The Organised Mind, by Daniel Levitin.

Multi tasking is not actual multi tasking. It is switching attention from one task to another very quickly. Our brains are bad at doing this, and the more we do it the less well we perform. It is better to concentrate on one thing at a time. This book explains why, and gives practical strategies based on sound scientific psychology that will help you to concentrate better and to remember more.815VsM8i-NL

It explains why we find decisions harder if there are too many choices, and how to tackle that problem. It gives practical advice on how not to forget things, how not to run out of time, and how to use logic to make tough decisions, and not to be swayed by irrational emotions.

It also puts forward some ideas for education. What is the point of learning stuff when we can just google everything? The book explores what we should be learning, when everything is just a click away.

Really readable and packed with excellent (and commendably scientific) background psychology.

The Persuaders, by James Garvey.

persuadersJames Garvey decided to write this book after attending a lecture by a high-flying Oxford theologian. In the Q & A, he raised his hand and posed a killer objection to one of the points that the speaker had made. His neighbour leaned over to him and whispered “you’ve got him!”

Garvey had won plainly won the argument. Unfortunately, it made no difference whatsoever. The speaker didn’t change his mind. He seemed to consider the question, and then just carried on, ignoring the point that had been made.

The point is that people are not really swayed by rational arguments – even ones that are obviously true. Rather people make up their minds on the basis of emotional factors, and then use rational argument to justify their already fixed ideas.

This sad psychological fact has long been know to advertisers and politicians, who use industrial strength emotional and cognitive manipulation to implant in our minds the opinions they wish us to have. No-one is immune from this manipulation. The only real defence is knowledge, so at least we can be aware of how we are being controlled and directed for the benefit of others.

In The Persuaders, James Garvey takes us on a tour of what he has discovered about the persuasion industry. He’s a philosopher, but there’s plenty of scientific psychology in the book. Required reading for any psychologist interested in democracy and free will.

Thinking, Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman.

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This American psychologist recently won the Nobel Prize for his work on cognition. This book, published in 2011, is about how, when making intuitive decisions, we make mistakes that are highly predictable. It is an enjoyable read and it makes you think about how you think. I am personally convinced that in a few year’s time Kahneman’s name will be as widely known as Freud or Zimbardo or Milgram. Read it now and amaze your friends and teachers with your up-to-date knowledge.