Monday 26 March 2018

Pavlov's Dog: And 49 Other Experiments That Revolutionised Psychology - Adam Hart-Davis

Experimental psychology burst onto the intellectual scene in the middle part of the nineteenth century, radically transforming the way we understand human thought and behavior.

Featuring clear explanations and first-rate scholarship, Pavlov’s Dog introduces the reader to iconic experiments, including Pavlov’s salivating dogs, Bandura’s Bobo doll experiments, Milgram’s obedience studies and Zimbardo’s classic Stanford prison experiment. In each case, context, procedure, results and implications are carefully considered, allowing the reader to gain a strong sense of psychology as a living, breathing endeavour.

What did I think?

I just have to say first that I love the graph paper cover; it made me want to get out my pencil and ruler and plot some charts!  I also love the funky images that you can see at the top of the cover, they are replicated throughout the book and reminded me of Monty Python's Flying Circus.  The cover actually says a lot about the style of the book: it's science made fun by Adam Hart-Davis.

I've always had a keen interest in psychology and I think there's nothing more interesting than finding out how the human mind works.  I hadn't heard of Pavlov's Dog before reading the book but that is only one of the many amazing experiments that Adam Hart-Davis describes in bite-sized pieces.  The book is written in chronological order with experiments grouped into six parts so you can see how psychology has evolved throughout the ages.   

I not only found myself intrigued by the experiments, but I saw myself in so many of them.  Anyone who knows me will have heard me mentioning space invaders at one time or another.  No, not the video game but those people who stand TOO CLOSE!  Felipe and Sommer studied invasions into personal space in their 1966 experiment so I'm glad to see that I'm not alone in 'moving along the bench' when my space is invaded.

Another experiment that intrigued me was the peer pressure test conducted by Asch in 1956.  I remember going on a management course not long after I had read a psychology book (for fun, as you do).  The trainer conducted an experiment whereby he stated three facts about himself and asked the group which one was a lie.  The group's answers were split between two of the facts, whereas I was the only person who chose the fact that was actually the lie.  The psychology book I read had told me how to identify a lie but the point is that mine was the only answer that differed to the whole group.  Perhaps some of my colleagues agreed with my choice, but succumbed to peer pressure and went with the majority as Asch's study concluded.

So if you've ever wondered why you can't tickle yourself or wanted to know how you can hear with your eyes, this is the book for you.  It's a fascinating introduction to psychology for those new to the science, but also a fantastic reference guide to the main experiments that have shaped psychology into the science we know today.

I chose to read an ARC and this is my honest and unbiased opinion.

My rating:

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