Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality
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Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality

3.61 of 5 stars 3.61  ·  rating details  ·  335 ratings  ·  49 reviews
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, h...more
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published February 22nd 2011 by Random House (first published January 1st 2011)
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Molly Octopus
First, let me say that Holmes has the most irritating writing style I think I've ever encountered. There are an estimated twenty-five thousand idioms in the English language, and I'm guessing at least half are contained within this single book (the introduction alone contains such gems as "live fast and die young" and "keep your nose to the grind"). In fact, there is scarcely a sentence to be found that doesn't contain a (terribly constructed) writing cliche.

Additionally, Holmes appears to be wr...more
I have been looking for a book about brain science by someone who isn't a neurologist. This book is certainly that and did help me understand a few things though had a few fatal flaws.
Holmes writing style is certainly quirky. Though mostly personal narrative she also integrates research into contemporary brain science and conversations with neurologists. Despite this a lot of the book comes across as speculative and at times questionable. I wish there were a few more footnotes to back up some...more
As a scientist who has studied behavioral genetics, I found this an enjoying read. The simplicity with which she explains this complicated topic is admirable and joyous. Personally, I read it to fill a gap in my knowledge about mouse models. I often found myself skimming the evolutionary parts, as that was too simple for me, but I found no huge, glaring inaccuracies. Capturing the wariness of animal researchers was poignant. People do need to understand how human health has benefited immensely d...more
Christina Gleason
As someone with both a Master's degree in Psychology and someone who carries clinical diagnoses of both anxiety and depressive disorders, the first red flag for me was when the author referred to anxiety and depression as "personality disorders" in the introduction. I let it pass, though, assuming it was a rookie mistake made by someone who might be more of a biologist by trade.

But when she got to the chapter about depression where she went off on a spiel about how she does not believe it to be...more
Cynthia Van lingen
Holmes has no professional training in research or psychology. She has numerous references, articles and book, supporting her conclusions and is an writer for National Geographic and other non-research magazines and papers. However her conclusions demonstrate a misunderstanding of animal research, and the inability to separate herself from the psychology. Too bad, because I like the topic, but I do no trust the content.
Elinor Hurst
Mildly interesting. The author has her own quirks, which intrude prominently into this book. She cracks jokes, make frequent references to her own personality and that of her husband and friends, talks about her own pet mice, and adds her own musings and analyses of the science to her reporting. Some of this was charming, some irritating.

I learned some useful things about the neurophysiology of personality, and research findings relating to the Big Five personality traits of Extroversion, Agreea...more
Totally fascinating. The author talks about the different personality traits and what makes them tick. It doesn't explain why some fools pull out in front of you when you are the only car on the road but I still found the entire book very interesting. I am now waiting on her other books so I can read them.
This was just okay. I had a difficult time staying interested during the mice and how-this-possibly-evolved section(s). Holmes doesn't source anything. I found that annoying. How do I know what comes from published research and what is her opinion? I wouldn't read it again.
Interesting, but I could have done without the axe-grinding in the Acknowledgments on her feelings about the necessity of animal research and how "brave" scientists who conduct it are.
An interesting introduction to the world of neuroscience as it relates to our perception of personalities (both human and animal). However, about half way through I found it to get quite redundant and boring. Hannah Holmes is not a neuroscientist, but a science writer, which is easy to tell as you read. Holmes has a tendency to sensationalize concepts and a habit of self diagnosing throughout the book which I found a little irritating. Overall a good introduction to one aspect of neuroscience fo...more
Leah Lucci
In the introduction of this book, the author clearly states her thesis, after which you can probably just put it down.

She talks about various general personality traits ("altruism," "introversion," "anxiety," etc) and the genetic and chemical research that's being done on each trait on, typically, mice.

Then she extrapolates the findings on animals onto how they may apply to humans, and how each approach could benefit an animal in the long run. (An anxious creature avoids danger, but also misse...more
Scarlett Sims
There were enough things about the book that bugged me that I'd give it 4.5 if that were an option but it's good enough for me to round up.

First thing that bugged me, it's really nit-picky I know, the author frequently used the pronoun "she" when referring to a generic person.

Anyway, the book is set up so that it goes through the five major personality traits and the facets of each. The author discusses how the traits are exhibited in mice and humans and also why evolution allowed those traits t...more
*Embracing our quirks*

Do you ever wonder why some people are just so peculiar? (That is, why they act differently than you.) We all see the world through our own personality lenses, so it can be challenging to truly understand and appreciate the benefits that all of the different personality types offer. Why, for example, do you thrive on stability and predictability while your partner happily improvises their way through life? How can your best friend always be so trusting and optimistic while...more
An engrossing, yet reasonable light, examination of the biological underpinnings of certain aspects in personality and survival strategy in human beings and mice. Using the Five Factor personality model, the author goes through various facets of each of these factors and the various rodent research that shows it in animal behavior.

I enjoyed how the author was willing to hypothesize reasons why certain traits would be advantageous in various situations. I also appreciate that she is open about t...more
This is a thought provoking book. The theses that personalities march in step with different survival strategies and with different patterns of brain activity are both plausible and stimulating. The author navigates the issues in a fun and laid back style, in which she weaves empirical research together with personal anecdotes and interviews with actual scientists. It was valuable to learn about how the animal model is being used to learn about personality. I must say though that this book lacks...more
Elizabeth Housewright
Quirk is … quirky. I began it with enthusiasm, stopped midway, restarted after a couple of months, again struggled with the middle but was able to finish on an upswing. The writing was interesting, the examples illuminating, but sometimes it was a stretch to make all of the attributes discussed work in her model. The brief conclusion section is a great summary after all the details—your personality rests on old, old locations and molecules, “the surprise wasn’t how simple and biological the huma...more
Listened via Audiobook

If you are interested in psychology and the brain, this is a fantastic little book. If you aren't interested in those things, you probably don't care. Think of it as "biology and psychology for dummies"

Essentially, Holmes goes out and investigates the biological origins of human personality, and it also explains what the evolutionary justification for certain personality traits are. Organized and systematic, Holmes explains what research is being done on a particular aspect...more
Feb 15, 2012 Joseph rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: people interested in personality psychology; people interested in neurobiology
Shelves: psychology
Quite an interesting read. Quirk is a very methodical survey of the facets of human personality and the neurological and biological forces behind them. Every section details a facet, the parts of the brain behind that faces, the appearance of that facet in both mice and humans, and ends with a theoretical scenario demonstrating the benefits and pitfalls of both sides of that facet.

Just because Quirk is methodical, though, doesn't mean it's dry. The whole book reads like a light hearted Discovery...more
Kate Woods Walker
A nicely-done overview of the biological roots of human personality that uses the "Big Five" model of psychological assessment, Hannah Holmes's Quirk: Brain Science Makes Sense of Your Peculiar Personality, is an enjoyable read for the layman who is curious about what makes humans tick. Holmes goes through each factor--neuroticism, extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness and openness--in a chatty, friendly style that uses plenty of personal anecdote as well as legitimate research. Once sh...more
Kirsty ~ Allons-y Into Time And Space
I went into this book not knowing what I was getting into. Every time someone asked what reading and I said, "Oh, it's called Quirk. It's about how your brain science effects your personality." I got looks of pure confusion. Why is this teenage girl reading that? I was so pleasantly surprised how much I loved this book. It was laid out simply so that I understood every single word and idea. I even found myself analyzing other people and saying to myself, "Hmm, they fit the anxiety facet. Their s...more
sara frances
a very interesting read! before i started, i was worried that the writing style would be overly academic and a little snoozy, but Hannah writes in an very accessible (and sometimes even silly) way that is very enjoyable.

i think the chapter i found most fascinating was the one on Morality. just the thought that other creatures besides humans might have a system of morality or, even worse, that it boils down to a chemical reactions in the brain...sooo tantalizing. talk about throwing a huge part...more
Adam Rodgers
I learned a lot of things from this book, most of which was pretty interesting, even though a lot of it was about mice.
Sarah Novak
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I chose it to brush up on personality to do a better job covering it in my courses, but instead of dwelling on the history of psych (like so many personality texts do), I was impressed by the smooth connections to neuroscience and comparative psych. It's not for everyone, but for people who are interested in psychological science, it's a great overview spanning a lot of topics and modern work. I especially like Holmes's approach to discussing seemingly ne...more
Kaitlyn Dennis
A little fluffy, but overall very readable and informative. :) The narrative, somewhat-informal style worked really well for presenting the information. I really enjoyed reading about not only the experiments themselves, but the author's whole experience of tracking down and interacting with the scientist. Sometimes this veers more into the speculative and personal than some people would like, but the author is very open about when she does this, so it didn't really bother me.

I liked the way that Holmes presents her research in this book, especially the sections on the evolution of each temperament. Certainly humor behavior is not easily divided and packaged in to five temperaments with a variety of facets, but the role of certain chemicals on the brain and how the different sections of the brain work to make us function was really insightful and interesting. Definitely good food for thought as an educator.
This book was ok. I would have preferred that the author spend less time discussing the ways mice reacted and were bred and spent more time discussing how people reacted and are presdisposed to behaviors... but that being said i have discovered that my ADD is a product of an overactive prefrontal cortex and that too much Seratonin is just as bad as not enough. This along with some other nifty facts made it worth the read :)

Why are we so different? How come there are altruists and egotists, neurotics and aggressive people? Do these types arbitararyly emerge among people? What is their purpose? Journalist Hanna Holmes in her new book tells us how the structure of a human brain affects one's character. Why a certain feature becomes prevalent and why all these types of personalities (and often personality disorders) exist among us.
Barth Siemens
Quirk relies more on anecdotes than I would have expected. But then this is really the 'heart' of thinking about personality, isn't it. I was fascinated to learn about the chemicals and receptors that affect who we are. I enjoyed hearing the context of Hannah Holmes' quirks, her friends and family, and the researchers that make Brain Science their life work. Well worth the read.
May 21, 2013 emily added it
At least now I have more specific labels for myself -- one being neurotic. But I also started picking these traits out in others. It helps relieve my boredom when people talk about the weather or sitcoms, which happens too often. And, after reading this, I hope I've been giving my spouse a break about being nervous now that I see it might be a quirk in his DNA.
A personality book based in current neruoscience. She writes personably (too personably, perhaps) but solidly. I enjoyed the predictable format. If you get this (beautifully designed - the fonts and cover were superb) book, you'll soon be quizzing your friends to find out where they lie. (Anxious, Extraverted, and Impulsive here.)
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