No two are alike

In 1998, a kindly grandmother living in New Jersey wrote a book
about child-rearing that created quite a stir. In "The Nurture
Assumption: Why Children Turn Out the Way They Do," Judith Rich Harris
had the temerity to suggest that the most important influences on
children were not their parents but genes and peers. This was heresy,
and critics immediately attacked the book in reviews with titles such
as "Parents Don’t Count!"

Nonetheless, Mrs. Harris had made a very convincing argument, and
she stuck to her guns. Now, with "No Two Alike" (W.W. Norton &
Company, 352 pages, $26.95), she has expanded her thesis and has
attempted to formulate a new theory of personality formation – the
first, in fact, since Sigmund Freud. More specifically, she has
attempted to solve the mystery of why people are different…

Basically, Mrs. Harris believes there are three "perpetrators" at
work in the formation of the human personality, each associated with an
aspect of a modular brain. One is the "relationship system," designed
to maintain favorable relationships in society. Another is the
"Socialization System," where the goal is to be a member of a group.
The third is the "Status System," where we compete with our peers for

The interplay among these systems accounts for the emergence of
differences between individuals. So it is that even identical twins
develop different personalities because the members of their community
see them as unique individuals and treat them differently. Their
individual striving for status propels them into different modes of
competing, which in turn differentiates their personalities.

Here is more information, I am excited.  See also Alex’s related posts here and here.  Have you noticed the absence of book reviews on MR lately?  It is about time for the publishing industry to awake from its seasonal business cycles slumber…


Comments for this post are closed