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Harris is a storyteller. She likes to tell a good plot and she does it well. She builds it like a spider spitting out a complex structure. And the strength of her web lies in her thorough background research. She doesn’t take no for an answer and she certainly is not one to be tamed by authority alone. “The truth of the statement doesn’t rest on who said it”, declares Harris.
Armed with a genuine passion to de clutter the myths and hypes in the fields of developmental and evolutionary psychology, Harris goes through the experimental data with a fine toothed comb; uncovering biases and unfounded popular ideas in parenting, genetics, behavioural, cognitive and biological sciences to list out what makes us each different from the other.
The reader is led very systematically through various points that might appear at first logical in pointing towards personality differences between people. Good hard evidence based on experimental data and sometimes the lack of it paves the way to the real core of the book. Harris likes to call this sifting of evidence as eliminating the ‘red herrings’. In the process she educates the reader in psychological research methods, in recent concepts and theories of developmental and behavioural psychology. She entertains by pretending to be a detective. And she infuses intrigue in the non specialist reader, who merrily forgets that this book borders on being a contemporary text in its field.
However, to a professional, this book may serve well to pick up some fresh ideas and perspectives as well as being a good tool in identifying a few holes to base some future research on.
This book is strong in its breath. Harris plucks explanations and concepts from varied places; from conjoined and other twin studies, to birth order to autistic research, to the tribal societies of the Amazon. Sometimes these smaller engraved gems are delightful insights on their own. But the reader is always gently steered back to addressing the main topic. Harris uses this weaving technique throughout the book and it probably is one of the reasons this book reads like a cool mystery novel rather than a text. A feat well executed by Harris, who very overtly states this intention right at the beginning.