A lighthearted survey of how modern science researches and resolves some of the complexities of human psychology.
Psychology is fun! Or so Klein (The Cartoon Introduction to Statistics, 2013, etc.) and Oppenheimer (Marketing and Psychology/UCLA; co-author: Democracy Despite Itself: Why a System that Shouldn't Work at All Works So Well, 2012) do their best to make it, providing a breezy overview of how we know what we know and what we still need to learn about the intricacies of the human mind. This isn’t psychiatry; there is no mention of Freud or Jung or talk therapy and the individual. There isn’t even any mention of pharmaceuticals—antidepressants and the like—that have revolutionized the field. Instead, the authors examine the reasons why we (as a group who can be tested and measured) behave and believe the way we do. It’s a line that leads from Pavlov to B.F. Skinner through cognitive behavioral therapy, with a nod toward mindfulness to alleviate stress. Both the text and the illustrations turn topics that are potentially complicated and boring into humanized, humorous lessons. “Our minds are constantly working to create order from chaos,” write the authors. They show how we choose from among the overload of available data, how we process information (often incorrectly, according to bias), how we remember and forget, how our emotions affect our reason, and how we balance it all to maintain relatively well-adjusted lives—or not. Very little of the text concerns those who are suffering from psychological disturbance, the ones most likely to seek treatment from a psychologist. As the authors write, “the difference between abnormal psychology and standard psychology is mostly a matter of degree.” Intro to psych students will find this a helpful primer, but it is also written to engage and entertain general readers.
A quick illumination of a complex field.