The field of psychology is constantly changing to reflect new research and social trends. Positive psychology and attachment theory, for example, are two relatively new areas that have attracted interest; moreover, neurological research has led to a new understanding of human behavior, causing psychologists to abandon previously held notions about what shapes an individual’s personality. Because the study of psychology is dynamic, constantly reinventing itself, it is hard to compile a definitive list of the top books. Nevertheless, the following five titles are classic works that should be read by anyone seeking to know more about the field of psychology.
A memoir based on Frankl’s experience of forced labor during the Holocaust, Man’s Search for Meaning contends that even though human beings cannot avoid suffering, we are able to derive meaning from it. His theory of human drive, logotherapy, argues against Freud’s notion that the primary drive in life is pleasure, positing instead that humans quest to find meaning in our experience.
2. The Social Animal, Elliot Aronson
Aronson uses case studies gleaned from popular and political culture to explore the motives for human behavior. This textbook is widely commended for its ability to apply theory and classic experiments in psychology to practical situations so that an ordinary reader can understand and identify with what would be otherwise difficult concepts. It is an excellent book for the beginner who wants to learn the proper terminology and get an overview of the field.
3. Cognitive Psychology, Ulric Neisser
Known as the “father of cognitive psychology,” Neisser presents an alternative to behaviorism, where people are simply acted upon by stimuli, arguing instead that individuals are dynamic systems who can transform experience in diverse ways. Neisser’s ideas have led to the use of neuroscience to determine how the brain processes information. This text provides the foundation for a whole generation of subsequent cognitive research and practice.
4. How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish
Faber and Mazlish’s parenting guide is a transformative work that has done much to shape our contemporary understanding of how to relate to children with empathy. The book asks adults to be motivated by a child’s intrinsic sense of worth rather than by a desire to exert authority over them. It is an essential book for parents and professionals in the field of child psychology.
5. The Interpretation of Dreams, Sigmund Freud
Finally, Sigmund Freud’s classic text, originally published in 1900, is a ground-breaking look at the role of the unconscious in shaping human behavior. The Interpretation of Dreams has been instrumental in shaping the development of psychoanalytic theory and practice. Whether you love Freud or hate him, this text is essential to understanding the field of clinical psychology.
An overview of classic literature is crucial to becoming knowledgeable about any field of study. After reading these five books, individuals will have more than enough information to branch out and explore the theories and movements that constitute today’s exciting field of psychology.