Blueprint

How DNA Makes Us Who We Are
Narrated by: Robert Plomin
Length: 8 hrs and 23 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (110 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

A top behavioral geneticist makes the case that DNA inherited from our parents at the moment of conception can predict our psychological strengths and weaknesses.

In Blueprint, behavioral geneticist Robert Plomin describes how the DNA revolution has made DNA personal by giving us the power to predict our psychological strengths and weaknesses from birth. A century of genetic research shows that DNA differences inherited from our parents are the consistent life-long sources of our psychological individuality - the blueprint that makes us who we are. This, says Plomin, is a game-changer. It calls for a radical rethinking of what makes us who were are.

Plomin has been working on these issues for almost fifty years, conducting longitudinal studies of twins and adoptees. He reports that genetics explains more of the psychological differences among people than all other factors combined. Genetics accounts for fifty percent of psychological differences - not just mental health and school achievement, but all psychological traits, from personality to intellectual abilities. Nature defeats nurture by a landslide.

Plomin explores the implications of this, drawing some provocative conclusions - among them that parenting styles don't really affect children's outcomes once genetics is taken into effect. Neither tiger mothers nor attachment parenting affects children's ability to get into Harvard. After describing why DNA matters, Plomin explains what DNA does, offering listeners a unique insider's view of the exciting synergies that came from combining genetics and psychology.

©2018 Robert Plomin (P)2018 Penguin Books Limited and used by arrangement.

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  • Overall
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A milestone book

I began learning about DNA nearly 40 years ago. Since that time the advances made in our ability to understand the implications of DNA, and how to modify it, have been incredible. This book does an excellent job of reviewing the advances and discussing the implications of this research.

4 people found this helpful

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Most Interesting and Important Book In My Library

Polygenetic scores finally explain a significant portion of heritability with specific genetic markers (actually more than anything else in some cases). The future is now, and the next 10-15 years will be very interesting.

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars

good until Plomin inserted political opinions

Information was good but his insertion of politics (Ch 8) lost me. Genetics determine your success so we should tax the successful and redistribute to those less successful people? I'm really not sure why social justice needed to be pushed. I did like the insights of genetics and how parents should nurture a child's strengths instead of trying to form a child like a lump of clay in their views. Good read but made me question him once he stepped out of his lane.

2 people found this helpful

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Some Genuine New Thinking

The mapping of the human genome has created amazing breakthroughs in medicine but what a lot of people don’t realize is that it is also revolutionizing the field of psychology. Using a variety of methods, researchers have made amazing progress in deciphering the “nature vs nurture” quandary that has plagued the field since its founding days.

The past 30 years have been heavily influenced by the believers in “nurture.” An avalanche of self-help and parenting books have set the trajectory. The message is that if you toughen up, buckle down and condition the correct behavior, anything is possible. Human beings are lumps of clay and those who fail to overcome their shortcomings simply lack discipline.

Robert Plomin is a psychology researcher who specializes in studies on twins. Plomin and an army of other researchers have conducted thousands of causality studies for everything from personality traits to major psychological maladies like depression and schizophrenia.

The result is that the answer to the “nature vs nurture” question is becoming clearer. The pendulum is swinging back to the “nature” camp. Solid science shows that our personalities are far more genetically driven than we ever realized. While outside forces such as parenting, peers and self-discipline can bring about real change, it’s becoming increasingly clear that genetic predisposition is the most powerful driver of our feelings and behavior.

Some people are just happy by nature. Others have a more grumpy disposition. Some are achievers, couch potatoes, worriers or happy-go-lucky. For good or for bad, the research is now showing that your ability to pick yourself up by your bootstraps has daunting limitations.

This has profound implications for the field of psychology, education and most importantly, parenting. Today’s helicopter parents will not be nearly as successful as they think. The good news is that kids tend to be a lot like their parents, but this is primarily driven by parents passing down their DNA, not by child-rearing prowess. Good or bad parenting can have a powerful impact, but we are learning that all of us have a mighty inclination to ascend or regress to the behavior that is genetically programmed in our DNA.

The research reveals that genetic predisposition is the dominant determining factor in education success. It’s more of an influence than where a child goes to school, the skill of teachers, or involvement of parents. Don’t get me wrong, all these latter components can make a difference, but they appear to have less impact than was previously thought.

The research is revealing that a systematic change is required in the way we look at the field of psychology. The field still follows a medical model. People in the mental health system are classified as “sick” and in need of a “cure.” They are “healthy” or “normal.” Plomin argues this black and white thinking is the wrong approach.

There is no single gene for depression. This feeling is endemic to human existence. The research is showing that ALL OF US suffer from depression. Some of us have very little, and some of us have a lot. The level of severity can be predictably graphed on a standard bell curve. The daunting conclusion this book reveals is that all of us will still be powerfully compelled to return to a set point coded in our chromosomes.

We will not be able to “cure” something that is hard coded throughout the human genome. This would be like curing someone of the malady of having brown eyes or being tall. What we want to do is to help those in the most distress move up the bell curve to a place where their suffering is lessened.

I also appreciated Plomin’s explanation of how cells divide and pass along their DNA coding. He took a very complicated topic and made it understandable.

I really enjoyed this book. The writing is a bit cumbersome but it has some genuine new insights. A warning - the first chapters are abysmal, filled with methodology and biography. Stick with it and muscle through. It gets better.

1 person found this helpful

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Fascinating

This is a great dive into the fascinating world of hereditary and genetic studies (on personality, life-choices, etc.). The author offers just the right level of technical detail and speaks with authority. Indeed the author himself was as pioneering researcher in this field. The topic itself is very important and seems to receive too little attention in the popular media.

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Excellent and Important

Plomin writes as decades-long researcher of the heritability of psychological traits. he makes a very strong case for a wide array of factors demonstrating heritability, then uses very current technology of modern genomics to make the case even more compelling. I am sure some will disregard the science as a basis for racism or some other dystopian future scene- but that is not Plomin's message. He repeatedly points to the utterly liberating power of the idea that everybody is indeed special, and perhaps we would be better off helping folks find what their strengths are rather than assume what they should be.
Important message well said & carefully explained.

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A compelling summary of the work of a key behavioral geneticist

Plomin is convincing that the preponderance of psychological traits are heritable. Unfortunately, he may a bit naive in his predictions of how polygenic information will be utilized when trait variance can be directly linked to specific genes. Nevertheless, this a worthy book, especially for those who seek environmental explanations for human behavior.

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Biological basis of the spectrum/bell curve of behavior

As a physician scientist, enthralled by genetics and now studying their effects in medical disorders, this book provides a wonderful summary of the progress and promise of clinical genomics.
As a father of high functioning adult children with widely different abilities and personalities, this book extends the historical story and theories of “Neurotribes” to a more practical understanding of behavioral inheritance. It makes understandable the realities that each of us is the product of our parents’ genes, but each has the power of modifying their opportunities and limitations, especially if given the understanding of what the probabilistic information in a “polygenic risk score” means.
The author’s best analogy is that while we clinical scientists seek nuggets of understanding, and rarely find them, these tools help us to routinely find handfuls of gold dust, which when processed cautiously and with good purpose, are just as valuable.
This book will influence both my thinking, my work and my appreciation and approach to others with differences, not disorders.

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Cultural Enlightenment via an Academic Angle

Wonderful academic research and superb book & the topic for the public domain. This book will at some point in future will achieve a cultural reference point in a positive way, InshallAllah.

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Narcissistic author with eugenics slant

I finished it only so that I could fairly critique the entire content of the book.

The author is an American genetics researcher at Kings College in London. He presents many studies and claims to address the ethical implications. However, he overstates the conclusions of his and other family-based and genome wide association (GWAS) studies and fails to acknowledge that his statements are not universally accepted across the genetics field.

More troubling, he omits the potential eugenics implications of his "genetics explains almost everything, including socioeconomics" (my paraphrasing; not a direct quote). He should realize that his claims could be used to support a eugenics agenda, and the onerous is on him (as a scientist) to clearly state that his results do NOT support eugenics.