Jung A Very Short Introduction, by Anthony Stevens.

Jung belongs to the Psychodynamic Approach, and his work builds on Freudian Psychology. Through extended introspection and exhaustive dream self-analysis he constructed a highly complex theory of the self. “Archetypes” are psychic structures which Jung held to be common to all cultures throughout history. He also pioneered the concept of the collective unconscious: a psychic layer beneath Freud’s unconscious, which is shared by all people. He believed that our dreams contain images and ideas from a psychic substratum, which also underlies all myths and fairy tales.

Modern scientific psychologists would argue that this arcane and mysterious theory results from too much deep introspection, and too little empirical contact with observable behaviour. It reminds me of Isaac Newton’s attempt to rediscover the occult wisdom of the ancients. Lock a brilliant mind into a hall of mirrors, leave it there for a few years, and it will come up with some esoteric and unhinged ideas.

But great fun to read, and fascinating background into the history of Psychology.


How you see it, how you don’t, by Damion Searls.

rorschachtestThe Rorschach test is often regarded as an example of the unscientific and subjective research methodology of the Psychodynamic school. In fact it was an early attempt at objectivity.

One research group gave the Rorschach test to Nazi prisoners in 1945, and rejected their own results because they couldn’t believe them. Those results are now being reappraised.

New Scientist No. 3120, 8th April 2017. p.42-43.

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.