In America, personality is often seen as destiny. Whether you're a famous CEO like Steve Jobs or a serial criminal like Hannibal Lecter, most of us think that our position in life has a lot to do with our personality. The second episode of Invisibilia's new season looks more closely at this belief. We start at a court house where lines of people who are getting married describe the personality of the person with whom they are to be joined for life. Then travel to a prison in Ohio where a woman has struck up a work relationship with a prisoner who it turns out did something far worse than she imagined. Finally, a scientist comes up with a complete catalogue of all the things about us that actually do stay stable over the course of our lives. They look at everything from cells to memories until ultimately they come up with a list — but it's a really short list.
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This week, Alix Spiegel dives into the science of personality, a psychotherapist who has worked with prisoners for decades explains how cognitive behavioral therapy can help criminals choose to become better and Annie Murphy Paul, author of The Cult of Personality Testing, says personality tests are about as useful as a Tarot card reading — but we still love them.