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

3.54  ·  Rating details ·  517 Ratings  ·  69 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
Jan 11, 2014 rated it did not like it
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
Cynthia Van lingen
Sep 20, 2013 rated it did not like it
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.
Christina Gleason
Aug 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: not-worth-it
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
Kathryn
Mar 20, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kelley
May 18, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: non-fiction
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.
Liosliath
Feb 18, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
Deb
Mar 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
*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
Scarlett Sims
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Vi
Sep 14, 2014 rated it liked it
I have been on a quest to self-comprehension for the last few years, with my interest piqued in the subject by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. Peering through unorganized stacks of books at a local bookstore, I happened upon Quirk and after a quick Google search and a peek at the great price, I made a dash for the register and made my way home with this and a couple other reads.

Holmes is a science writer, rather than am actual scientist, though I don't think we should entirely discount her auth
...more
Elinor Hurst
Jan 21, 2014 rated it liked it
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
Kelly
Dec 25, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Ally Van den herik
Fascinating! Humorous yet scientific look at research into biological causes of personality traits

I was so happy to read a book that was both detailed in its scientific explanations for certain personality traits (e.g. anxiety, depression, extroversion, orderliness, etc.), as well as enjoyable to read. The author had a delightful sense of humor, and she and I have very similar personalities, which may be a reason I like the book so much. My only issue with the book is the reduction of religion t
...more
B. Rule
Nov 07, 2016 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is a book cobbled together out of cliches and tired jokes, the author's annoying narcissism about her own obnoxious personality, factual inaccuracies, and massive oversimplifications of the neuroscience behind various personality traits. I'm begrudgingly giving it a couple stars because there was a smattering of interesting facts throughout. This could have been a great read, as the topic is inherently interesting. Unfortunately, Holmes basically takes the lazy way out at every turn, and ju ...more
Tom
Nov 04, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Elizabeth Housewright
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Kirsten
May 02, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
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
Joseph
Jul 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Sarah Novak
Apr 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
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
Elise
Feb 20, 2015 rated it it was ok
I was so excited when I saw this book! I really, really wish I could give it a 3, but I just can't. I think it boils down to me not learning much. I'm an educated person, but far from an academic or scholar. The parts that were scientific were rather boring, and descriptive. It's an odd mix of too much detail and not enough, at the same time. I'm not sure who I can recommend this to. Maybe someone who has little to no knowledge of psychology? Personally, I made it about 3/4 trough and can't help ...more
Linh
Mar 10, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: eh, science
The whole time I was reading this, I was picturing the author. I imagined that Holmes was in her twenties, hence her need to write about science in a way that I could only describe as "infuriatingly cute". As I kept reading, I became more enraged at all these female scientists or science writers being so many cliches. You can imagine my surprise when I learnt that Holmes was 48 at the time of this being published.

I couldn't recommend this book any less. Unless you want to read a very long, and a
...more
Tracey
Sep 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Katya
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it


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.
Kaitlyn Dennis
Sep 13, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.

Barth Siemens
Oct 02, 2011 rated it really liked it
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.
Ilana
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: educational
An accessible read on the brain science behind personality with an added bonus of insight into the people behind the research (which is mostly mouse and rat-based). I appreciated Hannah's effort to make the concepts understandable but not dumbed-down and throwing in her own nuances to make it relatable as well.
Charly
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.)
Two Readers in Love
Feb 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed Quirk; as expected it gave me a new appreciation of the diversity of the human experience, and as an unexpected bonus it gave me a much deeper appreciation of the surprising diversity of the *mouse* experience.
Micah McCarty
Mar 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Really interesting read on brain science. I found it a bit too simplistic in its belief that every aspect of personality can be explained away by science, but overall I truly enjoyed it. Most fascinating was the part about liberals vs conservatives and their dramatically different brains.
Dave
Mar 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction-read
I'm going to have to listen to this one again. I liked it as an easy to hear or read overview for lay readers. However I do not feel comfortable about the author's handling of some of the material. Caveat lay reader.
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“In a way, Openness looks like Extraversion. But Extraversion is a pattern of throwing open the doors and walking out through them. Openness is a tendency to throw open the doors and invite the whole wide world to come in. The “approach” energy is what they share. High Openness indicates an embrace of mental stimulation and mental exercise. An Open personality is attracted to ideas, the more unfamiliar, the better. This” 0 likes
“The facet most primed for conflict is liberalism. Most industrial cultures now govern themselves with laws and elected lawmakers. This pits two extremes against each other: Liberal personalities that see every human as equal clash with low-liberalism people, who have greater faith in laws than in people.” 0 likes
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