The present book

This book set out to be a diatribe on where psychology had gone wrong. It was going to be a critical study of 100 years of psychology and a consideration of the perils of over-'sciencing' a discipline at the expense of interest and understanding. Turning this on its head, and taking a positive stance, the aim became one of describing in everyday terms just what psychology had got right. In fact, returning to the previous paragraph, there are many things within psychology that are interesting and that are highly applicable not only to the human condition in general but also to the life of any one person in particular.

Since psychology (and, indeed, almost everything else) is ultimately empirical, it is grounded in everyday life. However rarefied the methods that research psychologists use, their starting point is observations that they or others have made of the everyday human condition. It is assumed, therefore, that anything worth describing in this context should not only derive from everyday life, it should make some sense in everyday life and furthermore should, in some way, be applicable to everyday life. Fundamentally, psychology should be a useful subject. The result of reading a psychology text should be not only to be better informed about some aspect of what it is to be human, but also one should be able to take that knowledge and make some use of it in improving one's own lot or the lot of someone else.

Another way of describing what follows in this book is that it is, in the eyes of the writer, made up of all the interesting bits of psychology. It is intended for anyone who either wishes or is forced to study psychology for a year as part of some other qualification they are pursuing. They may never read any psychology again. If so, I would like to give them a large set of facts, ideas and suggestions that not only make more than common sense but also that they can use in their own lives. As a by-product, it may well also help them to pass whatever examination they have to take. If the aim of the book is successful, then anyone who has read it will, in fact, go on to read more psychology, for no reason other than interest. They will, however, have to choose carefully.

The question remains as to what has been left out of the book. There are various possible answers to this. It would be possible to list topics such as the theoretical details of colour vision (one of the most difficult areas of psychology to understand, in my view - a bit like physics) or the hundreds of studies that have been conducted on rats learning in laboratories. This type of list would be quite lengthy. Another answer would be to point to the content of almost any of the articles that could be found in recent issues of the many hundreds of academic and professional journals published each year. They would be unintelligible to anyone other than those already versed in whatever area they cover. Occasionally, but not often, there might be a little nugget of interesting and applicable information that can be found therein. This book is a systematic mining of those nuggets. I hope you enjoy it.

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