If you are looking for some summer reading or watching, are considering applying to study Psychology at university, or simply want to get ahead for the next term, below you will find a wealth of informative and interesting resources in psychology. I have shared links to engaging books, documentaries and websites, as well as famous psychologists to follow on Twitter.
Psychology covers such a diverse range of areas that, naturally, you will find many books in the field. Below are some of my favourites; those I learnt a lot from and were also engaging. The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, written by neuroscientist Oliver Sacks, is a classic in psychology and consists of case studies of individuals with unique or unusual neurological disorders. The case studies include patients with memory loss, phantom limbs, an inability to recognise common objects and people gifted with incredible artistic or mathematical talents. Opening Skinner’s Box (Lauren Slater) is a retelling of 10 of the most important studies in Psychology (according to the author), whilst The Tell Tale Brain (V. S. Ramachandran) gives an incredible insight into how the brain works and errors in its processing (for example your brain thinks that light always comes from the top of your head, which can be demonstrated through a small experiment in the book). It took me a while to get round to reading The Rough Guide to Psychology, as I thought it would be basic, but I should have known better as the author is Dr Christian Jarrett, the brilliant writer for the British Psychological Society. It is incredibly engaging and talks about current research in diverse areas of psychology. The Compass of Pleasure by David Linden is the book I have been most pleasantly surprised by. It focuses on the biological basis of addictions and is thoroughly interesting; particularly the fMRI studies showing what happens in the brains of monkeys during variable reinforcement schedules (as utilised in gambling). Bad Science (Ben Goldacre) is essential reading to develop your critique of research methods – an essential skill in psychology.
Here is a Psychology Booklist to download.
Whilst many films are based around psychological concepts, such as memory loss or psychological disorders, few actually afford deep insight into an area or key study (and some are just completely and utterly wrong, perpetuating common misconceptions – I’m looking at you Me, Myself and Irene). Below are some of the best psychology-based movies, which I believe deliver on both insight and knowledge. My absolute favourite is A Beautiful Mind. An emotionally powerful film, it allows you to see through the eyes of John Nash, a famous mathematician who suffered from schizophrenia. Not only is it based on a true story, but the portrayal is very accurate for a blockbuster (minus the modality of the hallucinations for screen-purposes). It gives significant insight into features of the disorder, historical treatments and even side effects of treatments. Experimenter and The Stanford Prison Experiment are both recent movies based on the two most famous studies in Social Psychology: Milgram and Zimbardo. Project Nim is a documentary about a chimpanzee (Nim Chimpsy, a humorous take on a famous language psychologist Noam Chomsky), who was raised in close contact with humans to see whether he could develop sign language. Girl, Interrupted chronicles Angelina Jolie’s character’s 18 month stay in a mental institution, following a nervous breakdown, with a cast of characters who are suffering from a range of psychological disorders. Finally, The Men Who Stare at Goats is based on a non-fiction book by Jon Ronson chronicling the US Army’s attempts to exploit paranormal phenomena.
Here is a Psychology Movie List to download.
There are some fantastic psychology documentaries out there. Some of the best include the BBC’s ‘The Brain – A Secret History’ featuring Michael Mosly. There are three episodes in total (the first one is below), covering Mind Control; which looks at the principles of behavioural psychology, Emotions and Broken Brains. Equally interesting is Horizon’s ‘Are You Good or Evil’ which explores whether evil behaviour is due to nature or nurture, as well as the legal aspects of determinism vs free will. Look out for the appearance of scientist Jim Falon and an incredible plot twist! The BBC’s a History of a Madhouse tells the history of Britain’s 27 mental asylums along with their closure. Lastly, Stephen Fry’s ‘Secret Life of the Manic Depressive’ explores the little understood, but potentially devastating condition. Another documentary you might find interesting is ‘How Mad Are You?’ – a two part series by the BBC where 10 people take part in different activities whilst living in the same house and psychiatrists try to work out who has been previously diagnosed with a mental health disorder and who has not (there are 5 and 5).
Blogs & Magazines
The Psychologist is a website and magazine run by the British Psychological Society and aims to disseminate current research and issues in psychology to the wider community. They also have a blog called Research Digest, which has fantastic articles and is definitely worth subscribing to.
Psychology Review is a magazine produced by Hodder, aimed at A Level Psychology students. It always has brilliant articles and is definitely worth subscribing to whilst you are in sixth form/college.
Below are four incredibly interesting shorts. The Love Competition is a fun take on the neuroscience of love. The Strange Answers to the Psychopath test (also a book) by Jon Ronson looks at the issues in diagnosing mental disorders. How to Buy Happiness is not only intriguing, but gives insight into this area of research design, whilst How Not to Be Ignorant About the World is a humorous look at shortcuts in thinking.
Firstly, check out my playlist of 56 Psychology TED Talks here. There is something for everyone, so choose a title or two that catch your eye! My personal all time favourite is ‘How Not to be Ignorant About the World’ by Hans Rosling, which looks at shortcuts in human thinking and how to avoid these (above). There are also some great talks by people who share their experiences of what it is like to live with a mental disorder, such as depression or schizophrenia.
I just love TED Ed videos; for their animation and clarity. TED Ed have put together a psychology playlist called Mind Matters here. The videos cover some incredibly interesting topics such as the benefits of bilingualism, how drugs affects the brain and why the octopus brain is so extraordinary!If you REALLY want to get clued up on pretty much the whole of psychology before next year starts (and you don’t mind fast-talking!), then Crash Course Psychology is for you. I really like the depth in these short videos on wide-ranging areas of psychology. I feel that these videos offer extraordinary value for time in terms of learning.
If you use Twitter, check out this list of some psychologists to follow. If you do not want to bombard your feed with psychology (although I’d argue, why not?!) then the most interesting and valuable people to follow are: @vaughanbell, @researchdigest and @neuroskeptic.
Psychologists You Have Studied/Will Study
Psychology Websites & Bloggers
Careers in Psychology
Whilst a qualification in psychology is useful in a diverse range of careers, below are the current pathways for becoming a Chartered Psychologist (a PhD or equivalent experience in a specialist field). To find out more about any of these pathways, visit the BPS Interactive Careers tool here or read the careers booklet produced by the BPS.
- List of Psychology documentaries
- Psychology TED Talks
- Psychology in the Movies – A List
- The Psychology Library booklist
- 10 Psychological studies that will change what you think you know about yourself
If you have a favourite psychology film or book is missing from either list, or have a great resources to share, leave a reply below and I will add it to the post and/or list.
Have a great summer!