Synopses & Reviews
Twins And what They Tell us about who we are How much are our character, intelligence, and lifestyle a result of our genes? In this compelling hook, award-winning journalist Lawrence Wright reveals how twins are helping to unravel these and other mysteries of human identity. Recent studies of twins have shaken the field of psychology to its foundation, revolutionizing our understanding of our own personalities. Because identical twins separated at birth share all the same genes, yet live separate lives, they offer a unique opportunity to test theories about the roles played by nature and nurture in shaping who we are. With its genesis in the authors acclaimed New Yorker magazine article, Twins directly challenges many long-held beliefs. For instance, a series of groundbreaking studies of twins has shown that our genes play a much stronger role in shaping our identities than previously thought. Today, scientists can actually estimate what proportion of our intelligence, our personality, and our behavior is determined by inherited tendencies. Even our political orientation and our religious commitment, it turns out, are largely governed by our genes, Twins is filled with astounding stories of identical twins who have lived entirely separate lives but have an incredible amount in common: their hobbies, their mannerisms, their taste in music, food, and clothes, their experiences in marriage and divorce, their careers, their sexuality, even the names theyve given their children. Perhaps even more surprising is the discovery that our family life has startlingly little effect on the type of person we become. The nongenetic factors that have the greatest impact on shaping our lives are not the way our parents raise us, or the kind of family in which we grow up, but our experiences outside our families. Introducing the latest findings in this heated area of research, Lawrence Wright presents a lively narrative that is at once engaging, provocative, and told with remarkable clarity. The ongoing and often volatile debate of nature vs. nurture has intrigued mankind for centuries. With Twins, Lawrence Wright provides a bold addition to current thinking, and a must-read for all those fascinated by the deepest mysteries of human nature and identity.
"A totally convincing introduction to behavioral genetics, based chiefly on studies of identical twins raised separately."—The New York Times
"This is a book about far more than twins: it is about what twins can tell us about ourselves."—The New York Times
"With plenty of amazing stories about the similarities and differences of twins, Wright respectfully shows, too, how their special circumstance in life challenges our notions of individuality. A truly fascinating but sometimes spooky (Mengele's experiments with twins at Auschwitz figure among Wright's examples) study."—American Library Association
"Like so much of Wright's work, this book is a pleasure to read. Because he writes so well, without pushing a particular point of view, he soon has you pondering questions you have tended to comfortably ignore."—Austin American-Statesman
"Informative and entertaining . . . A provocative subject well considered by a talented journalist."—Kirkus Reviews
Studies of twins have shaken the field of psychology to its foundations and revolutionized our understanding of human personality. These studies reveal that our genes play a stronger role in shaping our identities than previously thought. In fact, scientists can now estimate what proportion of our intelligence, our personality, and our behavior are determined by inherited tendencies. Even our political orientation and our religious commitment, it turns out, are largely governed by our genes.
But perhaps even more surprising is the finding that our family life has astonishingly little effect on the type of person we become. It turns out that the noninherited influences that make the biggest difference in shaping our lives are not the way our parents raise us or the kind of family we grow up in, but our experiences outside our families.
Award-winning writer Lawrence Wright presents these provocative findings with remarkable clarity, narrating the fascinating story of twin studies and introducing the very latest findings in this controversial area of research.
There are astounding stories of identical twins who have lived entirely separate lives but have an incredible amount in common: their hobbies, their mannerisms, their taste in music, food, and clothes, their experiences in marriage and divorce, their careers, their sexuality, and even the names they've given their children.
This lively, thought-provoking book is sure to spark debate among everyone fascinated by the deepest mysteries of human nature and identity.
"Twins threaten us because they undermine our notion of identity. We think we are who we are because of the life we have lived. We think we form the character and values of our children by the way we raise them.
But when we read about twins who have been separated at birth and reunited in middle age only to discover that in many respects they have become the same person, it suggests that life is a charade, that the experiences that we presume have shaped us are little more than ornaments or curiosities we have picked up along the way." from the text Praise for Lawrence Wrights Remembering Satan "Thoughtful and gripping." Michiko Kakutani The New York Times "Stunning." Walter Reich The New York Times Book Review "Catapults Wright to the front rank of American journalists." Newsweek
About the Author
LAWRENCE WRIGHT is a staff writer for the New Yorker. His work has also appeared in Rolling Stone, the New York Times Magazine, and Texas Monthly. He is the author of three previous books, including In the New World: Growing Up with America from the Sixties to the Eighties; Saints and Sinners; and the critically acclaimed Remembering Satan. Mr. Wright received the National Magazine Award for reporting in 1993.
Table of Contents
Two Lives—One Personality?
The Nature-Nurture Wars.
The Secret Study.
The Minnesota Experience.
The Critics Respond.
The Same, but Different.
The Emotional Life.
The Environment We Make.
Beyond Nature versus Nurture.