Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self

Me, Myself, and Why: Searching for the Science of Self

by Jennifer Ouellette
     
 

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As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology-enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor-to explore the mysteries of… See more details below

Overview

As diverse as people appear to be, all of our genes and brains are nearly identical. In Me, Myself, and Why, Jennifer Ouellette dives into the miniscule ranges of variation to understand just what sets us apart. She draws on cutting-edge research in genetics, neuroscience, and psychology-enlivened as always with her signature sense of humor-to explore the mysteries of human identity and behavior. Readers follow her own surprising journey of self-discovery as she has her genome sequenced, her brain mapped, her personality typed, and even samples a popular hallucinogen. Bringing together everything from Mendel's famous pea plant experiments and mutations in The X-Men to our taste for cilantro and our relationships with virtual avatars, Ouellette takes us on an endlessly thrilling and illuminating trip into the science of ourselves

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
11/18/2013
From an author with a flair for making complex subjects simple comes a clear, direct tour of the biology of the self. Ouellette (The Calculus Diaries) begins by divulging her personal investment in the nature vs. nurture debate: she is adopted. In what she initially hoped “would be a lighthearted romp through genotyping, a brain scan, and a few personality tests,” she finds instead just how convoluted the interactions of genetics and environment really are. Eye color, dislike of cilantro, and Huntington’s disease are genetic. Addiction, shyness, and neuroticism are genetic and environmental. To geneticist Dean Hamer, “Genes do not determine exactly what music is played—or how well—but they do determine the range of what is possible.” Ouellette discovers that neural imaging can find false positives, like brain activity in a dead salmon. But it can also tell you if you are having an emotion, a tumor, or Parkinson’s disease. Citing psychologist Andrew Gerber, Ouellette concludes that “self” starts with the preexisting constraints of “nature,” the genes and synapses that impose limits, like rules distinguishing a haiku from a sonnet: “Self is the content of what one builds out of those constraints.” Agent: Mildred Marmur, Mildred Marmur Associates. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
2013-11-11
Who are we, and why are we the way we are? These are the questions examined by an intrepid science journalist. Ouellette (The Calculus Diaries: How Math Can Help You Lose Weight, Win in Vegas, and Survive a Zombie Apocalypse, 2010, etc.) launches into her subject by looking inward. An adoptee, she had a sample of her DNA analyzed, looking for information about her genetic heritage. Her next venture was to undergo an fMRI of her brain. Limited as these tests turned out to be, they provided her with the opportunity to talk about current trends in the fields of genotyping and neuroscience. Next, Ouellette opted for personality testing, which leads to a critical look at that field of psychology and the author's conclusion that our genes influence our personalities by regulating brain chemistry. Having come full circle in her examination of "me," Ouellette moves on to "myself," looking at behaviors and identity. She reports that studies with drunken fruit flies and mice provide clues about the link between genes and alcoholism and that research on virtual reality worlds indicates that the avatars one creates or that one bonds with can reveal much about self-perception. Gender identity comes under her scrutiny, too, as the author reports on the continuing debate about whether sexual orientation is a choice or a destiny created by our genes. She concludes that the essence of the self is not revealed by the information garnered through scientific investigations but that our personal narratives, the stories we tell about ourselves, are essential to getting the whole picture. The author's personal anecdotes reveal a writer with keen intelligence, curiosity, a spirit of adventure and a sense of humor. Solid science well infused with readable history, pop culture and personal stories.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781101613641
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
01/28/2014
Sold by:
Penguin Group
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
591,488
File size:
1 MB
Age Range:
18 Years

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What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
Praise for Me, Myself, and Why

“Ouellette is a smart, well-studied, and personable companion. . . . There are a number of approaches to defining a person, and this task has engaged philosophers, theologians, scientists, and pretty much everyone who has ever lived, at least since mirrors were invented. Ouellette looks at all of the methods listed above, and more, in trying to figure out who she is and what tools are at hand for figuring out who anyone is.”
—The Wall Street Journal

“In Me, Myself, and Why Ouellette offers curiosity-inspiring glimpses into science , coupled with an obvious love for the material and a healthy dose of humor. . . . The combination of historical anecdote and current research is impressive.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Ouellette explores the concept of identity through scientific, medical, and psychological testing on her journey of self-discovery. She is an expert at communicating tough scientific concepts to broad audiences, and here she uses personal narrative to appeal to her readers as she skillfully recounts her experiences.”
—Psychology Today

“Very entertaining . . . It is hard to imagine a more delightful guide to the science of self than Jennifer Ouellette.”
—Jim Holt, Prospect

“Tackling ‘the science of self’ could easily get tedious or even a little boring, but in the capable hands of Jennifer Ouellette, it’s nothing but fun. . . .  Her ability to make rather advanced theories interesting and relatable makes this a must read for those who have a passion for science but would rather be reading Joan Didion.”
—Bust

“An engrossing and often amusing tour of elite labs and edgy research.”
—Nature

“Who are we? Who am I? Those are the questions Ouellette tackles in this elegant and very personal inquiry into identity and the science of the self. . . . An entertaining, insightful, and thoughtful reflection on our assumptions about ourselves and the mystery that is at the heart of the human story.”
—Booklist(starred review)

“Solid science well infused with readable history, pop culture and personal stories. . . . Ouellette’s personal anecdotes reveal a writer with keen intelligence, curiosity, a spirit of adventure and a sense of humor.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“A clear, direct tour of the biology of the self . . . from an author with a flair for making complex subjects simple.”
—Publishers Weekly

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