Subtitled: Why Your Memory is Mostly Fiction, Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself.

This is a very gentle, easily digestible introduction to psychology. 48 chapters, each only a few pages long, covering all the basics of how the way we perceive the world is more complicated than we think. So far so good – this book began as a blog, and it shows, and who am I to pass judgment on bloggers taking their work further? Sometimes the dumbing goes too far – not all straightforward psychology points could be used to support the books central thesis, and they really didn’t need to – they should be interesting in their own right. I also felt the central thesis itself was part of the problem – explaining that the way we perceive the world is filtered through our senses, our memory and a host of other filters to create our perception of reality is a strong enough point on its own without it being reduced to the conclusion that we are not as smart as we think we are – it’s not about intelligence at all, it’s actually much more interesting than that. I accept of course that there is a marketing strategy at work here, and it seems to have been effective.

There were a couple of other quibbles I had with this book, which I generally enjoyed and consumed quite quickly. Firstly, it focuses relentlessly on everyday perception. Whenever it tiptoes closer to the darker side of psychology – not all brains are the same, and although we can be gulled into doing things we wouldn’t normally do, the point is we wouldn’t normally do them – it quickly moved on. Some people would do abnormal things, and these outliers on the scatter graph of human psychology are probably another but much more interesting book entirely. Secondly the book had a strangely mid-Atlantic feel which was a little disconcerting – apparently this was because it was originally American and had been edited for the UK market. Lastly the research the author draws upon was largely fresh – to me – but there were a few old favourites (the prison guards/prisoners experiment for example) which I was expecting to crop up throughout the book, and which eventually made an appearance. I was hoping he would manage to avoid the obvious, but he didn’t quite make it.

If you are looking for a simple and easy to read introduction to psychology you could do a lot worse. This doesn’t claim to be an academic textbook, and you largely get what you have paid for, with that caveat about intelligence/perception.
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