Books to change the way you look at the world. Part 1.
In this post I am going to sum up why you should read a books which will change the way you interact with the world psychologically. That’s right – PsychologyItBetter is having a go at “sort-of” book reviewing! If I enjoy writing it, and you all read it, there are a bunch more to follow! We start with the classic ‘7 Habits Of High;y Effective People’ by Stephen Covey.
Work long hours? Entrepreneur? ‘Sleep is an inconvenience?’ type attitude? Maybe the number of hours you are putting in are holding you back. Hard work is important, but what is the psychology of long hours and what is the psychological effect of a 24/7 lifestyle?
This last couple of weeks has been rather busy. I have a few deadlines and a lot of psychology research and teaching tasks coming up – some for things I really enjoy, others I have found really hard to settle down to. Many of these jobs have deadlines looming – what is the psychology underpinning this, and how can we make them work for us? Are they intrinsically helpful or not?
Do we think better in groups? Groupthink and group polarisation psychology in action.
Way back in my first post on cognitive biases I mentioned that a couple of the projects I am working on are quite high pressured, and involve a small, tight knit team. I love working in a small group, and currently our little band is on a roll, producing lots of good research and making some great contacts. For these particular projects, the team is made up of four people, each bringing their own strengths and differing areas of expertise. This sounds like a dream come true right? I’m very lucky, but also quite aware that our small, slightly insulated group brings its own risks, Indeed, the combination of a high pressure environment, a small team and high (in academic terms anyway!) stakes are all characteristics of situations which a psychologist named Janis1 suggest can encourage a phenomena called Groupthink.
Judgement:10 judgemental biases to avoid. 10 improvements to your decision making.
As you may know, about a month ago I released a short ‘PocketBook ‘ called Judgement: Judgement:10 judgemental biases to avoid.10 improvements to your decision making.’. This ebook outlines some key psychological principles which will help you improve your everyday judgements and decision making. Each principle is outlined in an accessible way, and comes with a number of clear improvements which you can action immediately. These are all outlined in 600 words or less, making it easy to dip in and out of.
Procrastination, as we all know, is a productivity killer. I have a list of jobs (sometimes written down, and sometimes in my head) I need to do on a day to day basis. Some jobs – particularly ones I am worried about, or where a poor outcome has dire consequences- seem to sit on that list for a long time. This often makes them more difficult when I finally get to them! Why do we do this to ourselves? What is the psychology which underpins it, and how can we avoid getting bogged down in procrastination?
Sometimes, I wonder who is driving, me or the autopilot!
This last week or two have been a bit busy. As a result, I suspect I have been leaning a bit too much on my autopilot. On top of the day to day stuff, all sorts has been going on – I have had a big grant application due in, a new member of staff starting and end of teaching session marking, checking, and paperwork are all being done. (I love teaching, but I hate paperwork). I’m also getting ready to visit another university to comment on their courses and preparing to help evaluate one our own institution is launching. Finally, one of my PhD student this week defended their thesis – basically explaining to an independent judge why they should be given a doctorate. Alongside this me, my partner, baby Annabelle and big sister Katherine all went camping for the first time this weekend (having a great time, but a busy, not-much-sleep one!). This is all good stuff, but it means sometimes I forgot to be conscious of what I was doing. Whats the psychology behind this, and can we do anything about it?
I am thrilled to say that my new book, Psychology Squared: 100 Concepts in Psychology You Should Know is now out, published by Apple Press and available in physical form via Amazon and other channels. Written by myself and Dr. Christopher Sterling, this volume outlines 100 interesting ideas and concepts in psychology, each accompanied by a beautiful illustration or fantastically informative diagram. I’m really proud of what we have achieved, and writing it was really the inspiration for the blog. You can read more about it by visiting my little bookstore here.
Implementation intentions and behavioural follow-through
Like many people (I suspect!) I am sometimes not so good at following though on my goals. Here are a bunch of things which this week I fully intended to do, but failed epically to achieve. Note this is the abridged version – the full list runs to 3 volumes.
Buy light bulbs for the kitchen
Call an old friend I ran into on the train last week (Hello J!)
Write down when my annual leave is on our kitchen calendar
Call a work colleague to discuss a new project
Write up some work related expense forms
For many of these things I actively thought about doing them several times a day (as well as whilst cooking crazily calorie laden food in a near pitch-black kitchen).I’m not alone here – these sort of goals only seem to account for around 30% of the variance in our behaviour. Now, I am a reasonably well motivated guy, so why the apparent multiple lack of follow through? Part of the is probably due to the way I formulate my intentions.
What predicts performance differences in two people with equal preparation? Challenge!
Tests, performance and stress.
We all face tests in our lifetime. As I write, all across the country people are preparing for, or sitting exams. My own students are no exception – I have 180 undergraduates who are busy revising (I hope) for a exam on social psychology next week. There are a lot of things which predict success in such tasks. Some are out of our immediate control – some people simply have an aptitude for exams and some (like me!) find them more difficult. Other things are more within our control – how much you engaged with the course when it was presented, how much extra reading you did and how thorough your revision was. But what predicts the differences between two people of equal aptitude, who have prepared similarly? The ‘edge’ the stronger person have may be less to do with how much they know or how skilled they are, and more to do with how they perceive the situation. I understand this via something called the biopsychosocial model of challenge and threat [BPSM]