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

Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (Oxford Landmark Science)
Author: Daniel Nettle
ISBN 13: 9780199211432
ISBN 10: 199211434
Edition: 1
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication Date: 2009-04-30
Format: Paperback
Pages: 304
List Price: $14.95

It is one of the great mysteries of human nature. Why are some people worriers, and others wanderers? Why are some people so easy-going and laid-back, while others are always looking for a fight?
Written by Daniel Nettle—author of the popular book Happiness—this brief volume takes the reader on an exhilarating tour of what modern science can tell us about human personality. Revealing that our personalities stem from our biological makeup, Nettle looks at the latest findings from genetics and brain science, and considers the evolutionary origins and consequences of different personalities. The heart of the book sheds light on the "big five": Extraversion, Neuroticism, Conscientious, Agreeableness, and Openness. Using a stimulating blend of true-life stories and scientific research, Nettle explains why we have something deep and consistent within us that determines the choices we make and situations we bring about. He addresses such questions as why members of the same family differ so markedly in their natures? What is the best personality to have—a bold one or a shy one, an aggressive one or a meek one? And are you stuck with your personality, or can you change it? Life, Nettle concludes, is partly the business of finding a niche where your personality works for you. "It is a question of choosing the right pond," he notes, "and being mindful of the dangers." There is no ideal personality to have. Every disposition brings both advantages and disadvantages.
Full of human wisdom as well as scientific insight, this book illuminates the pluses and minuses of personality, offering practical advice about living with the nature you were born with. It even includes a questionnaire so that you can assess yourself.

Publishers Weekly

British psychologist Nettle (Happiness: The Science Behind Your Smile) defines personality as a grouping of traits, partly genetically inherited, that remain stable throughout one's life. Drawing on his own research and others', he explores what he sees as the five dimensions of personality: extroversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness to experience. This last, Nettle admits, is the most elusive; while it involves creativity, it also may include "restless unconventionality, supernatural beliefs and psychosis-like experiences"-exemplified by Allen Ginsberg's poem Howl. Nettle also delves into evolutionary biology, showing how certain traits that were adaptive in one environment might become nonadaptive in another (e.g., the fight-or-flight response that was necessary for prehistoric humans facing predators is less desirable when manifested as road rage). In emphasizing the genetic component of personality, Nettle concludes, based on twin studies, that within normal families (with no violence or abuse) parenting "cannot have any measurable effect on child personality." But overall, this is a well-researched, accessible, informative and sometimes (in its use of personal anecdotes) entertaining book that ends on a hopeful note: Nettle says that while our basic personalities don't change significantly after childhood, our behavior can. (Dec.)

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