The dictionary defines human psychology as the science of mind and behaviour, which includes conscious and unconscious phenomena as well as discipline. This might sound really simplistic, but it is anything but that. Understanding human psychology has been going on for centuries. There are a lot of conclusive theories derived by meticulous research of clinical, behavioural, cognitive, and many other types of psychologists.
So many popular names come to mind when we hear the word psychology - Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt, Carl Jung, Albert Bandura, and many more. In their own way and form, the books on human psychology explain why people behave the way they do. By learning about the source of your actions, you can work on improving yourself, make better decisions, manage stress better, and lead an overall productive life.
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Mental health gets talked about a lot these days. Yet, ironically, as our lives become more comfortable, we suffer from even more stress, anxiety, and other similar problems. Understanding the human mind and nature can help us realise the pettiness of most of our worries.
This can happen only if you realise the source of those worries, which needs some introspection and consciousness. There are lakhs of books written on this assorted topic, but like in every case, quality matters more than quantity. Let's take a look at the important factors before buying a book on human psychology.
Psychology and its study have evolved in the last few decades. Many new types of psychology have been designed to understand a particular nuance better. Here is a list of the most common branches of it, along with their brief explanations.
Clinical psychology focuses on intellectual, biological, behavioural, social, and emotional aspects of a person's life. This helps a clinical psychologist better understand the reasons for a person's actions and decisions. It involves psychological assessment, which enables you to find out the root of the problem and alleviate it using psychotherapy.
Clinical psychology involves science, theory, and practice to understand and relieve the problems. It is the most comprehensive branch of psychology. The books written by clinical psychologists can help you overcome your problems with discomfort, anxiety, disability, among other things.
Behavioural psychologists study the connection between the mind and the actions of a person. Several books are written about this discipline. For laypersons, behavioural psychology is the easiest to understand as it forms a connection between your past situations and your current personality.
The research behind it, however, is anything but easy. Reaching such conclusions is the fruit of thousands of studies and analysis. It also focuses on how your behaviour can be changed by simply training your mind for some days.
For example, a famous experiment called "Pavlov's Dogs" conducted by a Russian psychologist Ivan Pavlov showed that dogs started salivating whenever they heard the footsteps of their assistant, who generally brings them food. This showed that any event that the dogs associate with food would salivate, proving manipulations in behaviour through training and observation.
This discipline focuses on people's mental processes, learning about how people obtain, process, and store information. Cognitive psychologists conduct several experiments and research to study perception, memory, and learning.
This helps them understand the functioning of the mind better and find solutions to various cognitive issues, such as memory loss. Some cognitive psychologists also provide therapy to their patients. These therapies generally show the patient their decision-making.
For example, Prospect Theory given by Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky explains how individuals decide between two alternatives where risk is involved. Bringing such things into their consciousness, the patients become more aware of their situations and the correct decisions to take.
Counselling psychologists are getting increasingly popular in this stressed-out world. They differ from clinical psychologists as the latter usually deals with mental disorders. However, a counselling psychologist treats patients experiencing emotional strain caused by social, physical, or personal factors.
Even marriage and grief counsellors come under the umbrella term "Counselling Psychologists". The counsellors generally assess the patients and assist them in formulating a personalised plan to improving their day-to-day lives.
They often work on the negative outlook that these patients develop after a trauma. If this negative mindset continues for long, it can lead to depression, which becomes a hard task to come out of. A counselling psychologist's job is to make those people aware of the bright side of life and give their life a new purpose and meaning.
All of us are on our journeys of life. The problems that one is going through might not be a problem for another. Mental health gets affected for various reasons, and there can never be one uniform solution to everything. In order to buy the book that would suit your needs, you must first contemplate the challenges you are facing in life. This can help you narrow you search for that ideal book.
As discussed before, understanding human psychology is all about realising the source of your problem, connecting it with your present actions, and making better decisions in the future. Some psychology books can shatter your belief systems and theories about life, and as a reader, you must be open to that.
A good psychologist will never give standard, uniform advice to their patients. Instead, they delve into their patient's life and finds out the mysteries that have shaped them. Similarly, a good psychology book will also give you the open-mindedness of introspecting your life and feel free. The thing that we are craving, after all, is freedom.
It could be freedom from pain, freedom from dullness, freedom from oppression, etc. People try to find freedom by doing so many things, and different things work for different people. So, before reading a psychology book, make sure you realise that it won't magically erase your life; instead, it will give you methods and motivation to do it yourself.
Another important thing that you need to understand before laying your hands on a book on psychology is that it will help you learn and understand yourself better from a broader perspective. This is where psychology gets differentiated from philosophy.
Philosophy is theories about life, and most of it is not based on experience. On the other hand, psychology is a science that has been built on research and experimentation. These books, if read with an open and curious mind, can open the unexplored avenues inside of you, helping you declutter your mind.
There will certainly be different theories and terminologies used by all psychologists, but these theories will be backed up by serious research. Therefore, read a book like this with the right attitude.
It is crucial that you know about the author's other works, experience, and reputation before reading his or her book. This is even more important in psychology because psychology is categorised in many forms. For example, Jordan Peterson is a clinical psychologist but Freud was a neurologist who is known for psychoanalysis. So, it is better that you realise what you will be in for.
You may know about authors by reading their profiles on various platforms such as Goodreads, LibraryThing, and BookLikes. This will help you understand the authors approach towards writing by knowing their background. Additionally, these sources will expose you to the views of other, like-minded readers, which is the best way to select a product these days.
Not everyone is crazy about reading heavy books. Most readers, especially novice ones, want to get their hands on a relatively smaller book. Checking the number of pages will give you an estimate about the time it will take you to read it. Then, you can choose the size of the book depending on your daily schedule. You should go for a book with a low page count if you usually remain busy.
On the other hand, if you are an avid reader and wish to understand things deeply, you can buy heavy books with deep insight and academic knowledge. We can safely say that a small book will most likely have only perfunctory knowledge of the subject.
If you are a person for whom "how it is written" is more important than "what is written", you must choose the books wisely. You would not want to read a book that has a lot of complicated ideas. There are some fictional psychology books as well, and you may like those better. We have included a few such books in our list too.
To be fair, psychology must be written in a way that relates to the masses. The best writers and psychologists have successfully done that for many years. The recent interest in psychology comes from the deteriorating mental health of the people, and a book that resonates with them is the one they will learn from.
You no longer have to sit in one place to read a book. Thanks to technology, you can listen to a book while driving, in the gym, or anywhere you feel like. Audiobooks have revolutionised reading altogether, making reading possible anywhere. You can be listening to George Orwell while doing the dishes. How amazing is that!
eBooks have been around for quite some time now, and with the advent of devices like Kindle, they have become even more commonplace. It enables you to carry hundreds of books in one small device weighing less than one book.
You can take your eBooks with you on your next trip to the mountains and read your favourite books in peace, without worrying about carrying the heavy load. Although the latest devices are designed not to strain the eyes, it is advised to break now and then from reading.
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Thinking, Fast and Slow
Explore the Systems of Thought
The Psychology of Money
How to Think to Make Money
The Art of War
Know Your Enemy
The Power of Habit
Know Why Are You Struggling to Change
The Interpretation of Dreams
Explore the Unconscious Through Your Dreams
Dan Heath and Chip Heath
Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
Making a Change When It is Hard
Why EQ Matter More Than IQ
Carl Gustav Jung
Memories, Dreams, Reflections: An Autobiography
Manuscript from a Great Mind
The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil
The Thin Line Between Good and Evil
Jordan B. Peterson
Maps of Meaning: The Architecture of Belief
Know How Beliefs Are Formed
In this 2012 book by the Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, the author explains the two ways a human mind thinks - fast and slow. He talks about the capabilities and consequences of fast thinking, with its faults and biases. The book also details about the more logical and deliberative way of thinking, called slow thinking.
This book engages the reader in a conversation about how we think. It makes the reader more conscious about his style of thinking and know various aspects of it. The beauty of this book lies in its simplicity. It reveals and teaches about the right and wrong occasions to trust our instincts.
It covers both business and personal decision making and enlightens us about guarding against mental glitches. This book is extremely popular among business managers and leaders, mainly because of its focus on making choices and benefits of slow thinking.
This is one of the best selling books from last year. The author, Morgan Housel, through 19 short stories, tries to explain how people's behaviour affects the way they invest and make money. The book focuses on people who make mathematical calculations on a spreadsheet before investing money and others who invest using emotions.
A great chunk of this book is also dedicated to managing human greed - an unavoidable emotion. The benefits of compound interest, lessons from some of the wealthiest people in the world, and gaining peace of mind by having money are some other important notes this book hits.
All in all, it is a great read for people who want to multiply their money by investing it right. It is a great book even for people who wish to start investing and multiplying their money. The message, in a nutshell, is that you need to understand the human psyche to understand the art of making money.
The Art of War is a world-renowned book by a Chinese army general Sun Tzu. He lived about 2500 years ago and wrote a manuscript on military strategy based on Chinese warfare and military thought. The reason this book finds a mention in our list of the best books on human psychology is that we can perceive war as a metaphor for life in general and learn from military strategies.
All the militaries across the world have used Sun Tzu's directives, and civilizations have adapted these techniques in business, politics, and everyday life. This book's teachings are like Game Theory, which can help you gain advantage over your competition in a boardroom, market, or a battlefield alike.
Charles Duhigg received enormous accolades for his life-changing book called The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do and How to Change. It is filled with anecdotes that take us to the root cause of habits. When these habits are changed, the working of the brain changes fundamentally. It enables you to focus on patterns that shape all aspects of your lives.
Duhigg, through this book, brought to life a completely new understanding of human nature by decoding some scientific, marketing, and other discoveries. If you are struggling to change your bad habits, then this book will certainly wake you up from your slumber and get you working. The author also describes how neuroscientists explore the working of habits in the human brain.
We all wish to change for the better and keep waiting for a miracle to happen. If you wish to exercise regularly, lose excess weight, become more productive, build your own company, or bring a social change, the solution lies in understanding how habits work.
Sigmund Freud is known as the father of modern psychology and psychoanalysis. Written in 1899, The Interpretation of Dreams delves into the importance of dreams in order to tap the subconscious and unconscious. He felt that dreams represent the hidden fulfillment of our unconscious wishes.
Freud was known to treat his patients by making them write the dreams they had every day. This theory received some slack by his contemporaries but today, this same concept has transformed into what is called the Oedipus Complex.
Humans have always been fascinated by dreams, and Freud gives the dreams a context and purpose. He uses many hypothesis as well as proven concepts to form a relation between dreams and desires. This is a great read if you are struggling with what you want from life.
People, in general, are afraid of change, so much so that some people even find it frightening. It is not that we do not want change; we are just too scared to leave our bubble of comfort. The changes that we seek may be personal, professional, social, or others. In this book, the authors compare the human mind to two entities - the animal mind, called the elephant, and the logical mind, called the rider.
This analogy helps us understand that the elephant loves sticking to bad habits and is mostly instinctive in his actions. However, the rider is the planner and thinker, who is concerned about the future. The rider wants to stop eating junk food and sleep on time. The elephant and the rider are in constant dissent, and the elephant wins most of the time because the other thing is hard.
The secret to making this "switch" is understanding this relationship between our primitive and intellectual mind. This books also gives many illustrations and real-life examples to show how switching to the rider brain lets you become more productive and resolute in life.
Emotional Quotient, as the author Daniel Goleman calls it, is a term that quantifies the emotional side of the human brain. The author uses the concepts of psychology and neuroscience to delve into the rational and emotional sides of the brain.
He talks about the skills of emotional intelligence that can help us become successful in relationships, work, and physical fitness. Having a high IQ does not guarantee happiness and success. Also, the IQ is largely developed in the first few years of life.
However, emotional intelligence is not determined early in life; it evolves over time and depends on our surroundings. Psychologists believe that having a high EQ is more imp ortant than a high IQ as the former can create a more civil society.
Carl Gustav Jung is one of the most popular names in psychology. He wrote this particular book before he passed away in 1961, and it contains his conversations with his colleague Aniela Jaffé, with whom he collaborated to prepare a text-based on these conversations.
This book is a biography of Jung and describes his journey from a child to an older man. He talks about how his experiences, dreams, and interpretations brought him to self-realization. This book gives great insights into the mind of a person who committed his entire life to understand the human mind.
He also talks about his travels, interest in symbology, etc. Even today, Jung's work is admired by modern psychologists and psychiatrists. This book subtly gives an idea that reason and intellectual conception are not the only reasons for action in this world.
Philp Zimbardo is a renowned psychologist and is best known for his "Stanford Prison Experiment." the Lucifer Effect explores the situations in which good people do bad things - something like Breaking Bad, maybe? This book presents amazing food for thought about what is the line that separates good from evil.
Zimbardo, in this book, tells the full story of the Stanford Prison Experiment, in which a group of college students was randomly divided into guards and inmates. It took only a week for the study to be abandoned as the guards started becoming brutal, and the prisoners broke down emotionally.
He uses this thought experiment to show how a good person indulges in corporate malfeasance or how an upstanding American soldier wreaks havoc in Iraq. Thus, the notion that a bad individual contaminates the system is actually the other way round.
Jordan Peterson rose to stardom with his book 12 Rules for Life, but he wrote Maps of Meaning many years before his international fame. This book is a great piece of work in understanding how different cultures formulate their own belief systems. He finds many parallels among the beliefs of the various cultures and civilizations of the world.
This book forms a connection between modern neuropsychology and the long-standing religious stories. Peterson argues that humans experience the world's reality through action composed of known territory, unknown territory, and the individual.
He also talks about how behaviour and representation give a person a worldview. For example, the various Gods and demi-Gods in different cultures represent some human emotion or control. It is a fascinating read, which some might find a little complicated.
We have written many review articles about books that trigger a new though process in you. These books range from self-help to spirituality. The well-researched articles will help you find your next read according to genre. Find the links below to access the best books in each category.
Psychology, for the broad discipline it is, can be overwhelming for many. Understanding the kind of questions you are seeking an answer to can lead you to the right book to read. This idea behind writing this review article is to help you narrow your search and read the book most suitable to your liking. Books come to you in many ways - recommendations, search, accident, etc., but they come to you for a reasons. If a book appeals to you instantly, do not waste any time in reading it.
No. 1: Daniel Kahneman | Thinking, Fast and Slow
No. 2: Morgan Housel | The Psychology of Money
No. 3: Sun Tzu | The Art of War
No. 4: Charles Duhigg | The Power of Habit
No. 5: Sigmund Freud | The Interpretation of Dreams
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