Book Suggestions

If you’re interested in what’s covered on this site, you may be interested in reading more about the world of social psychology.

Below are a handful of books that are written for the public. They cover many of the topics in this blog, and they provide an easy way to learn about research in social psychology and how it can be seen in your own life. Many of these are written by social psychologists themselves, and those that aren’t do a great job covering the ideas in an accessible way.

Stumbling on Happiness (Daniel Gilbert) – Daniel Gilbert pioneered research on “affective forecasting.” According to this research, people often fail to accurately predict how they will respond to future events.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Malcolm Gladwell) – Although Malcolm Gladwell is not a social psychologist, this book got me interested in psychology. He talks about how people can make automatic, snap judgments that turn out to be pretty accurate. Much of this premise comes from research popularized by Nalini Ambady on “thin slicing.”

Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Connect (Matthew Lieberman) – This new book about research in social neuroscience reviews the neurological counterparts to fundamental social processes. Matt Lieberman is one of the foremost experts in this field.

Mindwise: Why We Misunderstand What Others Think, Believe, Feel, and Want (Nicholas Epley) –Epley studies the process through which we come to know other people’s minds. When shopping for a birthday present, how do you know what your friend will enjoy? Through theory of mind, we develop a sense of how others’ minds work.

Influence: Science and Practice (5th Edition) (Robert Cialdini) – This book is often recommended, and Robert Cialdini is the big name in compliance research. In this excellent book, he outlines six norms of compliance and discusses research on many compliance techniques.

Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People (Mahzarin Banaji and Anthony Greenwald) – This book is written by the developers of the Implicit Association Test  (IAT) and covers the ways in which people can have unconscious biases against people of various social categories (based on race, religion, sexuality, etc.)

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create Difference (Cordelia Fine) – This is a great book about the difference between how different people perceive men and women to be and how little evidence actually supports these differences. It ends with an interesting discussion of the role neuroscience research can play in wrongly reinforcing these stereotypes.

Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do (Issues of Our Time) (Claude Steele) – Claude Steele pioneered a program of research on the unsettling phenomenon of “stereotype threat.” This is when members of stereotyped groups behave in a way that inadvertently confirms stereotype-consistent beliefs because of the fear of confirming those stereotypes.

Mindfulness (Ellen Langer) – This isn’t the kind of “mindfulness” you hear about in relation to Buddhist practice but is instead more like the difference between “automatic” and “controlled” processing in social cognition. Ellen Langer is the person behind the Xerox study highlighting the power of the word “because” in inducing compliance.

Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious (Tim Wilson) – Here, Tim Wilson discusses the problems with relying on introspection as a way to attain self-knowledge.

Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength (Roy Baumeister) – Written by the researcher behind “ego depletion,” this book considers research on the psychology of exercising self-control.

Clash!: How to Thrive in a Multicultural World (Hazel Markus & Alana Conner) – There are many ways in which the difference between “independent” and “interdependent” self-concepts influence everyday life, and the differences go further than just Western vs. East-Asian culture.

The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently…and Why (Richard Nisbett) – This book focuses on the difference between “analytic” and “holistic” thinking and how different cultures can perceive the world in distinct ways.

The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Barry Schwartz) – This is perhaps one of the more popular books related to social psychology. I hear people reference this research often. It reviews work that shows having too many options can get in the way of making choices that people are truly happy with.

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions (Dan Ariely) – When it comes to making decisions, people can rely on heuristics that aren’t entirely rational. Dan Ariely helped popularize a new field of psychology referred to as behavioral economics.

How We Know What Isn’t So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life (Thomas Gilovich) – This book discusses reliable errors in reasoning and judgment.

Happy Money: The Science of Happier Spending (Elizabeth Dunn and Michael Norton) –These authors discuss a body of research that shows the benefits of spending money on other people. According to their research, spending money on others makes the spender happier.

The Social Animal (Elliot Aronson) – This is technically more like a textbook and many intro to social psychology classes use it as a textbook, but it is written more like a popular nonfiction book and covers a lot of ground in the field in an engaging way.

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us (James Pennebaker) – This book describes the surprising research on word use, and how simple linguistic analysis can predict a range of interesting outcomes. Seemingly unimportant words like pronouns and conjunctions turn out to be more powerful than you think.

Full disclosure: the above links are indeed Amazon affiliate links. If you’re going to buy any of these books, go ahead and do so through these links to help support Be a People Expert.

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