Your Favorite Books by Social Psychologists
May 24, 2021 10:22 AM   Subscribe

Pretty much what it says on the tin. What are your favorite books by social psychologists? I'm looking for books that were sold as mass market or popular press books, not textbooks, not self-help books, but that are written by social psychologists (not sociologists, not Malcolm Gladwell) about social psychology. Books like Tim Wilson's Strangers to Ourselves or Jennifer Eberhardt's Biased. Ideally published in the last five years. Let me know why you're recommending it, too. Thank you!
posted by shadygrove to Education (13 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
It was published 15 years ago,, but Stumbling on Happiness still stays with me. I was connected to research backing up what I 'knew' or assumed to be true about happiness and ideas we have about how we achieve it.
posted by maya at 10:36 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Thinking, Fast and Slow (though from 2011).
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:41 AM on May 24 [2 favorites]

Robert Sapolsky Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst (2018) He's a neuro-endocrinologist but he talks about how neurotransmitters and hormones [often the same molecule] make their actions felt on human behaviour. Behave is big [780 pages; 1.14kg] but wide ranging. Sapolsky spends his summers hanging out with baboons and the rest of the year wearing his other "with electrodes" hat. He unpicks some of the things that "everybody knows" in quite interesting ways. Contrary to what you see on TV, real people are quite reluctant to actually biff each other. In the final chapter, War and Peace, he looks at human capacity for actual and ritualised violence. Leveraging the ubiquity of CCTV cameras, he cites an analysis of soccer hooligans frame-by-frame as they trade hoots and chest-beating with fans of The Other Side. Only a tiny fraction of the participants are even pretending to trade punches, the rest are surging about making a noise and sheltering behind each other as bottles and coins rain in from Over There. Later he cites The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman [PDF here], where they found that 90% of the guns recovered from Gettyburg had not been fired.
There's another interesting chunk on Oxytocin and Vasopressin, their receptor variants, and their impact on human-dog affect; trolleyology; ease of birth; bonding; othering and racism;
Sapolsky has been MeFi mentioned but not recently.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:21 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]

Sorry me again. Much older [1982] book The Tangled Wing: biological constraints on the human spirit by Mel Konner. I bought this 2nd hand hardback in graduate school for its subtitle. Konner was one of the Harvard team who , with Marjorie “Nisa” Shostak, went to the Kalahari to study all aspects of life among the hunter-gathering !ung san. He was particularly interested in child development and years later published nice book based on a PBS TV series called Childhood. TW deals with aspects of the human condition – there are chapters called Lust, Hate, Anger, Gluttony – and shines the light of evolution to show how 500,000 years of living a hand-to-mouth existence in a small groups has shaped (hard- or at least firm-wired) how we are today and how and why we respond to situations the way we do.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:23 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Influence by Robert Cialdini. Not new, but it's been updated from time to time (newest update just published less than 3 weeks ago!). Great review of research and real-world application of persuasion. As a social psychologist working outside of academia, I mentally reference this often.

Singled Out by Bella DePaulo. The stigma of being single is a real thing, and this reviews how society screws over those of us who have chosen not to take on a life partner. Great pairing with All the Single Ladies by Rebecca Traister and Going Solo by Eric Klinenberg.

I was going to recommend more by Eric Klinenberg but turns out he's a sociologist.
posted by Fuego at 12:51 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]

I haven't read it yet, it's on my list, but Caste Isabel Wilkerson.
posted by theora55 at 1:05 PM on May 24

Blindspot: the Hidden Biases of Good People, by Mahzarin Banaji.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:10 PM on May 24

You might also consider reading Science Fictions: How Fraud, Bias, Negligence, and Hype Undermine the Search for Truth, which discusses the replication crisis facing science research, with a good portion devoted to the social sciences.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 1:17 PM on May 24

The Social Psychology of Everyday Life Touches on a lot of topics without being overly academic.
posted by jacobean at 2:23 PM on May 24

Anything by Theodor Reik. He’s a pleasure to read as well
posted by cartoonella at 4:38 PM on May 24

The books on the sociology of urban spaces by William H Whyte are quite interesting because he discusses behavior that you can see for yourself and see in yourself.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:55 PM on May 24

A little older than last 5 years (2011), but Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do by Claude Steele.
posted by dlugoczaj at 7:19 AM on May 25

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