D. Schacter, D. Gilbert, D. Wegner. Psychology. Worth Publishers, 2009, New York.
The new introductory psychology textbook published in 2009 in the USA by Harvard professors D.L. Schacter, D.T. Gilbert and D.M.Wegner under the title Psychology, has been translated and published in Greek under the general scientific editorship of professor Stella Vosniadou along with sixteen University professors who edited chapters relating to their expertise.
This lengthy textbook offers a detailed and updated introduction to various areas of Psychology based on recent research. Special emphasis is given to research from the realm of neuroscience, reflecting the new path towards which the science of Psychology is leading. The extensive use of neuroimaging techniques allows a whole generation of researchers to observe how the mind interacts with the brain and how our behavior interrelates with the function of the brain.
What makes this book interesting is that it portrays the science of Psychology through the observation of mind bugs. This is not, of course, a radical idea; psychology has always advanced by looking at the errors, the pathology or the biases. The human mind’s errors reveal a great deal about its function, structure and organization and are paths that shed light on the mechanisms of human psychology.
– Why do we say ‘thank you’ to a vending machine, and what does this say about the role of habit in mental life?
– What do we learn about the plasticity of the brain from people who suffer from phantom limb syndrome?
– What does the effect of placebo treatments reveal about our susceptibility to psychological influences on our health?
– How revealing are for our understanding of how we manage to understand our own and others’ minds the mistakes that children make when referring to other people’s beliefs?
– What do we learn about bias from the fact that when people are asked about their favorite letter they usually choose the initial of their own name?
– What does the fact that we often overlook our own personality problems mean about our self – insight?
– What does a savant who speaks 16 languages fluently but is not able to live on his own reveal about the distinct abilities of cognition?
– Or, finally, the fact that when we are asked not to think of a specific thing we tend to think of it continuously, is a sign of our difficulty in controlling our mind?
Based on such questions and on many examples from actual everyday life stories, mistakes, errors and mind bugs, this textbook traces the whole spectrum of the science of Psychology. In this way it provides a conceptual linkage between the chapters on normal psychological functions (such us sensation and perception, memory, learning, development, language and thought, intelligence, emotion and motivation) and those on pathology (such as psychological disorders, treatments, stress and health).
Moreover, psychologists are aware that most mistakes occur when perfectly adaptive organisms deviate. Thus a disordered mind provides information on normal psychological functioning, depression teaches us how most people deal so effectively with the losses and heartbreaks of everyday life, violence and antisocial behavior show us how most people manage to lead a relatively peaceful, self-controlled life, and errors of inference and memory teach us how people make successful decisions and how they remember so much, so well, for so long. These and many other examples are integrated in the chapters of this book, inviting the reader to think of the mind as an adaptive solution to the problems faced by human beings in the real world.
As an introductory textbook it focuses on what is important and compelling, covering a broad range of Psychology’s fields and including classic as well as current research in order to provide a contemporary perspective in a way which is entertaining but at the same time effective and educational.
For all these reasons, each chapter starts begins with a story from everyday life or a case study. The stories usually concern a mind bug that helps introduce the topics discussed in that chapter. Moreover, all chapters include one or more boxes about groundbreaking new research on a relevant topic or about issues straight from the news. Finally, each chapter ends with a “critical thinking” section which discusses a topic relating to the chapter’s content and the proposed bibliography.
Although written for University students, the structure and the contents of this book make it a valuable introductory textbook for expert as well as non-expert readers who wish to approach the field of psychology from a contemporary viewpoint. This, after all, was the writers’ goal: to write a modern textbook that attempts to answer questions arising from the complexity of the human mind and behavior—and it is such questions that make psychology a constantly evolving, interesting and inspiring discipline.