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Your Brain: The Missing Manual by Matthew MacDonald

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Chapter 8. Your Personality

So far, you’ve spent seven chapters digging into the tangled mass of neurons that comprises you.

For most of this time, you’ve focused on the common characteristics that every normal brain shares. You’ve learned that brains crave food and sleep. You’ve seen how they perceive things and remember them. You’ve also seen how they use emotions to drive you and leaky logic to explain the world. But while these topics are undeniably fascinating, they do little to separate your brain from that of a teenage parking attendant, a professional wrestler, or a theoretical physicist. To explain the constellation of attitudes, traits, and temperaments that distinguish individuals, you need to consider something that’s much more difficult to pin down: personality.

From a neurological point of view, personality is a phenomenon that’s created by the interaction of a huge number of different brain parts. On some level, personality involves all three pounds of soggy brain jelly. In fact, it’s more than likely that personality is nothing but a catch-all label to describe the idiosyncratic way that each brain juggles its perceptions, memory, emotions, and reasoning when making life decisions.

But here’s the important part—although personality is a fuzzy concept, it’s not a dead end in your brain exploration. There’s good reason to believe personality is biologically rooted and difficult to change. And while no two people share exactly the same personality, the same personality ...

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