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Publisher's Summary

Who are you? It’s the most fundamental of human questions. Are you the type of person who tilts at windmills, or the one who prefers to view them from the comfort of an air-conditioned motorcoach? Our personalities are endlessly fascinating - not just to ourselves but also to our spouses, our parents, our children, our co-workers, our neighbors. As a highly social species, humans have to navigate among an astonishing variety of personalities. But how did all these different permutations come about? And what purpose do they serve?
With her trademark wit and sly humor, Hannah Holmes takes readers into the amazing world of personality and modern brain science. Using the Five Factor Model, which slices temperaments into the major factors (Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, and Openness) and minor facets (such as impulsive, artistic, or cautious), Holmes demonstrates how our genes and brains dictate which factors and facets each of us displays. Are you a Nervous Nelly? Your amygdala is probably calling the shots. Hyperactive Hal? It’s all about the dopamine.
Each facet took root deep in the evolution of life on Earth, with Nature allowing enough personal variation to see a species through good times and bad. Just as there are introverted and extroverted people, there are introverted and extroverted mice, and even starfish. In fact, the personality genes we share with mice make them invaluable models for the study of disorders like depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. Thus it is deep and ancient biases that guide your dealings with a very modern world.
©2011 Hannah Holmes (P)2011 Random House Audio
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Customer Reviews

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By Lowell Wilson on 01-25-13

Annoying style-political spin-Interesting

The annoying style is the author's technique of jumping into first person, and adding commentary related to her personal experience in obtaining data, interviews, etc. Its sort of a cross between a laboratory journal, a scientific paper abstract, and a freshman girl's personal journal detailing her first year in college. Some may find it endearing, I find it annoying, and distracting. I question how much of this book is accepted science on brain physical/chemical effect on personality, and how much is conjecture.

My listening experience went from mildly annoyed/somewhat interested, to highly frustrated in the few sections where the author attempts to explain political differences on brain characteristics. One example; due to the intensity of the amigdala firing at various picture stimuli, liberals value equality, and conservatives value justice and a clear chain of command. While there is some sideways truth to this, it is clear the author has only a "conventional thinking" understanding of political philosophy. I might ask her how more government control of distribution reflects the liberal view of "equality". That conclusion necessarily derives from the idea that some are more unequal than others, and only a powerful central government can fix the inequality, viola... equality. As for the "conservative" penchant for a strong chain of command, I would like to know who the author finds most enamored with the likes of Mao Sze Tong, and the wonderful tenets of the former soviet union (conservatives or liberals??). Your answer is also the group that prefers the iron fist in a velvet glove, or strong chain of command. The bottom line is that one side values individual liberty, and the other values government control. Now, what does the amigdala say about which is which?

The armature political analysis, and personal journal style aside, I found most of the study details and analysis interesting. The tie-in's to evolutionary development are thought provoking.

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4 of 5 people found this review helpful


By Joshua on 05-21-11

Just couldn't continue listening...

I only got an hour into this book before I had to move onto something else. Whether it was the tone of the written word, or the narrator, I felt over and over again as though I was being spoken to as if I were a child. This made it quite annoying, and before long, the annoyance grew to be greater than what could have been interesting content. It's unfortunate, because it is a topic that interests me.

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5 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By M. S. on 02-17-16

An interesting overview on personality

The book is written in the first person and describes the author's journey to interview scientists working in the field. I'm not a great fan of that style and felt that the result was very heavy on the author's opinion and personal anecdotes and not that heavy on science. Worse, at times it is unclear where one ends and the other begins. Having said that, her encounters with many of the big names of our time and exploration of these people's laboratories is absolutely fascinating and makes the whole book worth while. The author also shines when it comes to explaining complex concepts in layman' terms. If you think you won't enjoy it because it's about psychology and neuroscience, then absolutely do not worry: I promise that you will. If you have a scientific background you might do so less, but then I don't think you're the target audience.

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By steve on 12-23-12

Quirk Brain- fascinating

I really enjoyed this book not only for the fascinating insights it provides into the workings of the human mind but also because of Susan Denaker's superb and witty narration.

Hannah Holmes really seems to 'hit the nail on the head' with her explanations of human nature and has given me reason to try to be more tolerant of what I always thought to be unacceptable or stupid behaviour.

Learning is never usually this much fun!

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