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Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are

3.90  ·  Rating details ·  1,348 ratings  ·  117 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
Hardcover, 298 pages
Published October 25th 2007 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published September 13th 2007)
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Ray it says 298, although it depends on the edition, i guess.

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Ammara Abid
Jan 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
I want to like it but I can't. The concept was good, examples were there, but it didn't capture my attention. Seriously it's hard to finish. It's not like I don't read/like non - fiction. I do read & I like neuroscience perspectives & books but this one is not for me. ...more
Sep 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Apr 26, 2014 rated it liked it
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 & hostile), Openness (cr
Jul 09, 2017 rated it liked it
I don’t quite see why this is part of the Oxford Landmark Science range. To me, it’s a relatively low level analysis of the factors that go into personality, much of which I’ve read elsewhere in other popular science books which aren’t so tightly focused. It’s not that it’s a bad book, or uninteresting; there are some things I didn’t know, and it’s interesting to see how Nettle explores the two sides to each of the main personality factors identified — the downside to being extroverted, for exam ...more
Aug 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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.
Xenophon Hendrix
Apr 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Interesting study of personality from a genetic and evolutionary point of view.
Erika RS
Jun 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned, physical
This book provides a detailed explanation of the Big Five personality model. Although the explanation of the model itself was interesting, the most valuable parts of the book were the first and last chapters.

The first chapter establishes how personality models like the Big Five are generated. Unlike models with less construct validity, these models do not start with a schema and then put people into it. Instead, these models start by asking behavioral questions and then looking for clusters of
Things I have learned...

-foxen are just friends you haven't met yet--NOT potential meals.
-thanks to a long family history of close contact with mental facilities/psychiatric services, my quasi-hallucinations and perceptual disturbances are just signs of high openness and not genetic schizophrenia.
-long lives the Queen of England.
-extraverts and optimists die sooner than those flakey, self-serving, anti-social cynics.
-I am basically the reincarnation of Allen Ginsberg. ("But he died AFTER you wer
Zoffix Znet
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Stephanie Benton
Brilliant. I read another review that said it is hard to finish. For me it was a page turner. It all depends on the depth of your interest in the subject itself. The evolutionary references to different animals were spot on and the author danced between biology and psychology throughout. I learned quite a bit and felt that the material was organized thoroughly and sensibly. Brilliant book.
May 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting book.
Jun 22, 2020 rated it really liked it
An informative book that can be quickly skimmed through to learn the science behind personality. Nettle justifies a focus on the five-factor model in this book, for incorporating enough character traits that enable one to, cumulatively, identify their personality, across these five factors. These are given in the order:
* Extraversion (a higher scorer of this trait is someone who seeks positive emotion triggers and so is more likely to go out of their way to experience them; hence eg, extraverts
Soha Eldeeb
Aug 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
I enjoyed reading this book as my first read on personality. I'm not sure someone who knows more about the topic would enjoy it or not.

It's easy to read and the examples are sweet.
Mar 28, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, psychology
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
May 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 31, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This was one of the rare books that held my interest first to last page. With each flip of one, a new light bulb fires and pieces of the puzzle that is me and my life seemed to fit in neatly. Daniel's academic objective style, his constant reference to studies concerned and his overall layout set this book apart.
Is it worth the reading? In a word, absolutely. Is it necessary reading? In a couple of words, most definitely. You are guaranteed an exciting journey of self-discovery and understanding
John Kaufmann
Dec 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Excellent description of the five mental parameters (OCEAN) that make up the core of our personality. Short, readable, concise, and, best of all, stimulating. The concepts are simple yet penetrating - all the more to make them easy to remember and apply. I now feel I have a better framework with which to view the attitudes and behaviors of myself and others.
Feb 16, 2010 rated it it was ok
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 :) ...more
Thing Two
Jun 08, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  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
Oct 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
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!
Sarah Brennan-Green
Jul 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
A bit dry for me. I like something with more anecdotes to explain a position.
Apr 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Like most people, I agree that there are some quite fundamental differences between the way people respond to different situations that are reasonably consistent through time and not just "taste" or "choice", and which we might call personality. This book is a a breezy and accessible piece of popular psychology writing and one that made me think in many places. It also tried to cite sources and explain the current scientific thinking, rather than the rather subjective personality systems that ar ...more
Tom Hartung
Apr 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in learning more about themself and others
Shelves: personalities
Personality, What Makes You the Way You Are is a book by Daniel Nettle published in 2007. He wrote it for people who want to learn more about the five factor model of understanding personalities.

I am giving Personality 5 of 5 stars because it is the first book I have had the opportunity to read about what some call the "Big Five" personality factors. To say that I found it "enlightening" would be an understatement. In truth, I am sure it will forever change how I view myself and othe
Feb 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Great introduction to the Big Five personality factors. Nettle explains how the Big Five is the most accurate and scientific personality analysis available. He shows the mental states associated with each factor and what effects they might have on one's life. He uses the latest science to back up the idea that these traits are evolutionary in origin and shows why that would be.

Each trait is a scale from high to low. There are positives and negatives on each end of the scale for every factor. Net
Mar 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: personality
The book describes 5 dimensions of personality and offers a reader description of birds/fish/insects traits while comparing differences and their beneficial or detrimental consequences based on the environment they are put in. A swift example: more proactive bird may do well in years when food is scarce and birds that don't like to go out do well when food is abundant.
The most striking revelation of the book for me was a story about a woman called Debbie (or whatever) who lives near the forest a
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 18, 2017 rated it it was ok

This book is non-fiction but it can't go deeper, certainly cannot be categorized as science. It's well-written, thoughtful, but very misguided.

Just know that the author generalizes humanity with a sample size as few as 545 people and the method as simple as written response from the subjects. That is just not enough.

And though the author tries to fend off critics preemptively (how British of him) by acknowledging people adapt to different situations, the underlying belief till the very end is th
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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.” 4 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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