. Most people have heard the stories of separated twins (and one well-publicized case of triplets) being reunited as adults only to find astonishing similarities in their habits and personalities. The "nature versus nurture" debate has yet to be settled; if anything the studies add confusion to the mix. Wright offers summaries of research and the stories of researchers themselves; conclusions reached and discarded, and describes why twin studies fascinate us. The "shared" and "nonshared" environments of identical twins, and the differences in development that result from these experiences, offer new insight. The book serves up questions such as: "Do our genes determine our personality?" "How much, if any, effect do parents have on the personalities of their children?" These questions are not answered; readers are left to ponder the possibilities and draw their own conclusions.
Carol DeAngelo, Garcia Consulting Inc., EPA Headquarters, Washington, DC
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By John H. Hwung on October 8, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a unique book, a book that worth its weight in gold. All parents should read this book. All politicians and policy-makers should read this book. All school teachers should read this book. All social scientists should read this book. Why? Because this is the book that could end all debates on nature vs. nurture.

Identical twins are, in a sense, best gifts nature can give us to understand about ourselves especially if they were reared apart. This affords us to investigate whether environments and socioeconomic backgrounds, or the genetics have greater or major influence over our personalities, political and religious inclinations and so on.

This book mainly details studies done by Dr. Peter Neubauer (chapters 1 and 3 -- four sets of identical twins plus one set of identical triplets) and Dr. Thomas J. Bouchard (chapter 4 -- sixty six pairs of identical twins and two sets of identical triplets). Other major studies were also cited in this book.

The amazing conclusion from these studies showed that despite the different socioeconomic backgrounds and environments these twins and triplets were raised, they have, in many, many aspects, become the same person. This proves that nurture has very little to do with forming our personality, interests, inclinations, etc. and that nature is the dominate factor. Here is a quote from the last chapter of this book:

"We think we are born with the potential to be many things, and to behave in an infinite variety of ways, and that we consciously navigate a path through the obstacles and opportunities that life presents us with, through a faculty we called freewill.
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15 of 18 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 26, 1999
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An open-minded reading of this book will change the way you think about yourself and everyone you know. It's not just about identical twins, but about all of us, and what makes us who we are. I've read many books about twin research, and this is the best.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides proof for the perennial "Environment vs Genes" debate about humankind and personal destiny. After reading this book, I have come around 180 degrees - it's genes. Stories of separated twins leading essentially parallel lives are so compelling, that I realized that we are all propelled through our lives by personality. Our individual fates are controlled mostly by our abilities and instincts than by the conditions of our life. Those abilities and instincts are largely genetic. Far from being a kind of predestination, this frees us to live fully through our personalities, our selves. It frees us from the myth that we are victims of fate - we, our instincts and our abilities are all its shapers.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By cathryn chinn on March 31, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
It never occured to me that the study of twins would reveal concrete evidence of behavior that is outside the control
of an individual. We have all observed familial physical movements, but the extent of personality characteristics and
attitudes that are revealed to be genetic are astouding as revealed in Wright's book. This book has the effect of allowing
the reader a freedom from constant self-analysis about recognizable traits. It is an enlightening, and also uplifting, book.
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By Loves the View VINE VOICE on October 12, 2014
Format: Paperback
The big take away from this book is that there have been many studies and mounds of data but not much has been resolved on the mysteries of twins. What correlates winds up challenged by the next study and politics hangs over this particular nature vs. nurture debate.

Wright presents many anecdotes (alludes to data that is not shown) of the twins raised apart. These point to genes as a determining factor in many things about their lives. Does this mean that all the efforts of parents, teachers and communities mean nothing? Is a life determined by genes?

Since this book is from 1998, I read it along with a well linked Wikipedia article. While there are now more tools for twin researchers, it's hard for the layman to spot what progress has been made. For instance, Wright states that it was not known when twinning actually occurs; the Wikipedia article, to a lay person, seems to give the how and when.

The most interesting part was the new to me concept of the vanishing twin. In 1998, the estimate was that 1 in 13 single births began as twins. The remains of the second embryo might be found in the placenta or as an implant in the surviving embryo or just disappear. According to Wikipedia, the number is now estimated as 1 in 8.

I would like to see an up to date edition of this book, with the actual data of the most significant studies.
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Format: Paperback
This very interesting, well documented, and well written overview of research on twins didn't answer all of my questions, but it certainly reports well the field of twin studies and the role of genetic heritage in shaping who we are. Since this book is almost fourteen years old, I'm curious to know how the nature-nurture pendulum as swung since its publication.

Most stunning are the studies of MZ twins reared apart and the amazing similarities they share despite their environmental differences. I was surprised also to learn how largely heritable personality is. But I'm not sure Wright gives enough credit to opportunity and support in the success or achievement of many people (the way Gladwell does in Outliers). What is the potential of a child born to an unwed, young mother without higher ed. or a father? The book also doesn't say much about the striking differences between identical twins raised together. Sure, even after living separately for years as adults, twins can display uncanny similarities in body language and speaking styles (as other people love to point out), but they can also choose different hobbies, interests, and lifestyles. Their basic natures remain quite similar, but they can have differences in their natures, too, which may have long been more noticeable to others than to the twins themselves.

Genes must drive each person's desire to be an individual, and the parents of twins can play a crucial role in making this possible. Maybe competition makes twins reared together less alike than twins reared apart. (I think the book acknowledges that.) Wright does devote a few pages to 'free will' and freedom from environmental constraints.
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