Getting Out of the Woods

What predicts who survives a major crisis? Jared Diamond, UCLA professor and author of several award-winning books—including the Pulitzer in 1997 for Guns, Germs, and Steel—has identified twelve factors found among individuals and nations who survive major crises. Along with his wife, clinical psychologist Marie Cohen Diamond, they reviewed the family crisis literature to identify... Continue Reading →

Walls an’ a’ that

During this winter of our discontent, Robert Frost's poem about a fence between a pine tree farmer and an apple orchard farmer is eerily timely. Time for a fresh rereading of this classic: Mending Wall BY ROBERT FROST Something there is that doesn't love a wall, That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, And spills the upper... Continue Reading →

21 Steps to Enlightenment

Yuval Noah Harari is a 42-year-old, Oxford-educated, Israeli historian. In his 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (2018), he sets out to state the meaning of life. I summarize the 21 lessons here for two reasons: to encourage you to get the book and go into depth with him, or, for non-readers, to get a... Continue Reading →

Traits Are Alive and Well

Every once in a while scholarly journals devote an entire issue to single topic. When the Journal of Personality came out in February with an issue devoted to trait theory—that on which my career is based, you can understood that it got my attention! Thomas Kuhn made the point in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions... Continue Reading →


As the Caravan moves away from intolerable homes in search of civilization, I have just closed the door on two books that present to our planet the case for opening doors. Pakistani novelist (b. 1971) Mohsin Hamid gave us Exit West last year (New York: Riverhead Books, 2017). The story begins with a Middle Eastern... Continue Reading →

Typing—One More Time

In an earlier post (“Typing Is So Twentieth Century”), I addressed the practice of using combinations of traits to create personality types. Type theorists propose that everyone falls into one type out of a set of two or more—as in you’re either a morning person or a night person. The Myers Briggs Type Indicator famously... Continue Reading →

Are Extreme Traits Healthy?

Ted Grabowski, a lawyer, friend, Big Five student, and general critic of society at large, posed this question: “Are all the subtraits adaptive from the perspective of evolutionary psychology?  If yes, I wonder what adaptive challenge ‘arrogance’ solves.” Or, said differently, according to evolutionary theory of personality psychology, no trait would prevail in the “survival... Continue Reading →

Passion Is Dope(amine)

Why do some care less than others? Are folks who don’t place high importance on values such as art, ethics, power, or spirituality built differently from those who do? The short answer: yes. The passionate have more dopamine in their veins, while more quotidian folks have less. We inherit our dopamine levels in two ways:... Continue Reading →

One More Time: A Guru Declares How to Live

He’s the darling of Ted Talks and the academic with cred. Jordan Peterson, University of Toronto professor and cultural philosopher, has condensed his immense learning about life into twelve maxims in his 2018 Random House book 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos. If you'd like to skip all of the theory, research, and case... Continue Reading →

Equipoise, or The Art of Acceptance

In a time when incivility, rudeness, extremism, intolerance, and self-righteousness dominate in the media and on the street, David Brooks pleas for equipoise (“In Praise of Equipoise,” The New York Times, September 1, 2017). Huh? Equipoise? What’s that? Equal poise across situations. The concept appears to have originated in the East. Something like Buddhist non-attachment.... Continue Reading →

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