25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2023

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25 best psychology books to read in 2023.

25 Best Psychology Books to Read in 2023

Have you ever found yourself trying to work out what mental processes lead humans to do what we do? Thanks to the internet, even in isolation we have a continual stream of information about what people are doing — and with this uniquely modern view of the world around us, we have more fodder than ever to think: “Hmm, I wonder why we do this or that?”

As a human, it’s natural to want to understand these things — not only about others, but also about yourself. In this post, we’ve put together a list of the 25 best psychology books you’ll definitely want to read to pursue that understanding! Whether you’re a beginner with a newfound interest in psychology or a seasoned psychology expert looking to branch out, we’ve got you covered.

1. The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt

A professor of social psychology, Jonathan Haidt wrote The Happiness Hypothesis as an accessible vessel for his research into moral foundations theory. In this book, Haidt takes the ancient wisdom, or “Great Ideas”, of historical thinkers — like Buddha, Plato, and even Jesus — and reveals their applications in light of contemporary psychological findings.

Haidt first describes the basic meanings of ancient lessons on happiness, virtue, and personal fulfillment. This leads into what Haidt extracted from these findings to develop his own “10 Great Ideas” about happiness and connect them to modern living. After all, while ancient wisdom is tried-and-tested, it’s essential to update old methods to match modern-day life — Plato, Jesus, and Buddha never spent hours doomscrolling or procrastinating on Instagram, for example.

2. Influence : The Psychology of Persuasion (New and Expanded) by PhD Robert B. Cialdini

Influence, New and Expanded is Dr. Robert B. Cialdini’s 2021 republication of his one of his acclaimed bestselling psychology books Influence (first published in 1984) — complete with new research, examples, and insights, especially regarding the age of the internet. Backed up by his 35 years of scientific research, Cialdini describes seven practicable principles of influence you can use in your everyday life (with the newest edition being “Unity”). 

Each of the seven principles has a dedicated chapter to describe how it functions, where it’s most applicable, and — most importantly — how you apply it in your own life. If you’re looking for a book on psychology to help you learn more about the art of ethical persuasion in a modern context — and how to see through other people’s deceitful attempts — then this is the book for you.

3. Mistakes Were Made (but Not by Me) Third Edition: Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris

Ever been curious what causes people to deny vaccines, join cults, or engage in extremist behavior? The next entry on this list might clarify some of these seemingly illogical decisions:  in Mistakes Were Made, Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson discuss the systematic mental patterns which feed into development and radicalization of human beliefs. These include cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias, and positive feedback loops, among others.

To further explain how people’s attitudes can become so polarized, Tavris and Aronson walk readers through the effects of these mental patterns on people in various real-life cases and controversies. With its many compelling links to real-life events, this book is the perfect read for psychology and politics readers alike.

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4. Upstream: How to Solve Problems Before They Happen by Dan Heath

Life can feel like we’re constantly sprinting to put out fires as they arise. But of course, endlessly reacting to problems without a second to breathe and prepare for the next is pretty exhausting. Dan Heath’s Upstream is his solution to breaking that cycle of reaction and starting to prevent problems before they start. 

This begins with knowing the psychological forces that cause it. For example, one force that Heath attributes as a large factor is “problem blindness” — when a problem becomes so persistent that you start to register it as “normal” and therefore stop “seeing” it (or, naturally, trying to fix it). Heath shows how to step up and bolster your defenses against such problems by using real-life cases of individual thinkers, businesses, and even whole institutions that overcame their own. Thankfully, the uniting factor among these case studies is simple: all they had to do was change their mindset.

5. The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton

Many of us spend over a decade in school and, regardless of academic success, emerge feeling like something is missing. Sure, you can do complex algebra or give me an in-depth analysis of the symbolism of triads in Shakespeare — but can you navigate a workplace? Can you endure failure? Do you understand yourself? Whether you’re about to graduate or have been done with high school for years, you’ve probably found yourself wondering these things. 

Aptly titled, The School of Life is Alain de Botton’s answer to questions like these — with the express aim of equipping people with the tools and self-knowledge to thrive in the modern world. From increasing your productivity at work to handling the dilemmas of interpersonal relationships, there’s a chapter for everything you need in The School of Life. This emotional education is sure to help you to develop resilience to life’s dilemmas and become a maven of emotional intelligence.

6. Noise: A Flaw in Human Judgement by Daniel Kahneman, Olivier Sibony, and Cass R. Sunstein

You may recognize authors Daniel Kahneman and Cass R. Sunstein from their respective bestsellers, Thinking, Fast and Slow and Nudge (or from a Reedsy Discovery post !). In a similar vein, Noise tackles the topic of variability in judgements and how we’re influenced by external factors. The overarching conclusion in Noise is that the majority of our decisions are unconsciously affected by the noise at different times and places.

The authors combine their scholarly expertise with additional research to deliver this in-depth guide outlining what we already know and their new theories about noise. For those interested in why we make decisions, this is one of the best psychology books to strengthen your understanding of the extraneous factors that can shape or bias decision-making, how to minimize those factors, and improve your thinking.

7. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil by Philip G. Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect is Professor Philip Zimbardo’s first detailed account of his infamous Stanford Prison Experiment and the conclusions he took from it. The Stanford Prison Experiment was Zimbardo’s 1971 study looking into the effects of different situational factors on conformity by putting college student volunteers into a fake prison environment for -2 weeks. Without giving too much away, the experiment ran into some serious roadblocks that meant it had to be discontinued after only six days. (The controversy was such that there was even a mostly-accurate movie dramatization released in 2015!) 

Zimbardo’s thoughts on the experiment are interesting not only because he conducted it, but because he was a part of it, acting as the prison warden — which, needless to say, has serious ethical connotations. The following chapters discuss the study’s effect on the decades of subsequent research into psychological and social variables that cause “average” people to commit immoral acts — making it one of the most influential books on psychology you can pick up today. Most people with an interest in psychology might have an idea of the original experiment, but the research afterwards should definitely not be overlooked!

8. The Psychopath Test: A Journey Through the Madness Industry by Jon Ronson

Put simply, The Psychopath Test takes us through the modern-day mental health system, asking us to think more deeply about whom it labels “psychopathic”. Jon Ronson starts with a man who faked madness to escape a prison sentence, his method being to act charming, glib, and well-presented in contrast to other patients in the psychiatric hospital. Ronson takes these alleged tell-tale signs of psychopathy and applies them to people in other walks of life, making the startling discovery that psychopaths appear everywhere. 

This is where the doors to the so-called “industry of madness” are truly flung open. How many of our most influential CEOs, researchers, and world leaders are psychopaths? Can any good come of our newfound access to the best psychology books or theories if they facilitate diagnoses of strangers based on their “maddest” parts? If these questions interest you, pick up The Psychopath Test  and see what you think.

9. Games People Play: The Psychology of Human Relationships by Eric Berne

We’ve mostly talked about complex mental health issues so far in this post—but maybe you want to know about the psychology behind our most basic social interactions. If so, Eric Berne’s description of functional and dysfunctional social interactions in Games People Play will be right up your alley. Berne claims that we play “social games” all of the time, be that power games against authority, sexual games, marital games, or competitive games within friendships. 

Berne divulges the types of mind games that everyone can fall victim to indulging: in status contests, the game becomes a back and forth game of “I know better”, and couples are prone to playing mental games claiming each is holding the other back. Berne doesn’t just name these interactions, but he also exposes the meaning behind them as unconscious ploys and maneuvers that rule our lives. It’s these creatively poised insights that make this book on psychology an influential and striking bestseller.

10. The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Described as “the Bible of trauma” for struggling readers, The Body Keeps the Score is the culmination of Dr Bessel Van Der Kolk’s entire career. One of the world’s leading experts on traumatic stress, Van Der Kolk highlights the clear effects that trauma has on literally reshaping the body and brain. Drawing on his status as an active therapist, continually learning from what works for his patients best, Van Der Kolk delivers a wonderfully personal yet analytic approach to trauma recovery. Considering the frustrating physical effects of trauma related by his patients, Van Der Kolk suggests a fresh paradigm for treatment. 

The ideological heart of this method is to make it safe for trauma survivors to inhabit their own bodies by moving away from the “standard” combination of talking therapies or drug therapies and instead using a new approach that heals the mind, brain, and body. One size never fits all, but Van Der Kolk suggests that therapeutic interventions like neurofeedback, theater, meditation, play, or yoga may play a larger part than first thought in healing. The Body Keeps the Score provides a unique perspective on trauma and recovery relayed in a compassionate yet truthful voice, making it accessible to readers of all levels.

11. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig

Ever just really felt like you needed a hug? The Comfort Book answers that craving: it is a warm and personal hug in the form of a book — something even the best psychology books haven't focused on before. If you’re looking for a guide to self-love, contentment, and emotional strength, then Matt Haig’s reflections on the conflicting feelings that come with being alive are for you.

The essence of this book is that many of our best and clearest revelations are made when at our lowest — but we also shouldn’t have to figure everything out ourselves, especially when we’re suffering. Haig’s reflections are built on what he’s learned in hard times, with the hope that they can get you through similar situations. It’s a great comfort to know that you’re not the only one that’s dealt with something hard, and Haig understands that. Drawing on maxims, meditations, and inspirational lives of others, he aims to nurture your inner strength and deliver advice like a wise, commiserative old friend.

12. The Oracle of Night: The History and Science of Dreams by Sidarta Ribeiro

What really makes a dream, why do we have them, and how do they affect us? Sidarta Ribeiro takes these questions and uses them as a springboard for his completely fresh and enthralling study of dreams, tracing them all the way back to our ancient ancestors. It’s in the earliest cave paintings that Ribeiro finds the first traces of human dreams and begins unlocking revolutionary conclusions about the role of dreams in human evolution. 

Some will also know that contemporary neuroscience and psychology have uncovered many findings about dreams, such as their role in healing trauma or in consolidating what we learned in the day prior. The Oracle of Night then explains Ribeiro’s advancements on these topics: the role of dreaming in memory recall and transformation, and, startlingly, their oracular nature as confirmed by new research — making this a great book club book to ignite a conversation! Ribeiro combines his absolute authority on the topic with a clear, compelling writing style to make this book a page-turner from the first page to the last.

13. Everyday Vitality: Turning Stress into Strength by Samantha Boardman

Psychiatrist Samantha Boardman believes that an essential factor in healthy aging and overall well-being is a sense of vitality. Which is to say: knowing that you’re up to a task both physically and mentally. This belief is the jumping-off point for Everyday Vitality, a book full of strategies for cultivating vitality by focusing on improving a little every day, instead of reacting to fix what’s wrong as it arises. 

While vitality wellness is often associated with managing aging, Boardman posits that vitality can help all of us no matter our age. Whether you’re eighteen or eighty, you may recall times you’ve felt mentally exhausted from the constant barrage of media every day, or physically drained after a long day at a desk. Boardman explains three routes to better vitality for everyone: meaningfully connecting with others, taking on experiences that push your limits, and contributing to something beyond just you. If you want to cultivate your own wellness, why not pick up this book and discuss it with someone you love?

14. Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity by Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods

Humanity’s success as a species has developed in leaps and bounds during our relatively short time on Earth. Many people have hypothesized what might be the cause of these advancements: is it our strength, intellect, curiosity, or something else completely? Authors — and husband-and-wife duo — Brian Hare and Vanessa Woods believe in the latter, making the case in this book that humanity’s progression is actually because of our “friendliness”. 

Combining their respective expertise in cognitive neuroscience, research science, and journalism, Hare and Wood have come up with a theory about this evolutionary friendliness. The theory is elegantly termed “self-domestication” — a remarkable propensity to coordinate and communicate with others. Instead of coveting our individual successes, we often share them with others to help advance and protect each other. This capability, Hare and Wood argue, has allowed us to achieve the impressive cultural and technical marvels that we’ve culminated today. However, this friendliness may come at a cost: when threats to those we love become a target for our worst instincts, our evolutionary propensity for bond-making may be a double-edged sword.

15. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

In Blink, critically acclaimed author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell hopes to revolutionize your understanding of how you (and others) think. Why, for example, are some people exceptionally fast decision-makers, when others choke under pressure? Why does “following your gut” work perfectly for some, while others fall short? And do situational variables like our immediate surroundings affect our abilities to make these decisions?

Gladwell posits that a key factor towards people’s ability to make better decisions is “thin-slicing”: the unconscious ability to analyze patterns in scenarios based on brief flashes of experience, and come to a conclusion based on that knowledge. Gladwell draws on real-life examples to illustrate these ideas: from a psychologist who could predict whether a marriage would last from just a brief interaction with the couple, to antiquities experts who only need to glance at an object to tell it’s a fake. Put simply, Blink proves that the main difference between a good and a bad decision-maker is their mastery of “thin-slicing.” Can you learn to do it, too?

16. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz

Have you ever walked into a clothing store and found yourself overwhelmed by choices among different shirts, skirts, or jeans, all of which look eerily similar? Not to mention the stress of weaving through other shoppers, worrying about prices, and working out your size. Barry Schwartz believes that this abundance of choices to make “no longer liberates, but debilitates” shoppers with consumer anxiety. The solution? Eliminating consumer choices (within reason).

Of course, Schwartz acknowledges that autonomy and freedom of choice are still critical to our well-being. It’s just that, while modern Americans may technically have more choice than ever before, they are no longer benefiting from it psychologically. The Paradox of Choice neatly establishes the psychology behind why choice overload makes us suffer — constant comparison, opportunity hunting, and buyer’s remorse, for example — and how to avoid consumer anxiety in the first place.

17. Explaining Humans: What Science Can Teach Us about Life, Love and Relationships by Camilla Pang

Explaining Humans is an intriguing in-depth exploration of the complexities of human behavior, as explained by hard science. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) at an early age, author and scientist Dr Camilla Pang struggled to untangle the mess of the world around her — even asking her mother if she could find an instruction manual for humans. When she found that not even the best psychology books of the time provided such a manual, the only solution was to write her own. 

Backed up with copious amounts of scientific research and her own hard-won expertise, this book on psychology examines obscure social customs, what it means to be human in different cultures, and where proteins and molecular chemistry fit into all of this. What does it mean to understand someone? How do we recognize people’s motivations or expressions, and what dictates them to begin with? Whether this all feels foreign or far too familiar to you, Pang is sure to deliver some surprises.

18. Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters by Steven Pinker

The goal of Rationality is to make you more rational and help you understand why there is so much irrationality in the world. You may think that sounds pretty lofty, but try reading author and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker’s analysis before making concrete judgements! 

Pinker rejects the cliché idea that humans are an irrational species — how could any species discover and achieve so much without being inherently rational? Despite this, we live in a dichotic age of rationality vs. intense irrationality. Pinker’s explanation is that humans tend to think within the context of the low-tech settings in which we spend the majority of our lives. As a result, we don’t take advantage of the tools that our best thinkers discovered previously: critical thinking, logic, probability, correlation vs. causation, and ways to update our beliefs individually are not a part of our education. Fortunately, you can find these tools (and analyses of the crippling effects of irrationality) presented clearly and with good humor in Rationality !

19. Rapport: The Four Ways to Read People by Emily and Laurence Alison

We’ve all had to interact with difficult people before, whether that’s an annoying customer, a high-maintenance friend, or even a demanding stranger on the train. But imagine you had to deal with some of the most difficult people possible, managing extremely high-stress interactions: criminal interrogations. These interactions are a specialty of forensic psychologists Emily and Laurence Alison: they advise and train police, security companies, and even secret services on how to maneuver interviews with dangerous suspects. 

After experiences over the past thirty years that the “average” person could only imagine, the author duo have developed a revolutionary model for interpersonal communication. According to them, every interaction follows one of four types: Control (the lion), Capitulate (the mouse), Confront (the Tyrannosaur) and Co-operate (the monkey). It might sound abstract now, but once you’ve been taken through these types in Rapport, you’ll understand why they’re so praised. Learn to understand and apply them to your own goals and you can shape any conversation at will.

20. Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realise Your Potential for Lasting Fulfilment by Martin E. P. Seligman

You may have heard of this entry after its launch in 2004 caused international debate over the nature of real happiness. Authentic Happiness was the starting point for the science of Positive Psychology and the discussion of happiness in a scientific way. 

According to Martin Seligman, happiness has less to do with factors such as genes or luck, and more to do with focusing on your internal strengths rather than weaknesses. This isn’t to say that situational factors based on your genes wouldn’t impact you, or that being lucky enough to win the lottery wouldn’t change your life. Seligman’s point is that maintaining a positive mindset and building on one’s strengths is the most dependable route to long-lived happiness. To that end, Seligman supplies exercises, brief tests, and interesting programs that will help you identify your virtues and use them most efficiently.

21. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman

It’s no secret that a high IQ doesn’t automatically make a  person smart or good (not to mention the long-standing debate over the reliability and biases of IQ tests). That said, what actually makes a person smart or good? Daniel Goleman’s innovative analyses in Emotional Intelligence certainly brings us closer to understanding. This book breaks down human processes into “two minds”, the rational and the emotional, to detail how they together shape the ways that we move through the world. 

Goleman draws on contemporary cognitive and behavioral research to show the factors that make higher IQ flounder where those with average IQ excel. The factors that go into this disparity are: self-awareness, self-discipline, and empathy, and their presence adds up to a completely different manner of intelligence. Luckily, this kind of emotional intelligence can be developed and strengthened at every age to ultimately benefit our health, work, and relationships.

22. The Psychology of Pandemics: Preparing for the Next Global Outbreak of Infectious Disease by Steven Taylor

Published in October 2019, just before the COVID-19 pandemic, Steven Taylor’s book about the importance of psychology in curbing the spread of deadly pandemics — stating that, at the time, the next pandemic could be soon — turned out to be frighteningly prophetic. Taylor posits that, while vaccinations and behavioral methods are crucial for stemming infection rates, psychological elements are equally important.

The Psychology of Pandemics explains psychology’s role in nonadherence to vaccination and hygiene programs and in mental health as people cope with the threat and loss of life. Taylor talks through every reason why understanding psychology is essential to managing societal problems that go hand-in-hand with pandemics. You need only consult a few history books to see that the same problems recurr every time we face a pandemic. These problems range from excessive fear to maladaptive behaviours to the xenophobia that occurs when people feel threatened by infection. Sound familiar? If you want to understand why the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded in the way it did, this is definitely on the list of the best psychology books to try.

23. Human Givens : A New Approach to Emotional Health and Clear Thinking by Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell

Feeling like something a little more laidback? Human Givens is a guide to emotional and physical health, as well as education, using the “human givens” approach. Authors Joe Griffin and Ivan Tyrrell chronicle what some call the best psychological insight of this age — that we are all born with innate knowledge patterns known as “human givens”. These givens are experienced as physical and emotional needs, and only when those needs are met can one reach their full mental and physical potential. 

Griffin and Tyrrell suggest that how your innate needs connect with the world can shape not just your own health and happiness, but that of your family and friends. Human Givens takes this idea and looks at what every person needs to flourish, as well as how to actively pursue those things. Of course, this isn’t all just speculation: Griffin and Tyrell back up their approach with new scientific findings and ideas about how the mind works — as well as how to use those ideas to overcome the anxieties of the modern world.

24. Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View by Stanley Milgram

The next book on our list is what some might call a psychology classic. Psychologist Stanley Milgram performed a series of famous experiments in the 1960s with the view to better understanding obedience to authority, after numerous war criminals on trial had claimed they were “just following orders”. 

The experiments were controversial at the time, because they involved volunteer subjects being instructed to administer what they thought were progressively more painful shocks to another human being — the aim of this was to see how far people would obey orders even when they knew them to be morally gray. Though Milgram’s experiment was criticized for being immoral itself, it has since been vindicated as a breakthrough in understanding both obedience and psychology as a whole. Obedience to Authority has long been thought of as one of the best psychology books, offering Milgram’s personal insight into his groundbreaking methods, theories, and post-experiment conclusions.

25. Consciousness and the Social Brain by Michael S. A. Graziano

The final entry on our list delves into one of the great mysteries of the human race: the brain. How are we conscious, what is consciousness, and how does the brain create it? Why do some people have more of a constant running internal monologue than others? These are the big questions that Michael S. A. Graziano aims to tackle in Consciousness and the Social Brain.

The human brain has evolved a vastly complicated circuitry which allows it to be socially intelligent — one function of which is to be aware of others socially, to understand when someone other than oneself is thinking or feeling. Graziano’s theory is that the brain’s internal machinery that allows it to be aware of others also allows self awareness. The crux is that human awareness is layers upon layers of information that the brain has gathered, processed, and rendered — a wholly physical phenomena in the same way that generating heat or electricity might be. This is, of course, a hotly debated topic, with many people believing that to reduce the brain to only physicality would be reductive. Regardless of what you believe, Graziano’s scientific journey is a thrill to the last page!

Seeking more answers about human interaction? Check out our lists of the 60 Best Nonfiction Books of the 21st Century or the 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time !

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10 Psychology Books Everyone Should Read

22 Sep, 2023 | Blog Articles , Psychology Articles

Image of a female student holding a pile of books

Psychology is a wide-reaching field, covering everything from social attachments to disorders of the brain and nervous system (neurology). We’ve put together a list of ten Psychology books that we think every student should read. Whether you’re preparing to study at University, just starting to explore your interest, or looking to deepen your knowledge of Psychology before attending our Oxford Summer School , these books will provide valuable insights and enhance your learning journey.

Table of Contents

1. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales  – Oliver Sacks

In this classic book, Sacks documents a number of fascinating and strange cases that he came across in his work as a neurologist.

The book is named after one of these cases: the man who mistook his wife for a hat had visual agnosia. This is a condition where people are unable to interpret visual information so cannot recognise objects or faces. From this to a case about a patient who couldn’t recognise his own leg, Sacks deals with the most extraordinary conditions.

It is an engaging and easy to read book, which will make you appreciate that a lot can go wrong in our brains. Such explorations of the human mind are central to our Psychology programme in our Oxford Summer Courses .

Picture of the cover of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, a popular psychology book.

2.  The Psychopath Test: A Journey through the Madness Industry  – Jon Ronson

In The Psychopath Test, Ronson describes his quest to determine whether it is true that many high up CEOs and politicians are psychopaths.

He tells the story of his visits to psychopaths, as well as to the psychologists and psychiatrists who study them. The book also looks at how psychopaths are diagnosed and explores The Psychopath Test developed by Bob Hare.

Ronson offers intriguing insights into the minds of psychopaths, as well as some very interesting stories, making this book well worth a read.

Photo of the cover of the Psychopath Test, a popular psychology book.

3.  Phantoms in the Brain: Probing the Mysteries of the Human Mind  – V.S. Ramachandran and Sandra Blakeslee

Phantoms in the Brain is an engaging book which explores various neurological disorders, such as phantom limbs.

A phantom limb is a condition where amputees can feel their amputated limb after it is gone (and in some cases even feel pain in it which is very difficult to treat). The book describes the cause of this phenomenon, among many other conditions. The authors explain how these can inform our understanding of the brain and also present many interesting cases of patients with these conditions.

Reading this will give you an understanding of how the brain forms our perception of both the world and ourselves.

Photo of Phantoms in the Brain, a popular Psychology book.

4.  50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Behavior  – Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio & Barry Beyerstein

As the title suggests, this book dispels 50 popular misconceptions in psychology. These are claims that are not scientifically true but still continue to be spread by the general public.

The authors aim to show that common sense can actually mislead people. 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology encourages us to think critically and evaluate these claims, rather than simply taking them to be true.

This is an interesting book, and definitely worth reading – most of us probably didn’t realise that many of these are misconceptions.

top 10 books psychology

5.  The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language – Steven Pinker

Throughout this book, Pinker explores the idea that language is innate to humans, a phenomenon that he describes as ‘the language instinct’.

Pinker makes the case for language as an ability unique to humans: we evolved this to be able to communicate. The book explores many cases that support this idea that language and grammar are in-built (an idea that was first proposed by the linguist Noam Chomsky).

This is a perfect introduction to the psychology of language and linguistics. It is filled with intriguing cases and ideas that will give you a different perspective on how your brain works.

top 10 books psychology

6. Predictably Irrational – Dan Ariely

In Predictably Irrational, Ariely, who is a behavioural economist, rejects the widely held belief that humans make rational decisions. Rather, he makes the case for the idea that we behave irrationally. For example, we will eat another plate at an unlimited buffet even though we are already full.

The book examines many factors which contribute to these behaviours: expectations, emotions, social norms, among other forces. It uncovers the irrational mistakes that we consistently make – mistakes that are predictable. Ariely also offers advice on breaking these behaviours.

Reading this will challenge what you think you know about your own behaviour, and help you to stop making the same irrational mistakes.

Cover of Predictably Irrational, a popular Psychology book

7. Thinking, Fast and Slow – Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow is an entertaining description of the research that Kahneman has conducted over his career.

In it, Kahneman explores the relationship between two modes of thought that he proposes us to have. System 1 is impulsive, automatic and intuitive: this happens without our conscious thought. However, System 2 is thoughtful, deliberate and calculating. The book describes how the interactions between these systems determine how we think and act.

Kahneman has written an enjoyable summary of recent work in social and cognitive psychology – which will almost certainly make you think differently about how you think.

Cover of Thinking Fast and Slow, a popular Psychology book.

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Thanks for signing up, 8. bad science – ben goldacre.

This is not just a psychology book, but rather it is about science in general – specifically bad science, as the title suggests.

Bad Science implores readers to be aware of the poor understanding of scientific evidence and statistics in our society. For example, Goldacre explores how science reporting in the media tends to produce very untrue accounts of real research and data. He also describes how pharmaceutical companies misuse statistics for their own benefits, and how homeopathy tricks so many people into thinking it is a cure.

This book is both witty and easy to read – and will make you question everything you’ve ever been told is true.

Cover of Bad Science, a popular Psychology book.

9. The Invisible Gorilla – Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

The Invisible Gorilla describes how, when we are focused on one thing, we tend to overlook everything else.

The title of the book refers to earlier research in this area: when participants are told to count how many times players passed the ball in a basketball game, they do not even notice someone dressed as a gorilla walking through the game!

Chabris and Simmons do a good job of demonstrating that, really, we don’t notice as much as we think we do in this entertaining book.

Cover of The Invisible Gorilla, a popular Psychology book.

10. Influence: Science and Practice – Robert Cialdini

Cialdini’s eye-opening book explores the topics of influence and persuasion. It teaches us both how to be more persuasive, and how to stop ourselves being persuaded to do things we don’t actually want to.

Cialdini explains that there are six psychological principles that drive us to comply to the influence of others, which he goes through in detail.

Influence is not only interesting, but will also help you to be more aware of the power of how you talk to people – even just in your everyday life.

Cover of Influence, a popular Psychology book.

Rachel is an undergraduate Psychology student at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, with a particular interest in perception. She believes that Psychology is an important science, as much of the human brain remains a mystery that we have yet to solve. She is excited to keep you up to date with the latest research in this field! In her spare time, she enjoys drawing, painting, and cooking all sorts of pasta dishes.

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100 Greatest Psychology Books of All Time

By Kristen Fescoe Published December 2015

In developing this list of the 100 greatest psychology books of all time, we’ve tried to include something for everyone who’s interested in this field – from seasoned professionals, to first-year psychology majors, to interested laypeople.

59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute

Richard wiseman.

Date of Publication:  2010

Buy this book on Amazon.com

In  59 Seconds: Change Your Life in Under a Minute  psychologist and best-selling author Richard Wiseman outlines a myth dispelling alternative to the self-help movement. His book is filled with tips and tricks to improve your life, all stemming from solid scientific data. What led to the creation of this work was Wiseman’s troubled realization that the self-help industry often endorses exercises that minimize motivation, interfere with relationships, and limit creativity.  59 Seconds  works against these limitations, uniting scientific advice can help individuals in need change their life almost immediately. The book works as a guide to help the reader become more decisive, more creative, more engaged, and generally happier. Topics ranging from mood to memory, persuasion to procrastination, resilience to relationships, are outlined with research supporting the new science of “rapid change.” The motto of the book, asserted by the author is “Think a little, change a lot.”

A Guide to Rational Living

Albert ellis, robert a. harper and melvin powers.

Date of Publication:  1975

Among all the books on this list,  A Guide To Rational Living  is one of the most popular books in the self-help/popular psychology category, selling over a million and a half copies since its publication. In this book, world-renowned psychologist Albert Ellis, along with colleagues Robert Harper and Melvin Powers, brought to public attention a new form of psychology called ‘rational emotive therapy’ (RET). This theory violated decades of traditional Freudian psychoanalysis and sparked a revolution in the field of psychology. RET states that emotions do not stem from repressed desires and needs, but from our thoughts, ideas, attitudes and beliefs. The authors argue that the mysteries of the unconscious are not the most impacting things to our psychological health. This new mode of thinking was a drastic change from what had been supported for such a long period of time. This work stemmed from Ellis’ own work in the Freudian psychoanalytical tradition. He eventually concluded that digging into a person’s history and problems did not prove to have much positive effect. His focus on ‘what actually worked’ led him to the view that thoughts generate emotions, not the other way around. This work became the foundation  Cognitive Psychology field.

A Theory of Human Motivation

Abraham h. maslow.

Date of Publication:  1943

Abraham Maslow is most widely known for his psychological theory, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.  He argues that there are levels of human needs and the most basic need must be met before a person can meet the next higher level need. In  A Theory of Human Motivation  Maslow presents this hierarchical structure. The work was first published in the form of a paper, and eventually a longer text format, which included his observations of humans’ inborn curiosity. His theories are similar to other theories of human developmental psychology in that he focuses on the stages of growth in humans. Maslow describes needs in his hierarchy, including “Physiological, Safety, Belongingness and Love, Esteem, Self-Actualization and Self-Transcendence,” each of which is a pattern of human motivations that are graduated through once one need is met.  Maslow chose to study what he called “exemplary people” such as Albert Einstein, Jane Addams, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Frederick Douglass rather than mentally ill or “neurotic” people to draw his scientific conclusions.

An Introduction to the History of Psychology

B.r hergenhahn and tracy henley.

Date of Publication:  2013

An Introduction to the History of Psychology  is not the traditional introductory psychology text. This book begins engaging the student with the early puzzle to many Greek philosophers – dreams. This puzzle created a great number of elaborate theories, each attempting to explain human memory and perception. One theory put forth by French philosopher Descartes explained that the brain is filled with “animal spirits.” This seventh edition of the text asserts that most of the interests of modern psychologists are expressions of themes and theories that have been a part of psychology for hundreds of years. The textbook includes many photographs and academic devices, complete with biographical information on the important figures in psychology. Students are immediately engaged to expand their understanding of each chapter. This book can be used in unison with the  InfoTrac Student Collection .

Art and Artist

Date of Publication:  1932

Otto Rank was an Austrian psychoanalyst, writer, teacher, and friend and colleague of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. The two worked together closely for 20 years, during which time Rank wrote numerous books and papers. His best known work,  Art and Artist  ,  explores the human need to create, not just in terms of individual works of art, but also in larger forms such as religion, mythology, and social institutions. The book is grounded in Rank’s extensive understanding of psychology and psychoanalysis, covering a wide range of areas including anthropology and cultural history, as well as psychology, as it explores the complexities of human nature.

Authentic Happiness Martin Seligman

Date of Publication:  2004

Martin Seligman is a member of an elite group composed of the most renowned psychologists in the world. In this book, he asserts that the way to happiness might be easier than you think. He sets out to prove that happiness is more a product of internal rather than external conditions. This work allows the reader to develop the elements of life that we often overlook. Seligman proposes that real, lasting happiness comes from focusing on individual personal strengths rather than weaknesses—and working with them to improve all aspects of one’s life. He helps readers identify their strengths and use them to their fullest.


John b. watson.

Date of Publication:  1924

John Watson was an American psychologist who gained recognition when he published his theory of behaviorism, which quickly became the dominant mode of thinking in the field of psychology during the 1920s and 1930s. While teaching at Johns Hopkins University, he authored a number of important works, including  Psychology From the Standpoint of a Behaviorist  and  Behaviorism.  These works have been noted by many in the field as creating possibly the most significant movement in 20th century psychology. In 1925 Watson wrote, “Two opposed points of view are still dominant in American psychological thinking: introspective or subjective psychology, and behaviorism or objective psychology.” The observation still rings true to this day. His work was in reaction to psychology’s emphasis on feelings and introspection, and the general lack of precise categories at the time. He proposed a methodological approach to psychological disorders that could be more coherent, precise, and empirical. He maintained that consciousness is not a functional hypothesis for human difficulty; only through the observation of behavior could any hypothesis be proposed.

Behind the Shock Machine: The Untold Story of the Notorious Milgram Psychology Experiments

Stanley Milgram conducted  controversial psychological experiments in the early 1960’s. In his study on obedience he asked research participants to administer a shock to  another participant in the study. This “other participant” was an actor, but the participant was unaware that they were a part of the contrived situation. The frightening part of this study was the high percentage  of people who administered a potentially deadly shock to a screaming participant just because an authority figure told them to. This 2013 book investigates the full story of this experiment and its astounding consequences. Perry includes interviews with the original participants, many of whom are still haunted by what they did. The book looks into Milgram’s personal archive, unveiling an even more troubling picture of these experiments than was originally presented by Milgram. Through her research, Perry questions the validity of the statistics and the claims that the experiment revealed something essential about human nature. This work details the remarkable story of ambition and how an experiment shaped a generation.

Beyond Culture

Edward t. hall.

Date of Publication:  1976

In  Beyond Culture  Edward Hall shows the reader new, interesting ways of considering and perceiving our human experience. He also shows us how to reevaluate our values. Throughout this book, the author delves into the cross-cultural implications of human thoughts and behavior. Hall identifies the misconception of “extension transference” as a major source of flawed thinking in all areas of culture. The goal of this work is to create a path to improved intercultural communication.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Malcolm gladwell.

Date of Publication:  2007

In this book, Gladwell discusses how we think without thinking, and how choices that appear to be made instantaneously are not as simple as they might seem. Some of the important questions posed and addressed in this book include:

  • Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept?
  • Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error?
  • How do our brains really work in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom?
  • Why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

The book introduces the reader to a psychologist who has developed the ability to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple. We also meet a tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball. The book is a thorough investigation of the advantages and disadvantages to our tendency to “blink” through our decisions.

Brain Rules: 12 Principles For Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School

John medina.

Date of Publication:  2009

Deceptively simple at first glance, this book combines academic knowledge and research and applies it to practical daily life.  It outlines scientifically grounded theories of how to approach life and achieve greater success. Medina, a developmental molecular biologist, includes a section at each chapter’s end in which he outlines how to apply the chapter’s principles to your everyday life. While this does not cater strongly to the scientific reader, this makes it more approachable for the everyday reader. The material within each chapter is concrete, well-researched and clearly written. This is an excellent book for those who are looking for a basic explanation of basic brain functioning and the field of psychology.

Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince

Roger dooley.

Date of Publication:  2011

In recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in interest in the field of neuroscience. While it sounds like a highly specialized area, it’s actually a broad field that can be applied to education, business and daily personal interactions. In this book, Dooley outlines real-world ways to apply neuroscience and behavior research in the business setting.  Brainfluence  shows how to apply complex neuroscience and behavioral topics to more effectively market to consumers by investigating their decision-making patters. He has coined this decision-making “neuromarketing”, which studies how the brain responds to different cognitive and sensory marketing stimuli. The book is full of quick and easy applications offered in 60 concise chapters. Included are key strategies for targeting consumers through in-person sales, online and print ads, and other marketing media.

CLEP Introductory Psychology Book with Online CLEP Test Preparation Second Edition

Don j. sharpsteen.

Date of Publication:  2012

The CLEP Introductory Psychology Book is not your average Psych 101 book. This introductory textbook was written with a different kind of psychology student in mind. CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. The College Board, the group of individuals who created the AP program and the SAT program, developed this unique program. The CLEP program has been the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program for more than 40 years, accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities and administered in over 1,800 test centers. This exam is an excellent option for non-traditional students, specifically those serving in the military. This textbook is designed to offer students training in the area of introductory psychology. The text covers a high percentage of the topics included on the test and was created for use with the Online CLEP Test Preparation system. This distinctive introductory psychology textbook is an excellent option for those seeking a different kind of psychology education.

Civilization and Its Discontents

Sigmund freud.

Date of Publication:  1930

Sigmund Freud, father of psychoanalysis, authored a number of pioneering works in the field. Among his most famous is   Civilization and Its Discontents.  It has been praised, criticized, condemned, interpreted, and reinterpreted. The 1930 work addresses  several questions regarding fundamental human society, including: What influences led to the creation of civilization? Why and how did it come to be? Freud considers the incompatibility of civilization and individual happiness, and the tensions between the claims of society and the individual. He feels that one of society’s greatest dangers is “civilized” sexual morality. The book was re-released in 1961 with an introduction by the culture critic and writer Christopher Hitchens as well a biographical note on Freud by Peter Gay.

Conditioned Reflexes

Ivan pavlov.

Date of Publication:  1927

Most psychology students and professionals have spent time learning about Ivan Pavlov’s study of dog salivation, which led to his ground-breaking theories on conditioning and learned responses. In this book, the Nobel Prize-winning scientist submits a detailed, comprehensive, accessible explanation of his pioneering work in experimental psychology. Pavlov highlights the technical manner in which he formulated experiments and controls, his famous experiments, observations on the formation of conditioned reflexes, external and internal reflex inhibitions, the function of cerebral hemispheres and cortex, and  more. The text is concise,  robust and includes a number of diagrams and renderings.

David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants

In David and Goliath,  Gladwell asks the reader to think about obstacles and disadvantages and how we react to them. He then asks us to consider a new interpretation of what it means to be discriminated against, to suffer from a disability, to lose  someone close to us, or endure a similar setback. He examines and challenges the concept of “advantage” and “disadvantage.” Beginning story of David and Goliath, Gladwell moves through history with figures such as Lawrence of Arabia and Martin Luther King Jr.  He  shows how those who have been labeled “underdogs” use that status to their advantage and often prevail using intelligence, wit or surprise. He argues that many academic “advantages,” such as getting into an Ivy League school, have disadvantages, whereas being a “big fish in a small pond” at a less prestigious school can lead to higher levels of confidence and self-esteem and a better chance of success in later life. Gladwell even goes so far as to promote the idea of a “desirable difficulty,” such as dyslexia, might force the dyslexic to develop better listening and creative problem-solving skills. While some critics have complained that the book lacks empirical support, the theories put forth in the book are thought-provoking.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition: DSM-5

American psychiatric association.

The American Psychiatric Association’s  Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)  is widely used by clinicians and researchers to diagnose and classify mental disorders. This listing is the product of more than 10 years of study by hundreds of international experts in many areas of mental health. This book is the authoritative work for defining and classifying mental disorders to improve diagnoses, treatment, and research. The manual creates a common language for clinicians involved in the diagnosis of mental disorders, including concise and specific criteria used to assess symptom presentations in a variety of clinical settings. The DSM-V is the most current and important resource for clinical practice available. It can be used by physicians and health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, nurses, and occupational and rehabilitation therapists, as well as social workers and forensic and legal specialists.

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Daniel pink.

While many people believe that the most effective way to motivate others is with a reward, author and psychologist Daniel Pink says that is flawed logic. In this stimulating work, Pink claims that the secret to optimal performance and personal satisfaction is the instinctive need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world. The book uses four decades of empirical research on human motivation to explain the mismatch between what science knows and what business does, and how this affects people on a deep level. He outlines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose–and offers creative techniques for putting these into action. This is a book for professionals and lay persons to help change how we think and transform how we live.

Educating the Human Brain

Michael I. Posner and Mary K. Rothbart

Date of Publication:  2006

Educating the Human Brain  is the culmination of a quarter century of  research on the early development of attention and self regulation in infants and young children. It is a thorough investigation of the brain areas underlying regulatory networks, how they intertwine, and how genes and experience affect development. References are made to the most modern techniques in cognitive and temperament measurement, neuroimaging, and molecular genetics. The book combines investigations of the neural networks in all humans with the study of individual differences. The authors explain complex brain functions that are required for learning. Some of these functions include attending to information; controlling attention through effort; regulating the interplay of emotion with cognition; and coding, organizing, and retrieving information. These elements are seamlessly tied back to the ways in which brain development support school readiness, literacy, numeracy, and expertise. This book is useful for neuroscientists, students, developmental and educational psychologists and anyone interested in the latest brain research.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ

Daniel goleman.

Date of Publication:  2005

When the idea of an IQ, or intelligent quotient, first came to light it was considered the standard . Over the years there has been a gradual fading of the IQ phenomenon in favor of  EQ — or emotional intelligence. Psychological tests show that EQ is a better determinant of personal success and overall mental health than IQ. Emotional intelligence is our ability to identify and handle both our own emotions and deal with the emotions of others. This book explains the theory of the EQ and argues that it is a better standard than the IQ measure.

Emotions Revealed: Recognizing Faces and Feelings to Improve Communication and Emotional Life

Date of Publication:  2003

Psychologist Paul Ekman outlines the foundations of our emotions: anger, fear, disgust, sadness, and happiness, and shows how they are displayed on our faces, offering signals to those who can identify the clues. The book explains Ekman’s Facial Action Coding System, which offers powerful training that helps those trained to “see” the feelings on the faces of loved ones, peers, and strangers. Ekman condenses years of extensive research into a practical, engaging guide to reading the emotions of those around us. He answers questions such as: How does our body signal to others whether we are slightly sad or anguished, peeved or enraged? Can we learn to distinguish between a polite and genuine smile? Can we ever truly control our emotions? The updated edition includes a new chapter on emotions and lying. The author also talks about security and terrorism as well as gut decisions, making  Emotions Revealed  an important resource for the emotional modern world.

Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation

Sally hogshead.

Sally Hogshead is well known as a public speaker and successful advertising executive. In this quintessential guide she explores one of the most influential ways to attract attention and impact the behavior of others using the tool of fascination. She also writes about the ways in which businesses, products, and ideas can become irresistible to consumers. This book touches upon a range of disciplines, including neurobiology, psychology, and evolutionary anthropology.  Hogshead says that notable and interesting patterns all revolve around the element of fascination, the most powerful way to capture an audience and influence behavior. This book investigates the principles behind fascination and explores how those insights can influence a number of issues such as brand dedication and where you live and work. She outlines what she calls the seven languages of fascination—power, passion, innovation, alarm, mystique, prestige, and alert. She says almost anyone can use these triggers to make products, messages, and services more fascinating, and therefore more successful.

Flow: The Psychology Of Happiness

Mihaly csikszentmihalyi.

Date of Publication:  2008

This book examines what makes people truly happy.  The author sorts through decades of research regarding how happiness is affected by the work we commit ourselves to. He hypothesizes that happiness is reached through a mental state he calls Flow. This is a state where the high skill level of the individual is met with appropriately challenging work. For example, a mathematician solving a perplexing problem, or an artist bringing her conception to life through seemingly perfect brush strokes. Professionals in the field as well as those seeking answers to what makes us happy will enjoy this book.

Food and Addiction: A Comprehensive Handbook

Kelly d. brownell and mark s. gold.

Date of Publication:  2014

This book is a unique and innovative scientific approach to the issue of food and addiction. Using various disciplines, the authors develop a framework for this quickly advancing field to show what needs to change in science and public policy. By assembling scientists and policy makers from fields such as nutrition, addiction, psychology, epidemiology, and public health the book explores and analyzes the evidence for the addictive properties of food. The book provides comprehensive coverage of the areas relevant to food and addiction, from rudimentary background information on topics like food intake, metabolism, and environmental risk factors for obesity, to more advanced diagnostic criteria for food addiction, the evolutionary underpinnings of eating addictions, and behavioral and pharmacologic interventions.

Hypnosis In The Relief Of Pain

Ernest r. hilgard and josephine r. hilgard.

Hypnosis In The Relief Of Pain  is a masterful work on the fascinating topic of hypnosis as an alternative to traditional pain remedies. It is written by a husband and wife duo of a psychologist and a psychiatrist, both of whom are practitioners and researchers. The Hilgards illustrate how hypnosis can vastly alleviate the pain of childbirth, cancer, medical or dental surgery, burns, accidental injuries, and other chronic syndromes. There are more than 600 references regarding modern research into the mechanisms of pain, creating a better understanding of both the findings and the limitations of available scientific data. The authors address a range of topics regarding hypnosis and pain, ranging from an historical review to a discussion of future areas for investigation. They examine the controversy surrounding the nature of hypnosis, including whether it is an altered state of consciousness or a pattern of behavior agreed upon by subject and hypnotist. Even with a vast amount of data, the book is clear and non-technical, appealing to professionals in the area of pain reduction as well as lay people.  Hypnosis in the Relief of Pain  is an honest and comprehensive investigation of what role hypnosis can play in pain reduction and management, with the possibility of making a significant impact in the natural healing movement.

Identity and the Life Cycle

Erik ericson.

Date of Publication:  1959

Erik Erikson was one of the most remarkable psychologists of his time, offering insights into the relationship of the “life history.” In  Identity and the Life Cycle  Erikson collected three early papers that are considered to be the best compilation of his theories.   “ Ego Development and Historical Change ”  is a selection of comprehensive notes that Erikson wrote to relay observations of groups studied on field trips and on children studied longitudinally and clinically. In  “ Growth and Crises of the Health Personality ”  Erikson moves adolescence into the critical stages of the whole life cycle.  In the third essay, Erikson deals with  “The Problem of Ego Identity”  from biographical, clinical, and social points of view. These three essays when combined summarize Erikson’s great works.

Influence: Science and Practice

Robert b. cialdini.

This book on compliance remains one of the most cited texts in this area of psychological study. Although a reference book, it is written in a narrative style that pairs well with scholarly research. The author incorporates evidence from research with the methods and tactics he collected while worked as a salesperson, fundraiser, advertiser, and in otherpositions inside organizations that commonly use compliance tactics. This text is commonly used in college courses on this topic, as well as  by individuals in the business world. The text organizes compliance techniques into six categories based on psychological principles that direct human behavior: reciprocation, consistency, social proof, liking, authority, and scarcity.

Introduction to Psychology 10th Edition

James w. kalat.

This is one of the most widely used introductory psychology textbooks.  Now in its 13th edition, the book encourages students to question the information they are given and ask the important questions, “How was this conclusion reached?” and “Does the evidence really support it?” This helps students to become amateur scientists. In this highly student-praised book, the author, a North Carolina State University professor, challenges the readers’ preconceptions about psychology to allow them to become  more informed consumers of information throughout their college experience as well as in post-college life. Kalat uses a humorous writing style and hands-on learning “Try It Yourself” exercises throughout the book. Students using this introductory psychology text can take advantage of the  InfoTrac Student Collection .

Rod Plotnik and Haig Kouyoumdjian

While many introductory course books tend to be dry and boring, this book features a look and style of a magazine or graphic novel. Plotnik’s 10th edition of  Introduction to Psychology  draws students in immediately and shows just how interesting the study of psychology can be. The book uses a modular, visual approach to outline the basic tenets of  psychology. The innovative “visual” or “magazine” style approach allows even the most challenging concepts to be viewed as both engaging and entertaining. The entire book has been individually planned, written, and formatted to be effective in combining the use of Visual Cues, which helps students better absorb the information. This latest update uses the psychological concept of “chunking,” a method of taking a larger concept and breaking it into smaller, more easily digestible sections that enable students to learn at a pace suitedto their needs. Students learning from this text also have access to the  InfoTrac Student Collection .

Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews

Dennis coon and john o. mitterer.

This highly acclaimed introductory psychology textbook was co-written by authors who have received an increasing number of  rave reviews from instructors and students with each succeeding edition. The 13th edition of  Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews  was designed to grab the attention of even the most difficult to reach college students. This edition continues to use an innovative integration of the proven-effective SQ4R learning system (Survey, Question, Read, Reflect, Review, Recite), which increases critical thinking skills, while guiding students to a greater understanding of psychology’s wide-ranging concepts topics. In each exciting chapter, these active learning tools are paired with examples, discussions of positive psychology, pioneering coverage of the field’s new research findings, and top-notch media resources. This combination makes the study of psychology interesting, relevant, and most importantly, accessible.

Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

Chip heath and dan heath.

The Heath Brothers have co-authored a number of books in the field of psychology, several of which are included on this list. While,  Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die  initially looks like a book only for those interested in marketing and advertising, there is much more to this work. The framework of the book is based in the famous Mark Twain quote, “A lie can get halfway around the world before the truth can even get its boots on.” The key question being reviewed is why do some ideas thrive while others die? And how do we improve the chances of worthy ideas? In  Made to Stick,  the Heath brothers take on these important questions. The book outlines the anatomy of ideas that stick and explains how to make ideas stickier by applying the “human scale principle,” using the “Velcro Theory of Memory,” and creating “curiosity gaps.”   Made to Stick  explains the principles of applying these rules to making our own messages stick, and the science underlying this principle.

Man and His Symbols

Carl gustav jung.

Date of Publication:  1968

Jung was Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist who founded analytical psychology. His work remains influential not only in this field but also in philosophy, anthropology, archaeology, literature, and religious studies.    Man and His Symbols,  was just one of his many published works. In this book, different sections introduce the reader to the unconscious,  archetypes, symbols  and to  dreams by which the unconscious communicates.  Chapters illustrate several archetypal patterns in ancient mythology, folk legend, and primitive ritual. “The Process of Individuation,” describes how the conscious and the unconscious within the individual learn to know, respect, and accommodate one another. In this pioneering book on the human mind, Jung summed up his life’s work as a leading researcher on the individual and collective unconscious.

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex

Date of Publication:  1999

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex  is likely the most well-known, long-standing relationship guide to date. Originally published in 1999 to wide-acclaim, the #1 New York Times bestseller has been re-published numerous times. This revolutionary book helps men and women better understand the opposite sex. Dr. John Gray offers a usable, proven method for men and women to improve their communication by recognizing the differences between their needs, desires, and behaviors. This relationship guide helps couples and individuals reach a higher level of understanding of the opposite sex, while strengthening and nurturing relationships.

Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace In a Frantic World

Mark williams and danny penman.

This book explores just how frantic our world can be. It highlights how easy it is to get lost in the fast pace of life around us and out of our control. It is this lack of control over momentary occurrences that can limit our true happiness.  The authors  show the reader how to exist in a state of tranquility in a constantly moving and changing world. It shows in steps how to find peace in the moment, based on empirically backed psychological findings. This is a great read for those who want to slow down as well as those who struggle with anxiety.

Mistakes Were Made (But Not By Me)

Carol tavris and elliot aronson.

This book posits that when people make mistakes, hold on to outmoded attitudes, or harm other people, they then need to quiet the cognitive dissonance that impedes feelings of self-worth. In order to do this we unconsciously create stories that pardon our culpability, reestablishing our feelings of being smart, moral, and right. The authors’ work is backed by years of research, outlining an interesting discussion of self-justification, how it works, the damage it can cause, and how we can overcome it. The 2015 updated edition offers new examples and ends with an extended discussion of how we can live with dissonance, learn from it, and even forgive ourselves.

Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer’s Brain

Patrick renvoise and christophe morin.

In this book the authors look at the ways in which modern brain research can help in areas of business such as increasing sales and increasing effectiveness in the workplace. With an ad filled world, the average person is bombarded with up to 10,000 sales messages each day. This makes is harder than ever before to  sell a product or a service. By using the tools that neuroscience has uncovered, businesses and individuals can immediately increase their ability to sell as well as boost their overall effectiveness. Using the latest brain research and innovative marketing practices, the authors outline several extremely effective tools to help deliver commanding, distinctive, and unforgettable presentations that will have a major impression on potential buyers such as:

  • The six stimuli that always trigger a response
  • The four steps to align content and delivery of your message
  • The six message building blocks to address the “old brain”
  • The seven powerful impact boosters to set your delivery apart from the rest

Using these techniques can help you create efficient sales presentations, close more deals, implement effective marketing strategies, and improve your influence over others.

Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do

Kaiser fung.

One of the most intimidating areas of psychological study for many students is statistics. To advance in the field of psychology, it is critical to understand and use statistics. This book is different from many others in this list in that it does not cover a specific psychological topic or phenomena. Instead, it addresses the topic of how to apply statistics and the outcome, and come up with an interesting way to cover the material. The book includes examples, stories and applicable material on every page. This is a great book for those at all levels, including the lay person person who wants to better understand statistics and how they work.

Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View

Stanley milgram.

Date of Publication:  1974

In the 1960’s, Yale psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of controversial experiments that changed the public’s perception of morality and free will. In this widely criticized study, the subjects (called teachers in the study) were instructed to administer electric shocks to a human “learner” (who was actually a researcher) when they answered a question incorrectly. As the study progressed the shocks became seemingly more powerful and painful. In reality there was no shock, simply good acting by the learner. Milgram outlines his study and his findings. Despite the controversy surrounding the methodology, this study is still widely cited by the scientific community as an example of the extent to which people will obey orders from authority figures regardless of consequences. The 2009 release of the book features an introduction from Dr. Philip Zimbardo, who conducted the famous Stanford Prison Experiment.  Obedience to Authority  is a fascinating account of his Milgram’s experiment and an explanation of his findings.

On Becoming a Person: A Therapist’s View of Psychotherapy

Carl rogers and peter d. kramer.

Date of Publication:  1961

Carl Rogers was the founder of the humanistic psychology movement, which revolutionized the field of psychotherapy. His pioneering idea of “client-centered therapy” was a game changer in the field. The influence of his ideas has lasted for decades, becoming so much a part of mainstream psychology that the ingenious nature of his work has almost been forgotten. The 1995 edition includes a new introduction by Dr. Peter Kramer, highlighting the forgotten significance of Rogers’s work on modern psychology.  New discoveries in the field of psychopharmacology, especially that of the antidepressant Prozac, have spawned a quick-fix drug revolution that has obscured the psychotherapeutic relationship.   The trend is now swinging back to  the therapeutic relationship, making Rogers’s “client-centered therapy” timely and important.

Out of Character

David desteno and piercarlo valdesolo.

Out of Character  is a startling glimpse into the hidden forces that drive the saint and sinner in us all, revealing why human behavior is by far more unpredictable than ever thought. We wonder how jealousy could send an otherwise level-headed person into a violent rage or what drives someone to lose a family fortune at the blackjack tables. In this book DeSteno and Valdesolo turn our notions on these topics upside down. They argue that our character is not a stable set of enduring traits, but instead a constantly evolving state that can be influenced by the constant push and pull of hidden mechanisms in our mind. It is this battle between incongruent forces that impact how we act at any given point in time. The book uses surprising results of clever experiments created to shed new light on many of the puzzling behaviors that we often see in the headlines.

Outliers: The Story Of Success

A long-time staff writer at the New Yorker, Gladwell takes the reader on an intellectual journey through the world of what he calls “outliers.” These are the best and the brightest, most famous and the most successful people in the world. He investigates the question: what makes high-achievers different? Much of the time, he argues, people pay too much attention to what successful people are like, and too little attention to where they are from, such as their culture, their family, their generation, and the experiences of how they were raised. He touches on such topics as the secrets of software billionaires, what it takes to be a great soccer player, and what made the Beatles the greatest rock band.

Patterns of Attachment: A Psychological Study of the Strange Situation

Mary d. salter ainsworth and mary c. blehar.

Date of Publication:  1978

Mary Salter Ainsworth is best known for her theories on parent-child attachment. She began formulating her theories on this topic by making naturalistic observations of parents and children in both Uganda and Baltimore, Maryland. This was the springboard for a fascinating career, creating theoretical and descriptive insights regarding maternal care and the “secure base phenomenon” that become central to attachment theory. In  Patterns of Attachment  she outlines the methods and  results of the landmark Baltimore Longitudinal Study. The Baltimore project resulted in benchmark results on the nature of a child’s tie to its primary caregiver and the importance of early experiences. This work addresses a wide array of theoretical and operational issues  common in most developmental and longitudinal projects, specifically issues of age appropriate assessment, quantifying behavior, and comprehending individual differences. Ainsworth and her students also made pioneering strides in clarifying and defining new concepts that demonstrated the value of the ethological methods and insights about behavior.

Predictably Irrational, Revised and Expanded Edition: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions

Ariely uses his background as a psychologist and behavioral economics professor to evaluate some of the many irrational occurrences in everyday life. He asks questions such as “Why do we splurge on a lavish meal but cut coupons to save 25 cents on a can of soup?” The reader is forced to think about how rational our decisions are when looked at under a microscope. The newly revised and expanded edition of the  New York Times  bestseller disputes the collective assumption that humans behave in a fundamentally rational manner. A wide variety of topics are addressed, with things ranging from drinking coffee to losing weight, from buying a car to choosing a romantic partner. In many of these circumstances we tend to overpay, underestimate, and procrastinate. Ariely argues that these are not random or senseless; they are in fact systematic and predictable, thereby making us predictably irrational.

Priceless: The Myth of Fair Value (and How to Take Advantage of It)

William poundstone.

In this book Poundstone uncovers the hidden psychology of value. He uses carefully designed psychological experiments to show that consumers are generally unable to estimate “fair” prices accurately and are influenced by their unconscious. Because marketers and businesses use this fact to their advantage, it is important to understand how this process works. “Price consultants” help retailers convince consumers to pay more for less, and “negotiation coaches” offer similar instruction for those in the business world and make deals. This “psychology of price” influences the design of price tags, menus, rebates, “sale” ads, cell phone plans, supermarket aisles, real estate offers, wage packages,  and even large corporate buyouts. This book shows how prices are the most universal persuaders of all. Based in the growing field of behavioral decision theory, Priceless is an excellent read for any professional, negotiator, business-person or shopper.

Psychology, 10th Edition

David g. myers.

One of the highest compliments this book receives from both students and professors is how engaging the material is right from the beginning. Both the material itself, as well as the easy-to-use presentation, outlines the broad field of psychology in a  concise, appealing manner. David Myers’ highly regarded introductory text  Psychology  has reached a wide audience of students and instructors with each subsequent edition. Myers and his team of researchers and writers are leaders in the field in understanding the importance of psychological research and the needs of the instructors and students. Over ten million student “class testers” and thousands adopting instructors will testify to the high quality of this book.

Psychology: A Concise Introduction

Richard griggs.

Richard Grigg’s  Psychology: A Concise Introduction  is one of the most affordable introductory psychology textbooks on the market. This succinct textbook is an unrivaled volume that offers a thorough review of the psychology field’s basic ideas and the research behind them. In addition to the textbook, there is a robust, specifically designed supplement package for students and instructors. No other text and supplement package can offer the same value for the  price. The 4th edition of the text is thoroughly updated, specifically in target areas such as neuroscience and in coverage of topics affected by the release of the new DSM-5.

Psychology: An Introduction

Benjamin lahey.

The 11th edition of Benjamin Lahey’s  Psychology: An Introduction  is a modern update of a time-honored classic introductory psychology textbook. This text will help psychology students master the important concepts and historical details of psychology. The 11th edition has been updated to include the latest research with an emphasis on Consciousness, Development, Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology. Professor Lahey integrates empirically based scholarship throughout the text, providing students with an accurate representation of modern psychology. The updates to this text have made it even more student-friendly with clear chapter openers and updates that make the material even more relevant to students. The proven learning system helps students grasp the concepts presented in the book. Lahey’s text emphasizes diversity and culture, making this book a well-rounded introduction to all areas of psychology

Psychology: Themes and Variations, 9th Edition

Wayne weiten.

This is the most recent edition of a widely used introductory psychology textbook. It preserves the book’s tradition of academic strengths while also addressing market changes, including new learning objectives, updated material and a  new design. It offers users an innovative array of psychology that meets three goals:

  • To demonstrate the unity and diversity of psychology’s subject matter
  • To illuminate the research process and its link to application
  • To make the material challenging and thought-provoking yet easy to learn

This text maintains a balance of scientific rigor and a student-friendly approach by integrating seven book-wide themes, an unrivaled instructive art program, real-world examples, and modernized learning aids that help students understand research so they can better comprehend the larger concepts. Major topics covered in most introductory psychology courses are all included in this text, such as evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, biological psychology, positive psychology, applied psychology, careers, and multiculturalism and diversity. Students report that this text is easy to read, extremely user friendly, and helpful in their classroom instruction.

Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th Edition

American psychological association.

The  APA Publication Manual  (Pub Manual) is the style manual of choice for writers, editors, students, and educators. While it was designed to help writers in the behavioral sciences and social sciences,  all non-fiction writers can benefit from its guidance. The Sixth Edition has been rewritten and made the most user-friendly Pub Manual the APA has ever created. Students and professionals can find answers to questions and receive guidance on how to present information, including text, data, and graphics, for publication in any type of format–such as college and university papers, professional journals, presentations for colleagues, and online publication.

Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change

Timothy wilson.

Timothy Wilson’s 2011 book  Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change,  investigates the science of change and happiness. Wilson proposes the question to the reader: What if there were a magic pill that could make you happier, turn you into a better parent, solve a number of your teenager’s behavior problems, reduce racial prejudice, and close the achievement gap in education? While no such pill exists, there is a way to come closer to this idea. He states that people can simply use what he calls “story editing,” an empirically based approach described in  Redirect  to accomplish all of these things. In his book, he shows us how to redirect our internal stories regarding ourselves and the world around us, with subtle prompts, in order to impart change. Redirect shows the great capacity that small changes can have over the ways we see ourselves and our environment, and how we can use this in our everyday lives.

Science and Human Behavior

B.f. skinner.

Date of Publication:  1965

Skinner is best known for his work as a psychologist, behaviorist, author, inventor, and social philosopher. He is considered the father of Operant Conditioning, a type of learning or conditioning where any action with positive consequences is more likely to be repeated and vice versa (reinforcement). To study operant conditioning he invented the operant conditioning chamber, also known as the Skinner Box. In this box he used rats as subjects to test how reinforcement affects the behavior of the rats. In this groundbreaking book Skinner evaluates and explains the ways in which these forces control human and animal behavior. The work is a comprehensive look into the scientific theories of human nature and the potential ways that human behavior can be predicted and controlled.

Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control

Albert bandura.

Date of Publication:  1997

Albert Bandura is another member on the list of the world’s most respected and cited psychologists. In this highly anticipated exploration into his immensely influential work on self-efficacy, he reviews his findings of more than 20 years of research. This work outlines Bandura’s theory that “those with high self-efficacy expectancies – the belief that one can achieve what one sets out to do – are healthier, more effective, and generally more successful than those with low self-efficacy expectancies”. This book is very useful for advanced undergraduate or graduate courses, as well as for professional use. Bandura demonstrates how belief in one’s abilities influences development and psychosocial functioning throughout one’s lifespan in relation to education, health, psychopathology, athletics, business, and international affairs.

Sexual Behavior in the Human Male

Alfred charles kinsey, wardell b. pomeroy and clyde e. martin.

Date of Publication:  1948

When  Sexual Behavior in the Human Male  published in 1948, it encountered a great deal of both condemnation and acclaim. The 804-page book has widely been noted as a milestone on the path toward  a scientific approach to the understanding of human sexual behavior. Alfred Kinsey and his fellow researchers set out to compile an objective body of facts regarding human sexuality, specifically that of the adult human male. Through their research they used the method of first hand interviews to gather their data. The volume is based upon the histories of approximately 5,300 adult males, which were gathered over the course of a 15-year period. The text describes the methodology, sampling, coding, interviewing, statistical analyses, and then examines factors and sources of sexual outlet. In 1953 Kinsey also published  Sexual Behavior in the Human Female , a similar compilation of details about adult female sexual behavior.

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

Sam sommers.

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World  is a thought-provoking investigation into the invisible forces that impact your life without you ever knowing. The goal of the book is to help the reader understand how they work in order to improve your daily activity and function. Sommers cleverly describes how humans tend to overlook the tremendous power of situations in our daily lives. Most people are unable to understand that the most rudimentary details, such as where we are, and who we surround ourselves with, affect how we think and act.  Situations Matter  asserts that by understanding the influence of context we can rethink how we see ourselves and become more effective at work, home, and in our daily lives. The author describes the snares that can be avoided and makes suggestions on how we can make wiser decisions and smarter observations about the world around us.

Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking

Christopher hadnagy and paul wilson.

Social Engineering: The Art of Human Hacking  is a captivating look at the concept of Neuro-Lingusitic Programming (NLP). NLP is a controversial approach to psychotherapy and organizational change based on “a model of interpersonal communication chiefly concerned with the relationship between successful patterns of behavior and the subjective experiences underlying them” and “a system of alternative therapy based on this which seeks to educate people in self-awareness and effective communication, and to change their patterns of mental and emotional behavior.”  Hadnagy and Wilson elaborate upon a term popularized by noted social engineer Kevin Mitnick.  He created the term “social engineering,” using the example that it is easier to trick someone into revealing a password for a system than it is to hack into the system. This useful book outlines a range of exercises with the goal of deceiving unsuspecting victims, while also addressing ways to prevent social engineering threats.

Social Psychology

Solomon asch.

Date of Publication:  1952

Solomon Asch was a Polish gestalt psychologist and pioneer in social psychology. He is noted as having created some of the most important works on impression formation, prestige suggestion, conformity, and  other topics in social psychology. His work keeps with the theme of Gestalt psychology– that the whole is not only greater than the sum of its parts, but the nature of the whole fundamentally alters the parts.  The book discusses Gestalt theory, with Asch addressing some of the important questions regarding human nature, offering a unified discourse on the rudimentary issues underlying social psychology. Published 1952, this book was part of a revolution in thinking and is still used to discuss the problems of social psychology.

Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious

Timothy d. wilson.

This book is an innovative tour of the human unconscious. Wilson has redefined this topic and introduces the reader to a hidden mental world of judgments, feelings, and motives that traditional introspection does not show. The author explains what empirical psychology has revealed, and that it is much more than a warehouse of crude drives and conflict-ridden memories. Instead, he views the unconscious as a set of universal, sophisticated mental processes that help us interpret the world, set goals, and implement action, all while we are consciously thinking about something else. He also states that we remain unaware of our potentials, feelings, or motives because we have developed a believable story about ourselves that is out of touch with our adaptive unconscious.

Stumbling on Happiness

Dan gilbert.

Dan Gilbert’s  Stumbling on Happiness  is a look into how we can achieve higher level of happiness and personal satisfaction. The esteemed Harvard psychologist describes the shortcomings of imagination and “illusions of foresight” that cause us to misconstrue our future and underestimate our level of satisfaction. This book brings to life the latest research in psychology, cognitive neuroscience, philosophy, and behavioral economics. It sheds light on what scientists have recently discovered about the distinctive human capability of imagining the future, and about our capacity to predict how we will likely feel about it when it happens.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behavior

Ori brafman and rom brafman.

This book takes a tour through the hidden psychological influences that disrupt our decision-making. The authors show the dynamic forces that impact our personal and business lives, including loss aversion (our tendency to go to great lengths to avoid perceived losses), the diagnosis bias (our inability to reevaluate our initial diagnosis of a person or situation), and the “chameleon effect” (our tendency to take on characteristics that have been arbitrarily assigned to us). Some of the examples highlighted in this book include a project in which a Harvard Business School professor convinced his students to pay $204 for a $20 bill and a football coach who spun traditional strategy to lead his team to victory. Sway is one of the rare books challenges our views of the world while changing the way we think.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard

The Heath brothers argue that the biggest obstacle to positive change is a hard-wired conflict. This conflict involves the scientifically backed theory that the human mind is ruled by two different systems, the rational mind and the emotional mind, which constantly compete for control. The rational mind may have one goal while the emotional mind may have a more immediate gratification style goal. The tension between the two minds can create a state of difficulty. The Heath’s feel that if you can overcome this state, change can been seen quickly with  dramatic results.

Teaching for Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, and Success

Robert j. sternberg, elena grigorenko and linda jarvin.

Date of Publication:  2015

This work by renowned psychologist Robert Sternberg, along with experts in the field Elena Grigorenko and Linda Jarvin, has quickly become the guide for “teaching beyond the test.” The authors show how students with strong higher-order thinking skills are much more likely to be successful, lifelong learners. The authors used collaborative research conducted by leaders in the field to show how to effectively implement teaching and learning strategies that nurture intelligence, creativity, and wisdom. The book serves as a practical teaching manual offering an overview of the WICS model—Wisdom, Intelligence, Creativity, Synthesized, which helps teachers enhance students’ capacity for effective learning and problem solving. There are extensive examples for language arts, history, mathematics, and science in Grades K–12. This work is excellent for teachers working to broaden their teaching methods while also expanding the skills and abilities of their students.

The Anatomy of Violence

Adrian raine.

The Anatomy of Violence  is considered by some to be a controversial look at the details underlying violence. Raine looks at questions such as how some kids from good environments become mass murderers. Is there actually such a thing as a natural born killer? And, if so, what can we do to identify and treat those born with a predisposition to criminal behavior? Raine has studied this subject for more than three decades, and has worked to answer these and many similar questions using pioneering research on the biological basis for violence. Raine presents a growing body of evidence that shows how genetic factors and environmental influences can essentially create a “criminal brain.” There are a number of criticized theories such as how a low resting heart rate can give rise to a violent personality. Despite the controversy, this book highlights groundbreaking experiments, shocking data, and stunning case studies. This book has been seen by many as an investigation into the tricky ethical issues about prevention and punishment.

The Art of Choosing

Sheena iyengar.

The Art of Choosing  is a helpful guide on decision-making.  Iyengar’s work looks at choices, both mundane and life altering, and how these choices define us and shape our lives. She asks difficult questions about how and why we choose, such as: Is the desire for choice innate or bound by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Through her research, Iyengar has uncovered data on decision-making that is both surprising and profound. In the modern world of changing political and social forces, a technological revolution, and interconnected commerce, our decisions have far-reaching consequences.  The Art of Choosing  is an excellent companion to guide us through these difficult choices.

The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum

Temple grandin and richard panek.

This fascinating book co-authored by Temple Grandin and Richard Panek is an investigation into the diagnosis of autism through the exploration of neuroimaging, genetics, and brain science. This book looks at what causes autism and how it can be treated and diagnosed. The narrative is largely told from the point-of-view of Grandin who was diagnosed with autism in 1947. This important psychological work has helped professionals and the general public become more aware of a diagnosis that was seen in years past as a strange, bizarre, and misunderstood condition.  Grandin discusses her personal experiences with autism as well as the latest technological advances in the study of the disorder, including the genetics of autism. The book outlines some of the symptoms she displayed at an early age, including destructive behavior, the inability to speak, sensitivity to physical contact, fixation on spinning objects, all of which are now considered classic markers of the disorder.  Grandin focuses on her primary goal of encouraging accurate diagnosis for the disorder and promoting enhanced treatments for sensory problems associated with autism. This book is an excellent read for parents, family members, psychology students and professionals in the field.

The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life

Richard j. herrnstein and charles murray.

Date of Publication:  1996

In this popular yet controversial book, Herrnstein and Murray show a link between intelligence and class and race in modern society. One of the goals of the book is to show what public policy could do to mitigate socioeconomic differences in IQ, birth rate, crime, fertility, welfare, and poverty. The authors explore how low intelligence, when separated from social, economic, or ethnic background, is the root of many societal problems. They also make another controversial assertion that intelligence levels differ among ethnic groups. According to the authors, society must address these differences  to properly assess the country’s real problems and make realistic plans to deal with them. They state that if we accept the intelligence differences among groups, we can learn to minimize detrimental assumptions about any individual of a given group whose intelligence level may be anywhere under the bell curve.

The Biological Basis of Personality

Hans j. eysenck.

Date of Publication:  1967

This work is one of the 20th Century’s most widely cited and unique approaches to psychology. Eysenck uses this forum to create a descriptive and causal model of human personality that matches with the major concepts within the field of experimental psychology. He outlines the physiological and neurological mechanisms that form the biological basis of behavior patterns. In this work he proposes an agreement between personality and physiology which was seen as a major innovation in the field of psychology, setting his research apart from his contemporaries. Before this publication, Eysenck had constructed a model of personality in other works such as Dimensions of Personality and The Experimental Study of Personality, but these were more descriptive in nature. In this third phase of experiments he delves deeper into the biological causes that underlie the psychological concepts of emotion, excitation, and inhibition. He suggests that there are causal links between personality variables and neurological and physiological discoveries that help move this field forward.

The Branded Mind

Erik du plessis.

Du Plessis  covers  many topics, including the nature of feelings, moods, personality, measuring the brain, consumer behavior, decision-making, and market segmentation. He explains ways that individuals think, and more specifically how they think about brands. Brand choice decisions take place inside the consumer’s head, which some consider difficult to investigate. By using neuroscience  we can better appreciate consumer response to brands and how they make purchasing decisions. This book explores what psychologicalists have found about the structure of the brain and how different parts of the brain interact. Du Plessis anayzes the developments in neuroscience and neuromarketing and what these findings mean for brand managers.

The Compass of Pleasure

David j. linden.

The full title of this book,  The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good  , sums up the wide range of topics covered. Esteemed neuroscientist, professor, and writer, David Linder, integrates scientific evidence with humorous stories to illuminate how the range of human behaviors that give us that “high” feeling actually function. The Compass of Pleasure clarifies for the reader why substances like nicotine and heroin are addictive while most hallucinogens are not, how fast food chains ensure diners will eat more, and why some people cannot resist the temptation of a new sexual encounter. The book is simultaneously provocative and illuminating, with a thorough look at the desires that define us.

The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence

Date of Publication:  1936

Anna Freud is the youngest child of the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud. A pioneer in child analysis, she was the only of his children to pursue a career psychoanalysis. She began her career as a schoolteacher, later becoming a member of the Vienna Psycho-Analytical Society in 1922. She had a number of publications throughout her career, one of the most widely cited was  The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence . When the book was  published in 1936 it was immediately viewed as a significant contribution to the field of psychoanalytic psychology. The book has become a classic in the field.  Freud discusses adaptive measures that help keep painful and unwanted feelings at bay or made more bearable. Throughout her career she was regularly compared with her father, and this work, like many of her father’s, stands the test of time.

The Happiness Hypothesis

Jonathan haidt.

The award-winning psychologist assesses forms of philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science. The book highlights how a deeper understanding of enduring tenets, such as “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”, or “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” can enrich and even change our lives. Haidt is the Thomas Cooley Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University’s Stern School of Business. His research focuses on morality – its emotional foundations, cultural variations, and developmental course. He began his career studying the negative moral emotions, such as disgust, shame, and vengeance, but then moved on to the understudied positive moral emotions, such as admiration, awe, and moral elevation. He is the co-developer of Moral Foundations theory, and of the research site YourMorals.org.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty: How We Lie to Everyone (Especially Ourselves)

Dan Ariely is a behavioral economist and the New York Times bestselling author of  The Upside of Irrationality and Predictably Irrational  . In this work, he scrutinizes the opposing forces that drive us to cheat and keep us honest. In a witty manner, Ariely describes how cheating and dishonesty are unfortunate parts of our national news cycle, making them an unavoidable part of the human condition. He draws upon experiments and research, to reveal what motivates these irrational and deceitful behaviors.

The Interpretation of Dreams

Date of Publication:  1899

Freud, the “father of psycholanalysis,”  published  The Interpretation of Dreams  in 1899.  It remains a classic in the field.   It studies why humans dream and what it means in the larger picture of our psychological lives. The book delves into some of Freud’s time-tested theories of manifest and latent dream content, the special language of dreams, dreams as wish fulfillments, the significance of childhood experiences, and several others. This book remains a milestone in the psychology of dreams.

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us

Christopher chabris and daniel simons.

One of the most famous modern psychological experiments is known as the Invisible Gorilla. Participants are shown a video and asked to count how many times a basketball is passed. At the end of the video, many of the participants can accurately state how many passes where made but almost all failed to notice that during the video a gorilla walks into the middle of the passing circle. This book delves deeper into what this study set out to measure.  Chabris and Simons, use interesting stories and counterintuitive scientific findings to demonstrate one fundamental reality: Human minds do not work the way we think they do. Most of us believe that what we see is a factual reality. In actuality most of us are missing a great deal of what is around us. This book also uses the work of other researchers to address topics in attention, perception, memory, and reasoning to show how false perceptions can get us into trouble.

The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil

Philip zimbardo.

In this book social psychologist and mastermind behind the Stanford Prison Experiment,  Zimbardo investigates why good people to do bad things. He also looks into how moral people can be seduced into acting immorally and the implications regarding the line separating good and evil. Zimbardo explains how and why all humans are susceptible to the call of what he calls “the dark side.” He uses a number of historical examples as well as his own innovative research to detail how situational forces and group dynamics can influence good people to engage in bad acts. This book is one of the first detailed looks into the full story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, the famous study of college students placed in a mock prison environment. Throughout this work, Zimbardo helps the reader to better understand an array of troubling phenomena, from corporate malfeasance to large-scale genocide. He dispels the long-standing idea of “one bad apple spoiling the barrel” by introducing the notion that the social setting and the system soil the individual, rather than the other way around.

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales

Oliver sacks.

Date of Publication:  1998

The New York Times  calls Sacks  “one of the great clinical writers of the twentieth century.”  In this book, about neurological disorders, tells the stories of individuals living with bizarre perceptual and intellectual abnormalities including such troubles as: patients who have lost their memories and with them the greater part of their pasts; people who can no longer recognize people and common objects; those who are stricken with violent tics and grimaces or who shout involuntary obscenities; whose limbs have become alien; who have been dismissed as retarded yet are gifted with uncanny artistic or mathematical talents. This is an excellent read for both psychology professionals and lay people alike.

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success

Walter mischel.

In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, psychologist Walter Mischel, conducted a simple test to study delayed gratification in children. In this landmark study, a child is presented with a marshmallow and given a choice: Eat this one now, or wait and enjoy two later. The child is left alone to make this decision. The purpose of  the experiment was to study whether the ability to delay gratification is an important marker for success later in life.  The study found  that the children who chose to wait and receive two marshmallows had higher SAT scores, better social and cognitive functioning, a healthier lifestyle and a greater sense of self-worth. In  The Marshmallow Test , Mischel explains his theory that self-control can be learned and applied to personal challenges including weight control, quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement. This book puts forth insightful suggestions on how to efficiently make choices in parenting, education, public policy and self-care.

The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse

Elizabeth loftus and katherine ketcham.

Some research has suggested that when the human mind experiences a terrifying experience it has the capability to bury the memory so deeply within the unconscious that it can only be recalled through a flashback triggered by a sight, a smell, or a sound. From this research came an entire industry of therapists and lawyers, all with the common goal of treating and litigating the cases of individuals who suddenly claim to have “recovered” memories of everything from child abuse to murder. In  The Myth of Repressed Memory: False Memories and Allegations of Sexual Abuse  they argue that despite a mountain of research in this area, there is no controlled scientific support for the idea that memories of trauma are routinely hidden in the unconscious and reliably recovered at a later point. This book states that because “recovered memory” is not a legitimate psychological phenomenon, the movement that has developed is tantamount to a dangerous fad or modern day witch-hunt.

The Nature of Prejudice: 25th Anniversary Edition


Gordon W. Allport and Kenneth Clark

Date of Publication:  1954

The Nature of Prejudice  offers profound insights into the complexities of the human experience. Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport, a leader in the field, conducted a great deal of research to create a landmark study on the roots and nature of prejudice. This book remains the standard work on the subject of discrimination. The 25th anniversary publication includes an unabridged edition with an introduction by Kenneth Clark of Columbia University and a new preface by Thomas Pettigrew of Harvard University. This comprehensive book investigates various aspects of the long-standing problem of prejudice. Allport explores different kinds of prejudice, including racial, religious, ethnic, economic and sexual, offering suggestions for reducing the negative effects of discrimination. The added material by Clark and Pettigrew offers an update on the modern social-psychological research in prejudice and reaffirms the lasting value of Allport’s original theories and insights.

The Neurotic Personality of Our Time

Karen horney.

Date of Publication:  1937

In this pioneering work,  Horney explains the concept that she coined the “false self.” She states that people use this false self  to cover up their feelings of anxiety or insecurity. She uses the example that when people may not feel as smart as those around them, they may act as though they are superior and confident. She also posits that this leads people to become psychologically dishonest, and may eventually lose sight of who they truly are. It is through this loss of self that people may alienate themselves from opportunities for advancement that could  build their self-esteem. This book outlines the false self with a great deal of detail and helps the reader better understand the pitfalls of such modes of thinking.

The Optimism Bias

Tali sharot.

The Optimism Bias  is an interesting look into what many psychologists have been aware of for a long time – that most people hold an irrationally positive outlook on life.  Sharot is is an innovative neuroscientist who took this notion further to show how optimism may be crucial to our existence. In this book, she offers an in-depth look at topics such as:

  • How the brain generates hope and what happens when it fails
  • How the brains of optimists and pessimists differ
  • Why we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy
  • How emotions strengthen our ability to recollect
  • How anticipation and dread affect us
  • How our optimistic illusions affect our financial, professional, and emotional decisions

The work uses leading scientific methodologies coupled with an expansive narrative to offer the reader a new look at this topic.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less

Barry schwartz.

In  The Paradox of Choice ,  Schwartz explains the point at which the promise of individual freedom and self-determination becomes harmful to our psychological and emotional well-being. He shows how the dramatic expansion in available choices, ranging from the mundane to the profound challenges of balancing career, family, and individual needs, has become a problem instead of a solution. He also outlines how our fascination with choice forces us to seek more, inevitably making us feel worse. He proposes that we combine modern approaches in the social sciences to make the counter-intuitive case that minimizing choices can drastically reduce the stress and anxiety of modern life. The book suggests 11 practical steps to limit choices to a more manageable number, how to focus on the decisions that are most important and ignore the rest. By doing this we can have greater personal satisfaction from the choices we make.

The Person and the Situation

Lee ross and richard nisbett.

Authors Ross and Nisbett combine their expertise to investigate how the situations we find ourselves in can influence the way we behave and think. In this eloquent work, there is a blending of the central themes of social psychology and personality theory, covering central topics of social psychology. The authors cover cutting edge research on individual difference in social behavior and relate it to the day-to-day experiences we all encounter. This book addresses questions of personality psychology and social psychology, while focusing on questions that are considered to be outside the mainstream of social psychology.

The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice

Lawrence kohlberg.

Date of Publication:  1981

Kohlberg is best known for his theory outlining six stages of moral development. This moral stage system is based in psychological theory originally created by Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Kohlberg began delving into this topic while a graduate psychology student at the University of Chicago in the late 1950’s. Here, he asserts that moral reasoning, the basis for ethical behavior, has six developmental stages, each more advanced at responding to moral dilemmas than the last. Building upon Piaget’s theories, Kohlberg says that the process of moral development is largely intertwined with social justice, and that it continues throughout the lifespan. He identifies the six stages of moral development, which are grouped into three levels: pre-conventional morality, conventional morality, and post-conventional morality. He examines the theories of Socrates, Kant, Dewey, Piaget, and others to address Socrates’ question “what is a virtuous man, and what is a virtuous school and society which educates virtuous men.”

The Power of Habit

Charles m. duhigg.

Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg, wrote  the Power of Habit  in 2012 to open the dialogue on what habits lead to and sustain success. The book brings the reader to the edge of scientific discoveries that outline why habits exist and how negative habits can be changed. Readers are given a great deal of information, including interesting narratives from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement. Duhigg sets forth a new understanding of human nature and the underlying potential. The core of the book is that “the key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work”. This understanding, the author says enables readers  to use this science to transform businesses, our communities, and our lives.

The Psycho-Analysis Of Children

Melanie klein.

Date of Publication:  1923

Austrian psychoanalyst Melanie Klein achieved academic fame in the early 20th century for her work on psychoanalytic child psychology. Her ideas include a strong belief in the therapeutic effects of child play, which helped give rise to the field of play therapy.  The Psycho-Analysis of Children  is considered a classic in its field. Many feel that her work helped to revolutionize the field of child analysis. In this book she outlines how the processes used in traditional psychoanalysis  need to be adjusted for use with children. She outlines how to best apply psychoanalysis to the field of early childhood, and  treat children, while also offering new thoughts on the psychological development of childhood.

The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence

Philip g. zimbardo and michael r. leippe.

Date of Publication:  1991

The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence  is part of the McGraw-Hill Series on  Social Psychology. While it is written for students with experience in social psychology, readers of all levels who have an interest in social psychology can enjoy this work. It has also been read by a number of individuals who simply have an interest in this fascinating author and  creator of the controversial Stanford Prison Experiment. This work is a comprehensive text covering the relationships among social influence, attitude change and human behavior. Throughout the book there is use of current, real-life situations, which  helps students understand the principles of behavior and attitude change that foster critical thinking skills in the reader.

The Psychology Of The Child

Jean piaget and barbel inhelder.

Date of Publication:  1969

Piaget is included on the list of groundbreaking psychological theorists who helped the expand the field.  His influence on the field has been considerable, with pioneering investigations and theories of cognitive development. His works have helped move child psychology in new directions. Throughout his career he made bold speculations, many of which inspired of a new generation of  psychologists and researchers. His theories and findings have been the subject of a large number of books and articles. He is somewhat of a rarity in that his influence spread to many other disciplines. In this work, Piaget, writing  with long-time collaborator Bärbel Inhelder, presents developmental psychology according to how he viewed it throughout his forty plus year career. It is a comprehensive combination that looks at each stage of childhood cognitive development from infancy to adolescence.

The Red Book

The Red Book was a red leather‐bound folio manuscript penned by Swiss psychologist  Carl Gustav Jung between 1915 and the early 1930’s. The writings capture Jung’s imaginative experiences between 1913 and 1916. It has long been cited as the most important and central work of his career, though it wasn’t published  until 2009. In  in cooperation with Jung’s estate and 13 years of painstaking editorial work by Sonu Shamdasani, The book was published by W. W. Norton, complete with an English translation, a comprehensive introduction written by Shamdasani, three appendices, and over 1500 editorial notes. Editions and translations in several other languages soon followed. In 2012, Norton released a “Reader’s Edition” of the work, which was a smaller format including the complete translated text along with the introduction and notes by Shamdasani, without the facsimile reproduction of Jung’s original calligraphic manuscript.

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us

James w. pennebaker.

S ocial psychologist and language expert James W. Pennebaker  uses state-of-the-art research in computational linguistics to count the frequency of words we use  to reveal secrets our  language shows about our feelings, self-concepts, and social intelligence. The most forgettable words are pronouns and prepositions, and this research shows that they can be the most revealing, with patterns that are as distinctive as fingerprints. Pennebaker uses groundbreaking analytic techniques to analyze historical documents and modern social media posts to uncover these hidden gems of human language. The reader will also learn interesting tidbits, including what Lady Gaga and William Butler Yeats have in common.

The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking

Matthew hutson.

The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking  offers the reader an entertaining look at the psychology behind superstition and religion (magical thinking), including how they make us human and how we can use them to our benefit. Using cognitive science, anthropology, and neuroscience, Hutson shows that magical thinking is not only hardwired into our brains, but it has been a factor in the evolutionary success of humankind. Magical thinking serves us in that is helps us to think that we have free will and an underlying purpose, all while protecting us from the reality of our own mortality. Using amusing stories, personal contemplations, and keen observations, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking shows us how a seemingly irrational process improves the lives of the people who use them.

The Social Animal

David brooks.

New York Times journalist David Brooks provides a  look at what drives individual behavior and decision-making. Brooks examines a number of academic topics such as sociology, psychology, and biology as well as other theories, such as brain development in early life. Throughout the book, Brooks continually refers to two fictional characters ‘Harold’ and ‘Erica’, used to exemplify how emotional personality changes throughout the course of development. The book debuted at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list. It reached the #3 spot on the Publishers Weekly best-sellers list for non-fiction.

The Varieties Of Religious Experience: A Study In Human Nature

William james.

Date of Publication: 1902

William James was an American philosopher and psychologist who also trained as a physician. He was the  first educator in the United States to offer a psychology course. He is considered by many to be one of the most influential philosophers and is often called “Father of American psychology”. In his work  The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature  he collected 20 lectures given at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland into one masterpiece. These lectures covered the nature of religion and the neglect of science in the framework of the academic study of religion. He  approaches religion as something experienced in everyday life. This book is considered one of the most important texts on psychology ever written. The work remains a classic in the field more than a century after it was published.

Thinking, Fast and Slow

Daniel kahneman.

Daniel Kahneman, a  psychologist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics,  takes the reader on an innovative tour of the human mind, along the way explaining the two systems that drive the way all human beings think. The first system is fast, intuitive, and emotional; while the second system is slower, more deliberative, and more logical. The author outlines such topics as the “impact of overconfidence on corporate strategies, the difficulties of predicting what will make us happy in the future, the profound effect of cognitive biases on everything from playing the stock market to planning our next vacation”. He engages  the reader in a lively internal conversation about how humans think, revealing where we can and cannot trust our intuitions and how we can tap into the benefits of slow thinking. The book offers practical insights into how decisions are made in our business and our personal lives. This book won the National Academy of Sciences Best Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and was selected by The New York Times Book Review as one of the 10 best books of 2011.

Time Warped: Unlocking the Mysteries of Time Perception

Claudia hammond.

Claudia Hammond’s book on time perception and our internal clock employs the latest research from the fields of psychology, neuroscience, and biology, to explore the mysteries of our perception of time. The book addresses a number of questions such as why does life seem to speed up as we get older? Why does the clock in your head move at a different speed from the one on the wall? Why is it almost impossible to go a whole day without checking your watch? Is it possible to retrain our brains and improve our relationship with time? This book offers insighst into how we can manage our time more effectively, how to speed time up and slow it down at will, how to plan for the future with more accuracy, and how to use the warping of time to our own benefit.

Understanding Human Nature

Alfred adler.

Understanding Human Nature  is considered by many to be the consummate handbook of Individual psychology, offering a thorough introduction to Adler’s key concepts.  Adler was a peer of Sigmund Freud, but over time broke from Freud’s circle.   He made his own path studying elements such as inferiority/ superiority complexes; memories and dreams; love, marriage and children; and sexuality and sexual problems. Throughout the book he offers a concrete description of how childhood affects adult life, which can benefit society at large. He disagreed with Freud’s cultural elitism, and believed that understanding the needs of patients should not be left entirely to the psychologist alone, but should be a process entered into by the practitioner and the patient. His holistic personality-based approach to psychology is still relevant in modern psychology to students, the general public and professionals.

Understanding Psychology

Robert feldman.

In the 12th edition of this widely used introductory psychology textbook, Feldman weaves together the many historical details that underlie the modern field of psychology.  Understanding Psychology  is designed to teach students in a way that fits their academic style. The highly customized program uses a revolutionary revision process that creates a fully integrated learning system including the “Students First” goal. This adaptive learning program, SmartBook, offers students a customized academic experience that suits their individual needs. This edition uses “HeatMap” technology to outline the revisions that have been made based upon previous editions. Feldman used previous data to see where students struggled most, and  identified these as “hot spots” that needed to be refined and updated. This has made the already successful text even more clear, concise, and impactful. This textbook is based in Feldman’s accessible instruction and important research, as well as the “modules-within-chapters” format that is manageable for students and gives instructors the ability to assign and cover the topics they choose.

What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do The Opposite

David disalvo.

This book looks at questions such as why do we routinely choose options that don’t meet our short-term needs and undermine our long-term goals? Why do we willingly expose ourselves to temptations that undercut our hard-fought progress to overcome addictions? Why are we prone to assigning meaning to statistically common coincidences? It studies a fascinating paradox: what your brain wants is frequently not what your brain needs. DiSalvo has pointed out is that much of what makes our brains “happy” leads to errors, biases, and distortions, which can make happiness difficult to obtain. The book investigates evolutionary and social psychology, cognitive science, neurology, and even marketing and economics. It includes interviews with many of the today’s top thinkers in psychology and neuroscience. The book shares insights that can be used to identify our brains’ falsehoods and help us turn that into happiness.

Wrightsman’s Psychology and the Legal System

Edith greene and kirk heilbrun.

Wrightsman’s Psychology and the Legal System  is the preeminent psychology textbook in the field of forensic psychology. The bestseller shows the fundamental value of psychological concepts and methodologies in the functioning of many aspects of the modern legal system. The book features topics such as competence to stand trial, the insanity defense, expert forensic testimony, analysis of eyewitness identification, criminal profiling, and many others. It provides a comprehensive overview of psychology’s contributions to the legal system, and the many roles available to trained psychologists within the system.

Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive

Noah j. goldstein, steve j. martin and robert b. cialdini.

Date of Publication:

Robert Cialdini is among the most quoted experts on the field of influence.  Yes!  outlines a number of surprising findings inside the world of persuasion in short, insightful chapters that can be applied to become a more effective persuader. This New York Times bestselling introduces 50 scientifically proven methods to increase anyone’s persuasive powers in both business and life. The book shows small changes that can make a big difference in the powers of persuasion. While many have criticized the book for offering limited scientific evidence, this is an excellent jumping off point for many professionals.

You Are Not So Smart

David mcraney.

The full title of this stimulating work is  You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.  McRaney explains to the reader in vivid detail why when making decisions about even the most mundane things, people think they deciding rationally, with a decision based on level-headed, detached logic. The author goes on to explain that in reality the truth is: “You are not so smart. You’re just as deluded as the rest of us—but that’s okay, because being deluded is part of being human.” This book evolved from McRaney’s popular blog, You Are Not So Smart, which closely looks at the decisions we make, the things we contemplate, and the emotions we feel, all in the context of the story we tell ourselves to explain them. Often these stories simply are not true. The book combines popular science and psychology with humor and wit, in an amusing evaluation of our irrational human behavior.

Best Psychology Books of All Time

This list includes the top books in the field of psychology. While a number of these appear little more than introductory textbooks in the field, these are books that can open student’s eyes to the exciting field of psychology. Psychology professionals and students as well as avid readers of all kinds have enjoyed a number of books included on this list. The top rated psychology books can be enjoyed by all kids of readers.

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College-Level Examination Program Good Reads

About the Author

After earning a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Rutgers University and then a Master of Science in Clinical and Forensic Psychology from Drexel University, Kristen Fescoe began a career as a therapist at two prisons in Philadelphia. At the same time she volunteered as a rape crisis counselor, also in Philadelphia. After a few years in the field she accepted a teaching position at a local college where she currently teaches online psychology courses. Kristen began writing in college and still enjoys her work as a writer, editor, professor and mother.

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  • The 34 Best Psychology Books That Will Make You Smarter and Happier

Best Psychology Books

Psychology is a broad and diverse field that concentrates on studying how people, including you, behave and think. It covers emotions, personality, and so much more.

When you understand psychology, you will understand yourself and the people around you.

You’ll also make better decisions, handle tough situations more easily, and get closer to reaching your full potential much faster than you could have ever imagined.

This fascinating science will even help you understand why you and those you’re closest to act the way you do and how you can change for the better.

Our over 1,000 summaries here at Four Minute Books include hundreds about psychology. We’ve hand-picked our top 34 favorite ones for this list so that you can learn from them and understand yourself better so you can take advantage of the power of your own mind.

If you want to discover new levels of productivity, mental toughness, happiness, and so much more, these books are just what you’ve been looking for.

Table of Contents

1. Thinking Fast And Slow by Daniel Kahneman

2. drive by daniel pink, 3. predictably irrational by dan ariely, 4. everything is f*cked by mark manson, 5. the wisdom of insecurity by alan watts, 6. do what you are by paul tieger, barbara barron, & kelly tieger, 7. the happiness hypothesis by jonathan haidt, 8. influence by robert cialdini, 9. the psychology of selling by brian tracy, 10. the tipping point by malcolm gladwell, 11. emotional intelligence by daniel goleman, 12. descartes’ error by antonio r. damasio, 13. men are from mars, women are from venus by john gray, 14. attached by dr. amir levine, 15. personality isn’t permanent by benjamin hardy, 16. the personality brokers by merve emre, 17. the road back to you by ian morgan cron, 18. my age of anxiety by scott stossel, 19. lost connections by johann hari, 20. reasons to stay alive by matt haig, 21. a first rate madness by s. nassir ghaemi, 22. social by matthew d. lieberman, 23. the social animal by david brooks, 24. words can change your brain by andrew b. newberg, 25. the secret life of pronouns by james w. pennebaker, 26. stumbling on happiness by dan gilbert, 27. flourish by martin seligman, 28. blink by malcolm gladwell, 29. the paradox of choice by barry schwartz, 30. mistakes were made, but not by me by carol tavris, 31. the honest truth about dishonesty by dan ariely, 32. switch by chip & dan heath, 33. the antidote by oliver burkeman, 34. the upside of your dark side by todd kashdan, other book lists by topic, other book lists by author, best books on psychology overall, favorite quote.

”Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it.” — Daniel Kahneman

The Book in One Sentence

Thinking Fast And Slow shows you how two systems in your brain are constantly fighting over control of your behavior and actions, and teaches you the many ways in which this leads to errors in memory, judgment and decisions, and what you can do about it.

Why should you read it?

Our minds are driven by two systems that influence the way we think. One system is fast and works on the emotional side, while the other one is a tad slower and makes more use of logic. These two systems work together to shape the way we think and to influence our decisions and Kahneman wants to reveal in this book how to cope with our brain.

Key Takeaways

  • Your behavior is determined by 2 systems in your mind – one conscious and the other automatic.
  • Your brain is lazy and thus keeps you from using the full power of your intelligence.
  • When you’re making decisions about money, leave your emotions at home.

If you want to learn more, you can read our free four-minute summary or get a copy for yourself.

“Control leads to compliance; autonomy leads to engagement.” — Daniel Pink

Drive explores what has motivated humans throughout history and explains how we shifted from mere survival to the carrot and stick approach that’s still practiced today – and why it’s outdated.

There are many ways out there to make use of when motivating ourselves, but some of them might just be wrong. Daniel Pink has put together this persuasive book to help us figure out how to be high performers in any field of our lives, by making use of the need to direct our lives. This book will help you change your perspectives on motivation.

  • The carrot and stick approach is dead.
  • Extrinsic motivation destroys intrinsic motivation.
  • Strive for the flow state in everything you do.
“The danger of expecting nothing is that, in the end, it might be all we’ll get.” — Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational explains the hidden forces that really drive how we make decisions, which are far less rational than we think, but can help us stay on top of our finances, interact better with others and live happier lives, once we know about them.

We make decisions daily and sometimes, we might not even think about the mechanism behind them. Humans are considered rational beings, but certain behaviours might end up making them… irrational, but in a predictable way, according to Ariely. This book will help you better understand your patterns of thought and who knows, maybe even break them.

  • We compare whatever we can, so give others easy comparisons to pick you.
  • Free is really just another price, but a powerful one.
  • You overvalue what you own.
“Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness and depression. It is the source of all misery and the cause of all addiction.” — Mark Manson

Everything Is F*cked explains what’s wrong with our approach towards happiness and gives philosophical suggestions that help us make our lives worth living.

Even though we seem to have everything nowadays, from freedom to amazing technological discoveries, more and more people seem to drown in a feeling of hopelessness. A book concentrating on everything that is surrounding us, by putting things into perspective in a sharp, yet humorous way, it will make you consider things that you probably never even thought about before.

  • Pure logic won’t help you make the best decisions, a balanced brain will.
  • Hope won’t solve your problems, it takes acceptance and principles to do that.
  • The solution to mental illnesses is not chasing happiness, it is to attain true freedom from our addictions and dependencies.
“Tomorrow and plans for tomorrow can have no significance at all unless you are in full contact with the reality of the present, since it is in the present and only in the present that you live.” — Alan Watts

The Wisdom of Insecurity is a self-help classic that breaks down our psychological need for stability and explains how it’s led us right into consumerism, why that won’t solve our problem and how we can really calm our anxiety.

You would think that this age offers enough stability to human beings, but it sometimes seems to be exactly the opposite: we live in an age where things seem rather unstable and vulnerable. Alan Watts has put together this book where we put into perspective the idea that as much as we want to reach a perfect level of psychological security, many things make us go towards psychological insecurity.

  • Without religion to tell us it’ll be okay, life can become very uncertain, and that’s terrifying.
  • The happiness consumerism promises us is really just emptiness in a pretty wrapper.
  • Pleasure and pain always come in one package, and embracing that will make you less anxious.

Best Books on Psychology For Beginners

“The right job enhances your life. It is personally fulfilling because it nourishes the most important aspects of your personality..” — Paul Tieger, Barbara Barron, & Kelly Tieger

Do What You Are will help you discover your personality type and how it can lead you to a more satisfying career that corresponds to your talents and interests..

Your perfect career is a… personality type away. This book will help you figure out what exactly it is that you are good at – by figuring out what your personality type is and which occupation is the best one for you, according to your result. By using different exercises and examples, this book will help you determine what path you need to follow to be satisfied with your life and career.

  • Notice the ways you connect with the world to identify your personality type.
  • Discover your optimal career path by considering your identity and what interests you.
  • No matter how old you are you can always change your occupation to something more satisfying.
“Love and work are to people what water and sunshine are to plants.” — Jonathan Haidt

The Happiness Hypothesis is the most thorough analysis of how you can find happiness in our modern society, backed by plenty of scientific research, real-life examples and even a formula for happiness.

If you want to understand happiness, but you are not sure where to start, this could represent a good starting point. There are many sayings out there regarding happiness that we might have used naturally, but are they still available today? Haidt’s book is provocative and puts under analysis the way traditional wisdom interacts with the modern world.

  • Surround yourself with the people you love the most and live in accordance with reciprocity.
  • Do work that matters to you.
  • Find a partner who will stand by your side through sunshine and rain and allow yourself to be part of something greater.
“Our best evidence of what people truly feel and believe comes less from their words than from their deeds.” — Robert Cialdini

Influence has been the go-to book for marketers since its release in 1984, which delivers six key principles behind human influence and explains them with countless practical examples.

Why do you, and other people, say ‘yes’? Is it because someone is persuading you or is there another reason? Robert Cialdini explains in this book six principles that will help us not only become better persuaders but also understand the psychology behind this act. These principles will also help you figure out what you need in order to achieve success.

  • You can use the reciprocity bias to build up a massive good karma account.
  • The scarcity bias works, because we hate to miss opportunities.
  • Make a small commitment to trigger your consistency bias and reach your goal.

Best Psychology Books For Sales and Marketing

“Help yourself warm up and prepare mentally by repeating, ‘I feel happy! I feel healthy! I feel terrific!’ It is not possible for you to talk positively to yourself, using words like this, without immediately feeling happier and more confident.” ― Brian Tracy

The Psychology Of Selling motivates you to work on your self-image and how you relate to customers so that you can close more deals.

How do you sell more? If this is a question that you still haven’t found an answer to, this book might be of good help, as it will provide you with enough ideas, strategies, and techniques to make you sell faster and more, all in a more efficient way.

  • Utilize the power of your subconscious to become more successful.
  • You will get more motivation and passion if you learn from the right people.
  • Questions are the holy grail of unearthing customers’ needs and they will help you make more sales.
“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” — Malcolm Gladwell

The Tipping Point explains how ideas spread like epidemics and which few elements need to come together to help an idea reach the point of critical mass, where its viral effect becomes unstoppable.

It takes a tipping point to start something big, something that is rapidly adopted by people. Something that is an idea or a trend that spreads to the masses. And Malcolm Gladwell explains this idea in this bestseller, by analyzing diverse ideas and trends, to figure out what makes them so interesting, that people just seem to dive into them instantly.

  • Once an idea reaches the tipping point, it spreads like fire.
  • Three kinds of people are responsible for getting ideas to tip.
  • Without stickiness, no idea will ever tip.

Best Psychology Books About Emotions

“In a very real sense we have two minds, one that thinks and one that feels.” — Daniel Goleman

Emotional Intelligence explains the importance of emotions in your life, how they help and hurt your ability to navigate the world, followed by practical advice on how to improve your own emotional intelligence and why that is the key to leading a successful life.

Does having a high IQ give you a guarantee that you are going to be successful? According to Daniel Goleman, it takes a bit more to get to the highest point of success, by looking at how the two sides of our brain work together – the rational and the emotional. This book shows us how emotional intelligence determines various aspects of our lives and how it is also a way of being smart.

  • Emotional intelligence rests on self-awareness and self-regulation.
  • A high EQ makes you healthier and more successful.
  • You can boost your EQ by mirroring other people’s body language and thinking optimistically.
“Willpower is just another name for the idea of choosing long-term outcomes rather than short-term ones.” — Antonio R. Damasio

Descartes’ Error will help you understand why the argument that the mind and body are disconnected is false by using neuroscience and interesting case studies to identify how the body and our emotions play a vital role in logical thinking.

“I think therefore I am” can be easily considered one of Descartes’ most famous proclamations. But since its appearance, it has made science concentrate more on the cognitive side of things, rather than the emotional one. Antonio R. Damasio has written a provocative book that makes use of case studies, to demonstrate that we need emotions not only for being rational but also for our behavior.

  • Brain damage, like what Phineas Gage experienced when a rod went through his head, gives us clues about how the mind really works with the body.
  • Emotions are vital to our mind’s ability to function properly and think logically.
  • Your brain uses feelings from past experiences to construct somatic markers which help it make decisions faster.

Best Psychology Books About Love and Relationships

“When men and women are able to respect and accept their differences, then love has a chance to blossom.” — John Gray

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus helps you improve your relationships by identifying the key differences between men and women.

Men and women have different ways to communicate, even though they are both human beings. This book is based on years of successful counselling and can help you figure out how to communicate with the man or woman sitting beside you, without turning everything into a conflict. Is it all just about accepting each other’s differences? Let’s find out!

  • Women want men to listen to them while men desire solutions to problems.
  • Men are motivated when they feel useful, women are inspired when they feel loved.
  • Women and men communicate differently and assign separate meanings to the same words.
“Most people are only as needy as their unmet needs.” —Dr. Amir Levine

Attached delivers a scientific explanation why some relationships thrive and steer a clear path over a lifetime, while others crash and burn, based on the human need for attachment and the three different styles of it.

What would you say is your attachment style, based on how you feel towards your partner? This book helps us understand our attachment style, giving us a little bit of insight into the science behind love. Understanding your behavior in relation to the other will help you build a stronger and more satisfactory bond with your significant other.

  • Everyone needs attachment, it’s a prerequisite for a happy and healthy life.
  • There are 3 different attachment styles, which one are you?
  • Effective communication is the best way to guarantee your happiness in any relationship.

Best Psychology Books About Personality

“The only thing ‘special’ about those who transform themselves and their lives is their view of their own future. The refuse to be defined by the past. They see something different and more meaningful and they never stop fueling that vision.” — Benjamin Hardy

Personality Isn’t Permanent will shatter your long-held beliefs that you’re stuck as yourself, flaws and all, by identifying why the person you are is changeable and giving you specific and actionable steps to change.

Do people change their attitudes and behaviors throughout their lives or do they constantly stay the same? According to psychologist Benjamin Hardy, the idea that people never change is rather wrong and it keeps us away from being who we need to be. Offering practical advice and basing everything on science, this book will certainly catch your attention.

  • There are five destructive myths about personality that lead to mediocrity and support the fixed mindset that holds you back.
  • Your goals determine your personality and are the tool you need to change your identity.
  • No matter who you’ve been in the past or who you are now, you can upgrade how you see yourself and transform your future.
“To investigate the history of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, the most popular personality inventory in the world, is to court a kind of low-level paranoia. Files disappear. Tapes are erased. People begin to watch you.” — Merve Emre

The Personality Brokers uncovers the true, yet un-scientific origins of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator personality test.

There is a test out there that is used almost everywhere when it comes to determining someone’s personality – and that is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. This book concentrates on figuring out how a personality indicator became such a huge success, while also trying to put into perspective all the things that could influence us to be ourselves.

  • Katherine Briggs-Myers and her daughter Isabel Myers based their personality test on the questionable principles of Carl Jung.
  • Briggs created her first personality test at a time when Americans were ready to receive it, thus beginning the era of self-help writing.
  • Although scientifically unsound, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator does have it’s benefits and uses.

The Road Back to You Book Cover

“The Enneagram doesn’t put you in a box. It shows you the box you’re already in and how to get out of it.” — Ian Morgan Cron

The Road Back To You will teach you more about what kind of person you are by identifying the pros and cons of each personality type within the Enneagram test.

Human beings are all wired differently, but at the same, they all have positive and negative traits. This book concentrates on the Enneagram, which is an ancient personality typing system and can help you learn more about yourself. Filled with stories, this book will help you figure out how to get to a deeper knowledge of who we are as people, by diving into the spiritual side of things.

  • There are nine personality types in the Enneagram.
  • You might feel that your personal traits fall into multiple types, and that’s why the test has what are known as wing numbers to give you additional clarity.
  • Each number in the test has corresponding stress and security numbers to help you better understand how you react in different circumstances.

Best Psychology Books About Anxiety and Depression

My Age of Anxiety Book Cover (Best Books on Psychology About Anxiety And Depression)

“It is a fact – I say this from experience – that being severly anxious is depressing. Anxiety can impede your relationships, impair your performance, constrict your life, and limit your possibilities.” — Scott Stossel

My Age Of Anxiety is your guide to understanding an aspect of mental illness that most of us don’t realize is so severe, showing it’s biological and environmental origins and ways to treat it.

When would you say that you heard the term ‘anxiety’ for the first time? You might get to the conclusion that thirty-something years ago, this was not considered a diagnostic, while nowadays, it has become one of the most common mental illness diagnostics. Stossel gives us a bit of insight into how anxiety affects people and how to control it at the same time.

  • This disease can make life difficult and embarrassing.
  • Anxiety comes from evolution but is also a result of our experiences in childhood.
  • To treat this form of mental illness, you can use drugs and therapy.

Lost Connections Book Cover

“The more you think life is about having stuff and superiority and showing it off, the more unhappy, and the more depressed and anxious, you will be.” — Johann Hari

Lost Connections explains why depression affects so many people and that improving our relationships, not taking medication, is the way to beat our mental health problems.

One of today’s most common mental illnesses is depression. Even though there are many people out there suffering from depression, it is still rather unclear what causes it: is it a chemical imbalance or is it the way we live today? Lost Connections shares different stories, from different groups to help us have a better understanding of how depression works and how we can fight against it.

  • Depression is not the result of a chemical imbalance.
  • There are nine main causes of depression, and they all have to do with difficult life circumstances.
  • Social prescriptions help people feel valued and connected while medication does not.

Reasons to Stay Alive Book Cover

“The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t very good for the economy. If we were happy with what we had, why would we need more?” — Matt Haig

Reasons To Stay Alive shows you the dangers and difficulties surrounding mental illness, uncovers the stigma around it, and identifies how to recover from it by sharing the story of Matt Haig’s recovery after an awful panic attack and subsequent battle with depression and anxiety.

There is always a light at the end of the tunnel – or at least, this is one of the most important things that people have to understand. Living with depression is not an easy thing to do, whether it is you that is affected or someone close to you – and Matt Haig knows that, as he also suffers from depression. He has written this frank, yet encouraging book that reminds us that the little things do count and that life should be lived, for the better or the worse.

  • If you’re depressed, reading books to get out of your own head can help.
  • There are some benefits to mental illness, which even some of the world’s greatest leaders experienced.
  • Recovery won’t be as straightforward as you think, but it is possible.

A First Rate Madness Book Cover

“In times of crisis, we are better off being led by mentally ill leaders than by mentally normal ones.” — Cal Newport

A First-Rate Madness shares the stories of many world leaders and explains how they prevailed despite their mental illnesses and struggles, showing you how to turn your psychological disadvantages into leadership strengths.

The world has had many notable leaders up to this point – but what do they all have in common when there is a critical moment unfolding? Analyzing leaders such as Gandhi, Churchill, or JFK – and not only – Ghaemi has figured out that what is seen as a mood disorder can be a very important quality for a leader. Are you curious to find out more regarding this subject?

  • Depression and bipolar disorder have benefits that may be helpful in leadership positions.
  • Historical leaders like Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, and JFK had disorders that helped them make better decisions..
  • Knowing the upside of mental illness can help us remove the stigma around it.

Best Psychology Books About Society

“It’s hard to find meaning in what we do if at some level it doesn’t help someone else or make someone happier.” Matthew D. Lieberman

Social explains how our innate drive to build social connections is the primary driver behind our behavior and explores ways we can use this knowledge to our advantage.

Human beings are social creatures, and that is a well-known fact. But what is a less known fact is to what extent we can be considered “social”. According to Matthew Lieberman, the need for humans to connect seems to be even more fundamental than the need we have for shelter or food. If you want to find out more about our need to be social and connect with other people, this book could be the best for you.

  • We were programmed to connect socially, which is why social pain hurts so much.
  • The ability to understand the feelings and thoughts of others helps us succeed in life.
  • Kindness, not money, will buy you happiness and health.
“People who succeed tend to find one goal in the distant future and then chase it through thick and thin. School asks students to be good at a range of subjects, but life asks people to find one passion that they will follow forever.” — David Brooks

The Social Animal weaves social science research into the story of a fictional couple to shed light on the decision-making power of our unconscious minds.

What would you say about a blend of fiction and non-fiction? Because that is exactly what David Brooks is doing in this book: he creates a couple that lives their lives to the fullest. By making use of diverse scientific references, Brooks analyses the traits of both characters and puts into perspective the elements that made them who they are and what drove them towards it.

  • Learning is not linear, it is a process of forward, backward, and side steps.
  • Changing your environment is more effective than willpower when cultivating new habits and behaviors.
  • Humans follow seven unconscious structures, so-called if/then rules, when framing a decision.

Best Psychology Books About Language

Words Can Change Your Brain Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Language)

“Choose your words wisely, because they will influence your happiness, your relationships, and your personal wealth.” — Andrew B. Newberg

Words Can Change Your Brain is the ultimate guide to becoming an expert communicator, teaching you how to use psychology to your advantage to express yourself better, listen more, and create an environment of trust with anyone you speak with.

People spend a lot of time with other people, daily. But that does not necessarily make them the best communicators, as there is always something more to learn about how we can get our points across. This book will help you improve your communication skills, in order to be happy and successful, no matter which environment you have to use them.

  • If you want to connect with others better when talking, make sure that your mind is relaxed, present, and quiet.
  • Utilize the power of happy memories to get your smile just right.
  • You must listen well, speak slower, and even say less to understand others better and have them understand you.

The Secret Life of Pronouns Book Cover

“If you want to find your true love, compare the ways you use function words with that of your prospective partners..” — James W. Pennebaker

The Secret Life of Pronouns is a collection of research and case studies explaining what our use of pronouns, articles, and other style words can reveal about ourselves.

The way we talk gives a bit of insight into who we are and how we think. Or at least, that’s what Pennebaker has found out in his research – the words we use have a deeper meaning and can carry enough meaning to let us dive into the feelings we have and not only. If you are curious to figure out how the words we use are related to our ways of thinking, The Secret Life of Pronouns could help you out.

  • The manner in which you use style words reveals a lot about your social skills.
  • Your choice of pronouns reflects your upbringing and ways of thinking.
  • Examining function words can tell whether people are compatible with one another.

Best Psychology Books About Happiness

Stumbling on Happiness Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Happiness)

“The secret of happiness is variety, but the secret of variety, like the secret of all spices, is knowing when to use it.” — Dan Gilbert

Stumbling On Happiness examines the capacity of our brains to fill in gaps and simulate experiences, shows how our lack of awareness of these powers sometimes leads us to wrong decisions, and how we can change our behavior to synthesize our own happiness.

We imagine a lot of things daily, but we mostly imagine the future – creating scenarios, mostly. Using the latest discoveries in psychology, economics, and cognitive neuroscience, Daniel Gilbert provides us not only with a brilliant but also accessible book that will put into perspective the fact that we tend to know very little about us and the people surrounding us.

  • Your brain is really bad at filling in the blanks, but it keeps on trying.
  • You should always compare products based on value, never on past price.
  • Bad experiences are better than no experiences.

Flourish Book Cover

“I’m trying to broaden the scope of positive psychology well beyond the smiley face. Happiness is just one-fifth of what human beings choose to do.” — Martin Seligman

Flourish establishes a new model for well-being, rooted in positive psychology, building on five key pillars to help you create a happy life through the power of simple exercises.

How can you flourish? Well, the answers you are looking for might be right in the pages of this book, written by Martin Seligman, a founding father of what is called “the happiness research”. Concentrating on positive psychology, this book will help you realise that psychology is more than helping people with their suffering – it is a tool to help you build your life for the better.

  • Seligman’s PERMA model for happiness is the key to a life of profound fulfillment.
  • Simple positivity exercises can have life-changing effects, like these two.
  • IQ isn’t everything – success is based on character traits, not just intelligence.

Best Psychology Books About Decision-Making

Blink Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Decision-Making)

Blink explains what happens when you listen to your gut feeling, why these snap judgments are often much more efficient than conscious deliberating, and how to avoid your intuition leading you to wrong assumptions.

What is behind every decision that we make? Why do some people choose something in the blink of an eye, while others spend a lot of time figuring out what to choose? Blink helps us understand the mechanism behind decision-making and the decisions themselves. If you want to have a better understanding of your mind and mechanisms, Malcolm Gladwell’s book will help you out.

  • Your unconscious is the world’s fastest filter of information.
  • Stress can lead your gut astray.
  • Put up screens in situations where you can’t trust your intuition.

The Paradox of Choice Book Cover

“The secret to happiness is low expectations.” – Barry Schwartz

The Paradox Of Choice shows you how today’s vast amount of choice makes you frustrated, less likely to choose, more likely to mess up, and less happy overall, before giving you concrete strategies and tips to ease the burden of decision-making.

We live in a world where choice is no longer a problem: at least from the perspective of quantity. And that is where it gets tricky: this abundance of choice can make us feel overwhelmed and can even lead to anxiety. So, how do we end up making the right choices? Barry Schwartz offers us practical advice that not only will help us make the right choice, but also be happy about the choices we made.

  • The more options you have, the harder it gets to decide, and to decide well.
  • The more options you have, the less happy you will be, no matter what you decide on.
  • Good enough is the best – become a satisficer.

Best Psychology Books About Human Behavior and Cognitive Biases

“History is written by the victors, but it’s victims who write the memoirs.” — Carol Tavris

Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me takes you on a journey of famous examples and areas of life where mistakes are hushed up instead of admitted, showing you along the way how this hinders progress, why we do it in the first place, and what you can do to start honestly admitting your own.

Ever since we are young, the one thing we do is hide. Of course, it’s not just about the hide and seek game, but the hiding of mistakes. Even as adults, we hate admitting that we have made a mistake. But the question is why do we act like this? This book will take you through the mechanisms in our brains that make us not admit our mistakes and provides enough advice to help you man up and admit your mistakes.

  • You make up self-justifications to deal with the cognitive dissonance your mistakes create.
  • Confirmation bias can lead you to change your entire morals.
  • Stop thinking you’re stupid for making mistakes.

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty Book Cover

“The more cashless our society becomes, the more our moral compass slips.” — Dan Ariely

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty reveals our motivation behind cheating, why it’s not entirely rational, and, based on many experiments, what we can do to lessen the conflict between wanting to get ahead and being good people.

Are people 100% honest or do they all have at least a bit of a tendency to cheat? Dishonesty is this book’s main concern and according to bestselling author Dan Ariely, there is some motivation behind cheating and it is sometimes not rational. Fascinated by how human beings make decisions, Ariely has once again looked into how irrationality might influence what we do, even in terms of cheating.

  • You don’t decide to cheat based on rational thinking.
  • You’re more likely to cheat when there’s a psychological distance between you and cheating.
  • Don’t wear fake designer clothes. Ever.

Switch Book Cover

“Knowledge does not change behavior. We have all encountered crazy shrinks and obese doctors and divorced marriage counselors.” — Chip & Dan Heath

Switch is about how you can lead and encourage changes of human behavior, both in yourself and in your organization, by focusing on the three forces that influence it: the rider, the elephant and the path.

Change might not be the easiest thing to do. Sometimes we cannot do it, because it’s not something depending on us, while other times we refuse to do it because we are scared of the outcome. Chip and Dan Heath have written this book that addresses exactly that challenge: the one of changing, and they want to help us understand what we can do when change is hard, in an entertaining and engaging way.

  • Focus on one specific, critical aspect of the change, so the rider doesn’t have to decide.
  • Get the elephant moving with a powerful emotion.
  • Make the path of change easy to follow, because human behavior is highly situational.

Best Psychology Books About Negative Thinking

The Antidote Book Cover (Best Psychology Books About Negative Thinking)

“The effort to feel happy is often precisely the thing that makes us miserable. Constant efforts to eliminate the negative, that is what causes us to feel so insecure, anxious, uncertain or unhappy.” — Oliver Burkeman

The Antidote will explain everything that’s wrong with positivity-based self-help advice and what you should do instead to feel, live, and be happier.

How happy would you say you are right now? How happy would you be if it started raining or snowing? These two questions are just two examples from a long line of questions regarding happiness – we are all looking for it, but it seems to be quite a hard thing to achieve. And according to Oliver Burkeman, positive thinking might not always be the answer. Are you ready to try some of the unconventional methods this book proposes?

  • Thinking explicitly about happiness and pursuing it directly are actually counterproductive.
  • Imagining the worst-case scenario makes you resilient, not depressed.
  • Setting goals is just as likely to lead us into misery as it is to bring happiness.

The Upside of Your Dark Side Book Cover

“When we are open to new possibilities, we find them. Be open and skeptical of everything.” — Todd Kashdan

The Upside Of Your Dark Side takes a look at our darkest emotions, like anxiety or anger, and shows you there are real benefits that follow them and their underlying character traits, such as narcissism or psychopathy.

Are the positive things happening in your life the only ones meant to take you far and help you live a better life? Or is it necessary for us to also go through negative emotions and learn how to embrace our sadness or anger? Making use of years of research, this book helps us understand that the full range of emotions can help us change our lives.

  • Happiness can interfere with your performance.
  • Guilt is good, shame is shit.
  • Mindfulness takes a toll on you.

We love psychology because it is one of the most practical fields you can study. Human relationships live entirely in the realm of psychology. Therefore, everything you learn about it will help you deal better with other people and yourself. Our lives have changed for the better after studying these books. We know yours will too.

It’s not easy to understand your thoughts and emotions. But when you do, you unlock a new potential for better living that you never imagined possible. The more you learn about psychology, the better you’ll get at recognizing the thoughts and feelings that pull you down so you can learn how to overcome them and live happier and healthier.

What would be the first thing one should know in terms of psychology and how would it benefit themselves and others? Let us know!

Looking for more of the best books on various topics? Here are all the book lists we’ve made for you so far:

  • The 60 Best Business Books of All Time (Will Forever Change How You Think About Organizations)
  • The 20 Best Entrepreneurship Books to Start, Grow & Run a Successful Business
  • The 14 Best Finance Books of All Time
  • The 21 Best Habit Books of All Time to Change Any Behavior
  • The 33 Best Happiness Books of All Time That Everyone Should Read
  • The 60 Best History Books of All Time (to Read at Any Age)
  • The 7 Best Inspirational Books That Will Light Your Inner Fire
  • The 40 Best Leadership Books of All Time to Help You Become a Truly Inspiring Person
  • The 31 Best Motivational Books Ever Written
  • The 12 Best Nonfiction Books Most People Have Never Heard Of
  • The 35 Best Philosophy Books to Live Better and Become a Great Thinker
  • The 25 Best Sales Books of All Time to Help You Close Any Deal
  • The 33 Best Self-Help Books of All Time to Read at Any Age
  • The 22 Best Books About Sex & Sexuality to Improve Your Love Life & Relationships
  • The 30 Most Life-Changing Books That Will Shift Your Perspective & Stay With You Forever

Looking for more books by the world’s most celebrated authors? Here are all of the book lists by the author we’ve curated for you:

  • All Brené Brown Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Jordan Peterson Books: All Titles in Order of Publication + The 5 Top Books He Recommends
  • All Malcolm Gladwell Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Michael Pollan Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • Peter Thiel Books: A Comprehensive List of Books By, About & Recommended by Peter Thiel
  • All Rachel Hollis Books: The Full List of Non-Fiction, Fiction & Cookbooks, Sorted by Popularity & the Best Reading Order
  • All Ray Dalio Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Robert Greene Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Ryan Holiday Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Simon Sinek Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Tim Ferriss Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)
  • All Walter Isaacson Books, Sorted Chronologically (and by Popularity)

Last Updated on February 20, 2023

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Most Recommended Books

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

“We tend to see ourselves as not unlike rats, creatures driven by the short-term reward centres in our brains. But what Gilbert does fantastically well is to argue that, actually, humans are better at long-term thinking than almost any other animal. A chimpanzee may strip off the leaves from a branch to make a tool to poke into a termite hole, but that chimp will never make a dozen of those tools and put them aside for next week. Yet this is exactly what humans do.” Roman Krznaric , Philosopher

top 10 books psychology

The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life by Erving Goffman

“ The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life is a fascinating book that provides a wealth of insight into social interaction, which Goffman describes in terms of theatrical performance. This concept is explored in Shakespeare’s pastoral comedy As You Like It . One of its most quotable lines is: ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.’ Goffman contends that the roles we play in our daily lives and social interactions are performative in nature, because we always strive to create a favorable impression. According to Goffman, our social interactions are largely governed by avoidance of embarrassment.” Övül Sezer ,

top 10 books psychology

Eichmann in Jerusalem by Hannah Arendt

“She suggests that the Nazis, like Eichmann, who were responsible for such evil acts were stupid, short-sighted, and ordinary.” Paul Bloom , Psychologist

top 10 books psychology

Principles of Psychology by William James

“A wonderful summary of what was known and what questions were being asked at the dawn of psychology as a science in the 19th century. James is widely mis-cited and misunderstood as someone who advocated for a classical, common sense view of emotion. The irony is that he advocated for just the opposite.” Lisa Feldman Barrett , Psychologist

top 10 books psychology

The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat by Oliver Sacks

“What would that be like? What would it be like to be unable to lay down any new memories, to think it’s 1945 all the time and everybody you meet is new? It’s fascinating to imagine, and I feel a lot of sympathy for the Mariner even though he doesn’t know how bad he has it.” Eric Schwitzgebel , Philosopher

Browse book recommendations:

  • Applied Psychology
  • Child Psychology
  • Social Psychology

The best psychology books combine scientific rigour with accessible writing. We turned to some of the most eminent psychologists working today for their book recommendations. Psychology may not have all the answers, but it can help you have a better understanding of yourself and others; what motivates thoughts, feelings, and actions. Using the distilled knowledge of psychology presented in these books can empower you to make better decisions, control habits, be more motivated and productive, maybe even be a little happier.

Our experts include Daniel Goleman , author of the ultra-bestselling book  Emotional Intelligence ;  Professor Carol Dweck , whose book  Mindset , on motivation, success and forming a 'growth mindset,' has sold more than a million copies; Dr Andrew Lees , one of the most cited neurologists in the world; and Harvard professor, linguist and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker (author of hit popular psychology books including  The Language Instinct   and  The Blank Slate ). In total more than 80 experts have helped make these lists. Our most recommended psychology book is Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert.

We already have reading lists outlining the best books on mindfulness , consciousness , depression , teenage mental health , child psychology and cognitive neuroscience .

To keep up to date, check out our list of new psychology books .

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 , recommended by Cal Flyn

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Psych: The Story of the Human Mind by Paul Bloom

Psych: The Story of the Human Mind by Paul Bloom

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - The Success Myth: Letting Go of Having It All by Emma Gannon

The Success Myth: Letting Go of Having It All by Emma Gannon

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Drama Free: A Guide to Managing Unhealthy Family Relationships by Nedra Glover Tawwab

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner

Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner

Notable Psychology and Self-Help Books of 2023 - Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment by Susannah Breslin

Data Baby: My Life in a Psychological Experiment by Susannah Breslin

It's that time of year again: January is the month to batten down the hatches, work off all those rich festive meals, and get to work on your new year's resolutions. Understanding the workings of your own brain—theoretically or even in purely practical terms—can be an important tool for achieving your goals. Here our deputy editor spotlights some of the most notable psychology and self-help books published in 2023 to help you on your way.

It’s that time of year again: January is the month to batten down the hatches, work off all those rich festive meals, and get to work on your new year’s resolutions. Understanding the workings of your own brain—theoretically or even in purely practical terms—can be an important tool for achieving your goals. Here our deputy editor spotlights some of the most notable psychology and self-help books published in 2023 to help you on your way.

The best books on Character Development , recommended by Angela Duckworth

The best books on Character Development - The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel

The Marshmallow Test: Why Self-Control Is the Engine of Success by Walter Mischel

The best books on Character Development - A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

A Curious Mind: The Secret To a Bigger Life by Brian Grazer

The best books on Character Development - Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

The best books on Character Development - Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

Popular: The Power of Likability in a Status-Obsessed World by Mitch Prinstein

The best books on Character Development - Path to Purpose by William Damon

Path to Purpose by William Damon

Can we cultivate qualities like grit, tenacity and kindness? How about habits of the successful—hard work, perseverance and productivity? Angela Duckworth , bestselling author of Grit and founder of the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, recommends five books, including a title that graces every CEO's shelf.

Can we cultivate qualities like grit, tenacity and kindness? How about habits of the successful—hard work, perseverance and productivity? Angela Duckworth, bestselling author of Grit and founder of the Character Lab at the University of Pennsylvania, recommends five books, including a title that graces every CEO’s shelf.

The best books on Anxiety , recommended by Lucy Foulkes

The best books on Anxiety - Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway by Susan Jeffers

The best books on Anxiety - How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

How to Stop Worrying and Start Living by Dale Carnegie

The best books on Anxiety - Helping Your Child with Fears and Worries by Cathy Creswell & Lucy Willetts

Helping Your Child with Fears and Worries by Cathy Creswell & Lucy Willetts

The best books on Anxiety - Mindfulness For Health: A Practical Guide To Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress And Restoring Wellbeing by Danny Penman & Vidyamala Burch

Mindfulness For Health: A Practical Guide To Relieving Pain, Reducing Stress And Restoring Wellbeing by Danny Penman & Vidyamala Burch

The best books on Anxiety - Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie

Jog On: How Running Saved My Life by Bella Mackie

Feeling anxiety is a natural part of being a human being, but for some people it can cause terrible mental and physical anguish and prevents them from leading happy and fulfilling lives. Lucy Foulkes , a psychologist at University College London, talks us through books that can help with anxiety.

Feeling anxiety is a natural part of being a human being, but for some people it can cause terrible mental and physical anguish and prevents them from leading happy and fulfilling lives. Lucy Foulkes, a psychologist at University College London, talks us through books that can help with anxiety.

The best books on Emotional Intelligence , recommended by Daniel Goleman

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge

The Triple Focus: A New Approach to Education by Daniel Goleman and Peter Senge

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice by ed. Durlak et al

Handbook of Social and Emotional Learning: Research and Practice by ed. Durlak et al

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science by ed. Seppälä et al

The Oxford Handbook of Compassion Science by ed. Seppälä et al

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman

Emotional Alchemy: How the Mind Can Heal the Heart by Tara Bennett-Goleman

The best books on Emotional Intelligence - Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser

Marrow: Love, Loss, and What Matters Most by Elizabeth Lesser

We are taught to value intelligence and academic ability, but raw mental firepower does not always translate into success at work or a life of contentment. Just as important are the skills that make up 'emotional intelligence,' says Daniel Goleman , whose bestselling book popularised the concept. Here he chooses five emotional intelligence books that explore its practical applications.

We are taught to value intelligence and academic ability, but raw mental firepower does not always translate into success at work or a life of contentment. Just as important are the skills that make up ’emotional intelligence,’ says Daniel Goleman, whose bestselling book popularised the concept. Here he chooses five emotional intelligence books that explore its practical applications.

The best books on Mindset and Success , recommended by Carol Dweck

The best books on Mindset and Success - How Children Fail by John Holt

How Children Fail by John Holt

The best books on Mindset and Success - The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

The Mismeasure of Man by Stephen Jay Gould

The best books on Mindset and Success - Developing Talent in Young People by Benjamin Bloom

Developing Talent in Young People by Benjamin Bloom

The best books on Mindset and Success - Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

The best books on Mindset and Success - The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

The Brain That Changes Itself by Norman Doidge

If you've stepped inside a school recently, you've probably heard teachers talking about the importance of  a 'growth mindset.' Here psychologist Carol Dweck , who pioneered research into this key concept, explains what it's all about and recommends books—other than her own—that shed light on it.

If you’ve stepped inside a school recently, you’ve probably heard teachers talking about the importance of  a ‘growth mindset.’ Here psychologist Carol Dweck, who pioneered research into this key concept, explains what it’s all about and recommends books—other than her own—that shed light on it.

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 , recommended by Avram Alpert

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin

Viral Justice: How We Grow the World We Want by Ruha Benjamin

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Bittersweet: How Sorrow and Longing Make Us Whole by Susan Cain

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke

The Invisible Kingdom: Reimagining Chronic Illness by Meghan O'Rourke

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Elite Capture: How the Powerful Took Over Identity Politics (And Everything Else) by Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò

Five of the Best Self-Help Books of 2022 - Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas

Ritual: How Seemingly Senseless Acts Make Life Worth Living by Dimitris Xygalatas

At the turn of the year, many of us take the opportunity to think about our lives—how they are going, and how we hope to live them in future. We asked Avram Alpert , author of The Good-Enough Life , to recommend five of the best self-help books of 2022 that might help our bids for self-improvement; his choices remind us that self-help is not only about life-hacks and diets, but about bringing the world more in line with our ideals.

At the turn of the year, many of us take the opportunity to think about our lives—how they are going, and how we hope to live them in future. We asked Avram Alpert, author of The Good-Enough Life , to recommend five of the best self-help books of 2022 that might help our bids for self-improvement; his choices remind us that self-help is not only about life-hacks and diets, but about bringing the world more in line with our ideals.

The Best Books on Emotions , recommended by Lisa Feldman Barrett

The Best Books on Emotions - The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust by Tiffany Watt Smith

The Book of Human Emotions: An Encyclopedia of Feeling from Anger to Wanderlust by Tiffany Watt Smith

The Best Books on Emotions - Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides

The Best Books on Emotions - Principles of Psychology by William James

Emotional Success: The Power of Gratitude, Compassion and Pride by David DeSteno

The Best Books on Emotions - Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

Not every culture has a word for 'fear.' Smiling was an invention of the Middle Ages. There's a lot that will surprise you about the way we process emotions, says the neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett . Here she picks five books that illustrate our understanding of how emotions work.

Not every culture has a word for ‘fear.’ Smiling was an invention of the Middle Ages. There’s a lot that will surprise you about the way we process emotions, says the neuroscientist and psychologist Lisa Feldman Barrett. Here she picks five books that illustrate our understanding of how emotions work.

The best books on Happiness , recommended by Jonathan Haidt

The best books on Happiness - Dhammapada

Ambition by Gilbert Brim

The best books on Happiness - Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert

The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky

The best books on Happiness - Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich

Dancing in the Streets by Barbara Ehrenreich

Most of us want to be happy, and yet it's hard to achieve. Jonathan Haidt , psychologist and author of  the classic  The Happiness Hypothesis , talks us through five books, old and new, to better understand happiness.

Most of us want to be happy, and yet it’s hard to achieve. Jonathan Haidt, psychologist and author of  the classic  The Happiness Hypothesis , talks us through five books, old and new, to better understand happiness.

The best books on Depression , recommended by Bryony Gordon

The best books on Depression - Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

The best books on Depression - Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest

Your Voice in My Head by Emma Forrest

The best books on Depression - Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Heartburn by Nora Ephron

The best books on Depression - The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

The best books on Depression - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

Writing about her life in memoirs and a newspaper column allowed the author Bryony Gordon to "join the dots" to see the true face of her own mental illness. Here, she chooses five books to help with depression, books in which she has found solace and a sense of community among those who suffer from depression.

Writing about her life in memoirs and a newspaper column allowed the author Bryony Gordon to “join the dots” to see the true face of her own mental illness. Here, she chooses five books to help with depression, books in which she has found solace and a sense of community among those who suffer from depression.

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology , recommended by Chris Paley

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David M Buss

Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind by David M Buss

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Homicide by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson

Homicide by Martin Daly and Margo Wilson

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe by Joanne Souza & Paul M. Bingham

Death from a Distance and the Birth of a Humane Universe by Joanne Souza & Paul M. Bingham

The best books on Evolutionary Psychology - The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner

Human traits are a product of natural selection—and the story of how we have evolved explains many of our psychological quirks today. Chris Paley , author of Unthink and  Beyond Bad , recommends five of the best evolutionary psychology books—and explains how experimental data might finally get to the bottom of the question of free will.

Human traits are a product of natural selection—and the story of how we have evolved explains many of our psychological quirks today. Chris Paley, author of Unthink and  Beyond Bad , recommends five of the best evolutionary psychology books—and explains how experimental data might finally get to the bottom of the question of free will.

We ask experts to recommend the five best books in their subject and explain their selection in an interview.

This site has an archive of more than one thousand seven hundred interviews, or eight thousand book recommendations. We publish at least two new interviews per week.

Five Books participates in the Amazon Associate program and earns money from qualifying purchases.

© Five Books 2024

Best Psychology Books

Enhance your understanding of the human mind with this collection of seminal psychology books, ranked by their prominence in respected articles..

Best Psychology Books

Scott Jeffrey

36 Best Psychology Books to Illuminate What Really Drives You

OVERVIEW : A detailed review of the best psychology books for beginners, intermediate, and advanced readers. (Recently expanded to 36 titles.)


It has been said that there are three main ways to learn about human psychology:

  • Read Greek mythology
  • Read Carl Jung
  • Observe others

Of these three ways, observing others is the most powerful, but reading about the psyche helps inform our observations.

Why Read Psychology Books?

There are at least three significant reasons to learn about psychology:

  • Understand yourself and your motivations.
  • Learn about and understand other people.
  • Change a behavior or feeling.

In my exploration, I’ve read many psychology books—well over 300 of them.

These books covered fields including:

  • Depth psychology
  • Humanistic psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Social psychology
  • Behavioral psychology
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Positive psychology
  • Ego psychology
  • Transpersonal psychology

If you’re reading this, you’re probably interested in better understanding yourself and what drives your behavior too.

Why do we do what we do?

How to Select the Best Psychology Books

This is a challenging task because we’re all at different levels of development. The “best psychology book” for one person will certainly be different for another.

So to curate this list of the best psychology books, I’ve broken them into three main categories:

Best Psychology Books for Beginners

Best psychology books on human behavior.

  • Best Psychology Books for Depth (Advanced)

At the end of the list, I’ve also included a brief fourth section for the best psychology books from Eastern philosophy.

We’ll start with the beginner’s list and the one on human behavior as the majority of readers will likely be more interested in these categories.

Then, I’ll provide my picks for the best psychology books that are more likely to be “outside the mainstream.”


I realize a lot of people prefer listening to books instead of reading them. If you’re not already an Audible customer, you can start a free 30-day trial and get one free audiobook.

Note : The psychology books in each category are not listed in any particular order.

top 10 books psychology

1) Mindset by Carol Dweck

Paperback | Kindle | Audio

Dweck’s modern classic is both sobering and enlightening. Her multi-decade psychological study on mindsets reveals how important it is to understand the true nature of our development as well as how learning works. Mindset is sobering because it exposes how parents and teachers have been unknowingly installing a highly limiting fixed mindset in children for many generations. And the societal effects are showing. If you’re a parent, consider this book mandatory reading. But really, everyone should read it because we’re all influenced, to varying degrees, by a fixed mindset that hijacks us from realizing the greater potential within us.

best psychology books for beginners

2) Authentic Happiness by Martin Seligman

Seligman is considered the father of the positive psychology movement. What I appreciate most about  Authentic Happiness is that Seligman provides practical methods for increasing one’s level of happiness based on decades of research in the field. Seligman demonstrates that lasting fulfillment is found not in fleeting pleasures but in cultivating our natural strengths. Perhaps you’ve heard about the research on the benefits of maintaining a gratitude journal. This book is one of the first I’m aware of that highlighted this research.

top 10 books psychology

3) The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan W. Watts

Is insecurity the consequence of trying to be secure? That’s the premise behind philosopher Alan Watts’s classic treatise. If you’re a student of Eastern philosophy, you’re probably already familiar with Watts. He possessed a tremendous skill for communicating Eastern ideas to a Western audience. The Wisdom of Insecurity highlights why consumerism will never provide meaning or purpose to our lives. Then, the book explores what will.

4) Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E. Frankl

I can’t imagine a list of the best psychology books not including Frankl’s classic. I first read Man’s Search for Meaning in my early 20s. But it didn’t mean anything to me until I read it again in my mid-30s. Frankl’s observations as a captive in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II are instructive for every human being. All readers will likely gain a new perspective on their lives and what drives them after reading this book.

best psychology books for beginners

5) The Paradox of Choice  by Barry Schwartz

Simply put, having too many choices can lead to anxiety and depression—especially when we try to maximize our choices. I still remember the effect this book had on me when I read it in 2014. My awareness and attitude toward “shopping” changed measurably after reading The Paradox of Choice . Are you a “satisficer” or a “maximizer”? The latter comes with a lot of self-imposed suffering.

best psychology books for beginners

6) Emotional Intelligence  by Daniel Goleman

It’s difficult to appreciate how important Goleman’s Emotional Intelligence was when it was first published in 1995. The paradigm of intelligence as a singular concept based on IQ was considered fact. However, the work of developmental researchers like Howard Gardner began exposing us to the fact that we have multiple intelligences (at least nine of them). Goleman featured emotional intelligence in this classic and social intelligence in a follow-up.

best psychology books

7) Personality Types  by Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson

Working in the coaching field for two and half decades, I explored most, if not all, of the psychological assessments on the market (Myers-Briggs, DISC, Human Design Engineering, etc.). From my experience, the Enneagram is the most robust and functional personality model. To appreciate the depth and robustness of this personality system, read Personality Types . The nine levels of each type illustrate a path for healthy personality development, which is a key differentiating factor between this system from other models. If you’re completely new to this psychological system, however, The Wisdom of the Enneagram is perhaps the most practical and accessible. The Enneagram by Helen Palmer is also an excellent primer.

top 10 books psychology

8) The Farther Reaches of Human Nature by Abraham Maslow

Paperback | Audio

Maslow is considered the father of humanistic psychology (the “third wave” of psychology). While most researchers were studying mental illness, Maslow focused on positive mental health. Although all of Maslow’s writings are interesting, I’ve selected The Farther Reaches of Human Nature for this list. The Farther Reaches was published posthumously. In my opinion, the book is very accessible and it includes some of Maslow’s best ideas on the importance of creativity in positive mental health.

top 10 books psychology

9) Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Part of Maslow’s study of self-actualizing individuals was his observations on what he called peak experiences . Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi picked up where Maslow left off, providing a detailed analysis of what he termed flow. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience is now considered a classic in the psychological literature.

Now let’s look at some of the best psychology books on human behavior.

best psychology books berne

10) Games People Play  by Eric Berne

Paperback | Kindle | Audible

Berne’s classic from the 60s is still highly relevant today. Transactional analysis examines human behavior through a social lens. Berne highlights that in social relationships, individuals embody one of three different expressions of the ego: the adult, the parent, and the child. The adult is rational; the parent is critical and nurturing; the child is dependent and intuitive. All three expressions are in each of us and different social situations trigger different ones and in specific combinations. Games People Play is a fascinating read if you’re interested in social dynamics and if you want to become more conscious of your behavior.

best psychology books on human behavior

11) The True Believer by Eric Hoffer

If you’re going to read one book on cult psychology and mass movements, The True Believer is it. The psychology of cults influences so much of society and culture as it plays to a host of unconscious mechanisms within the psyche. Whether we’re talking about organized religions, mass social movements, cult brands like Harley-Davidson, or destructive cults, the same psychology applies.

best psychology books on human behavior

12) The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

McGonigal taught the most popular course at Stanford University’s Continuing Studies program called “The Science of Willpower.” The Willpower Instinct is essentially that course distilled into a single book. It’s full of compelling research to support its insights. But more importantly, the book provides a litany of exercises and practices to cultivate a stronger will. (See my guide on How to Establish Good Habits .)

best business book power of habit

13) The Power of Habit  By Charles Duhigg

Paperback | Kindle | Audiobook

The Power of Habit is another important read on the topic of behavioral change. Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit is more popular and entertaining than The Willpower Instinct . However, if I had to recommend one book on the topic of habit and self-control, The Willpower Instinct has the edge because of the structure and practical methods McGonigal outlines in her book.

best psychology books on human behavior

14) Drive  By Daniel Pink

Through engaging research and storytelling, Pink draws on lessons from self-determination theory to illuminate what drives us—especially in the context of our work. Here’s a three-second summary: the answer is purpose, autonomy, and mastery . It’s a very accessible read. Pink’s Drive shows why “carrot and stick” motivation doesn’t work and how money is certainly not the primary driver of motivation.

best psychology books

15) The Lucifer Effect  by Philip Zimbardo

Psychology professor Philip Zimbardo’s famed Stanford prison experiment and other related studies reveal the “lesser angels of human nature.”  I don’t think you can begin to understand human behavior (and the nature of the psyche) without carefully studying what we call “evil.” You can get a “Cliff’s Note” version of The Lucifer Effect in Zimbardo’s TED Talk on the psychology of evil.

Traveling Deeper into the Psyche

Cognitive psychology and social psychology are what’s popular in the field right now.

Even though psychology is considered a “soft science,” through cognitive psychology, social psychology, and neuropsychology, clinical researchers, social scientists, and neuroscientists are attempting to codify the human mind.

In my opinion, this is problematic because the experimenters and researchers themselves are mostly unconscious of their behaviors and impulses that they are attempting to observe in their sample groups.

Plus, unconscious biases influence us in profound ways (see Thinking Fast and Slow below).

Although this work is important and interesting, in my opinion, it fails to get to the core of why we do what we do. Without realizing it, it’s examining effects , not causes.

So if we’re interested in learning about what’s going on inside us, we need to dig deeper.

Selecting the Best Psychology Books for Depth

From my perspective, the best psychology books address the unconscious and the nature of the psyche itself.

The challenge will exploring the unconscious is that it’s dark, chaotic, messy, and sometimes irrational (from the perspective of our conscious minds).

In exploring the unconscious realm, we enter the world of symbols, images, myths, dreams, and fairy tales.

In curating my picks for the best psychology books, I tried to select depth psychology books that I believe are the most accessible.

The Best Psychology Books (for Real Depth)

We’ll start with two more recent titles that are highly relevant to the works listed below. Keep in mind that all of these books address human behavior as well—but on a deeper level.

best books on psychology

16) The Body Keeps the Score  by Bessel Van Der Kolk

Simply put, The Body Keeps the Score is an important book that everyone should read. It highlights the fact that trauma is stored in the body (something that’s well-documented in Eastern medicine as well). It’s our dissociation from early childhood trauma that causes most of our suffering and mental illnesses in adulthood. This book complements a great deal of the material we cover on this website.

Note: Physician John E. Sarno arrived at similar insights. His body of work illustrates how repressed emotions (especially rage) are the cause of virtually all chronic pain and disease. See, for example, The Mindbody Prescription and The Divided Mind: The Epidemic of Mindbody Disorders .

top 10 books psychology

17) Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Kahnman’s book has become a modern classic—and for good reason. This Nobel laureate in economics explains how our behavior is guided by two different systems in our minds: one system is conscious and aware while the other is automatic and impulsive. In many ways, Kahneman’s research provides “scientific evidence” of the unconscious as described in depth psychology.

best psychology books Jung

18) Memories, Dreams, Reflections by C.G. Jung

Selecting a single book from Carl Jung’s collected works as the “best psychology book” would be challenging. If I were going to suggest one book for someone new to depth psychology, it would be Jung’s autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections . It provides a closer examination of Jung’s life and how he arrived at many of his classic insights. Another highly accessible book from Jung is Man and His Symbols . That title could easily make the list as well. Joseph Campbell also curated an excellent collection of excerpts from Jung’s collected works in The Portable Jung .

best books on psychology campbell

19) The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell

Paperback | Kindle | Audio | DVD | Stream

I can’t imagine a list of the best psychology books without at least one title by famed mythologist Joseph Campbell. Although Campbell wasn’t technically a “Jungian,” he was highly influenced by Jung’s work. As Campbell explains, at its deepest level, mythology is the study of the psyche.

In Flight of the Wild Gander,  Campbell explained, “Mythology is psychology, misread as cosmology, history, and biography.” The Power of Myth is the transcript of an extensive PBS interview Campbell did with Bill Moyers. I would recommend the video version over the book mainly because of the additional visuals in the presentation. Also, if you want to take a masterclass on Eastern and Western psychology, see Campbell’s 3-part lecture series, Mythos . There’s nothing else like it.

johnson best psychology book

20) Owning Your Own Shadow by Robert Johnson

Paperback | Kindle

This concise 119-page book provides the best explanation of the personal shadow that you can find in print. The shadow represents all the parts of ourselves that we’re unknowingly cut off or divorced from. These disowned parts are what drive most of our behavior outside of our awareness. Many of the ideas in Owning Your Own Shadow inspired my popular guide on shadow work .

best psychology books

21) Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz

Marie-Louise von Franz was Jung’s closest student—his protege. An accomplished analyst herself, von Franz focused her attention on exploring the psyche through myths and fairy tales. von Franz did for fairy tales what Joseph Campbell did for myths.  Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales provides an enlightening inside look at the shadow.

top 10 books psychology

22) Demian: The Story of a Youth by Hermann Hesse

Paperback | Kindle |  Audio

Novelist Hermann Hesse should be on anyone’s reading list if they like reading psychology books. Hesse was heavily influenced by Jung’s work; it’s easy to see in virtually all of his classic novels. It’s difficult for me to select just one of Hesse’s books for this list. Siddhartha is probably my personal favorite, but I think Demian better fits this list. Enjoy!

top 10 books psychology

23) The Drama of the Gifted Child  by Alice Miller

Anyone who bravely explores the depth of their psyche will come to know their trauma. Alice Miller’s revealing book, The Drama of the Gifted Child , gives context to how this trauma unfolded and how to relate to these experiences in adulthood.

he robert johnson best books in psychology

24) He: Understanding Masculine Psychology by Robert Johnson

Every man should read He . In 82 pages, Johnson explains masculine psychology through the mythology of King Arthur and the Grail legend. I’m not sure I would have understood it in my 20s. However, I read this book at least six times in my 30s, and I appreciated it more each time I did. Every woman who wants to understand the masculine psyche will benefit from this book as well.

she robert johnson best books in psychology

25) She: Understanding Feminine Psychology by Robert Johnson

In this concise 80-page treatise, Johnson breaks down feminine psychology through the myths of Psyche, Eros, and Aphrodite. Reading She with He illuminates how the psyche of men and women are fundamentally different. It’s a handy guide for both women and men.

best books on psychology we robert johnson

26) We: Understanding the Psychology of Romantic Love by Robert Johnson

How can you even attempt to be in a relationship without reading We ? We are all so programmed with ideas about romantic love from stories, films, and the media, that human relating is barely possible. Johnson deconstructs romantic love through the myth of Tristan and Iseult. Johnson’s We is a must-read book for anyone attempting to have a conscious relationship or marriage. Incredibly sobering and instructive.

top 10 books psychology

27) Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious by C.G. Jung

I suppose if you’re going to read one book from Jung’s collected works, The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious is a good place to start. In this collection of papers and essays, Jung begins to flush out his understanding of the primordial images ( archetypes ) and how they influence human behavior.

best psychology books

28) Individuation in Fairy Tales by Marie-Louise von Franz

Although you can get a sense of Jung’s individuation process through his body of work, von Franz’s Individuation in Fairy Tales gives this core Jungian concept more depth and understanding. If fairy tales interest you, you might want to start with her Interpretation in Fairy Tales as a primer. Although not all of von Franz’s works are easy reads, I found them all enlightening and revealing of the psyche’s nature.

best books on psychology inner gold

29) Inner Gold: Understanding Psychological Projection by Robert Johnson

We tend to project the best parts of ourselves onto others. This process occurs unconsciously, so we need to become aware of what we’re doing first before we can take back our projections and own our true power.  Inner Gold will show you the way. (I also published a guide on projection based on Inner Gold .)

Marie-Louis von Franz’s Projection and Re-collection in Jungian Psychology  is a more advanced follow-up on this topic.

best psychology books KWML

30) King Warrior Magician Lover  by Robert Moore and Douglas Gillette

If you want to understand human behavior, read this King Warrior Magici Lover (commonly referred to as KWML). KWML is a wild ride into the psyche. You’ll meet the full cast of characters, but the real story in my opinion isn’t about the Big Four mentioned in the title, but their bipolar shadow counterparts. It’s in getting to know and understanding these shadow archetypes that we begin to appreciate the forces that rule most of human behavior. For anyone interested in psychology and human behavior, put KWML  on your list.

top 10 books psychology

31) Ego and Archetype by Edward F. Edinger

One of the most discussed topics in Jungian literature is the relationship between the ego and the Self. Edinger’s Ego and Archetype is an important contribution. Edinger reinforces the key idea that individuation is the goal of the psyche. The undeveloped ego requires encounters with the Self (through repeated cycles) to facilitate this developmental process.

top 10 books psychology

32) The Parental Image by M. Ester Harding

Mary Esther Harding is another Jungian with an excellent body of work. Anyone interested in depth psychology and who’s involved in inner work will greatly benefit from her titles. In The Parental Image , Harding uses the Babylonian creation myth Enuma Elish to illustrate the unconscious dynamics that play out between parents and their children. After highlighting how we overcome our parents and their consequent injuries, the book focuses on how we heal these injuries through the development of consciousness and the individuation process.

Other classic works by Harding include Psychic Energy , The I and the Not-I , and Way of All Women .

best psychology books

33) How to Be an Adult  by David Richo

If you were going to read only one book about psychological development, this one covers the most ground. It truly is a “handbook.” This little book is jam-packed with useful insights and practices. There’s no “fluff,” which is why it covers so much ground in only 120 pages. In How to be an Adult , Richo sets the development of our psychology in the hero’s journey framework , exploring the “challenges” we face in approaching adulthood. These challenges take us into what we tend to resist the most: our grief, fears, anger, and guilt.

Richo’s handbook isn’t something you read once and set aside. You carry it with you, referring back often. Don’t be fooled into believing that adulthood comes naturally with age. If everyone read this book—and lived the practices contained within it—I’m confident we would live in a very different world. But that change starts with each of us.

Best Psychology Books from Eastern Philosophy

In Jung’s foreword to The Spiritual Teachings of Raman Maharshi , he noted how much further ahead Eastern thought was compared to Western psychology.

As far as Western psychology has come in the last 120 years or so, Eastern psychology is still thousands of years older. Meditation in the traditions is a foundational skill one develops to learn about oneself (self-inquiry) and to govern one’s mind and behaviors at a deeper level.

In truth, what we call “Eastern philosophy” is, in many regards, an advanced psychological system based on many centuries of careful examination of the psyche built on practices and methods to stabilize the mind first .

Below are just three titles that are worth reading. We could easily create another list of 30+ best psychology books within this genre.

top 10 books psychology

34) Stopping and Seeing  by Chih-i

“Stopping” refers to stopping various mental processes that lead to delusion. “Seeing” refers to seeing truth and deeper levels of reality within oneself. Based on the Chan Buddist tradition, Stopping and Seeing is a classic meditation manual with a range of methods and clear guidance. This instruction manual is translated by Thomas Cleary, who in my experience, generally provides a superior translation.

top 10 books psychology

35) Becoming Your Own Therapist by Lama Yeshe

Lama Yeshe’s little book (123 pages) highlights how Buddhist philosophy is really about becoming a psychologist of your mind. I wholeheartedly agree with Yeshe’s assertion. The framework Yeshe highlights can inform the way you approach your personal psychology in the future.

top 10 books psychology

36) Start Where You Are by Pema Chödrön

Start Where You Are is a book about a 300-year-old practice Lojong . This mind-training practice is based on 59 slogans or aphorisms that demonstrate the brilliance of Buddhist psychology. And Pema Chödrön, a Western Buddhist teacher, does a beautiful job explaining the meaning behind these aphorisms.

A Complete Master List of Virtues

The Ultimate List of Over 325 Archetypes

Individuation: A Beginner’s Guide to Jungian Psychology

top 10 books psychology

The 30 Best Psychology Books to Explore Your Brain and Mind

The best psychology books explore your mind and your brain, how they behave, operate, and interact with others. Without a doubt, the best books about psychology enlighten and entertain, pulling back the mysteries of our minds and the way they operate. This article consists of an epic list of the best books about human psychology. If you’re looking for the best psychology books of all time, you’ll surely find them here… from the classic best books to read about psychology like Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams to modern essentials like Quiet , this roundup covers the breadth and diversity of the field of psychology. Which one appeals to you the most?

By the way, you might want to check out other psychology book lists here on the blog if you’re interested in mental health…

  • The 20 Best Books about Bipolar Disorder
  • The 20 Best Books about Schizophrenia
  • 10 Great Graphic Novel about Mental Illness

And now for an epic list of the 30 best psychology books of all time…

Atomic habits: an easy & proven way to build good habits & break bad ones by james clear.

top 10 books psychology

Ever wonder how you can convert an irregular, desired activity into a lasting habit? In Atomic Habits , our first entry on this list of the best psychology books, James Clear demystifies the behavior that will turn an action into a permanent habit. Clear helps you acclimate to making a positive habit and ridding yourself of negative ones. The result is a more healthful mental outlook, increased productivity, and maximum effectiveness.

How to read it: Purchase Atomic Habits on Amazon

Authentic happiness: using the new positive psychology to realize your potential for lasting fulfillment by martin e. p. seligman.

top 10 books psychology

This groundbreaking book by Martin E.P. Seligman, a visionary psychologist who transformed the field, introduces Seligman’s foundational principles of Positive Psychology. You’ll learn all the necessary mental tweaks and mindset shifts needed to break through negativity, stop dwelling on the bad, and achieve, well, as the title suggests, a more authentic happiness. Authentic Happiness is definitely up there with the other best books about psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Authentic Happiness on Amazon

Behave: the biology of humans at our best and worst by robert m. sapolsky.

top 10 books psychology

Ever wonder why we do the things we do? It might seem like a big mystery, but in Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst , behavioral psychologist Robert M. Sapolsky reveals the foundations of our human behavior, both the good and negative alike. As much a seminar in psychology, Behave is accessible and engaging and ranks up there among the best psychology books about human behavior.

How to read it: Purchase Behave on Amazon

The body keeps the score: mind, brain and body in the transformation of trauma by bessel van der kolk.

top 10 books psychology

Any list of the best psychology books of all time surely has to include Bessel Van der kolk’s The Body Keeps the Score . This revelatory book has done more to bring trauma to the forefront of the psychological discussion than any other. In The Body Keeps the Score , van der Kolk unmasks the condition of trauma and offers healing hopes for people suffering from trauma, PTSD, and C-PTSD. This new understanding of trauma has big implications for the field of psychiatry and the practice of therapy.

How to read it: Purchase The Body Keeps the Score on Amazon

Consciousness explained by daniel c. dennett.

top 10 books psychology

If you’re looking for the best psychology books, you’ll want to check out Daniel C. Dennett’s Consciousness Explained . This compelling book explores the intersection of neurology and psychology, seeking to illuminate the wonders of the human brain and the unanswerable questions we still have about it. Far from a textbook, Consciousness Explained is a seminar in how the brain dances with the mind and one of the best books on brain psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Consciousness Explained on Amazon

Daring greatly: how the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live, love, parent, and lead by brené brown.

top 10 books psychology

Certainly among the most influential psychologists, Brené Brown is known for writing highly readable books that distill psychological research into actionable takeaways. Nowhere is this more apparent than in her widely popular book, Daring Greatly , definitely among the best books about psychology. In this fascinating read, Brown sings the virtues of vulnerability as a hidden strength. You’ll read all about how to best approach finding the courage to be vulnerable and the benefits of taking a chance on being honest and candid in hopes of being seen.

How to read it: Purchase Daring Greatly on Amazon

Darkness visible: a memoir of madness by william styron.

top 10 books psychology

Today, mental health memoirs are no new thing, but in 1990 when novelist William Styron published Darkness Visible , it ushered in a new era with less stigma. The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Sophie’s Choice , one of my all-time favorite novels, Styron here details a depressive episode he had that almost consumed his life. A quick read at roughly 85 pages, Darkness Visible is a short book that’s made a major contribution to psychology and helped paved the way for other mental health memoirs. It’s for sure one of the best books to read about psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Darkness Visible on Amazon

Emotional intelligence: why it can matter more than iq by daniel goleman.

top 10 books psychology

You’ve heard of an Intelligence Quotient (IQ), but have you heard of Emotional Intelligence or EQ? While society prizes IQs, what we really need more on a daily level is Emotional Intelligence. And that’s exactly the concept Daniel Goleman features in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ , a foundational book and one of the best psychology books of all time. This book highlights the benefits of tuning up your EQ skills for better interactions with other people, at home, at work, and in love.

How to read it: Purchase Emotional Intelligence on Amazon

Flow: the psychology of optimal experience by mihaly csikszentmihalyi .

top 10 books psychology

You know when you’re just totally in the groove, firing on all cylinders like you’re plugged into a higher, more creative, more aware, and more productive state? That’s what psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s called “flow.” In this book, Csikszentmihalyi teaches readers how to harness this mode and make it work for you. Csikszentmihalyi’s book helps you achieve flow and turn it on, making for a more sustainable state of mind. Flow for sure deserves to be considered one of best books about human psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Flow on Amazon

Games people play: the psychology of human relationships by eric berne.

top 10 books psychology

Looking for the best psychology books about human behavior? Pick up Games People Play . Five million copies sold later, Eric Berne’s classic Games People Play is just as insightful and relevant as the day it was published in 1964. In Games People Play , Berne helps take the mystery out of interpersonal behavior and social psychology with a focus the “games” people will try to pull on one another. Reading Games People Play will bring you closer to a better grasp on how to interact with other humans.

How to read it: Purchase Games People Play on Amazon

Girl, interrupted by susanna kaysen.

top 10 books psychology

First published in 1993, Susanna Kaysen’s Girl, Interrupted was just as influential as William Styron’s Darkness Visible we highlighted earlier. In this mental. health memoirs, Kaysen details the nearly two years she spent on the unit for teenage girls at McLean, the famous psychiatric hospital where Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, and other notable people sought treatment. Girl, Interrupted is a powerful and eye-opening look at the inpatient psychiatry experience and deserved of being on this list of the best psychology books of all time.

How to read it: Purchase Girl, Interrupted on Amazon

Grit: the power of passion and perseverance by angela duckworth.

top 10 books psychology

Puzzled about why some people have more resilience than others? That’s the quality of “Grit” that. psychologist Angela Duckworth features in this essential psychology book. Duckworth has done extensive research on the “power of passion and perseverance” that allows some people to bounce back and work through setbacks. In Grit , you’ll discover how to adapt some of Duckworth’s findings to bring more grit into your daily life. Grit has become a contemporary classic and one of the best books on psychology for beginners.

How to read it: Purchase Grit on Amazon

Group: how one therapist and a circle of strangers saved my life by christie tate.

top 10 books psychology

I have done group therapy two times, and I can attest to how powerful the benefits can be. Somehow you find yourself opening up to strangers about your deepest, darkest fears, passions, and feelings. It’s exactly that dynamic that Christie Tate introduces in Group , one of the best new books about psychology. Tate recounts the several years she spent in group working through her mental and relationship obstacles under the guidance of an expert therapist. I hope more people find the same strength I did from group therapy, and Tate’s book will surely help that to happen.

How to read it: Purchase Group on Amazon

The happiness hypothesis: finding modern truth in ancient wisdom by jonathan haidt.

top 10 books psychology

Looking for tips on being happier? Seeking the best books to read about psychology? Try Jonathan Haidt’s The Happiness Hypothesis . This book is divided into 10 chapters of “Great Ideas” like “The Pursuit of Happiness,” “The Uses of Adversity,” and “The Felicity of Virtue” that turn into familiar maxims like “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Haidt then incorporates timeless wisdom from classic philosophy into contemporary psychological approaches. The result is a refreshing take on modern psychology through connections with ancient ideas. Read this book, and you’ll be on the path to happiness.

How to read it: Purchase The Happiness Hypothesis on Amazon

How to change your mind: what the new science of psychedelics teaches us about consciousness, dying, addiction, depression, and transcendence by michael pollan.

top 10 books psychology

In How to Change Your Mind , acclaimed science reporter Michael Pollan turns his attention to psychedelic psychiatry, focusing on highlighting the surprising benefits of LSD and psilocybin (the active ingredient in “magic” mushrooms). Pollan reports on how these substances can form the basis of a new-old psychiatric therapy, effecting a more balanced, less stressed, and more clear-thinking mind. Pollan’s persuasive argument shows how these taking these substances in a controlled way under expert care can help overcome conditions like depression and anxiety. Pollan’s book is also a look at how the brain works by responding to these antidotes and, as a newer title, on any list of the best new books about psychology.

How to read it: Purchase How to Change Your Mind on Amazon

The interpretation of dreams by sigmund freud.

top 10 books psychology

This list of the best psychology books of all time surely includes Sigmund Freud’s classic text, The Interpretation of Dreams . Though it was published in 1899, this enormously impactful book is also relevant for our modern era. Freud is a patient teacher who instructs on how to tap into our subconscious and understand how our minds work with sleep to create meaningful dreams that reveal hidden truths, feelings, and urges. It is the quintessential psychology book and one of the best books on psychology for beginners.

How to read it: Purchase The Interpretation of Dreams on Amazon

The language instinct: how the mind creates language by steven pinker.

top 10 books psychology

When you think about, languages are as amazing as it gets. Using a small number of letters, each language builds into a robust vocabulary for communication. And in The Language Instinct , Steven Pinker gives us a deep dive into the psychology of language: what it is, how we are evolutionary disposed to think and express ourselves with language, and how our minds process and communicate by using languages. The result is a book that will change the way you think about our common tongue. Don’t take it from me alone: this book won a prize from the American Psychological Association. It’s no surprise, then, that The Language Instinct has earned a spot on this selective list of the best psychology books.

How to read it: Purchase The Language Instinct on Amazon

The lucifer effect: understanding how good people turn evil by philip g. zimbardo.

top 10 books psychology

It’s no secret I’m fascinated by forensic psychology—check out my list of “The 30 Best Criminology Books” here on the blog—so of course I’m going to include The Lucifer Effect in this roundup of the best psychology books of all time. If you’ve ever been intrigued by how humans “break bad” and turn from a “good” person into an “evil” one, Philip G. Zimbardo’s The Lucifer Effect is a book you’ll want to add to your To-Be-Read (TBR) list. This book was authored by the leader of the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment , one of the most consequential psychology studies of all time, and in The Lucifer Effect Zimbardo extracts the key takeaways from that research and formulates his own findings to address why and how morally “good” ordinary humans turn “evil.” It’s a chilling book that’s as influential as it was when it was first published 25 years ago.

How to read it: Purchase The Lucifer Effect on Amazon

The man who mistook his wife for a hat and other clinical tales by oliver sacks.

top 10 books psychology

If you’re not already familiar with him, Oliver Sacks was a famous neurologist who helped make his field more accessible by publishing popular books about the mysteries and complications of what can happen to our minds and brains. Start with The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales , which details case studies from people Sacks encountered and treated. It’s amazing to read some of these stories and travel to the far frontier of where abnormal psychology and neurology intersect in new horizons. Immensely readable, always fascinating, The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat forms the core of any list of the best psychology books of all time.

How to read it: Purchase The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales on Amazon

Maybe you should talk to someone by lori gottlieb.

top 10 books psychology

In Maybe You Should Talk to Someone , psychologist and writer Lori Gottlieb celebrates the practice of therapy, both as a patient and a practitioner. When Gottlieb found herself in the midsts of a personal and professional crisis, she turned to another therapist for extra help. Gottlieb’s book is funny and tender-hearted at the same time, a gritty yet passionate look at the healing power of the therapeutic process. A more recent title, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone qualifies as among the best new books about psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Maybe You Should Talk to Someone on Amazon

Mistakes were made (but not by me): why we justify foolish beliefs, bad decisions, and hurtful acts by carol tavris and elliot aronson.

top 10 books psychology

Let’s be honest… everyone does something wrong sometimes. Maybe you’re thinking something you know is foolish, but you can’t let go. Or perhaps you’re trying to weasel your way out of the consequences that come from bad decisions and harmful actions. The bottom line is: not everyone has a guilty conscious, and at times we double down even when we know we’re wrong. It’s exactly that kind of mildly deviant behavior—and our resistance to holding ourselves responsible for our mistakes—that Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explore in Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) . Among the best books about psychology, this study of “self-deception” brings a crucial perspective to mind science, helping to explain why people do bad things and don’t own up to them. Nobody’s perfect, and everyone can see a part of themselves in this engrossing book, which will help you become a better person and citizen of this world.

How to read it: Purchase Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) on Amazon

The paradox of choice: why more is less by barry schwartz.

top 10 books psychology

I bet it’s happened to you sometime lately: you become overwhelmed by making a simple and straightforward decision and feel stressed with anxiety. If this sounds like you—and probably most of us—you need to pick up psychologist Barry Schwartz’s The Paradox of Choice . Definitely one of the best psychology books, The Paradox of Choice describes the way more options make it harder to make basic choices. Schwartz illuminates how we can fight back against endless options and think with purity, singularity, and objectivity. This book helps liberate people from cloudy and panicked judgments and helps them be more self-assure of their decision-making abilities.

How to read it: Purchase The Paradox of Choice on Amazon

Predictably irrational: the hidden forces that shape our decisions by dan ariely.

top 10 books psychology

It happens often: you make an irrational decision even though you know it’s irrational. Why is it so hard to pull back from making bad choices when we know they’re bad? In Predictably Irrational , one of the best psychology books of all time, Dan Airely explores this conundrum, revealing the ways that irrational urges can overpower our judgments. The good news is Airely offers a way out of this trap, imparting actional advice that everyone can benefit from learning.

How to read it: Purchase Predictably Irrational on Amazon

The psychopath test: a journey through the madness industry by jon ronson.

top 10 books psychology

Jon Ronson’s The Psychopath Test is one of my all-time favorite books and the book that single-handedly converted me to reading nonfiction. Why is it so good? Because Ronson is an expert storyteller. In this captivating book, Ronson dives into the world of psychopaths: not just psychopaths themselves but also the people who treat and profit off them. What I love about this book is how Ronson introduces himself as part of the story. Along the way, his opinions and beliefs change the more he researches psychopathology, and you might find yours change, too. It’s also so true that psychology is an industry with lobbyists, million-dollar paychecks, and expensive medications and treatment many cannot afford. Ronson pulls back the curtain on this hidden business side of psychology in this must-read.

How to read it: Purchase The Psychopath Test on Amazon

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking by susan cain.

top 10 books psychology

I’m really fond of books about personality (see my list of the 30 best personality books on this blog). And Susan Cain’s Quiet is a crucial book in the study of personality and one of the best books about human psychology. What Cain does for introverts in Quiet is sing the song of the power of the “I” types, broadcasting their positive qualities and making the case that introverts are just as capable, strong, and consequential as our extrovert counterparts. An introvert myself, I find Quiet to be just what the world needs to appreciate those whose psychology tends towards introversion.

How to read it: Purchase Quiet on Amazon

Strangers to ourselves: unsettled minds and the stories that make us by rachel aviv.

top 10 books psychology

Although Rachel Aviv’s Strangers to Ourselves is the newest book in this list of the best psychology books, it’s no less a masterpiece than some of the classics featured here. In Strangers to Ourselves , Aviv concerns herself with “insight,” the term used to describe how self-aware people with mental illnesses about their condition. For far too many people, doctors, psychologists, and the psychiatric industry tell the stories of mental health patients. Aviv highlights how each unique person has a unique story to tell, often ones whose cultural, gender, and age factors are misunderstood. Once you get the power of creating your own personal narrative, you can take action towards rescuing yourself. It’s a bold idea that Aviv champions brilliantly in Strangers to Ourselves , deserving of its status as among the best new books about psychology.

How to read it: Purchase Strangers to Ourselves on Amazon

Switch: how to change things when change is hard by chip heath & dan heath.

top 10 books psychology

I’ll be the first to admit it: I don’t like change. Like most of us, I’m often resistant to change even when it might benefit me. In Switch , brother-authors Chip and Dan Heath argue that the conflict between our emotional mind and our rational mind keeps us from making essential changes in our personal and professional lives. By mastering the dynamic between these two minds, we can allow change into our lives. Switch , which definitely earning its spot on this list of the best psychology books, will help you find the balance you need to make life-altering changes—and the little ones, too.

How to read it: Purchase Switch on Amazon

Talking to strangers: what we should know about the people we don’t know by malcolm gladwell.

top 10 books psychology

Malcolm Gladwell is one of the most famous pop psychology writers, and I believe his best work is Talking to Strangers . In this instructive, if not a little dark, book, Gladwell goes over the social psychology that governs our interactions with strangers. I myself felt like there were so many takeaways from this book, and I genuinely think I became a better person after reading it. Plus it’s downright fascinating, with an eclectic mix of case studies from across culture and history.

How to read it: Purchase Talking to Strangers on Amazon

Think again: the power of knowing what you don’t know by adam grant.

top 10 books psychology

Our society values intelligence, but intelligence can backfire, causing us to calcify our thoughts, opinions, and emotions rather than test them. In Think Again , Wharton business professor and organizational psychologist Adam Grant shares the power of unlearning and rethinking. By unlearning and rethinking, we open ourselves up to personal emotional and intellectual growth through engaging with others who have different beliefs. Grant profiles people who have successfully changed others’ minds by unlearning and rethinking, not least including Grant, who convinced Yankees fans to root for the Red Socks (if he can accomplish that, he can change anyone’s mind). This hopeful read, one of the best psychology books, is what we need for the divided time we’re in right now.

How to read it: Purchase Think Again on Amazon

Thinking, fast and slow by daniel kahneman.

top 10 books psychology

We close this list of the 30 best psychology books of all time with one of the greatest: Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow . This important book details Kahneman’s model where there are two modes of thinking that our brains engage with at any time: there’s System 1, which is fast, emotional, and intuitive, and System 2, which is slower, more logical, and more deliberative. Both of these systems are used in our daily judgments and decisions. In Thinking, Fast and Slow , Kahneman shows how best to harness each system for maximum psychological benefit. Easy to grasp yet profound, Kahenman’s theory explains the way we think in meaningful, impactful terms.

How to read it: Purchase Thinking, Fast and Slow on Amazon

And there you have it our list of the 30 best psychology books of all time. which one will you read first, share this:.

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Sarah S. Davis is the founder of Broke by Books, a blog about her journey as a schizoaffective disorder bipolar type writer and reader. Sarah's writing about books has appeared on Book Riot, Electric Literature, Kirkus Reviews, BookRags, PsychCentral, and more. She has a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, a Master of Library and Information Science from Clarion University, and an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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7 must-read psychology books to help you better understand yourself and your potential

Psychologist Dr Christian Jarrett recommends seven of the best books on psychology.

Christian Jarrett

It's an age-old question – how much can a person truly change, deep down? In my book, Be Who You Want ( £14.99, Hachette ), I looked for an answer from the fascinating world of personality psychology. I read widely to discover what contemporary psychology considers to be the fundamental traits that make us who we are, and most exciting, whether we can choose to change them.

The following seven books I drew on will help you better understand who you are now, and who you might become.

Read more about personality change:

  • How to change your personality, according to a cognitive neuroscientist
  • A neuroscientist explains how easy changes to your routine can improve your personality
  • Instant Genius podcast: Personality change, with Dr Christian Jarrett

7 of the best psychology books

The art and science of personality development.

top 10 books psychology

Dan P McAdams

Contemporary scientific psychology views human personality as made up of five key traits: openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. In his book from 2015, the US psychology professor Dan P McAdams introduces readers to these traits, explains their relative stability and their powerful consequences for our lives.

Crucially, however, McAdams explains that there is more to who you are than your basic traits –you are also defined by your goals and by the stories you tell about your own life. What I found especially inspiring was his exploration of how these elements of your identity can interact with your basic traits –suggesting that, by changing your goals and your personal story, you can begin to transform who you are.

top 10 books psychology

Tasha Eurich

An argument I make in my book is that before embarking on a journey of deliberate personality change, you must make an honest and realistic assessment of the kind of person you are today. Similarly, in her book from 2017, the US business psychologist Eurich argues that self-understanding is the "meta-skill" of the 21st Century.

Of course, there are various personality tests you can take online, and it makes sense to ask trusted friends and relatives to score you on those tests too (after all, we all have various blindspots about our own traits).

However, beyond those basic tests, Eurich offers various fun and creative ways to find out more about yourself and how you'd like to change, such as by asking yourself the so-called "miracle question" –if a miracle occurred overnight and a change occurred to you that had beneficial consequences for many aspects of your life, what would that change be?

I'm Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want To Come

top 10 books psychology

Jessica Pan

While there are many advantages to being introverted, such as the ability to work quietly without constantly craving fun distractions, there are also sound reasons why people might want to learn to become more sociable and outgoing – many studies show that, on average, extraverts are happier, have better health and more friends than introverts.

But is such a transformation realistic? An introvert myself, I found inspiration from Pan's hilarious memoir published in 2020, in which she describes how she came out of her own introverted shell and spent a year living as a full-blown extravert, including performing standup and joining an improv group.

Live More, Think Less

top 10 books psychology

Pia Callesen

When people are surveyed about which trait of theirs they would most like to change, overwhelmingly the most popular choice is to become less neurotic –that is, to enjoy more emotional stability and to spend less time worrying.

It is encouraging that a growing amount of research suggests that various forms of psychotherapy can lead to reductions in trait neuroticism. One of the most promising approaches is so-called meta-cognitive therapy, which is the focus of clinical psychologist Pia Callesen's book from 2017.

For any chronic worriers out there, one of her tips is to set aside a set period of time each day to vent your worries, either thinking about them or writing them down. If you do this, you'll find it much easier to let your anxious thoughts go at other times of the day.

Rebel Ideas

top 10 books psychology

Matthew Syed

One nugget that surprised me the most when doing background reading for Be Who You Want was the far-reaching implications of the trait that is openness to experience. This describes your willingness to not only try out new things and go to unfamiliar places, but also to consider alternative viewpoints and arguments.

People who score highly in this trait tend to be more creative and they are even less vulnerable to dementia later in life. A book that will help you harness your openness is Syed's book Rebel Ideas . Through riveting case studies, he demonstrates the value of diverse thinking and the ability to approach problems with an open mind.


top 10 books psychology

When it comes to success at school and at work, the personality trait that is most important is conscientiousness –this includes your orderliness and self-discipline. Luckily, you aren't stuck with your current levels of this trait.

A lesson I discovered from my research on Be Who You Want is that aspects of our personality are akin to skills. Whatever your natural inclinations, you can learn to become more focused, thus boosting your conscientiousness. Eyal's book from 2019 is one of the best I've come across for helping you to do this.

In contrast to many other books in the genre, he doesn't lay the blame for our collective loss of focus on social media and digital devices. Rather he teaches you to get to roots of why you are tempted to seek out distraction (whether from your phone or elsewhere), and how to take an ameliorative action, such as by reframing a task to make it more exciting or reminding yourself of your larger goals. One consequence of reading his book is that you're bound to see your conscientiousness increase.

The Wisdom of Psychopaths

top 10 books psychology

Kevin Dutton

Alongside the so-called Big Five personality traits, many psychologists also recognise three further dimensions to our characters, reflecting the so-called "dark side" of human nature –narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. It's generally understood that while these traits are morally dubious, they evolved because they each offer certain advantages.

Take narcissists –thanks to their surface confidence and bravado, they tend to grab the limelight and make a positive first impression (though it soon wears off). In Be Who You Want , I explore whether we can borrow some of the advantages of the dark traits, without slipping over to the dark side.

To help, I read Dutton's book – The Wisdom Of Psychopaths – in which he explores the notion of "successful psychopathy", based on the idea that there are upsides to this trait, including having "fearless dominance", which allows certain ruthless people to excel in certain arenas such as politics and special forces operations.

One way to channel this attitude in your own life (without becoming a full-blown psychopath!) is to interpret difficult situations as challenges, rather than as threats, for example by focusing on what you can control and seeing the experience as a learning experience rather than a test.

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The 10 Best Psychology Books For Beginners To Jump-Start your Education

  • Ivaylo Durmonski
  • Reading Lists

What books should I read if I’m interested in psychology? What are the best psychology books for beginners? These are common questions people ask themselves if they want to learn psychology by themselves. And while it might seem intimidating if you’re just getting started, don’t get discouraged. It’s fully possible to become an expert in understanding how the human mind works. Figure out why people behave in a certain way. Spot errors in the way you act and make proper adjustments.

Finding the best psychology books to read, especially if you’re a beginner, is not an easy task. Our libraries are crowded. Supposedly great titles that aim to make you a swift persuaded or a mind reader are everywhere. Books that promise to help you figure out others so you can find the ultimate way of controlling a conversation or simply calming folks when they are feeling stressed are all over the place.

To find the best ones for you personally, you should stop. Stop and consider a couple of questions. The first question you should ask yourself if you want to uncover the hidden traits in your, and others, personalities, is this one: What type of field I want to start exploring? What type of discipline do I want to get better at?

There are different types of psychology. Yes, I was amazed, myself, when I first started reading about human behavior but it soon became apparent to me that it’s not only about how we behave. There is behavioral psychology. Cognitive psychology ( CBT ). Evolutionary psychology. Even the secret society of dark psychology. (Check out a list of the best dark psychology books .)

But let say you’re just getting started. If this is the case, congratulations. I’ve compiled a list of some of the greatest, beginner-friendly psychology books for newcomers. These are easy to read and will introduce you to the core concepts about the human mind and how we’re structured to work. (You’re a psychology student? Check this list then: Best Psychology Books For Students ).

The 10 Best Psychology Books For Beginners:

1. the psychology book by nigel c. benson, 2. how to win friends and influence people by dale carnegie, 3. the emotional brain by joseph e. ledoux, 4. the happiness hypothesis by jonathan haidt, 5. stumbling on happiness by daniel todd gilbert, 6. the confidence game by maria konnikova, 7. flow by mihaly csikszentmihalyi, 8. the path to purpose by william damon, 9. how children fail john holt, 10. the invisible gorilla by christopher chabris.

The Psychology Book Big Ideas Simply Explained book cover photo

What’s the book about?

If you’re a total beginner in the field of psychology, a newbie. It’s best to start with this book. It’s a combination of more than 100 ideas in the field of – yes! you guessed it – psychology. The book covers a lot of ground. How it all started – the history of psychology. The most recognized names, ideas, and fundamental concepts around behaviorism, psychotherapy, and developmental psychology. Plainly, this is an easy-to-get encyclopedia of the fascinating field of psychology. It’s also excellent for children who are taking their first steps into their teenage years.

Who is it for?

People who are just getting started in the field of psychology. The pictures and the nicely designed pages will break it down for you. You’ll understand the most interesting bits and pieces in the area of psychology. Expect: lots of big ideas simply explained and backed with a lot of images, so you can familiarize yourself with all major concepts.

Thought-Provoking Quote:

“Despair evaporates when we stop denying who we really are and attempt to uncover and accept our true nature.” Nigel Benson

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How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie book cover photo

One of the most praised books in the self-help industry. Dale Carnegie teaches us how to win friends by focusing on a couple of simple techniques. The most overlooked technique to get others to like you and join your side? Listen to them. Really listen. This is a bestseller for a simple reason. The stories and the methods are timeless. The book is easy to understand and easy to implement. And lastly, what Carnegie teaches us about influencing is not to force others to do stuff they don’t like. It’s about acknowledging their personalities and desires and finding the optimal solution for both of the parties.

I read How to Win Friends and Influence People more than 10 years ago. While I’ll probably find the content of the book cheesy now, I highly recommend it to people who want to improve both their personal and professional lives. This book will open your eyes to so many possibilities – so many mental models . One important thing, even if you find the advice mentioned too simple and too vague, follow them. I can assure you that you’ll see positive changes in your relationships with others once you obey the commands of Dale Carnegie.

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” Dale Carnegie

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The Emotional Brain by Joseph LeDoux book cover photo

Our brains are full of complex systems. And while you surely don’t need to know everything, you definitely need to understand this part: our emotions govern our actions. This book will explain, in a relatively easy-to-understand way, what is the so-called “emotional brain” and why you need to care about it. Once you introduce yourself to the emotions your brain produces, you’ll better understand yourself and finally stop reacting with strong annoyance, displeasure, or hostility when the situation doesn’t require it.

The Emotional Brain is a very good introduction to the emotional side of our brains. If you still don’t know that it’s not just you. That there are also emotions that are actually the ones that control you. You will finally reveal your hidden motives in your daily actions and escape from what was previously almost impossible to get out of situations. So essentially, this book is for people who want to properly manage their moods and their relationships with others.

“We do not tremble because we are afraid or cry because we feel sad; we are afraid because we tremble and sad because we cry.” Joseph E. LeDoux

The Happiness Hypothesis book cover photo

We are happier when we are surrounded by friends and family members, but we’re still restlessly pursuing career success and more money. Where this leads us? To more misery and more suffering. By sharing great stories and by making connections between religion, ancient philosophy, and psychology, the author wants to help us move away from pain and get closer to pleasure.

People who are stuck in the rat race . Folks who have more than enough but who are still pushing for even more. This book aims to teach you about the things that have real value in our lives and persuade you that some things shouldn’t be on focus – continuous pursue for acquiring more money, playing status games , or wicked unconscious maneuvers (for the last part you can also check Games People Play by Eric Berne).

“If you are in passionate love and want to celebrate your passion, read poetry. If your ardor has calmed and you want to understand your evolving relationship, read psychology. But if you have just ended a relationship and would like to believe you are better off without love, read philosophy.” Jonathan Haidt

Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Todd book cover photo

We are consistently wrong about many things. Our memory is terrible. We tend to misremember how we felt in the past. And we are terrible at predicting what type of activities or things will make us feel joy in the future. This book aims to explain why we are awfully unimpressive at knowing what is going to make us satisfied in the long term. Daniel Todd Gilbert will bombard you with plenty of questions that will allow you to define what happiness means for you.

If you are constantly fooling yourself on what sorts of things or relationships will bring you joy. If you are terrible at predicting what activity will make your life better. This book is for you. Full of brilliant, funny, and science-based stories, the revelations in this book will help people add an extra dose of joy to their lives.

“Most of us appear to believe that we are more athletic, intelligent, organized, ethical, logical, interesting, open-minded, and healthy-not to mention more attractive-than the average person.” Daniel Gilbert

The Confidence Game Why We Fall for It book cover photo

A mesmerizing book that looks at how con artists are able to persuade millions of people. Why Ponzi schemes work and why we are still failing into “obvious” scams. Maria Konnikova explores the secret world of charlatans. What mind games they play on us and most importantly, why we continue to label “too good to be true” stories as legitimate.

Totally recommended to naive people who are new to the field of psychology. This book will not only show you how other people take advantage of you, but also save you a lot of money. By gaining the ability to quickly identify pyramid schemes, you’ll finally understand that there isn’t such thing as free money.

“The confidence game—the con—is an exercise in soft skills. Trust, sympathy, persuasion. The true con artist doesn’t force us to do anything; he makes us complicit in our own undoing. He doesn’t steal. We give. He doesn’t have to threaten us. We supply the story ourselves. We believe because we want to, not because anyone made us. And so we offer up whatever they want—money, reputation, trust, fame, legitimacy, support—and we don’t realize what is happening until it is too late.” Maria Konnikova

Flow The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi book cover photo

The famous author, with you’ll-never-say-his-name-right, introduces the concept of “optimal experience.” This book explains in length what types of tasks can unlock true happiness. How you can concentrate better, improve the quality of your work and enter the magical space of flow – a place where you are 100% focused on the current task. This book is heavily mentioned by all productivity experts for a good reason. Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience teaches us exactly what the title entails – diving “in the zone” when you do certain things.

Especially good for people who are having a hard time concentrating. Thanks to the content of the book, you’ll understand how you should approach your tasks. What exactly you need to do to improve your skills in your field of choice. Furthermore, it will help you figure out what type of activities you should aim towards and what type of activities you should ditch.

“On the job people feel skillful and challenged, and therefore feel more happy, strong, creative, and satisfied. In their free time people feel that there is generally not much to do and their skills are not being used, and therefore they tend to feel more sad, weak, dull, and dissatisfied. Yet they would like to work less and spend more time in leisure.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

The Path to Purpose by William Damon book cover photo

Commonly prescribed for parents, this book can surely help everyone who is struggling to find a sense of purpose in his life. William Damon investigates why so many young people these days are unable to find a career path that seems worthy. Why inspiration is usually a missing ingredient in the life of most teenagers, and why these same youngsters seemingly can’t figure out what they should do with their lives.

For everyone who can’t find his place in this world. I’ll personally recommend this book to all young people. Even if you do know what you want to do, this book will help you define your goals even better. Also, for individuals, regardless of age, who are still aimlessly wandering around the hemisphere, this is a must-read book. It offers a variety of practical tasks that will give you a sense of direction.

“My mom “wants me to have my own choices, but she wants my choices to be math and science.” Ben, age twelve

How Children Fail John Holt book cover photo

A scientific approach to how children learn – or more precisely, how they do not learn. John Holt focuses on providing us with gimmick-free lessons on how teachers should teach children. Instead of forcing knowledge through clever teaching methods. He provides insightful information about how students naturally learn new information. This allows us to tailor our approach, which leads to better communication between teachers and children.

Often cited as the go-to guide that can positively transform our flawed educational system. How Children Fail will provide knowledge workers with useful insights on how to modify their approach in school. Also, as you can guess, it’s especially good for parents who want to educate their children. How to prepare them for the world by enhancing their thinking and problem-solving skills.

“For many years I have been asking myself why intelligent children act unintelligently at school. The simple answer is, “Because they’re scared.” I used to suspect that children’s defeatism had something to do with their bad work in school, but I thought I could clear it away with hearty cries of “Onward! You can do it!” What I now see for the first time is the mechanism by which fear destroys intelligence, the way it affects a child’s whole way of looking at, thinking about, and dealing with life. So we have two problems, not one: to stop children from being afraid, and then to break them of the bad thinking habits into which their fears have driven them.” John Holt

The Invisible Gorilla by Christopher Chabris book cover photo

The Invisible Gorilla is one of the best psychology beginner books for a simple reason: the hidden gorilla experiment demonstrating our inattentional blindness is heavily cited in other famous books. The title explains in an accessible language why and how our eyes can fool us. What type of information remains hidden for the mind to see. And, what are our biases we usually don’t see in the way our brains cope with the world.

If you haven’t watched the famous invisible gorilla video, go ahead and check it now – you can see the video here . It still amazes me how some people are not able to see the gorilla in the video. If you’re wondering the same, this book will go through the experiment in length. It’s a great read that will help you understand how focused attention can make you blind to the outside world.

“Beware of memories accompanied by strong emotions and vivid details—they are just as likely to be wrong as mundane memories, but you’re far less likely to realize it.” Christopher Chabris

Some Closing Thoughts

The field of psychology is an important academic discipline. Yet, few people understand how crucial what glass-wearing knowledge workers who study the mind can teach us.

Regardless of your age, you need to take some time to study how we are designed to operate. What type of mistakes we tend to make and how we can adjust our behavior.

This will not only help you make good habits stick and improve self-discipline . But also support your efforts to properly assess your current condition – the factors that undermine your existence.

The recommendations above are what I can label good psychology books to read for beginners.

I’ve intentionally picked easy-to-read titles. Such that are absent of complicated language and impossible-to-get concepts.

After all, if you are new to the field of psychology, you’d want to start with something light. Something accessible yet still eye-opening.

And, before you go. Keep in mind this…

Don’t hope to get everything. Focus on understanding the basics.

I can assure you that the more you learn about how we behave, the more you’ll want to learn. Once you figure out the essentials, move on to some more complicated reads – i.e., my list of psychology must-reads .

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10 Persuasion Tricks from Psychology Books That Work Every Time

Y es, you read that right! Even you can now learn the 10 persuasion tricks from psychology books that work every time. Persuasion is a handy skill, that can be used in various contexts. There will always be someone in your team, or in your family who will be against your decision. It then becomes essential to get them on your side.

Sales is nothing without persuasion, and there are many other fields where you need this skill to get the job done. How do you do this then? What can help you? Well, many psychologists have for a long time been interested in the dance between the pursuer and the one who gets pursued. This gave rise to many tricks that you can have right under your sleeve.

Top 10 Psychology Tricks to Persuade Anyone

This guide will also help you in identifying when these tricks are being used on you and make you a pro at identifying signs of manipulation . Here are the psychology tricks that will help you learn the art of persuasion and implement them in your everyday life:

1) Principle of reciprocity

You have to think it through from the very beginning when you are try to be reciprocal and persuade someone in the process.

Start with small favors, for instance, completing a chore, holding the office seat for them, giving them a coffee in the morning, and more. They are likely to feel obligated to return the favor.

2) Polite expressions

"Please" is a magic word, and you may have to turn into a people pleaser some time, to get your job done.

We are much likely to be pursuaded, when an individual adds polite expressions in comparison to instructions or demands. By expressing gratitude and saying thank you, you also increase the chances.

3) Scarcity

Scarcity is scary. Humans love abundance, and when you introduce scarcity, the person is likely to comply easily. The year of the pandemic introduced the scarcity of toilet papers, and everyone hoarded, even if it was sufficient for everyone. When you tell someone that you have something no one else does, they are more likely to comply.

4) Anchoring and adjustment

All humans work on cognitive shortcuts known as heuristics. When you interact with someone, bring them to an anchor point. Once they seem convinced, continue to pursue them with additional information around the anchor. Don't be in a rush, and try to carry on as long as you see its effects showing on the other person.

5) Framing effect

Yes, all marketing companies use this technique. Yes, we have been fooled by most of them. 80% fat free will always sound more appealing than 20% fat, even though they mean the same thing. Frame information in a way that influences the appeal.

6) Foot in the door/ Door in the face technique

For the foot-in-the-door technique, begin with a small request until eventually the other person accepts your original request. These are dark psychology tricks that continued to be used today.

Meanwhile, face-in-the-door technique is quite the opposite. You start with an unrealistic and extremely large request. Gradually, you reduce it to your original request.

Nod away to pursue the one who is in front of you. All of us love validation, and when we show others that we agree non-verbally with them, they are more likely to pay attention to our requests and agree to them.

The trick is simple, be polite and keep nodding.

It is a sweet, fizzy drink that you can enjoy with a smile. Which can of soft drink would you like to open? If you said Coca Cola, you have been effectively primed by the picture. Coca Cola has for long used this technique from psychology, to run their business successfully.

9) Talk faster

Ever imagined why your superior keeps their instructions short and crisp? or why they talk faster than other employees? Well, generally it's just to get the job done as quickly as possible.

When you talk fast, others are likely to affirm for the sake of it. They want to show that they have been receptive all the while, and have understood what has transpired. This gives them less opportunity to refuse.

10) Deadline technique

Give people a deadline, and they will do as you tell them. Most shopping departments use this psychology trick to keep their shoppers in a state of anticipation and frenzy. If you don't get this now, you might miss the offer forever. This can be one of your go-to tricks to pursue someone.

While these are the top 10 tricks for persuasion, many continue to be researched till date. If you want to learn more, there are many Psychology books that can help you slowly and gradually learn this skill. Some of these are: "Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion" by Robert Cialdini, "The Psychology of Persuasion" by Kevin Hogan, and many more that continue to be published.

Janvi Kapur is a counselor with a Master's degree in applied psychology with a specialization in clinical psychology.

What do you think of this story? Tell us in the comments section below.

10 Persuasion Tricks from Psychology Books That Work Every Time


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editors’ choice

9 New Books We Recommend This Week

Suggested reading from critics and editors at The New York Times.

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It’s too early to know the full story behind the mass shooting at yesterday’s Super Bowl parade in Kansas City, but for the back story — the broader context of America’s love affair with guns and the resulting steady drumbeat of horrific incidents — you might look to two of our recommended books this week: Dominic Erdozain’s “One Nation Under Guns” and Jonathan M. Metzl’s “What We’ve Become,” which take cleareyed but different approaches to the country’s gun culture and its intractable challenges.

Also up this week, we recommend a couple of big biographies, of the choreographer Martha Graham and the Marxist revolutionary Frantz Fanon, along with a memoir of undocumented immigration and a true-crime history about a 1931 murder that exposed a network of political corruption. In poetry, we recommend Mary Jo Bang’s latest collection, and in fiction we like new novels by Paul Theroux and the British writer Dolly Alderton. Happy reading. — Gregory Cowles

ONE NATION UNDER GUNS: How Gun Culture Distorts Our History and Threatens Our Democracy Dominic Erdozain

This galvanizing polemic by a historian appalled at American gun violence scrutinizes the historical record to show where contemporary interpretations of the Second Amendment have departed from the framers’ apparent intentions, with disastrous results.

top 10 books psychology

“Considers guns from cultural, legal and historical perspectives. ... So comprehensive and assured that the moment I finished it, I immediately went back to the beginning and read it again.”

From Rachel Louise Snyder’s review

Crown | $28

WHAT WE’VE BECOME: Living and Dying in a Country of Arms Jonathan M. Metzl

Homing in on a mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House in 2018, Metzl, a psychiatrist and sociologist, argues that America’s gun violence epidemic requires us to address racial and political tensions deeply embedded in our history.

top 10 books psychology

“Casts a wide net. ... How, he asks, have public health experts failed to effect changes in policy, given their thousands of studies devoted to the myriad ways firearms increase risk and danger?”

Norton | $29.99

THE REBEL’S CLINIC: The Revolutionary Lives of Frantz Fanon Adam Shatz

This absorbing biography of the Black psychiatrist, writer and revolutionary Frantz Fanon highlights a side of him that’s often eclipsed by his image as a zealous partisan — that of the caring doctor, who ran a secret clinic for Algerian rebels.

top 10 books psychology

“Part of what gives ‘The Rebel’s Clinic’ its intellectual heft is Shatz’s willingness to write into such tensions…. Portrays a man whose penchant for ‘rhetorical extremity’ could obscure how horrified he was by the brutality he had seen.”

From Jennifer Szalai’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $32

GOOD MATERIAL Dolly Alderton

Alderton’s novel, about a 35-year-old struggling to make sense of a breakup, delivers the most delightful aspects of romantic comedy — snappy dialogue, realistic relationship dynamics, funny meet-cutes and misunderstandings — and leaves behind clichéd gender roles and the traditional marriage plot.

top 10 books psychology

“Alderton excels at portraying nonromantic intimate relationships with tenderness and authenticity.”

From Katie J.M. Baker review

Knopf | $28

ERRAND INTO THE MAZE: The Life and Works of Martha Graham Deborah Jowitt

In the hands of a veteran dance critic, this rigorous biography excels at describing the flamboyant choreographer’s work and distinct style. About the messy life between performances, Jowitt is comparatively mild.

top 10 books psychology

“A study in balance and grace. ... A distinguished biography: its description rich, its author’s rigor unquestionable.”

From Alexandra Jacobs’s review

Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $35

THE BISHOP AND THE BUTTERFLY: Murder, Politics and the End of the Jazz Age Michael Wolraich

The 1931 murder of “Broadway Butterfly” Vivian Gordon exposed an explosive story of graft, corruption and entrapment that went all the way to the top of the state. Wolraich brings a journalist’s eye and a novelist’s elegance to this story of Jazz Age New York.

top 10 books psychology

“A disquieting reminder of how tragedy can be used to effect change, but also how it is often leveraged for advancement.”

From Lesley M.M. Blume’s review

Union Square | $28.99

MY SIDE OF THE RIVER: A Memoir Elizabeth Camarillo Gutierrez

When Gutierrez was 4, her parents moved the family from Mexico to Arizona in hopes of giving their children better opportunities than they would have had in their “violent little narco town.” In this moving, timely memoir, she considers the ripple effects of that decision.

top 10 books psychology

“A testament to the abiding allure — and often daunting reality — of the American dream.”

From Julia Scheeres’s review

St. Martin’s | $29

BURMA SAHIB Paul Theroux

This novel explores George Orwell’s years in colonial Burma, where he trained and worked as a police officer in the 1920s. Theroux’s Orwell is uneasy about his job and repelled by the British ruling class. But these experiences, the book suggests, made Orwell into the sharp thinker he became.

top 10 books psychology

“The Burma that he conjures in these pages is wonderfully present in lush and dense prose. ... Theroux is now in his early 80s and this novel is one of his finest, in a long and redoubtable oeuvre.”

From William Boyd’s review

Mariner | $30


The poems in Bang’s latest collection, her ninth, are full of pleasure, color, sound and light — but also torment.

top 10 books psychology

“The work of miniaturizing a life is painstaking, and Bang’s poems have a characteristic clockwork precision — they tick and spin like mechanical music boxes.”

From Elisa Gabbert’s poetry column

Graywolf | Paperback, $17

Explore More in Books

Want to know about the best books to read and the latest news start here..

Even in countries where homophobia is pervasive and same-sex relationships are illegal, queer African writers are pushing boundaries , finding an audience and winning awards.

In Lucy Sante’s new memoir, “I Heard Her Call My Name,” the author reflects on her life and embarking on a gender transition  in her late 60s.

For people of all ages in Pasadena, Calif., Vroman’s Bookstore, founded in 1894, has been a mainstay in a world of rapid change. Now, its longtime owner says he’s ready to turn over the reins .

Do you want to be a better reader?   Here’s some helpful advice to show you how to get the most out of your literary endeavor .

Each week, top authors and critics join the Book Review’s podcast to talk about the latest news in the literary world. Listen here .


Impact of parenting style on early childhood learning: mediating role of parental self-efficacy.

\r\nChuibin Kong

  • 1 Department of Education, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming, China
  • 2 School of Education, South China Normal University, Guangzhou, China

The current study examined the impact of parental style on early childhood learning, as well as the role of parental self-efficacy (PSE) as a mediating factor. In the domains of education and psychology, it is increasingly recognized that parents have a considerable impact on their children’s learning and development. Purposive sampling was used and data was gathered over 3 months from school children’s parents. Hypotheses were tested using smart partial least squares-structural equation modeling (PLS-SEM v3.2.8) software. The findings of the present study reveal that an authoritative parenting style is positively associated with learning outcomes among Chinese students. Moreover, the mediating role of parental self-efficacy has been tested and proved to be a potential mediator between parental style and children’s learning outcomes. High PSE is linked to parents’ adoption of a variety of optimum parenting practices throughout childhood, including maternal sensitivity and responsiveness to children’s needs, warm and affectionate parental behavior, and monitoring. Hence, low PSE has been linked to coercive or harsh parenting as well as a proclivity to give up easily when faced with parental difficulties. In China, further study is needed on the relationship between parenting style, parental self-efficacy, and learning outcome. Future parenting programs could also focus on raising parents’ understanding of the need for both parents’ involvement in expressive activities and mentoring. This could help them boost their parenting self-efficacy even more. Lastly, the implications for parents, children, and teachers are discussed.


Recent studies on parental education reveal that researchers have mostly focused on mothers, and while many authors have proposed the systematic inclusion of fathers, few studies have done so ( Giallo et al., 2013 ; Diniz et al., 2021 ). Despite increased acknowledgment of the critical role of fathers play in their children’s growth and learning, research on parental self-efficacy and parental involvement in children’s education has tended to neglect fathers ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ). In educational policy and research, the role of parental involvement in children’s education has become a central topic ( Acar et al., 2021 ; Ribeiro et al., 2021 ). In this regard, for enhancing student achievement and eliminating educational disparities, many school reforms include initiatives to promote parental involvement ( Lo et al., 2021 ). The role of family life and parenting styles have a significant impact on the development and maturation of early children. Therefore, parental self-efficacy is typically a goal of programs aimed at improving early life experiences in order to encourage healthy parenting practices. Besides that, parents’ self-efficacy views, according to research may be crucial to the parenting practices. There is an increased sensitivity to learned helplessness and, as a result, a lack of drive to address problems when parents have low self-efficacy ( Qutaiba, 2011 ; Gindrich, 2021 ).

Family involvement refers to parents active participation in a variety of activities and behaviors that encourage their children’s early learning and development. A good example is Head Start school ( Kook and Greenfield, 2021 ). This federal program teaches parents how to work with their children at home, involves parents in early intervention to improve learning outcomes for children (especially those who are poor and underachieving), and provides opportunities for parents to participate in school administration. Obviously, the parent aspect is important to Head Start ( Ma et al., 2016 ). For children’s cognitive and language development, parent involvement in play, learning, and routine home activities is critical ( Tan et al., 2022 ). In this regard, parental involvement in literacy activities such as reading and telling stories is well known to be beneficial to children’s linguistic and cognitive development in the preschool years, as well as long-term academic outcomes. Parent participation, on the other hand, involves a broader range of parent actions than simply reading to children and can include any activity that gives a learning or cognitive stimulation opportunity ( Eijgermans et al., 2022 ).

The role parental involvement is also significant in children’s academic outcomes and have also been related to the provision of educational toys, answering inquiries, and engaging in dialog with them about their experiences. Furthermore, having access to a computer at home and living in a family with a medium to high level of engagement in out-of-home activities such as visiting libraries were linked to optimal developmental outcomes for children ( Le et al., 2021 ). Given the importance of parental involvement in boosting children’s outcomes, it’s not unexpected that there’s been a lot of curiosity about what factors influence the kind and frequency of parents’ involvement in activities with their children. Reduced cognitive stimulation in the home has also been linked to single parenthood and insecure employment ( Martin et al., 2022 ). Even though these results tell us a lot about how economic disadvantage affects parent involvement. Giallo et al. (2013) study reveal that less attention has been paid to the psychosocial characteristics of the parent, child, and family setting that may affect how much time parents spend with their children at home. Based on the above-mentioned literature and gaps there is a need to further explore the impact of various parenting styles on early childhood learning with parental self-efficacy as a mediator. Additionally existing studies have mostly focused on structural or socioeconomic variables, implying that parents with less education who are from a lower socioeconomic standing and are experiencing financial difficulties, are less responsive to their children and provide less learning stimulation. Therefore, the present study focus is to highlight the different parenting styles influence on early childhood learning outcome and how the role of parenting self-efficacy mediates between the two variables.

Research Literature

Supporting theories.

The present study is based on the following theories. According to Bandura’s self-efficacy theory ( Weinberg et al., 1979 ), perceived self-efficacy is a major driver of activity choice, task effort expenditure, and task perseverance in the face of impediments. Self-efficacy, while not the primary predictor of behavior, plays a significant part in people’s decisions about how much effort to put in and how long to keep it up when confronted with stressful conditions ( Clarke-Midura et al., 2019 ; Ran et al., 2022 ).

According to Vygotsky’s social interaction theory, social interaction between the child’s mind and caregiver is a vital key to the child’s cognitive development ( Forman and Cazden, 1986 ). Every parent wishes best for their children, especially when it comes to their intellectual abilities, moral values, and character development. Many parents, on the other hand, are unaware that educating and caring for their children in an overly restricted or overly permissive manner might cause them to lose confidence and ambition to succeed. According to several researchers, the family environment, particularly parenting behavior, influences interpersonal competence and changes in development, including social academic achievement, in teenagers ( Whittaker and Cowley, 2012 ; Shian et al., 2022 ). According to Grolnick and Ryan (1989) , one factor that influences adolescent school competency is the familial environment. The family environment reveals several relationships between parents and children that have an impact on one another, particularly in terms of parental style. In this scenario, the family environment, in the form of parenting style, also provides a learning pattern and facility. Theresya et al. (2018) proposed that a good parenting style creates a positive emotional environment and boosts a child’s self-confidence while learning, which helps the child do better in school.

Parenting Style and Learning Outcome

Early childhood and early school years have long been recognized as crucial to adult well-being and success ( Diniz et al., 2021 ). Education that is developmentally appropriate from an early age leads to better educational outcomes later in life ( Ma et al., 2016 ). Despite the large quantity of studies done in this area, there are major discrepancies in how parents are conceptualized and measured ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ). Some academics define parental involvement as involvement in school activities; others define it as parental ambitions for their children; and yet others define it as involvement in their children’s home learning activities. Researchers have recently acknowledged that the concept of parental participation is multidimensional ( Dewi and Indrasa, 2017 ), encompassing a wide range of parental behaviors related to their children’s education. Epstein (1992) defined parental involvement as (1) parent practices that create a positive learning environment at home; (2) parent-school communications about school programs and student progress; (3) parent participation and volunteering at school; (4) parent and school communications about learning activities at home; (5) parent involvement in school decision making and governance; and (6) parent access to a school’s resources ( Catsambis, 2001 ). Parents’ involvement in their children’s education, according to Epstein, is not static. Rather, differences in any of three overlapping domains of influence family, community, or school can alter the forms of parental participation ( Epstein, 1992 ). Based on the previous literature, these variables were studied separately with either father or mother influence on children success. But the objective of present study was to explore the influence of both parents on children’s and how parental self-efficacy leads to better learning outcome ( Zeb et al., 2021 ).

Children’s relationships with their families are critical to their growth ( Popa, 2022 ). Parental child care attitudes are defined by the parents’ warm and caring approach to the child; expectations of the child; communication with the child; and disciplinary attitudes toward them. In family attitudes theory, Diana Baumrind identified three categories of parental attitudes: families that are permissive, authoritative, and authoritarian ( Baumrind, 1968 ). Permissive parents take the strategy of tolerating and endorsing behavior based on the wishes of their children without looking into the causes or grounds of the behavior ( Liu and Guo, 2010 ). Although the child’s behavior is harmful to the environment, it is tolerated, and the parents are powerless to encourage the child to follow the rules. While such parents have greater talents in terms of child care, they have less ability to control their children’s conduct. They give their children too much freedom, lack discipline, and have low expectations of their children ( Verrocchio et al., 2015 ). Furthermore, authoritarian parents use strict rules and constraints formed by an excessive level of authority to control their children’s behavior. For those parents, what matters is that their children follow the rules without questioning them, and that their parents interfere and regulate their children’s behavior without hesitation for the sake of the child. Despite their failures in child care, these parents have the mindset of having the most parental control. They use both verbal and non-verbal (physical) sanctions to penalize the child’s unwanted behavior while failing to appreciate positive behavior ( Song et al., 2022 ).

Moreover, in this parenting style parents place unrealistic expectations on their children ( Ren and Zhu, 2022 ). These are the parents who are the most resistant to change and also make swift decisions. Lastly, with verbal and physical emotions authoritative parents assist their children. They have compassionated and close ties with their children. Those parents approach their children in a more cooperative manner. Their expectations are based on the abilities of their children. Those parents are attempting to mold their children’s cooperative and sensitive behavior. They are aware of their children’s thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, and they treat them with respect ( Liu et al., 2022 ). The norms of authoritative parenting, which are widely regarded as the most ideal kind of parental care and attitudes, are open, obvious, and debatable. Because of its adaptable structure, it can be reconfigured.

The role of these parental attitudes and actions can have an impact on their children’s personality traits and adaption to their surroundings. Growing up in a family with permissive parents might make children selfish. These children are uninterested in other people’s feelings and thoughts. They may be lacking in self-control and have low self-esteem. They could be lacking in social skills. Anxiety, sadness, and uneasiness may be experienced by children of authoritarian parents. When they are furious, they may resort to more physical aggression. Furthermore, they are unable to communicate effectively. They may exhibit a lack of self-assurance. In social situations, they are introverted people who can be confrontational. Children raised by authoritative parents are more capable socially and accept responsibility; they are self-assured, cooperative, pleasant, cheerful, autonomous, socially skillful, and independent ( Önder and Gülay, 2009 ).

With the growing emphasis on early childhood education and school success, it’s more important than ever to understand the development of skills, abilities, knowledge, and behaviors that are particularly important to children. When it comes to defining learning outcomes, there are two ways that are commonly used. One method is to identify and describe desirable learning outcomes for children at various developmental stages using crucial domains of child development. The five domains of learning and development for children in early childhood education and early primary education have been highlighted by the National Education Goals Panel as vital to enhancing human development. Physical well-being and motor development, social and emotional development, and learning approaches (learning styles) that include cultural components of learning, language development, and cognition and general knowledge are among these categories ( Ma et al., 2016 ). The way parents raise their children has a big impact on their development and learning.

In western societies, research has consistently proven that parenting style has a direct relationship with children’s academic achievement ( Luo et al., 2021 ). In general, research shows that children raised by authoritative parents have the best outcomes, whereas children raised by authoritarian or permissive parents have the worst outcomes. A study found that parenting style had a significant impact on children’s self-concept development. The reported level of warmth demonstrated by both their fathers and mothers had a direct relationship with the children’s self-concepts but not with parental permissiveness. Moreover, another previous study discovered that the family style affects the process of acquiring self-efficacy as outlined by Bandura (1986) . According to previous studies focused on western cultures, authoritarian and permissive parenting styles have a negative impact on children’s academic achievement ( Huang and Prochner, 2003 ). Therefore, Hypothesis 1 is constructed as shown below:

H1: Parenting style is positively associated with early childhood learning outcome.

Parental Self-Efficacy and Learning Outcome

Parenthood, while frequently rewarding, is also fraught with stress-inducing obstacles. New parents must deal with the physical and financial demands of caring for a child, as well as the various lifestyle changes that might arise as a result of this additional duty and lead to negative consequences such as strained spousal relationships and social isolation ( Song et al., 2022 ). The emotional cost of parents’ lack of confidence in their capacity to care for their children was noted as a concern for new parents as early as 1986. Once it was found, the idea of being confident in oneself and one’s skills as a parent was called parental self-efficacy, and it was immediately understood within a Bandura (1986) framework.

In the following decades, parental self-efficacy (PSE), which has lately been defined as “parents’ belief in their ability to influence their child in a health and success-promoting manner,” has emerged as a key treatment target for parent and child well-being. Parental self-efficacy has remained relevant in published literature since its inception as such an important clinical emphasis ( Albanese et al., 2019 ). Parental self-efficacy research is based on Bandura’s (1986) self-efficacy theory, which states that one of the major processes influencing behavior is an individual’s conviction in their capacity to effectively complete a task or sequence of activities. As a result, PSE measures a parent’s ability to mobilize the cognitive resources and actions required to exert control over life events. While self-efficacy is defined as a dynamic dimension that varies depending on the task’s needs, external variables, and a person’s previous experiences ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ).

A parent’s job is a complex and hard opportunity to support and contribute to a child’s growth and development. In this regard, parental competence is made up of behavioral, affective, and cognitive elements, with parental self-efficacy being a key component. Coleman and Karraker (2000) , for example, reported the following findings: parents with high self-efficacy believe they can effectively and positively influence their children’s development and behavior, and they engage in positive parenting behaviors, are more responsive to their children’s needs, engage in direct interactions with their children, use active coping strategies, and perceive their children to have fewer behavioral problems. On the other hand, for parents who have poor self-efficacy, the opposite is true. Previous literature supported that parent with low self-efficacy, for example, have higher rates of depression, exhibit more defensive and controlling behavior ( Zeb et al., 2021 ), have higher perceptions of child difficulties, report higher stress levels, have a passive parental coping style, place a greater emphasis on relationship problems, show more negative affect, feel helpless in the role of parent, and use punitive disciplinary strategies ( Pelletier and Brent, 2002 ).

Consequently, parents’ involvement in their children’s learning and academic progress is generally beneficial, according to researchers. Greenwood and Hickman (1991) identified a number of studies concentrating on primary school students that found links between parental participation and academic achievement, well-being, attendance, student attitude, homework readiness, grades, and educational goals. The findings revealed that academic achievement, time spent on homework, positive attitudes toward school, and lower rates of high school dropouts are all favorably associated with parental participation ( Gonzalez-DeHass et al., 2005 ). Several studies have found that parents from higher socioeconomic backgrounds are more involved in their children’s education than parents from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, and that this involvement fosters more positive attitudes toward school, improves homework habits, reduces absenteeism and dropout, and improves academic achievement ( Sui-Chu and Willms, 1996 ). Aside from the high emphasis put on education by Chinese parents, the fierce rivalry for a limited number of spots in higher education has an impact on parents’ parenting behavior. According to prior research performed in China, over 83 percent of parents said they helped their children study in various ways, such as hiring tutors or supervising their children’s homework ( Zhang, 2021 ). In Hong Kong and Taiwan, studies on the relationship between Chinese parenting style and children’s results were also conducted ( Luo et al., 2021 ). In another study, high self-esteem is linked to positive parent-child relationships among Chinese teenagers ( Tan et al., 2022 ). Children who have a poor relationship with their parents, on the other hand, exhibit higher maladjustment and deviant behavior. According to a Taiwanese study ( Huang and Prochner, 2003 ), low achievement motivation and bad learning attitudes were linked to rejecting and inconsistent parents. As a result, the following hypothesis has been developed:

H2: Parental self-efficacy is positively associated with early childhood learning outcome.

Mediating Role of Parental Self-Efficacy Between Parenting Style and Learning Outcome

In the current study parental self- efficacy mediates between the relationship between parenting styles and learning outcome. Parental self-efficacy is another key theoretical construct for understanding influences on parental participation. It is a powerful predictor of parent behavior, with parents who feel more efficacious in their parenting position more likely to engage in parenting actions that are crucial in improving children’s social, emotional, and behavioral development ( Zeb et al., 2021 ). High PSE is linked to parents’ use of a variety of optimal parenting strategies throughout childhood, including maternal sensitivity and responsiveness to children’s needs, warm and affectionate parenting behavior, and monitoring, according to comprehensive descriptive reviews. Low PSE, on the other hand, has been linked to coercive or harsh parenting as well as a proclivity to give up when faced with parental obstacles. While PSE has been associated to increased participation in home learning activities such as reading and helping with homework with older children. Previous research on the relationship between PSE and engagement in play, learning, and home activities with younger children is limited ( Giallo et al., 2013 ).

Parental self-efficacy can have a direct impact on a child’s adaptive ability, but it can also have an indirect impact on a child’s adaptive capacity due to their parents’ engagement behavior. Parents with a high PSE score have fewer negative emotions and are more confident in dealing with challenging parenting situations, which benefits their children’s learning ( Zeb et al., 2021 ). It is critical for children’s development that parents establish a cognitively stimulating home learning environment. According to previous research, PSE moderated the association between parents’ positive perceptions (e.g., individual teacher invitations and general school invitations) and children’s achievement. Parents’ self-efficacy also plays a mediating function in parents’ negative emotions (e.g., parental stress) and parenting practice behaviors, according to previous research, which can help to mitigate the detrimental impact of parents’ emotions on parenting practice behaviors ( Liu et al., 2022 ).

The purpose of this study was to determine the impact of parental participation on children’s learning outcomes among Chinese children, as well as the role of parental self-efficacy as a mediating factor. In the domains of education and psychology, it is increasingly recognized that parents have a considerable impact on their children’s learning and development. Academic achievement is very important to Chinese parents, and they expect their children to work hard in class. In this regard, parenting was defined as a series of actions and interactions between a parent and a child that had the potential to affect one another until the child reached adulthood. Parents were figures who played a vital role in the process of parenting, and they were obliged to continue to support and nurture their children’s growth, not just physically but also emotionally ( Dewi and Indrasa, 2017 ). According to Martin and Colbert (1997) , gender, childhood background, and parental beliefs are among the characteristics that can influence the parenting process. Gender influences the parenting process since it is assumed that moms and dads have a closer relationship. Another component determining parenting is childhood background, and the third factor is parental belief. According to Martin and Colbert (1997) , beliefs are the most essential since they influence a parent’s values and behavior. Despite the fact that their confidence originates from nature, and their function as a parent has been influenced by their experiences since childhood, the shape and level of their confidence will change depending on how individuals perceive them ( Martin and Colbert, 1997 ). As a result, the purpose of this study is to look into the impact of parenting style on learning outcomes among Chinese children, as well as the role of parenting self-efficacy as a mediator as presented in Figure 1 . The above literature leads us to hypothesize that:


Figure 1. Conceptual model.

H3: Parenting style is positively associated with Parental self-efficacy.

H4: Parental self-efficacy mediates the relation between parental style and learning outcomes.

Research Methodology

Self-administered questionnaires completed by presents of early child’s school students studied in different school located in China. The purposive sampling was used ( Etikan et al., 2016 ), and data was gathered in 3 months, from January 2022 to March 2022. The data was gathered at a time, and therefore, the study is cross-sectional ( Kesmodel, 2018 ). Author first gets the permission of their school boards and administrators, were used to collect data for this research. After class, students received a packet that included two surveys for their parents, as well as a cover letter. When the cover letter outlined the study’s purpose, to better understand the role of parents in children’s education it asked each parent whether they could complete their own questionnaire without consulting the other. Students returned the completed surveys for their parents to school.

According to G* power software, the minimum sample size necessary for this research is 119 respondents to achieve a power of 0.95 and a medium size effect of 0.15 ( Faul et al., 2007 ). However, the researchers obtained data from 235 parents, exceeding the required sample size. A total of 290 surveys were distributed, and 250 parents returned the survey. After the deletion of incomplete responses, 235 surveys remained useable, representing an 81.03% response rate. The response rate was quite encouraging in the difficult Covid-19 pandemic situation. Out of the 235 parents, 150 mothers and 85 were fathers completed the surveys. Majority of parents age from 35- to 50 years, had a had a degree from a college or university, and household income more than $60,000 to $80,000 United States dollars.

The questionnaire consisted of a total of 58-items, including: a 30-items scale developed by Robinson et al. (1995) was used to measure parental style the independent variable, and a 20-items scale was used for dependent variable children’s learning outcomes adopted from Ajibade et al. (2020) . For the mediating variable parental self-efficacy 8-items scale adopted from Liu and Leighton (2021) . All scale evaluated based on five-point Likert scale, comprising 1 (strongly disagree), 2 (disagree), 3 (neutral), 4 (agree) and 5 (strongly agree).


Table 1. Measurement model.

The analysis was conducted with the help of Smart PLS v.3.0 ( Wong, 2013 ). The variables of the survey questionnaire are evaluated and the instrument is made accurate during the first phase of the measurement model. Based on the bootstrapping approach ( T -tests for 5,000 sub- samples), Hair et al. (2017) determined whether or not factor loadings, weights, and path coefficients were statistically significant for each variable. Factor loadings assessments are carried out, as well as Cronbach’s Alpha, Composite Reliability (CR), and Average Variance Extracted (AVE) analyses. The validity of explicit indicator hypotheses may be determined by their factor loadings, which indicate that loadings greater than 0.50 on two or more variables are substantially reflected ( Hair et al., 2011 ). As a result, the three variables and parental style, parental self-efficacy, and learning outcomes all provide valid measurements of their respective variables, as seen in Table 1 . According to Hair et al. (2020) , AVE value is must be greater than 0.5 and the CR and Cronbach’s Alpha are more than 0.6, then variable’s convergent validity is accepted. Hair et al. (2020) developed a strategy for excluding items with factor loadings between 0.40 and 0.70 from assessment if excluding observed variables increases AVE and composite reliability values in reflective scales. Thus, items PS 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 16 for parental style were deleted for the increased of AVE values. By deleting particular items, factor loadings, Cronbach’s Alpha, CR, and AVE calculations will exceed the recommended cut-off values. The Table 1 shows the measurement model that has a convergent validity.

Furthermore, the Henseler et al. (2015) proposed Heterotrait-Monotratit (HTMT) approach was applied. The discriminant validity of the HTMT approach was evaluated in two ways. To begin, the threshold value was determined using HTMT. A value greater than the HTMT threshold value demonstrates the absence of discriminatory validity. The precise HTMT cutoff value is controversial “when the correlation is near to one.” Some researchers have offered a threshold value of 0.85 ( Ab Hamid et al., 2017 ), while others have suggested a value of 0.90 ( Henseler, 2017 ). Second, discriminant validity was assessed and established by examining the confidence intervals around the HTMT values that were less than one. When the value 1 is removed from the interval range, it demonstrates that the variables are empirically clear. According to Table 2 , the HTMT values for all constructs are less than 0.85. As a result, this research accepts discriminating validity.


Table 2. Discriminant validity through Heterotrait-Monotratit (HTMT).

After the measurement model has been calculated, the structural equation model of the observed data is constructed. With the use of bootstrapping technique, we were able to find significant correlations between the variables. We employed the method proposed by Henseler (2017) , to investigate the relationships between the parental style and learning outcomes through mediating role of parental self-efficacy. Therefore, consequently, four particular criteria were utilized to examine the direct and indirect impacts of the structural equation model: To begin, we examine every construct. The degree of R 2 for endogenous latent variables is used to estimate the variance for each construct ( Hair et al., 2017 ). An adequate assessment of R 2 may be conducted depending on the research arrangement ( Cohen, 1988 ). High, medium, and low scores were calculated as follows: 0.26; 0.13; and 0.09. Despite this, the direct effect model in the current study has a 53.5% R 2 value for the endogenous variables of the defined parental self-efficacy, which means that 53.5% of the change in parental self-efficacy is predicted by parental style. Moreover, R 2 value for early childhood learning outcomes is 0.875, which suggests that 87.5% change of learning outcomes is predicted by parental style and parental self-efficacy. Therefore, Table 3 indicate, the model shows a reasonable predictive accuracy.


Table 3. Coefficient of determination in the PLS method.

Secondly, a cross-validation redundancy (Q 2 ) was employed to evaluate the accuracy of the research model in identifying its significant aspects in order to establish predictive significance ( Hair et al., 2017 ). As shown in Table 3 , the direct impacts of each of the above-mentioned factors on early childhood learning outcomes are represented by Q 2 = 0.398 and parental self-efficacy Q 2 = 0.243, which indicates that the value of Q 2 is greater than zero. Hence, the model’s appropriate predictive relevance can be considered ( Henseler et al., 2015 ). The findings also support the direct hypotheses H1 H2 and to H3, the direct effect of parental style on early childhood learning outcomes is positive and significant (β = 0.129, p < 0.001), Furthermore, the direct effect of parental style on parental self-efficacy has positive and significant impact (β = 0.786, p < 0.000) and parental self-efficacy on learning outcomes (β = 0.824, p < 0.000), this suggests that the hypotheses H1, H2 and H3 have been accepted.

In addition, the effect size (f 2 ) is the impact of an independent variable on the dependent variable to estimate the magnitude of an exogenous (independent variable) effect on the endogenous (dependent variable) ( Hair et al., 2017 ). An effect size (f 2 ) estimates between 0.02 and 0.15 or 0.35, according to Cohen (1988) , reflects medium, small and large effects, respectively. Table 4 indicated the effect size as follows: 0.515 for PS to LO, 1.153 PS to PSE and 1.178 PSE to LO. The findings show that these exogenous factors have a medium and large impact on the endogenous variables, respectively. Finally, the Table 4 presented that the indirect mediating effect of parental self-efficacy on the relationship between parental style and learning outcomes is positive and significant (β = 0.648, p < 0.001). Therefore, hypothesis 4 is accepted.


Table 4. Results of the structural equations model.

The current study looked into the effect of parental involvement on early childhood learning outcomes as well as the role of parental self-efficacy in mediating this effect. The academic engagement of students can be influenced by parental actions. Song et al. (2022) looked at how parent participation affected the social and academic functioning. Izzo et al. (1999) used a 3-year longitudinal design to examine several aspects of parent involvement, including the number of educator contacts with parents, the quality of those interactions, parents’ participation in school activities, and parents’ involvement in home activities to help their children develop socially and academically. Tan et al. (2022) studied how these parental involvement variables influenced students’ school engagement, which is particularly relevant to this topic. Students’ engagement was assessed by looking at their attention-getting activities, work habits, task orientation, operating in the face of distractions, frustration tolerance, and ability to cope with failure. Parents’ involvement in school activities was found to be a favorable predictor of student engagement. Surprisingly, higher levels of parent–teacher communication were linked to lower levels of school involvement ( Gonzalez-DeHass et al., 2005 ). The parent involvement rating scale, parental sense of competence scale, and student assessment of learning gains scale were all employed in the study.

The following hypotheses had to be tested: First, there would be a significant link between parental involvement and learning outcomes. The findings demonstrated a strong, beneficial relationship between parental participation and learning outcomes. Parents who are more involved in their children’s activities at home and at school have higher results. According to research ( Epstein, 1992 ), parental participation is positively associated with children’s achievement and motivation to learn. Previous research has demonstrated the significance of parents’ educational goals for their children. In both primary and secondary schools, high parental ambitions are closely linked to student accomplishment ( Catsambis, 2001 ). Parental participation has been shown to improve students’ math proficiency and accomplishment, as well as advances in reading ability and performance on standardized examinations and academic evaluations. Furthermore, parental involvement has been linked to fewer behavioral issues at school, improved attendance and class preparation, course completion, and decreased dropout rates ( Fan and Williams, 2010 ).

Second, there would be a significant relationship between parental self-efficacy and the learning outcome. The findings demonstrate a positive relationship between parental self-efficacy and learning outcomes. Parental self-efficacy is described as parents’ opinions of their abilities to positively impact their children’s behavior and development in the field of parenting. Parental self-efficacy can be characterized in terms of schooling as parents’ belief that they can have a positive impact on their children’s learning and academic accomplishment. PSE has been connected to parental educational methods, which have been extensively researched. According to previous research, mothers and fathers with strong parental self-efficacy are more involved in their children’s everyday learning and play activities. Several studies have found that when parents have high hopes and expectations for their children, they achieve higher academic achievements and stay in school longer than when their parents have low aspirations and expectations ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ).

Third, there would be a significant relationship between parental self-efficacy and parental involvement. According to research, parental self-efficacy is linked to a better knowledge of the role of parents and boosts parents’ monitoring of their children’s schooling. Parental self-efficacy, parental involvement in their children’s education, and academic accomplishment are also linked. PSE also predicts parental involvement and monitoring, which predicts adolescent academic adjustment. Previous research has demonstrated a strong relationship between PSE and parental involvement. Both parents had a deep connection, but the mother’s was stronger. There have been few previous studies that have looked for empirical correlations between these two ideas. According to a prior study, PSE is linked to parents’ knowledge of their role in their children’s education and leads to parents being actively involved in their children’s education ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ). Finally, there would be a considerable link between parental involvement and children’s learning outcomes, with parental self-efficacy serving as a mediating factor. The findings are consistent with earlier research. High PSE is linked to parents’ adoption of a variety of optimum parenting practices throughout childhood, including maternal sensitivity and responsiveness to children’s needs, warm and affectionate parental behavior, and monitoring, according to comprehensive descriptive studies. Low PSE, on the other side, has been linked to coercive or harsh parenting, as well as a proclivity to give up easily when faced with parental difficulties ( Giallo et al., 2013 ). According to research, parents that have low parenting self-efficacy experience bad outcomes in their parenting. Low parenting self-efficacy was discovered to have a negative impact on parental behavior toward their children. According to the Indonesian Child Protection Commission ( Setyawan, 2015 ), violence against children in Indonesia has increased over time, with the primary perpetrators being their own parents. The main reason for this was because parents felt they had failed and were no longer capable of caring for their children, so they vented their frustrations by using violence on their children when they made mistakes. In fact, research shows that parents with high parenting self-efficacy view parenting challenges as a challenge rather than a threat, which can lead to them harming their own children. Parental participation has a substantial association with parenting self-efficacy, according to previous study ( Dewi and Indrasa, 2017 ).

The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effect of parental involvement on children’s learning outcomes as well as the role of parental self-efficacy as a mediator. Findings of this study supported our hypothesis of parenting styles, learning outcomes and parental self-efficacy having a significant positive relation. The results revealed that parental participation had a considerable impact on learning outcomes in Chinese students. The study findings also affirm that there is a significant positive relation between parental self-efficacy and learning outcomes. From this study it can be inferred that those students who have parental involvement in their education are more likely to take personal responsibility for their education as compared to others. Besides that, students adopt a mastery goal orientation to learning when their parents show an interest in their child’s education by getting involved. Moreover, those parents who are not aware regarding the needs of students at educational level leads to negative impact on the children’s learning outcome. Therefore, in future studies, more targeted initiatives are needed to help parents develop their knowledge and abilities to give educational support to their children at various stages of schooling. Likewise, programs that promote the parent as teacher model offer the parents a variety of opportunities to learn skills that will help them believe in their own efficacy.

Both parents and teachers will benefit from this research in the future. As a result of this study, parents get understanding and awareness of engaging in activities that result in a more balanced parenting style in order to improve children’s learning outcomes. Moreover, recognizing effective parenting styles can aid in the development of children’s developmental needs, as well as their academic achievement and future professional prospects. Each parenting style has an impact on the social and psychological lives of children. The psychological control is what distinguishes each parenting style from the others. Therefore, it is the responsibility of parents to provide a parental environment and resources that are more conducive to academic success for their children.

The study’s limitations should also be considered because they direct researchers to use these procedures in future research. The current research contributes to a better understanding of the factors that influence children’s learning outcomes. But cross-sectional design of the study is a limitation. Although cross-sectional designs aid in the prediction of relationships, they are unable to capture transitions that may affect the variables’ associations. Therefore, in future researches other methods will be used to further explore these variables.

Theoretical Implications

This study makes an important contribution to the body of literature. According to the previous studies, parental self-efficacy is defined in the field of parenting as parents’ beliefs about their ability to positively influence their children’s behavior and development. Additionally, parental self-efficacy in schooling can be defined as parents’ beliefs that they can have a positive influence on their children’s learning and academic achievement ( Tazouti and Jarlégan, 2019 ). According to previous research, mothers and fathers with strong parental self-efficacy are more involved in their children’s everyday learning and play activities.

Practical Implications

The present study includes several implications. Parental involvement plays a significant role in learning outcome of children at educational level. The findings of this study will be helpful for parents in evaluating their parenting styles. It will provide parents an insight to be more capable and eager to become active if they want to effectively affect their children’s education. Besides that, parents’ experiences such as feeling tired, receiving harsh comments and frequently giving in to children’s demands, are all associated to lower parental self-efficacy. These are the factors that should be consider while providing training and awareness session to the parents. Furthermore, when parents are involved as a resource for academic activities at home, the connection between the school and home environments is strengthened. As a result, the child feels more capable of mastering academic tasks at school. Therefore, parents can help their children learn new content by assisting them in scaffolding new concepts. When children see their parents as role models and trusted learning partners, they are better able to appraise their own talents and performance.

This study will not only prove beneficial that parental support provides a sense of security and comfort in an unpredictable culture as the child strives for growth and self-development. Also, effective when parents are involved, they may establish limits, encourage their children, and provide resources as they face the academic, social, and personal obstacles that each day brings. Moreover, when parents go to parent-teacher conferences, open houses, and other school events, they show that they care about their children.

Understanding social learning theory and how to apply it to self-efficacy development through regulating exposure to sources of influence can be extremely beneficial to practitioners. Furthermore, practitioners can increase local parenting support by adopting practices that are congruent with the establishment of environments rich in positive sources of self-efficacy by developing an awareness of parental self-efficacy experiences in a community. This kind of behavior could affect how parents and children interact with each other and, in turn, how children and communities grow and change over time. Lastly, this research can also support future researches as it provides a new perspective to the relationship between parenting styles, learning outcome and parental self-efficacy among Chinese students.


The following are the study’s limitations. First, data from both parents in the family was unavailable, making it unable to run more complicated models involving both parents and make within-family comparisons. More research in this area and the addition of child outcomes would help us learn more about how family relationships affect how children grow and develop. In addition, the sample size was small, limiting the generalizability of the present study.

Future Suggestions

The recommendations for future researchers are listed below. First, the schools can help parents create a welcoming and comfortable learning environment for their children. Besides that, teachers and schools should strengthen their control and warmth with students in order to drive children to improve their academic performance. Second, it is envisaged that future studies will be able to explore the aspects other than the person and their family context that influence learning outcomes, such as peer group and school environment. Third, future research will include qualitative researches with students to go deeper into the subject and also examine the relationship of study variables with demographics.

Moreover, research is needed to determine how mothers’ and fathers’ working hours and employment conditions affect their participation in a variety of play, learning, and caregiving activities with their children. As a result, future parenting programs could focus on raising parents’ understanding of the need for both parents’ involvement in expressive activities and mentoring/advising duties. This could help them boost their parenting self-efficacy even more. Lastly, academic progress is associated to parenting involvement in a significant way. In this context, additional study on parenting styles, learning outcomes, and parental self-efficacy across cultures is needed to examine the differences in parenting styles. Furthermore, the use of a longitudinal study would be beneficial in analyzing changes in people’s perceptions of their parents and different parenting styles over time.

Data Availability Statement

The raw data supporting the conclusions of this article will be made available by the authors, without undue reservation.

Ethics Statement

Ethical review and approval was not required for the study on human participants in accordance with the local legislation and institutional requirements. Written informed consent from the patients/participants or patients/participants legal guardian/next of kin was not required to participate in this study in accordance with the national legislation and the institutional requirements.

Author Contributions

CK wrote the manuscript. FY performed review editing and submission. Both authors contributed to the article and approved the submitted version.

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Publisher’s Note

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Keywords : parenting style, learning outcome, parental self-efficacy, early childhood, China

Citation: Kong C and Yasmin F (2022) Impact of Parenting Style on Early Childhood Learning: Mediating Role of Parental Self-Efficacy. Front. Psychol. 13:928629. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2022.928629

Received: 27 April 2022; Accepted: 10 June 2022; Published: 30 June 2022.

Reviewed by:

Copyright © 2022 Kong and Yasmin. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) . The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

*Correspondence: Fakhra Yasmin, [email protected]

Disclaimer: All claims expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of their affiliated organizations, or those of the publisher, the editors and the reviewers. Any product that may be evaluated in this article or claim that may be made by its manufacturer is not guaranteed or endorsed by the publisher.


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