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Entwined Lives: Twins and What They Tell Us About Human Behavior Paperback

4.4 out of 5 stars 23 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the most significant survey of twin research to date, Segal (director of the Twins Study Ctr. at California State Univ., Fullerton, and a fraternal twin herself) illustrates that by using twins as "living laboratories" we can sort out which aspects of twins' lives are influenced by genetic inheritance, and, in turn, we can begin to "lay bare the basis of human behavior." Drawing on all sorts of twin studies, Segal describes twin types and elaborates on findings regarding the development of personality and intelligence. She also looks closely at twin relationships (including conjoined twins) to understand grief, competition, bonding, cooperation, and more. Most refreshing are Segal's frank discussion of the complications inherent in the research and her many proposals for further research. Though her prose is dense, it holds plenty for anyone interested in twins or in fine questions of human development and evolutionary psychology. This is an excellent supplement to Lawrence Wright's more popularly written Twins: And What They Tell Us About Who We Are (Wiley, 1997). Recommended for academic and public libraries.ARebecca Miller, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


A comprehensive survey of twin research that includes an impressive array of twin-related data in an anecdote-filled and entertaining presentation. Segal, a twin herslf, directs the Twins Study Center at California State University, Fullerton, and was formerly with the Minnesota Study of Twins Reared Apart (its director, Thomas Bouchard, has written the foreword).

Clearly fascinated by her subject, she assumes, probably quite rightly, that interest in twins, especially identical twins, is widespread. Identical twins are, she notes, ``the reflecting pools whose altered images teach us how the range of environmental influences shape developmental outcomes.'' Stories about the remarkable similarities between identical twins reunited after being raised separately are irresistible, and while Segal includes them, she goes far beyond such material. She discusses in detail what twin research has revealed about individuality, identity, and questions of nature-vs.-nurture in intelligence, personality development, and athletic prowess.

Segal also considers such topics as pseudo-twins (i.e., same-age unrelated individuals reared together), the special relationship of twins with each other, the effects of one twin's death on the other, how fertility treatments have impacted multiple births, the difference between a clone and an identical twin, and twinning in the animal kingdom.

Her interviews with some noteworthy twins, such as the Shapiro brothers, who both became university presidents, are especially revealing. Even the unique problems of conjoined, or Siamese, twins are treated. Its comprehensiveness and its extensive notes make this a valuable source for psychologists and other students of twinning; twins, parents of twins, and anyone who ever wished for a twin will also find much to savor here. (36 b&w photos). -- From Kirkus, April 1999 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • ASIN: B000EBCP5S
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,796,229 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
In Entwined Lives, researcher Nancy Segal draws upon hundreds of case studies to explore the physical development of twins, and to tackle the thorny nature-versus-nurture question. Segal is competent and often interesting when she sticks to the former; her forays into the latter, on the other hand, are long-winded and anecdotal, and clearly highlight her shaky grasp of statistical methods, not to mention the benefits of editing.
Among the more interesting ideas raised in the book is a detailed description of the different ways in which twins develop in utero from conception onward. I also found intriguing a description of a third type of twin, one in which both siblings share their mother's, though not their father's genes. This second topic, though, is barely developed, and there is little mention of how twins of this type are identified. This is typical for the book - interesting ideas are raised and then promptly abandoned, leaving the reader with little understanding or context.
At the same time, Segal does not hesitate to make broad generalizations about genetics and socialization from small collections of anecdotes. Much of the book is devoted to demonstrating the influence of genetics upon intelligence, behaviour, and athletic ability. A chapter on twins separated at birth is well-written and its methods well-described, but it's the exception. On the whole, this section is filled with dozens of case studies and stories from which Segal draws a multitude of conclusions, some better founded than others. She has ample data to support her uncontroversial claim that genetics play a large role in determining intelligence and similarities in abilities, and belabours this obvious point for several chapters during much of the book.
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Format: Hardcover
This book provides an encyclopedic overview of research about twins. When I first opened the book, my initial reaction was "ouch", because of the densely packed font. The reason for the denseness is that Segal has so many topics to cover and so much information to share with us that the letters had to be squeezed to get it all into one volume. But not to fear - - there are pictures sprinkled throughout the text.
Segal, a twin herself, has been researching twins for over 20 years, since her undergraduate studies. This book sums up much of that research in a format that is approachable by general audiences (and includes extensive endnotes to help interested readers find the studies that are cited). The many topics in her book include: identical twins, fraternal twins, twins reared apart, children adopted together, conjoined twins, non-human twins, friendship between twins, loss of a twin, famous twins, mental skills, athletic skills, and behavioral traits.
One of the most interesting results of Segal's and others' twin research is the strong influence that genes have on intelligence, behavioral traits, and athletic ability. Segal reports that identical twins, reared together or apart, are remarkably similar in these areas, and become more so as they get older. The similarity is weaker with fraternal twins, siblings, and cousins, and hardly found at all between unrelated same-aged children raised together. Certain health factors on the other hand, seem to be more dependent on environmental factors and life choices than on genetics, such as aging of the skin and heart disease. Many of Segal's results come from research on identical twins reared apart, in whom strong similarities point to genetic programming since the environments in which they were raised were different.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this book! It is a gold mine of information, of anecdotes, of insightful observations. Twin research to Segal is "bliss." She reveals this in the very personal "Afterword: Part of Me". Her enthusiasm is infectious. Her bliss in contagious. Entwined Lives is a monument to twinship. Segal's book comes with glowing tributes on the back from Professor David Lykken and Professor Irving Gottesman. Their enthusiasm for the book is surpassed by the enthusiasm of the author for her subject and all the twins she has met. The book is described with exclamation by Thomas J. Bouchard, Ph.D. in his Foreword as a "book extraordinaire!". It certainly is. Nancy Segal writes about twins with verve and enjoyment in a style which will appeal to the general reader. All readers, including academics, will learn. There are extensive notes and references for each chapter and a Glossary to explain more technical terms, although these are avoided where possible. The personal style of the book intentionally and very successfully allows easy translation of the technical into the generally comprehensible.
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Format: Hardcover
Dr. Nancy Segal has further drawn back the curtain shrouding the mysteries of human behavior with this enduring observation. I found the book reveals an enormous amount about ourselves through the study of twins. Dr. Segal is a gifted researcher with an exquisite writing style. She takes elaborate research topics and explains them in ways that we all can understand. Page after page, the book reveals new information about how we humans develop through nature and nurture, the end result being that our genetic design has more to do with who we are than we every imagined.
The book gives us significant insight far beyond the surface interest most have in twins. I found the book also very entertaining with its numerous ancedotes and real-life stories about twins. Being a twin myself, the book helped me gain new perspective about my twinship and eliminate many eroneous perceptions/myths about twins.
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