Robert Plomin is a pioneer in the field of behavioural genetics, a field of scientific research that uses genetic methods to investigate individual differences in behaviour. Behavioural genetics argues that it has solved the age-old question of nature vs nurture and in this book Plomin applies it to psychology and personality.
What can DNA tell you about your psychology?
By studying identical twins for over 45 years, Plomin has identified the genetic component to our personalities. According to Plomin, most of the environmental factors that we think are so important, including home life and education, are irrelevant and the only thing that matters is our DNA.
This is akin to saying it doesn’t matter about your weight or exercise; if you have a predisposition to cardiovascular disease you will have heart problems.
In the future we may have to completely rethink our views on personality, psychology and potentially even free will – with potentially dangerous implications for medical science and insurance as well as criminal responsibility.
While I’m on board with genetics offering potential for mental development including personality traits, I’m not sure I agree with the premise that nurture and the environment have so little influence and this book did nothing to change my mind. I remain firmly in the nature via nurture camp.
The first few chapters are somewhat repetitive, making claims and statements often without any additional evidence being presented. I didn’t find the writing style particularly engaging and it is perhaps most illustrative to say that even in lockdown, I haven’t managed to pick this back up.