Best Psychology Books – 12 Top Choices

by | Jul 1, 2020

To gain an in-depth understanding of the body, the mind, and human behavior as a whole, reading psychology books is a great place to start. The field of psychology isn’t just beneficial to psychologists, but an extremely wide range of readers. 

Gaining an understanding of human behavior and the reasons behind why we do what we do will allow you to become a better decision-maker, improve your time management, and communicate more effectively with others. What better way to learn about psychology than from the experts? That’s why we’ve gathered a guide to the best psychology books.

Best Psychology Books

Below are the top 12 psychology books that can help you learn about understanding human nature.

1. Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely

In this revised and expanded edition of Predictably Irrational, you’ll gain insight on the otherwise hidden forces that often guide your decision-making process. In this shocking and revolutionary book, you’ll understand why some decisions that appear to be rational are actually the opposite.

Perhaps this famous New York Times best-seller is most known for author Dan Ariely’s refutation of the belief that we behave rationally. While misguided behaviors, such as overspending or endless procrastinating, seem to be senseless and random, psychologists have found them to be predictable. Thankfully, learning about these common patterns can allow us to identify our own weaknesses and behave more rationally. 

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2. The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson

The Social Animal by Elliot Aronson

The Social Animal is one of the greatest landmark texts for social psychology today. If you’re looking for a comprehensive, easy-to-read introduction on the field of social psych, this is the book for you. In this, you’ll find a vivid narrative and real-life examples of social psychology, allowing you to better grasp the underlying motivations and patterns of human behavior.

Ultimately, you’ll gain a broad understanding of complex topics such as interpersonal attraction, race relations, and the power of religious cults. 

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3. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Written by Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, best-seller Thinking, Fast and Slow explains the two systems in your brain that continually fight for control. He goes into how this fight over control leads to error, and what you can do about it to maximize your productivity and effectiveness. To craft his argument, Kahneman explains recent studies about how we think about thinking, why we react to certain situations, and how to improve those reactions.

Kahneman’s profound insights will make you a better thinker, decision-maker, and allow you to avoid some of the most common cognitive pitfalls to improve your overall way of thinking. After all, this is the beauty of benefitting from your psychological knowledge. 

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4. The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

The Honest Truth About Dishonesty by Dan Ariely

In The Honest Truth About Dishonesty, Dr. Dan Ariely teaches the reader how we lie to both others and ourselves. Behavioral economist and best-selling author Ariely does an in-depth review of the contradictory forces that drive us to both lie and tell the truth. In this groundbreaking look at the way we behave, you’ll gain an understanding of the most inescapable part of the human condition: lying.

From test-score scandals in well-known schools to Ponzi schemes undermining our economy, dishonesty takes control in a variety of everyday situations. Drawing on both personal experience and famous research, this book reveals the driving forces that motivate us to be dishonest. 

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5. The Branded Mind by Erik Du Plessis 

The Branded Mind by Erik Du Plessis

The Branded Mind examines how people think about brands. If you’re looking to apply your psychological knowledge to the field of marketing, this is the perfect book for you. No brand forces their customers to buy. Instead, the choice exists entirely in their head. This is what makes psychology such a valuable field to help understand marketing and its influence.

Understanding the psychology behind buyers allows those in the field of marketing to predict consumer behavior and market their products or services accordingly. By the end of this book, you’ll understand market segmentation, decision making, and more. This will then allow you to create the most effective brand-building strategies possible.

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6. The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden

The Compass of Pleasure by David J. Linden

The Compass of Pleasure explains how our brains make certain experiences, such as fatty foods and gambling, so enjoyable. This book explains vice and virtue through the lens of cutting edge scientific discoveries. By reading this, you’ll understand how certain situations provide our brains with a buzz of pleasure.

Further, you’ll learn why certain drugs are addictive why others are not, why we want to keep eating even after we’re full, and much more. After all, this is the psychology that defines us. 

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7. The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect by Philip Zimbardo

The Lucifer Effect is all about understanding how good people turn evil. From the social psychologist and creator of the Stanford prison experiment, this book explains the mechanisms that drive people to do immoral things and what these forces say about the line between good and evil.

As it turns out, every one of us is susceptible to the lure of the dark side. Drawing from both historical examples and his recent experiments, Zimbardo explains how situational forces and group dynamics work together to make monsters out of moral human beings. By illuminating the psychological causes behind bad behaviors, we can begin to understand how the setting influences the individual and not the other way around. 

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8. The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

The Optimism Bias by Tali Sharot

Psychologists have held a long-time conclusion that the majority of human beings possess an irrationally positive outlook on life. As psychology has uncovered, we may be wired that way. In this, Sharot explains why optimism is crucial for human existence. By reading this, you’ll learn why we remain hopeful and what happens within our brains when that hope doesn’t end up panning out.

Later on, Tali Sharot explains how the brains of optimists and pessimists differ from one another. It turns out, we are terrible at predicting what will make us happy. Both anticipation and dread impact our minds, optimistic illusions being at the foot of both of them. 

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9. Brain Rules by John Medina

Brain Rules by John Medina

Brain Rules is a comprehensive guide that consists of 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home, and school. Because of its actionable advice and helpful tools, Brain Rules is one of the most advice-filled psychological books on the market today. To keep your brain working at its best, there are some daily habits that can be helpful when implemented.

In each chapter, Dr. John Medina describes a brain rule, which explains the science behind how our brains work. Then, he offers transformative ideas to help improve our daily lives. In this, Medina offers both fascinating stories and revolutionary brain science, allowing the reader to improve their life through psychological breakthroughs. 

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10. You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

You Are Not So Smart by David McRaney

You Are Not So Smart is not for the faint of heart, offering 48 ways in which we delude ourselves. Turns out there are hundreds of false beliefs that we adopt just because they make us feel wise. This is because delusions keep us sane, and David McRaney is here to celebrate those delusions and explain why they make us happier.

In this, you’ll learn about hindsight bias, brand loyalty, and more. 

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11. Out of Character by David DeSteno

Out of Character by David DeSteno

Out of Character dives into the surprising truths about the liar, cheater, sinner, and saint that lies within all of us. If you’ve ever wondered what would drive a morally sound person to act on impulse and make a bad choice, David DeSteno is here to explain why. We are not made up of a fixed set of traits, but rather a shifting state that is subject to a push at any time.

It’s the battling duel between contradictory psychological forces that make up the hidden mechanisms within our mind. By reading Out of Character, you’ll learn about why human behavior is more unpredictable than anybody has realized. 

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12. The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonigal

The Willpower Instinct explores the mechanisms of self-control and how you can become more disciplined. From Stanford University psychologist Kelly McGonigal, this book explains how self-control can be used to improve our health, happiness, and productivity. If you’re looking to put your psychological knowledge to action, this is the book for you.

In this, McGonigal offers tons of actionable tools about how you can put your knowledge to use and improve your life. You’ll learn how you can improve your own willpower, how to let go of temptation, and how to boost self-control through self-forgiveness.

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Learning About Psychology

Ultimately, honing in on your psychological knowledge is beneficial in a wide variety of ways. Whether you’re looking to market your brand on a larger scale or ace your test on the power of influence, the books above will help you. Not only will you be able to improve your psychological knowledge, but you’ll be able to implement this knowledge in your everyday life. 

Andrew Green

Andrew is a successful entrepreneur and lifelong learner. Throughout his career, he has watched hundreds of online courses that have allowed him to achieve success in highly competitive fields such as online marketing, investing, and sales. Andrew is committed to expanding his knowledge and expertise and he reviews the premium courses he watches on his online blog.
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