The 10 Best Psychology Textbooks

Updated August 10, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

10 Best Psychology Textbooks
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We spent 40 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. Although there is no doubt that we could all do with a better understanding of how the human mind works, these psychology textbooks were specifically written with students who wish to enter the field professionally in mind. We've included editions that are perfect for those new to the field as well as some for more advanced students. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best psychology textbook on Amazon.

10. Psychology: From Inquiry To Understanding

Psychology: From Inquiry To Understanding encourages students to apply the six key principles of scientific thinking -- like ruling out rivaling hypotheses -- to the studies detailed in the book. Unfortunately, some readers complain that the author sounds condescending.
  • develops critical thinking
  • contains a lot of useful metaphors
  • doesn't define many of the key terms
Publisher Pearson
Model BKPSYUND3RD9XOP
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

9. Themes and Variations

Themes and Variations is perfect for the advanced student hoping to work in the field, because it covers some of today's most studied topics, like multiculturalism and positive psychology. Unfortunately, the pages feel very flimsy.
  • uses data to emphasize lessons
  • helpful chapter tests
  • sections aren't well-organized
Publisher Cengage Learning
Model n/a
Weight 4.4 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. Psychology in Everyday Life

Psychology in Everyday Life is an enjoyable read for students at all levels of preparedness that makes no assumptions in the vocabulary or examples. In this book, the renowned David Myers is joined by multi-award-winning professor Nathan DeWall to create a rich text.
  • even non-psychology students love it
  • contains interesting anecdotes
  • minimal study tools
Publisher Myers David G
Model n/a
Weight 2.6 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. Psych 4th Edition

Pupils and teachers will love Psych 4th Edition by Spencer A. Rathus because it is laid out with the natural study habits of students in mind, and it contains straightforward assignment options for instructors. It also comes with graphs that supplement the content.
  • concise chapter titles
  • helpful study tools
  • contains some typos
Publisher Cengage Learning
Model n/a
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

6. Essential Thinkers

Those hoping to be therapists or searching for answers about their own grief, trauma, desires and other unique experiences will be excited to dive into Essential Thinkers. It delves into hot topics like what drives online dating habits and court testimonies.
  • details influential experiments
  • written in a casual tone
  • too history-heavy for some
Publisher Essential Thinkers
Model n/a
Weight 1.8 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

5. Psychology 11th Edition

Psychology 11th Edition is written by the highly-respected David Myers, who has won several prestigious awards from human behavior foundations. Myers breaks down daunting topics into detailed examples that people with no prior psychology background can understand.
  • contains useful study tips
  • sample mcat content
  • combines sociology and psychology
Publisher David G Myers C Nathan
Model BKPSYCH11TH
Weight 4.9 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Abnormal Psychology

Students looking for a comprehensive look at mental and emotional disorders will appreciate Abnormal Psychology. In this book, respected therapist Ronald Comer not only discusses diagnosis and treatments, but also how different cultural perspectives come into play.
  • tells captivating true stories
  • appropriate for graduate students
  • down to earth tone
Publisher Ronald J Comer
Model n/a
Weight 4.2 pounds
Rating 4.3 / 5.0

3. Psychology 8th Edition

Psychology 8th Edition is perfect for the college student, since it is streamlined to mirror the organization of today's courses. Co-author Henry Gleitman teaches psychology at Stanford and asks profound philosophical questions that engage readers.
  • pulls examples from pop culture
  • makes the subject interesting
  • ideal for 2nd and 3rd year students
Publisher Psychology 8th Edition
Model n/a
Weight 3.8 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Psychology 5th Edition

Saundra Ciccarelli's Psychology 5th Edition is ideal for beginners. The writing flows well and it's assessment-driven, so there are plenty of chances for students to test themselves on what they've learned. Plus, it includes some history on the subject.
  • enlightening illustrations
  • relatively affordable
  • well-organized sections
Publisher Ciccarelli, Saundra K.
Model n/a
Weight 1.6 pounds
Rating 5.0 / 5.0

1. Modules for Active Learning

Modules for Active Learning uses the highly successful survey, question, read, recite, reflect and review formula to help students thoroughly digest information. It also includes the most cutting-edge research that is publicly available.
  • uses relatable examples
  • injects plenty of humor
  • written in a conversational manner
Publisher Coon, Dennis
Model n/a
Weight 3.7 pounds
Rating 4.9 / 5.0

Who Else Can Use Psychology Textbooks?

In the classroom and at home, books provide students the perfect study tool to reinforce topics which the section notes do not cover, and provide reference points for many assignments throughout the term.

While students in high school or university will obviously use the majority of psychology textbooks, they are not the only ones who can benefit from the knowledge contained therein. For instance, autodidacts can greatly benefit from these books.

An autodidact is a term used to describe a self-educated person. As the modern educational system can provide a generalized overview in many fields, specialists either seek out more schooling or turn to autodidacticism to reach more deeply into a field of study that interests them. While not every self-taught learner goes on to become a master in their craft, many do. Famous autodidacts include Steven Spielberg, Jimi Hendrix, and Leonardo da Vinci, who was a self taught artist, engineer, and anatomist, among many other things. The place every great self-educated person often begins is within a book. For those interested in the inner workings of the psyche, psychology textbooks are the best place to start.

These books can also provide illumination into the reasoning behind decision making and mental processes. For that reason, anyone who works with other people can help themselves out by reading a psychology textbook. Understanding where another person is coming from mentally may be the key to settling disputes before they happen. This can also be beneficial in business situations where one must figure out a person's motivations in order to close a deal or make a sale. Sometimes, knowing what a person needs or wants, without them verbally telling you, can be the difference between a successful and an unsuccessful business transaction.

Anyone working with children can find psychology textbooks equally helpful. Understanding the brain's processes, especially in the case of the developing mind of a child, can help you to provide them with the attention, communication, and care they truly need.

Textbooks can also enlighten a person about their own habits and psychological processes, as well. Self-study with a clear state of mind may shine light on patterns of thought or past experiences–and ways of dealing with the world–which may be holding the reader back from a richer experience with life.

What To Look For In A Psychology Textbook

Before reaching for any book on the shelf, it is important to understand that each book has something different to offer the reader. This is because psychology covers the near-infinite terrain that is the human mind.

To give an idea of how expansive this field is, there are 25 basic divisions in psychology, each having their own impact in the mind, and each with their own rich world behind them. To decide on a book, one first must decide on what they would like that book to cover. While many will cover the major schools of thought in psychology, some people are more interested in specialized learning.

For instance, while anomalistic psychology is classified in the realm of general psychology, it is often left out or glanced over in curriculum. This is largely due to the fact that it involves the study of the paranormal, which has no objective quantification methods. For those seeking to study more niche psychological concepts such as these, a specialized book will be more suited to their needs.

It is also important to realistically consider the personal level of understanding an individual has about psychology. If a beginner were to pick up an advanced book designed for clinical psychologists, they may be left in the dust by the first page. An introductory book would be more suited to their needs.

Freud Versus Jung: Where They Differ

There are two great names in psychology: Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Together, they have formed much of the current perception about the human mind, and their combined contribution has pushed the field forward in countless ways.

Where the two became friends over their shared intellectual fortitude and insatiable thirst to understand the mind, their split was influenced by a few very large differences in their core beliefs that influenced their teachings as a whole.

At the forefront of these differences was their individual beliefs in the unconscious mind. Freud believed that the unconscious mind was the center of repressed thoughts, traumas, and the basic human drives of sex and aggression. The unconscious mind was seen by Freud as a storage unit for sexual desires and hidden perversions which resulted in mental illness when left unexpressed. Freud is of course responsible for naming the three structures of the human mind the id, ego, and super ego. In Freud's view, sex and pleasure were the only desires of the id, which forms our unconscious drives. The ego is made up of the thoughts, memories, and perceptions that enable us to interact with physical reality, while the super ego attempts to repress the id into behaving properly through creating socially acceptable behaviors.

When speaking of the unconscious mind and psyche, Jung also divided it into three parts. Jung viewed the three parts as the ego, the personal unconscious, and the collective unconscious. The ego in this model is the conscious state, the personal unconscious is all of the memories, both hidden and easily remembered, and the collective unconscious is a sort of reservoir for our experiences as a species. Jung's having extensive knowledge of many Eastern religious and occult systems of belief may have influenced this collective perception, as well. It is interesting to note that this collective unconscious was mentioned and accessed by the sleeping prophet Edgar Cayce years later, in cases that baffle scientists to this day.

Freud and Jung also disagreed on dreams. While they both believed in the analysis of dreams, they disagreed on what this analysis revealed. Freud believed more that our dreams were accessing mostly sexually repressed desires. Jung believed more in the symbolic imagery of the dreams; where a dream can have more than one meaning based on the dreamer's associations to it.

The biggest area of conflict was undoubtedly sexuality. Freud believed that repressed and expressed sexuality was involved in nearly everything, and felt that it was the single largest motivating force in our behaviors. Jung criticized his colleague's view, saying it was too focused on sex. Jung decided the driving influence behind behavior is life force. While sexuality may be one of these forces, it isn't the only one.



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Last updated on August 10, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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