Updated September 19, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

The 10 Best Psychology Textbooks

video play icon 10 Best Psychology Textbooks
From Inquiry To Understanding
Modules for Active Learning
Essential Thinkers

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 subject 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. Psych 5

9. From Inquiry To Understanding

8. Psychology 5th Edition

7. Themes and Variations

6. Psychology in Everyday Life

5. Essential Thinkers

4. Psychology 8th Edition

3. Modules for Active Learning

2. Abnormal Psychology

1. Psychology: 12th Edition

Who Else Can Use Psychology Textbooks?

For those interested in the inner workings of the psyche, psychology textbooks are the best place to start.

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 decide on a book, one first must decide on what they would like that book to cover.

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.

Freud believed more that our dreams were accessing mostly sexually repressed desires.

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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Brett Dvoretz
Last updated on September 19, 2018 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as in front of a laptop screen, Brett can either be found hacking away furiously 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 has been a professional chef, a dog trainer, and a travel correspondent for a well-known Southeast Asian guidebook. He also holds a business degree and has spent more time than he cares to admit in boring office jobs. He has an odd obsession for playing with the latest gadgets and working on motorcycles and old Jeeps. His expertise, honed over years of experience, is in the areas of computers, electronics, travel gear, pet products, and kitchen, office and automotive equipment.

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