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5 of my favorite psychology books

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One of my favorite questions to ask people is, “Who do you admire?” That and “What kind of underwear are you wearing?” You can learn a lot about someone with these questions. Trust me. I tested it.

It’s always fascinating to hear what people are reading. And since one of the most common emails I get is, “What books do you read?” I thought I’d share 5 of my favorite psychology books here.

I’ve told you how I spend over $50,000/year investing in myself via courses, books, conferences, and travel. The amount isn’t the point. The fact that you can accelerate your career, health, productivity, and relationships by years is an incredible thing.

In fact, books are some of the best investments you can make. My book, for example, took about 10 years to develop and 2 years to write. It costs less than $10. You can tap into the very best of my automated systems for less than the cost of a movie ticket — and get results like this.

So, I hope you decide to pick up one of these books — or any other great book — today. After reading hundreds of books on psychology, I’m only going to share the very best ones with you. Each of these has changed my life.

 

Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think
A book ostensibly about our invisible eating habits that is actually a deeply researched, phenomenally interesting book on our behavior. If you’ve ever wondered why you can’t lose weight even though you really want to, this book will explain how our situational circumstances are profoundly related to our behavior. Read this and you will never think the same about food or health again.

 

Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion
One of my favorite books on understanding why we behave the way we do. Aronson, the co-author, guest-lectured at Stanford and his class was one of the most thought-provoking ones I ever took. Learn how the media, our friends, and even we ourselves cause us to behave in unexpected ways. Each and every aspect of this book is rooted in theoretical literature, but it is incredibly fascinating to read.

 

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
The grandfather of all persuasion books, Cialdini put his years as the world’s foremost persuasion expert into this book. Impressively, this book is equally interesting to the ordinary reader as it is to persuasion experts. He distills years of research into a few critical principles that help you understand how to influence others and yourself — and how to protect yourself from unethical persuasion.

 

Breakthrough Advertising
One of the most sophisticated books on advertising ever written. Virtually every master-level direct-response copywriter has read this book once, and most read it every year, only to discover new insights. Be warned: This is extremely dense copy. I don’t recommend it to anyone but experienced copywriters, marketers, and psychologists. But beneath the verbiage are profound insights that have stood the test of time.

 

The Social Animal
Another book by Eliot Aronson, this is a terrific primer on how our environment shapes our behavior. If the average American read this book (and had the cognitive wherewithal to believe/trust it, which is another story), they would be shocked. For all the people who say, “Ugh! Fat people should just stop eating so much!” or “I would NEVER do ___” they would be terribly troubled to learn that a sophisticated persuader — given enough time — can create a situation powerful enough to persuade you to do almost anything. Murder. Gaining 45lbs. Allowing yourself to be abused. Or, on the positive side, to lose weight, become healthier, improve your vocabulary, manage your money, and become friendlier.

 

One last thing:  I did an interview with my mentor, Stanford psychology professor BJ Fogg, where we covered our favorite psychology/persuasion studies. We also shared some of our own theories with each other, many of which we haven’t released publicly. The interview took me over 15 hours to prepare for, and I decided to offer it for free instead of charging $1,000 — which it’s easily worth. If you’re interested, I recommend listening to it while reading one of the above books. It will give you an incredibly rich experience on the entire field of persuasion that a book alone could never provide. You can download the audio interview (with transcript) for free, here.

P.S. How has IWT changed your perspective on behavioral change? Whether it’s money, health, relating to friends, persuading yourself to change…what’s ONE thing you’ve learned on this site? Leave a comment below.

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52 Comments

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  1. As a psychology major (years ago) who tries to keep up with the field, I have read most of the books recommended. Of those books, I found “Mindless Eating” was the most eye-opening for me. I loved “I Will Teach You to be Rich,” but was already applying most of those principles. (My husband, however, completely changed his behavior after reading the book. It was the ONLY finance book that he ever finished reading and the only book that made him start handling his money in a reasonable way. Powerful stuff!

    In IWT, the most important message I’ve learned is that all the knowledge in the world of what to do, does not make us do it. It has made me mindful of actually finding my own personal motivation to do what I’m supposed to do, then actually getting off my duff and doing it. It sounds so simple, but it can be hard to do, and you have to dig deep to find the proper motivation (in my experience, anyway). The payoff, though, is huge. Thanks, Ramit.

  2. Two psychology books that I really liked:
    Thinking, Fast and Slow – Kahneman
    Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me) – Tavris and Aronson

  3. I look forward to checking these out. Thanks! I also wanted to pass on a recommendation for Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I read a lot of psychology-related books (though, strangely, none of the ones that you mentioned here–yet), but Cain’s is by far the most thorough and fascinating one I’ve read in a while. I’m guessing you’re very firmly on the extroverted side of the spectrum, but your interest in understanding why people act the way they do would make it a worth-while and enjoyable read.

    • I agree–this is an excellent book! I “faked” extroversion for years in business, and it worked okay, but I always felt awful. I’m so glad this book is out there for those starting out as introverts. It is reassuring to know they can be themselves and still succeed. (Ramit’s earlier testimony about the introvert who was successful is also a good read.)

    • Didn’t want to just post a me-too! comment, but I can’t recommend Quiet enough. A really great book. You can get a semi-preview of it by watching her TED talk here http://www.ted.com/talks/susan_cain_the_power_of_introverts.html

    • Thanks so much for posting this recommendation. I’m adding this to my booklist for this year. :)

  4. Ramit,

    Honestly, I cannot whittle it down to a single thing that I have learned from IWT, because I have learned numerous important lessons! One of the most important lessons is that the barriers that we put up that prevent us from taking action that we rationally know would be enormously positive for our lives (eg. earn1k) separate the truly successful people from the “shoulda couldas” (like me, I am ashamed to admit.) Can you just create a virtual boot and give me a good ass kicking right now?!!

    Thank you for all that you do, Ramit. Great stuff as always!!

  5. Nicholas Peddle Link to this comment

    You can’t just try harder to change bad habits. It is easier to create new good habits.

  6. Stephanie Biscardi Link to this comment

    Ramit,

    Thanks for posting this. I’ve been reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion for a while now-great read, with some scary, yet interesting stuff!

    When I was reading your transcript with BJ, your comment on attractiveness made me think of this TED talk by Denis Dutton, which might quench your curiosity about the topic.

    He explains a theory behind attractiveness, and why we appreciate/respect beauty in regards to evolution-based psychology.

    DenisDutton: A Darwinian theory of beauty
    http://youtu.be/PktUzdnBqWI

    -Stephanie

  7. i learnt abt the power of automation from IWT. previously i was keeping track of my money closely and paying my CC bills on time but manually. now i’m try to automate and it’s great cos i think and worry less abt my monthly budget. also, putting $500 buffer into my checking acct is psychologically assuring, wrt my cashflow. thanks ramit!

  8. Couldnt agree more. Continued learning is at the core of how I live my life. It’s cool to see some of your favorites. I read Influence about 5 years ago and have even taught a lot of its content. That book has so many real world applications in every facet of life, it’s unreal. I’m currently exploring Psycho Cybernetics after seeing it brought up several times in recent readings. Always enjoy your content. Keep crushing it Ramit!

  9. The time is now.

  10. I have to say what has most impacted me has been acknowledging my hidden scripts and trying to overcome them. I will also definitely check out those books!

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