Monday, November 26, 2012

The rough guide to psychology: An introduction to human behaviour and the mind

The rough guide to psychology: An introduction to human behaviour and the mind
By Christian Jarrett

Book review by Richard L. Weaver II

I use psychological evidence and research in my writing on communication, and I have done so for well over thirty-five years.  I subscribe to the magazine PSYCHOLOGY TODAY, and I read it closely every month.  It is for these same reasons that I chose to read The Rough Guide to Psychology—a truly interesting book.

One thing you will note from the title and the spelling of the word “behaviour,” is that the book was written by an Englishman—the editor of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.  Jarrett has a Ph.D. in cognitive neuroscience from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology.  This is important for two reasons: 1) It adds credibility to the book and what’s written in it.  2) It reveals that the material is likely to be well researched, based on studies, and the evidence (studies) clearly stated.  Both are true.

Jarrett states on page vi: “This book contains frequent references to experiments and case studies, and, wherever possible, names and dates are provided to help you track down the original research online.”

I took psychology courses in college, and this is not your ordinary, run-of-the-mill textbook.  And, at the same time, it is not a book of psychobabble.  It is, however, a book designed for the above-average, well-educated, intelligent, and inquisitive adult reader.  With the exception of the part on “Resources,” there are six: “Welcome to you,” “You and me,” “Same difference,” “All of us, “Psychology at large,” and “Psychological problems.”  I guarantee that there will be a number of sections that you will find that interest you, because his swath of issues and ideas is broad.

More than the text material itself—which is interesting, to be sure—I found the additional sections (colored in blue) some of the most valuable material in the book.  Not only are there boxes on some of the leading psychologists (William James, Lev Vygotsky, Alfred Binet, Elizabeth Loftus, and Sigmund Freud, among others), but others are like self-help boxes on “Five ways to boost your brain power,” “How to visit the toilet in the dark,” “Six evidence-based ways to boost your happiness,” “Does brain training really work?,” and “Evidence-based seduction,” among many, many others.

The layout, coverage of topics, writing (a very informal, comfortable style), examples, and short, pithy sections, make this book incredibly accessible and likable.

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