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Multiplicity: The New Science of Personality, Identity, and the Self Hardcover – March 27, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
In this interpretation of the many selves within the human mind, science and medical writer Carter (Mapping the Mind) offers a unique definition of multiple personalities in a functioning person, without the usual discussion of phobias or other psychological disorder. Carter sees personality as a cluster of related traits; for instance, ambition and related traits like drive and impatience could be one personality that would coexist with other personalities in one individual. She describes, for instance, a passive mother of two transforming into a powerful attorney in a high-powered firm; this mental shape-shifting leads the mother to display contradictory character traits at home, at work and at play. Contrasting what the author calls minor and major personality traits in thought and behavior, Carter explains: Our inner landscape is constantly changing. Various personalities form, change, fade away, reform, merge, shrink and grow. She adds intriguing diagrams of memory and recall patterns illustrating how people behave differently in different situations. Exercises provided in the second part of the book encourage the reader's family and work personalities to interact and communicate positively with each other. Carter is pushing the envelope on personality, and her book should spark debate on the flexibility of the human mind. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Rita Carter is an award-winning science and medical writer. She contributes to New Scientist and a wide range of other British magazines and newspapers. Before specializing in science Rita worked for six years as a TV news presenter and radio host and producer. She continues to appear and be heard regularly on TV and radio as a medical and science commentator, and gives frequent talks and lectures throughout Europe and the US.
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However, even then I wondered which of me was being assessed. Was it the schoolboy, so quiet that my teacher on parents evening had to double-check for my mother that I was actually in his class? Was it the twenty-something software writer who played the part of the team clown? Was it the adult I became speaking at conferences.
Who did the results describe, and what if anything did they say about the future?
This book explores the multiplicity of personalities that almost all of us have.
The first half of the book describes the theory, building a spectrum which at one end has people with a single personality responding in the same way to all situations. At the other extreme is Multiple Personality Disorder, a Jekyll and Hyde like state where completely separate personalities inhabit the same person. Between these extremes we find most of us with multiple personalities connected by shared memories.
Rita suggests these other me's are tapped into by the stage hypnotist for comic effect, or felt more prosaically as we switch from our work to home persona on the drive home, or adopt our `telephone-voice'.
The book is profusely scattered with vivid examples used to illustrate the arguments.
To a large extent we are unaware of these alternate personalities, and have little conscious choice of who to be at any moment. The thrust of the book is that this community of people we are, offers immense potential, a pool of people we can draw upon to meet challenges and create opportunities.
Part 2 of the book provides a set of tools which will help you become more aware of the range of personalities you have, how to access them, change and create them. The result is a suite of you's better tailored for different situations.
In the hands of consultants these ideas would quickly be abused as answers to apply, but as questions with which to explore who you are and can become, this is a very powerful and intriguing book.
The twist here is that recent advances in neuro-science are enabling us to understand much better how the brain operates, and Carter vividly explains a model that I'd describe as a networked email system with messages shared, responded-to, forwarded just as they are in an organisation. And just as an organisation has different departments and cultures, so too our mind has different facets - and out of these arise different responses to the world around us. Rather than having a singular personality, we actually have a cluster of personalities - a work persona perhaps, a cycnical persona, one persona while dating, and another persona while driving - and of course not all these personalities get on. Again, like the internal workings of a large organisation. There are complex interrelationships, conflicts, dissenting voices and unresolved differences.
This is the heart of multiplicity: the concept that we have a competing though potentially harmonious set of personalities.
What I love about the book is how Carter very tidily dissembles the dominant "one personality" idea promulgated by such war-horse tests as Myers Briggs: which as she shows, have only a low likelihood of awarding you the same personality prognosis from one sitting to the enxt.
Carter then shows how hypnosis and brain imaging both reveal our potential to have several sometimes quite dissociated personalities. This is just normal. I was reminded of the Keb Mo blues song in which Keb's character, having been caught cheating by his wife says: "But honey, that wasn't me. That was the man I used to be."
In part two of the book Rita Carter delivers the rare treat of a practical guide, using a questionnaire and a very clear set of diagnostics to help us identify our own personalities. She keeps this section very much grounded in reality - and where books on Consciousness, for example by Dennett Consciousness Explained (Penguin Science) can be pretty heavy reading without direct applicabilty Carter's gift is in the way she makes big ideas so accessible. For example a quick sign that you have two major personality types (a double major!) is if you have two quite distinct sets of friends, or two very distinct sets of clothes. Who are you going to be today?
Identification is one thing the book does well, but Carter also shows how we can get more harmony between our multiplicitous selves.
This volume is well worth reading. I don't know too many books on the human mind that also take the care to show us what we can do with this information. Rita carter delivers a big idea, then explains how we can use it. Well done - from all of me!
Most recent customer reviews
The first chapter presents a superficial and incomplete high speed tour of the notion of multiplicity in the development of...Read more