Reading is the best life hack. You can consume knowledge that took years of research to assemble in a matter of hours. And the more you understand human behavior and social psychology, the better you can make decisions and navigate through your daily life. In this piece, we have striven to present a small introduction to some of the most influential psychology books around. Without further ado, let’s get down to business.
1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – The most landmark book in social thought since Sigmund Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams”, Daniel Kahneman’s book condenses thirty years of cutting edge research to give us an astoundingly precise and clear understanding of the dual process model in our brains and our intrinsically embedded delusions. He posited that our thinking process can be divided into two modes – System 1, which is associative, intuitive, automatic, metaphorical, impressionistic and cannot be switched off, and System 2, which is slow, effortful and deliberate and its operations require a lot of attention (complicated math, for instance). Although people would like to think that they are logical, Kahneman illustrates through a series of groundbreaking experiments why they are profoundly susceptible to the systematic biases of System 1. His work has been hugely influential in the field of behavioral economics (risk and decision making) for which he was awarded the Nobel prize.
2.The Social Animal by David Brooks – Our subconscious mind controls our life’s decisions much more than we could have imagined. The realm of intuitions, emotions, longings, biases, personality traits, genetic predispositions and social norms plays a big role in some of our most important decisions like who to be friends with, what to despise and what to love, and impulse control. Using fictional characters and following each and every step of their development, as in a novel, Brooks illustrates research findings from the field of sociology, psychology, economics, physiology, neuroscience and politics. Since its publication, it has revolutionized the way we see ourselves, our world and our selves in the world.
3. Brain Rules – This one is a little gold nugget. Well written, easily digestible, good structure, sound findings. Molecular biologist John Medina shares his lifelong interest in how brain sciences might influence the way we teach our children and the way we work. In each chapter, he describes a Brain rule – what scientists know for sure about how our brains work – and offers transformative ideas for our daily lives.
4. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell – This lucidly written book centers on how fast we make judgements. The author refers to this as “thin slicing”, and elucidates how deeper analysis sometimes provides much less information than more. According to Gladwell, it is all about the cognitive speed. Human beings process a lot of information on a subconscious level and do it more holistically than they can with their conscious mind. So foregrounding all your thoughts and over analyzing things can affect our ability to make clear decisions. He also demonstrates how the ability to detect changes in facial expressions allows us to read minds, if we are attentive. The book devotes several chapters on how we can reliably predict behavior with little information.
5. The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons – In this book, the authors assemble detailed evidence for six illusions that have an impact on our lives in a significant way. The first chapter deals with the illusion of attention based on an earlier experiment conducted by the authors in which over fifty percent of participants failed to identify a man wearing a gorilla suit entering a basketball game in a video where the participants were asked to count the number of passes. The other chapters deal with the illusions of memory, knowledge, confidence, causal correlation in sequential events and belief in mythical processes like hypnotism to reach our full potentials. The central message of the book is that human beings tend to think that their mental capacities and abilities are much greater than they really are.
Some honorable mentions:
So, I hope you liked these psychology books. Did you read all of these already? If not, make sure to check them out. And of course, this is by no means a definitive list. I’m inviting you to contribute by adding your own favorite psychology books in the comments section below.