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Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (Oxford Landmark Science) 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 52 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199211432
ISBN-10: 0199211434
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Editorial Reviews

Review


"The author unearths a few everyday characteristics shared by people who say they are happy, including good health, a feeling of autonomy, and social correctiveness. To that list, one might add browsing through this thought-provoking book."--O: The Oprah Magazine, on Happiness


"Excellent survey of the subject-a lucid, intelligent, and thoughtful essay."--Lancet


About the Author


Daniel Nettle teaches psychology at the University of Newcastle. With degress in both psychology and anthropology, he has written on many aspects of human nature and culture. His previous books include Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile, Strong Imagination: Madness, Creativity and Human Nature and (with Suzanne Romaine) Vanishing Voices: The Extinction of the World's Languages.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Series: Oxford Landmark Science
  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (April 30, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199211434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199211432
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.7 x 5.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,262 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I've always known I'm not like my family and friends. In our circle I'm definitely the odd man out. And I've known this since I was 19 or 20 years old. So fairly early in my life I was interested in why I was different, why I didn't mind being different, and why I always struggled when I tried to just fit in. I've read Myers-Briggs and other "modern" models of personality and took interest in them. And in them I usually found some nuggets of explanatory wisdom. So I had largely stopped reading about personality.

But I casually glanced at Nettles' book one day and found myself thinking, "A new model of personality? One with widespread support and evolutionary underpinnings? Damn. I'm going to have to read it."

And I'm glad I did. First, this book fills a void. Most psychology books for a consumer audience are so watered down and trite they fail to really teach anything. They're usually worse than the drivel you find in Cosmopolitan or Men's Health. Try searching for psychology books with a more intelligent bent to them and you quickly find yourself shoulder-deep in academic, jargon-laden prose. Nettles' book is a brilliant bridge between these two worlds. Personality: What Makes You The Way You Are is an excellent presentation of a newer model of personality theory. It is rich in back-story, supported by summaries of various experiments, bolstered by real statistical concepts instead of dumbing it down to "the average", and keeps itself wrapped in an evolutionary biology framework. And it does all of this without getting overly academic.

For those who lean toward Cosmopolitan and Men's Health, Nettles includes a personality inventory you can self-administer, and it makes the content of the book more personally relevant.
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Format: Hardcover
Daniel Nettle's writing is clear, attractive, and sometimes pleasantly humorous. He takes us through the emerging consensus on the 5 dimensional model of personality, with the genetic explanations, the neurological evidence, and some convincing speculation on the evolutionary reasons for how those dimensions, and the wide variety of scores along them, arose and continue. This is a wonderfully calm and compelling, and very human, book, for the major part of it which covers these aspects. I found, however, the small section on the possible explanations for the non genetically determined aspects of personality oddly frustrating. Nettle examines some potential factors, then demolishes each of them in turn, leaving us with pretty much no explanation. One reason may be that he requires a valid non-genetic factor influencing personality to 'make evolutionary sense', which is a way of ensuring that any candidate factor that passes the test can, hey-presto, be explained by genetics.
The 'bombshell', and it is major, concerns parental influence on personality, but I won't give any plot spoilers here.
His final section, on how to live with your personality once you've got it, is moving, illuminating, and convincing.
A great read for anyone who's either plain curious or looking for solid ground in the sea of 'psycho-babble'.
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Format: Hardcover
If you are a fan of evolutionary psychology, be sure to check out this great little book on personality. It has a short personality test (12 questions) that you can take before you dive into the book, which I highly recommend taking. Then you'll learn about each of the "big five" components of personality. Each component is convincingly tied to biological systems in the brain, and the author explains how both high and low scoring individuals in each of the five areas could have thrived as humans evolved.
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Format: Hardcover
People have stable traits that allow us to predict their behavior over time. This much seems to be unchallengeable. We all have friends whose behavior we can predict much more accurately than they can their own.
This leads to two obvious questions: 1) what underlies these life-history patterns we see? 2) why does natural selection preserve such variation when it should select the optimal personality profile and weed the rest out?
Nettle answers both of these questions with aplomb and alacrity. What is underlying personality? Brain wiring. Why doesn't one personality predominate? There are pluses and minuses to each personality. Thus, selective pressures keep diversity.
Take, say, extraversion. Now, you might think being outgoing and pleasure seeking would be an unalloyed benefit from the view of the selfish gene. Indeed, studies have shown that extraverts have more lifetime mates and more EPCs than introversts. Well then, why are we not all extraverts? Simple, it has a cost. Extraverts also go to the hospital more for stupid injuries due to their pleasure seeking hedonistic ways. They live a little on the dangerous side. Every EPC is a risk, especially if the person you are having a liasion with is married! So, it makes sense that we are not all so aroused by the carnal and material pleasures of the world.
I find Nettle's book to be very satisfying. Unlike Tooby & Cosmides, or other evolutionary psychologists, Nettle does not think personalities are stochastic froth over a core of panhuman adaptations. He thinks they are very important adaptations in their own right, and they deserve to be studied as such. It is hard to disagree. Yes, all cars have wheels, transmissions, and engines, but does it make sense to ignore the difference between a Ford F150 and a Ford Escort?

I recommend this book to all personality buffs, or to anybody who just wants to know why they feel the way they do and why their friends are so predictable!
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