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On Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library

But Harris had no way of knowing what any of those families (not to mention the neighbourhoods) were really like. Statistics wouldn't tell even a fraction of the story. They certainly wouldn't get at the extent of various forms of family dysfunction and abuse, or identify which families were happy ones, for that matter.

And how can Harris possibly know what influenced the personality development of an individual she never met, when that person - according to her theory - can't be trusted to know themselves? And what about the wider culture, or historical developments? Does that make no difference?

It's preposterous. And it's bad, bad science. We don't even understand completely how genes influence physical health, yet Harris figured (in 1998!) that she had human personality all worked out? Based on a combo of genes + neighbourhood - family dynamics?

And of course, personality is in the eye of the beholder. What one person sees as career dedication another may see as workaholism. How does Harris's theory account for that?

Posted on April 9, 2011 at 12:59 am 0

On Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library

Hoo boy. Harris thinks neighbourhood cultures and peer relations influence kids but family cultures don't? Like there are no dysfunctional or abusive families in nice affluent neighbourhoods; no one who grew up with a mom and a dad and enough money was ever negatively influenced by mom and dad's dysfunction. Ask any rich kid: life at home was grand every minute. Jeez.

It sounds like Harris is trying desperately to find a way to let parents off the hook when their kids have problems. She'll accept ANY other explanation except lousy parenting. And of course bad parents will lap it up.

Posted on April 8, 2011 at 9:57 am 0

On Inside David Foster Wallace's Private Self-Help Library

Re: the idea that genetics rather than child-rearing account for personality differences, did this research account for abuse? Was it based solely on more-or-less functional emotionally healthy families? With adequate economic resources? What aspects of personality were studied, exactly?

People who grew up in poor or abusive or dysfunctional families will rarely say that it made no difference to how they turned out as adults.

Posted on April 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm 0