Wednesday, March 16, 2016

The Nurture Assumption

There is a societal assumption that parental behaviour towards children plays a huge role in how kids turn out, even as adults. In The Nurture Assumption, Judith Harris turns this assumption on its head. Unlike a lot of books on what influences children, however, this book is extremely heavy on evidence, and light on unsubstantiated statements, so not a huge surprise that the book is recommended by Charlie Munger.

Western society didn't always have such a strong "parental nurture" belief. Attitudes towards children used to be something like "they'll turn out the way they'll turn out, so cross your fingers". But starting with a few psychologists, Freud among them, more and more of the behaviour of even adults was attributed to the behaviour of their parents.

I really enjoyed this book. It appealed to my contrarian side in that it takes an opinion contrary to that of the "convention wisdom", and beats it to death with evidence. Harris looks at why the evidence that is cited by conventionalists is weak, and points to evidence gathered from better sources, such as analyses of adopted identical twins.

Contrary to what you might think, however, she doesn't claim that genes are everything and that children aren't influenced by their environment. But the environment needs to be defined differently. Harris also isn't afraid to say what she doesn't know, because there isn't enough good evidence to back certain points of view, even her own.

I highly recommend the book to all parents.


Anonymous said...

How do you cover so much books? Any speed recommendations tricks?:-)

Saj Karsan said...

Yes, I used to be a slow to average reader until this: