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Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  610 ratings  ·  55 reviews
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 personali
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Hardcover, 298 pages
Published October 25th 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 13th 2007)
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Community Reviews

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Thomas
A great, easy-to-read book that delves deeper into the Big Five personality traits: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism (OCEAN). Daniel Nettle uses a blend of anecdotes and science - ranging from the evolutionary perspective to genetics to environmental factors - to explain each area of personality. He creates a solid argument concerning why he views the Big Five as a fluctuating selection type model (every place on the continuum of each trait has its pros a ...more
Rocky
Great primer on the Big 5 personality traits that directly arise from structures in our brain. With clear example and case studies, Nettle does an excellent job explaining personality from a point of view of evolutionary biology / evolutionary psychology.
Bookchick
I enjoyed reading this but thought it was an overly simplistic book, especially since the author seems to think that our personalities are a result merely of natural selection.

I did find the five "dimensions" of personality to be interesting:
Extraversion (outgoing vs. quiet), Neuroticism (prone to worry & stress vs. being "emotionally stable"), Conscientiousness (organized & self-directed vs. spontaneous & careless), Agreeableness (trusting & empathetic vs. uncooperative & ho
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Xenophon Hendrix
I've now read three books about the Five Factor (a.k.a. Big Five) Personality Model. This one is by far the least dry and most readable.

I also like the way the author makes sure to consider personality traits from the perspective of natural selection.
Stephanie
Interesting study of personality from a genetic and evolutionary point of view.
Eugenia
Very interesting book.
Converse

According to Daneil Nettle, a British academic psychologist, our personalities can be usefully described using numerical scores for 5 different factors. These 5 factors have a large heritable component, about 50% of one's personality can be explained through heridity. Self-reported scores (calculated by filling out a questioner and totalling up the scores) are consistent over time and are also consistent with how other people see the subject. Furthermore, with brain imaging technology it is now

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Mark
This is a good cook's tour of one of the most widely used personality profile scales out there: OCEAN (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism).

Besides sketching each of these personality dimensions, giving examples from correspondence he has kept from some of his clients who strongly fit the profiles, and making evolutionary psychology arguments about why these traits should have arisen, Nettle also deals with the whole nature-nurture issue and the question of w
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Hdmsisk
We've all taken personality tests. This book explains why we have different personalities: brain structure, genes and evolution. Five different personality traits: extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness and openness.

Favorite line from book was approximately: If you lie awake worrying at night, it's because you come from a long line of people who lie awake worrying at night.

Explained to me why most of the things I worry about don't come to pass. Our systems for processing ne
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Zoffix Znet
Informative and funny. A well-written and captivating book. At the beginning, the author invites you to compute your personality score along 5 dimensions. After brief introduction into how these dimensions develop, he proceeds to explain each of these in great detail that allows you to gain deeper understanding of yourself and others; piece by piece. The book provides plenty of examples of each of the extremes for all the 5 personality traits, as well as explains how these traits evolved and per ...more
Joseph
this book uses the Big Five Personality traits to explore human behaviour + to offer some befitting explanations from the evolution perspective

Big Five Personality Traits:
(1) Openness
(2) Conscientiousness
(3) Extraversion
(4) Agreeableness
(5) Neuroticism

(easily recalled as O-C-E-A-N)

my key take away is to further appreciate the different traits that make up each individual, and that NO SINGLE trait is considered more superior, but to consider them as a consequence of contextual force. and how the
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Jurij Fedorov
Fine little book on personality and how we scientifically can measure it. But it leaves a lot out and does not explain all about BIG5.

Pro:
Nettle is a great mind in modern psychology. While many psychologist don't understand the gene/environment interaction Nettle has a great understanding of it. This book is an informative read and will explain to you how people have different personalities and how scientists can look into the human soul. Nettle explains that parents cannot influence their child
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Utkarsh
1. Our personalities are sum total of our genes and the environment we grown up with.
- A man is sum total of 7 people he interacts with.
- That's why you should choose your friends wisely.

2. Your personality shaped in your childhood and it determines how you live your life.
I call it bullshit. Reason? Personal experience.

3. Darwinism is the mother of Power.

4. The Big 5 Personality traits.
a) Extraversion- Positive emotions.
b) Neuroticism- They worry too much. Moms in general.
c) Conscientiousn
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Stephanie
This is a really interesting idea and I wanted to like this book. The author even states that he is trying to make this readable for the average (non-academic) reader....but let's just say it was hard to finish. And I learned that I have a medium-high streak of Neuroticism :)
Thing Two
Jun 13, 2010 Thing Two rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Thing Two by: Craig Lynch
Twenty years after the Human Genome Project, this book explores the idea that personality could be genetic. It is well written, easy to understand, and says that more than just nurture, our neurotic tendencies can and should be blamed on our parents.
Marnie Lansdown
I really enjoyed this book, and I find the study of personality really interesting. Daniel Nettle does a good job of laying down the science of personality without getting too...scientific. Highly recommend.
Bridget
Explanation of the basis for personality, both in evolution and physically in the brain. Very interesting...even has a handy little quiz so you can see what personality type you are!
Claire
"If for each environment there is a best organism, for each organism there is a best environment." - Lee Cronbach

"The reasons for relapse are not pleasure-seeking or even craving so much as the inability of inhibitory mechanisms to stop the habit once formed (page 139)."

"He must spray his sinuses, take two aspirin, straighten up the apartment, do thirty-five sit-ups and read two pages of the dictionary. The sheets must be of just the right crispness and temperature and the room must be noiseless
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Matthew Green
Nettle's book does not advertise itself as one specifically discussing the Big 5 personality sorter, but that is the particular schema he considers, which makes this book somewhat unique. Most books for the layman on personality tend to detail variants of the Meyers-Briggs sorter, the Enneagram, or various other systems. Books on the Big 5, however, tend to be aimed at the academic and don't make for particularly pleasant reading. Nettle crosses the divide, and I am grateful for it.

His style is
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Karen
This was quite academic and occasionally scientific in tone, but it was still very readable and only took a few days to get through. It helped that Nettle keeps the text free of references and provides them all in notes and an extensive bibliography at the end.

Before this I'd only really read about personality 'types' (e.g. the Myers Briggs Type Indicator). Nettle thinks that types are not biologically plausible - personality is actually made up of (at least) five traits, each of which probably
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Tim

I found this book while looking for a general presentation of the "big five personality factor" or OCEAN theory of personality, which is what this is. I was very sceptical about the theory on the basis of what I'd heard and read about it.

I found Nettle's account pretty persuasive as well as being at once readable and yet not dumbed down.

My only criticism would be that I wanted more. But that's my high-impulsiveness/low-conscientiousness personality at work. I should know when I've had enough, an
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Trey Nowell
To be completely honest, the beginning of this book had me not wanting to finish it, but after the first intro, it really picked up for me. Having a degree in this fiel, my interest was sparked, and I really enjoyed the basic breakdown of personality types. Being someone that almost fits one type they mentioned, and seeing many others that fit various types (and mixes), it was enjoyable to say the least. I think this book may be a tad scientific and over the heads of the casual reader, dipping i ...more
Colleen
Picked this up browsing the library shelves and am delighted with my chance encounter. I love self-analysis opportunities, and this was no fluff. The author includes lots of empirical studies and statistics to lay the groundwork for his "big five" personality styles. And I agree with his basics--we all fall high, low or anywhere in between on Extraversion, Neuroticism, Agreeableness, Conscientiousness and Openness, from birth. These general headings umbrella traits like high anxiety and fear (ce ...more
Ms_prue
I had to read this all in one sitting, because the writing was that good. Normally I get hives from repeated invocations of "...because our hunter-gatherer ancestors would have..." but the author handles the reasoning behind the evolutionary biology connections very well, in my opinion. I appreciate his thesis that personality traits occur on a spectrum, as opposed to the typing of personalities into discrete boxes (yes, I'm looking at you, Briggs-Meyer Empire) and that there are many, many perm ...more
Alex Devero
This book will teach you more about your personality, that it is outside your control. When you closely examine the traits that make you who you are, you’ll know what you need to overcome to be a better person and how to work towards living a happier and more fulfilling life.
Story of Choice
Daniel Nettle identifies five factors that make up human personality, five continuums along which we fall in countless permutations. A short quiz in the appendix allows you to calculate your own configuration. I particularly appreciate two well-argued main assertions. First, that descriptive personality traits correspond to biochemical indicators that make them likely shorthand for genetic variety. This neatly bridges the long-assumed and illusory split between mind and matter. Second, that beca ...more
Jennifer
I actuall kind of skimmed this book but I gleaned and absorbed most of its salient point, which isthe idea that one's personality if made up of five traits. And where on the spectrum you are with these traits and how they interact each other are a way of understanding human behavior and personality. And while it may all seem reductive, I really enjoyed examining myself and thinking about people I know in terms how these traits interact to better understand our human behavior. I especially liked ...more
Maria Teresa
I read this book as part of the Personality and Individual Differences course I took last semester. I gave the book 2 stars because at the time I found it not very engaging and it was mostly an explanation of the Big 5 traits which I had already had been studying during the course.
Burton Li
Intriguing and interesting made-easy-to-read book that argues why is it appropriate to classify human personality traits into 5 categories, explains the pros and cons of each personality traits in different circumstances.

After the insightful part one, part two carries on to demonstrates how these personality are 100% innate and cannot be changed (hence if you are born with a sad personality you are screwed for life), but ending on a encouraging but illogical note that people should deal with the
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Muhammad al-Khwarizmi
First of all, Nettle is a great writer. More writers should be like him. Nevertheless (my reviews are almost always critical of course) I didn't like some of the evolutionary psychology excesses. Given that creative people appear to have fewer children / are more introverted, Geoffrey Miller's "bower bird" analogy seems highly questionable. That being said, if you read like I do, you should breeze through this in like two days. You don't have much to lose at that rate. Give this one a go.
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“This clarification of the nature of intelligence predicts that there will be no relationship at all between personality and intelligence, but research in the last decade has shown that this is not quite true. There are no very strong relationships between personality and intelligence, but some relationships there are, though debate about their nature and significance goes on. Most strikingly, though, in a couple of studies where relationships between Conscientiousness and intelligence have been found, they are not, as you might imagine, positive, but weakly negative. The smarter people are, the less conscientious they are.13 The most likely explanation for this is that people who are very sharp soon learn that they can get away with not preparing things too much in advance, not being overly disciplined with their time, and so on, since their quick abilities will get them through whatever academic and professional challenges they meet. Conversely, people who are not quite so quick have to use organization and discipline to achieve what some others might achieve carelessly. Thus, a behavioural style is developed that compensates for the level of intelligence, and so ends up inversely related to it. This means that there is no intrinsic genetic connection between low Conscientiousness and high intelligence. Rather, the weak negative correlation is something that emerges through development.” 1 likes
“it is a sensible suggestion that there might be individual differences in how widely activation spreads in networks of meaning. Moreover, the breadth of spread might plausibly be the cognitive mechanism underlying Openness. There is no direct evidence on this question, but there is an interesting study by Christine Mohr on Unusual Experiences-type schizotypy, and as I have said, I see ‘real’ Openness as quite close to this construct. In Mohr’s experiment, participants saw pairs or triads of words, such as ‘HONEY-BREAD’ or ‘LADDER-BOTTLE-CAT’, and had to rate how close in meaning they felt the different words to be. Scores on the schizotypy measure were a good predictor of how close on average the words were judged to be. The higher the schizotypy score, the closer the meanings seemed. The best explanation for these results is that, for the high-Unusual Experiences scorer, each word activates a broad raft of related associations, and since the second word is either in that raft or related to a word which is, the words seem close in meaning. For the low scorer, the raft of associations is narrower, and so the distance to the second word seems greater on average.” 0 likes
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