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No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality Paperback – June 17, 2007
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Scientific American
Harris, a former textbook author turned popular writer, dives right in, sharpening her focus by looking at identical twins. After subtracting the share contributed by their mutual genesabout 45 percentstudies show that adult identical twins are no more alike in personality than people plucked at random from a crowd, even though the siblings were raised in the same home, by the same parents, with identical schooling.
Where, then, do personality differences come from? Harris begins, in a savage fashion familiar to readers of her Nurture Assumption, by recounting factors that do not contribute to personality differences. She debunks dozens of studies by psychologistsespecially the "developmentalists" and "interventionists" who believe that better parenting or school environments can affect how children turn outby pointing out where they have fudged numbers and twisted results. She rejects the basis of psychoanalysis, stating there is no evidence that talking about childhood experiences has therapeutic value. She also maintains that learned behaviors do not readily transfer from one situation to another, noting that even babies behave differently to fit different environments.
To answer her opening questions, Harris then develops a complex scheme based on "the modular mind," a framework set forth by Harvard University evolutionary psychologist Steven Pinker and others. (Harris herself has no doctorate and is housebound by systemic sclerosis and lupus, two autoimmune disorders.) She describes three modulesthe relationship system, the socialization system and the status systemand explains how each contributes its part to making us who we are. The relationship system starts in the cradle as infants study and learn the faces and voices of the people around them, collecting information that helps form personality. The socialization system adapts people to their culture. The status system takes all the information collected during childhood and adolescence and shapes and modifies our personalities in accord with our environments.
Harriss last chapter lays out her theory in tabular form, explaining how each module interacts with the others to produce our distinct personalities. It is lavishly footnoted, like the rest of the book, shoring up her strategy of pointing out the failings of other models and then proposing her own. Her goal, she writes, is to explain the variations in personality that cannot be attributed to variations in peoples genes. After saying she believes she has succeeded, she throws down her gauntlet: "I will leave it to other people to test my theory."
Jonathan Beard --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
In "Nurture Assumption," Harris took on most authorities in developmental psychology, who seemed to think that if a kid didn't turn out just right (whatever that meant) that kid was assumed to have received sub-par parenting...certain interventions could and should have been done that would have brought about a better result. Never in world history had so much blame been placed on parents, and Harris didn't buy it. In her opinion, childhood environmental influence that lasts into adulthood didn't come from parents. It came from the child's peer group, and she produced reams of research to prove it.
Harris wrote child development texts for several years, drawing on authorities from many fields of study. The discrepancies amongst disciplines led her to believe that the academics must never read each others' research. One day she realized she simply didn't believe what she was writing. This nagging thought led her to do her own survey of the literature, which eventually inspired her to write "Nurture Assumption."
She continues along the same lines of thought in "No Two Alike," but concentrates on related questions: If personality characteristics aren't molded at home, how are they molded? What is so important about the peer group?Read more ›
In "No Two Alike" Harris admits that she had previously confused socialization (a process that makes people alike) and personality development (a process that makes people different), and now proposes a new theory that will address the latter. Again, her goal is to explain why there are personality differences between identical twins (including those raised together). The proposed theory is different from the previous one and less obviously confused. It is also much less original and must less interesting. According to Harris this time, what makes identical twins differ is, at the bottom, that other people's opinions of them are different. And they are different, because twins are different individuals for whom other people store information separately. She doesn't say it this way, and in any case, she appears to think that this is a very different explanation from simply saying that unexplained variance in personality is due to noise.Read more ›
In the first part of her book, Harris takes developmental and social psychologists to task for over-emphasizing the influence of early childhood experiences on personality formation and not giving enough credit to what happens outside the home. She also maintains that developmental studies that don't screen for genetic influences are prone to confuse cause and effect. She shows how research that's been inadequately digested makes its way into mainstream culture, where it's regurgitated as pop truth. According to Harris, most of the conventional wisdom about birth order, home environment, parenting style, and the interaction of genes and the home environment does not adequately explain why we're different from one other.
Having eliminated the usual suspects, Harris turns to Stephen Pinker's How The Mind Works as her starting point for solving the mystery of human personality. Pinker posits that our brains are organized into "mental modules" that perform discrete tasks. Some examples of modular systems are facial recognition, language acquisition, and our ability to postulate what other people are thinking (a theory of mind). All of these had evolutionary value to small tribes of wandering hominids, and evolved to better serve our survival needs.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
it is awesome. I would like recommend for everyone who is educating or starting to college education. It is about human nature and nurture. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Ichinkhorloo
A thorough presentation of a controversial proposition, well supported with scientific evidence, excellently analyzed and presented in a clear, witty manner. Read morePublished 11 months ago by John
Not convinced by the authors premise that most personalities, behaviors and preferences are genetically based. Read morePublished 18 months ago by Cristina
Being something of an iconoclast myself, I enjoyed Harris's outsider's approach to her subject. Not being a member of the academe, she is good at detecting problems in accepted... Read morePublished 18 months ago by William H. DuBay
Great reading. She spends a little too much time responding to critics of her other book: "Nurture Assumption."Published 20 months ago by Political Enthusiast
This book would be enough to make a name for Judith Harris - even if nowhere as significant as her seminal work "The Nurture Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They... Read morePublished on December 6, 2013 by Michael K
I ordered this book for school, it was very informative regarding determinism and biology. I would recommend it for anyone interested in biological determinism.Published on July 19, 2013 by Marc Richard Adams
While the author is extremely knowledgeable about this topic, I found her writing style extremely laborious and too wordy. Read morePublished on May 9, 2013 by Lisa Cunningham
In this, a sequel to her previous book 'The Nature Assumption,' Ms Harris expands on her theories about childhood behavioral development. Read morePublished on January 6, 2013 by Eugene A Jewett