No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality

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9780393059489: No Two Alike: Human Nature and Human Individuality

A groundbreaking theory of personality.

The author of the controversial book The Nurture Assumption tackles the biggest mystery in all of psychology: What makes people differ so much in personality and behavior? It can't just be "nature and nurture," because even identical twins who grow up together―same genes, same parents―have different personalities. And if psychologists can't explain why identical twins are different, they also can't explain why each of us differs from everyone else. Why no two people are alike. Harris turns out to be well suited for the role of detective―it isn't easy to pull the wool over her eyes. She rounds up the usual suspects and shows why none of the currently popular explanations for human differences―birth order effects, for example, or interactions between genes and environment―can be the perpetrator she is looking for. None of these theories can solve the mystery of human individuality. The search for clues carries Harris into some fascinating byways of science. The evidence she examines ranges from classic experiments in social psychology to cutting-edge research in neuroscience. She looks at studies of twins, research on autistic children, observations of chimpanzees, birds, and even ants. Her solution is a startlingly original one: the first completely new theory of personality since Freud's. Based on a principle of evolutionary psychology―the idea that the human mind is a toolbox of special-purpose devices―Harris's theory explains how attributes we all have in common can make us different. This is the story of a scientific quest, but it is also the personal story of a courageous and innovative woman who refused to be satisfied with "what everyone knows is true."  12 b/w illustrations

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About the Author:

Judith Rich Harris is an independent investigator and a former writer of textbooks in child development. She lives in New Jersey with her husband.

From Scientific American:

Where does adult personality come from? Why are we all different? These are the questions energizing Judith Rich Harris’s new book.

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 genes—about 45 percent—studies 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 psychologists—especially the "developmentalists" and "interventionists" who believe that better parenting or school environments can affect how children turn out—by 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 modules—the relationship system, the socialization system and the status system—and 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.

Harris’s 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 people’s 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

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2006. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In No Two Alike , Judith Rich Harris presents a fascinating exploration of human nature that looks within the mind to discover why people differ in personality. The detective work Harris began in her controversial book The Nurture Assumption has its triumphant conclusion in No Two Alike . Harris tackles a question that has long been a mystery: why do identical twins who grow up together - with the same genes, reared by the same parents - differ in personality? Her ground-breaking answer - the first completely new theory of personality since Freud - is based on principles of evolutionary psychology, bolstered by evidence from a variety of sources including studies of language, memory, autistic children, chimpanzees and even ants. This is the story of a scientific quest but it is also the personal story of a startlingly innovative woman who dared to question the accepted gospel in her field of expertise. Bookseller Inventory # NLF9780393059489

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Book Description WW Norton Co, United States, 2006. Hardback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. In No Two Alike , Judith Rich Harris presents a fascinating exploration of human nature that looks within the mind to discover why people differ in personality. The detective work Harris began in her controversial book The Nurture Assumption has its triumphant conclusion in No Two Alike . Harris tackles a question that has long been a mystery: why do identical twins who grow up together - with the same genes, reared by the same parents - differ in personality? Her ground-breaking answer - the first completely new theory of personality since Freud - is based on principles of evolutionary psychology, bolstered by evidence from a variety of sources including studies of language, memory, autistic children, chimpanzees and even ants. This is the story of a scientific quest but it is also the personal story of a startlingly innovative woman who dared to question the accepted gospel in her field of expertise. Bookseller Inventory # NLF9780393059489

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