10 Best Psychology Books

Every few years I update my list of favorite psychology books, and it’s that time again. It turns out that this is my most popular blog post. So here’s my latest list. Let me know if you have some favorites that you think should have made it on my list but didn’t.

(These are in no particular order, i.e., #1 doesn’t mean it’s my favorite.)

I do have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve included a link to each book after the description if you are interested in purchasing or just getting more info.

And you may want to check out the post on the 7 Best User Experience Books.

1. Thinking Fast and Slow, by Daniel Kahneman, 2011 – If you want to understand how people think and how and why they react, then this is a must read. Daniel Kahneman is a Psychologist and a Nobel prize winner in Economics, but this book is all about how people think and react. It’s very well written, but I will warn you, it’s not an easy read. Plan to spend time reading this one. But it will be worth it for the understanding you get into why we do the things we do.

2. Redirect, by Timothy Wilson, 2011 – This is one of two books on my list by Timothy Wilson. If you want to know how to make permanent and lasting change in your behavior, or the behavior of someone you know, then this is the book to read. Wilson covers the recent and often very surprising research on interventions and therapies that result in people actually changing. Permanent behavior change is hard to come by. This book tells you what does and doesn’t work based on research.

3. Strangers to Ourselves: The Adaptive Unconscious, by Timothy Wilson, 2004 – This is the book that actually got me started seriously on the topic of the unconscious. I had read Blink (Malcolm Gladwell) and although that was an interesting book, I wanted more depth and detail. Gladwell referenced Wilson’s book so I started reading it and light bulbs went off for me. This one is a bit more academic and psychological, especially the first few chapters, but all in all, a great book with lots of interesting insights and strong research.

4. The Power of Habit , by Charles Duhigg, 2014. The science of habits — how we form them, change them, and why they are so powerful. Actually the information in one of the Appendices is, I think, the most powerful part of the book.

5. The Art of Choosing , by Sheena Iyengar, 2011. This is a thick book and research oriented, but it’s the best book out there for a survey of decision-making. Why do people make certain decisions? Why do they choose one thing over another? What makes them take action?

6. The Paradox of Choice , by Barry Schwartz, 2005. The premise of this book is that we all want lots of choices, but lots of choices don’t help us to choose. It’s easy to read and has lots of great research in it too.https://ws-na.a

7. The Knowledge Illusion by Steven Sloman and Philip Fernbach, 2017. This book shows Sloman’s and Fernbach’s research on how our social networks frame what we think we know.

8. Drive, by Daniel Pink, 2011 – What really motivates people? This book covers the research on human motivation in the last few years. It’s well written, and an easy read, and will explode some long-standing beliefs.

9. How To Get People To Do Stuff by Susan Weinschenk, 2013. My book on the 7 drivers of motivation.

10. I Love You, Now Read This Book (It’s About Human Decision Making and Behavioral Economics) by Guthrie Weinschenk, 2019

We talked to some of these authors on our podcast Human Tech, so check those episodes out if you want to hear the authors discuss their ideas.

7 Best UX (User Experience) Design Books

Every few years I update my list of favorite UX (user experience) design books, and it’s that time again. So here’s my latest list. Let me know if you have some favorites that you think should have made it on my list but didn’t.

(These are in no particular order, i.e., #1 doesn’t mean it’s my favorite.)

I do have an Amazon affiliate account, so I’ve included a link to each book after the description if you are interested in purchasing or just getting more info.

Also, you may want to check out the 10 Best Psychology Books article.

1. The User Experience of One by Leah Buley, 2013. Whether you are a team of one or a team of many this is a good book on user-centered design and how to do it.

2. Gamestorming by Dave Gray, 2010. If you have meetings with other people and you need to collaborate and solve problems this book is full of different and fun and useful techniques for getting people to work productively together.

3. Writing is Designing by Metts and Welfle, 2020. A great book on how to write for digital products.

4. Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krug . A must read for anyone that designs stuff.

5. Surveys That Work by Caroline Jarrett. If you design surveys this is a must read. Don’t create a survey without it.

6. Forms That Work by Caroline Jarrett and Gerry Gaffney. Another book by Jarrett. If you are designing an online form read this first.

7. 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People by Susan Weinschenk. I hope you will forgive me for putting one of my books on the list too. Make sure you get the 2nd edition which we updated in 2020.

We talked to some of these authors on our podcast Human Tech, so check those episodes out if you want to hear the authors discuss their ideas.

The User Experience of Surveys

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In this episode of the Human Tech podcast we talk with Caroline Jarrett about the user experience of surveys. Besides being an expert on forms design, Caroline has recently written a book on survey design. 

You can reach Caroline at her company website:


or by email: caroline.jarrett@effortmark.co.uk

Check out her new book:

Also, here is where you can access a transcript of our interview from the podcast:



What Research Tells Us About the Power of the Tribe

Below is a guest post from Steven Sloman and Mugur Geana

Image of Steven Sloman
Steven Sloman
Image of Mugur Geana
Mugur Geana

“…human beings are tribal all the way down, all the way to the processes that govern thought. In other words, we let others think for us.”

We thought we had a solution. After a year of cowering in our homes, science had come to the rescue in a way that sounded like science fiction. We had not one but two vaccines based on what seemed fantasmagorical methods from the cutting edge of molecular biology. They had greater efficacy than anyone had dreamed, upwards of 90% ability to prevent infection. Yet, as we write this, the US is experiencing a 4th Covid-19 surge. To those of us who raced to get vaccinated as soon as we could, something has gone terribly wrong.

We knew that a coronavirus variant might evolve that could wriggle its way around the vaccine’s defenses. Most experts believe that, to some extent, that is what the Delta variant is doing. It is almost surely more transmissible than previous variants, and therefore has become a dominant strain globally. But we don’t really know how transmissible this latest and greatest contender is because it isn’t facing the same obstacles that its immediate predecessors faced. Many Americans have decided that the pandemic is over. So it is hard for epidemiologists to measure the transmissibility of the Delta variant, because they have to do it in a society with full restaurants and bars, and with thousands of fans screaming their approval and disapproval at sports venues. Some of those patrons have been vaccinated. Some have not. The surge is occurring not just because of the new variant but because so many people have entirely given up on wearing masks and social distancing, never mind their unwillingness to vaccinate.

There are other reasons people may have given up, including the inconsistency of the messages put forward by public health authorities. The CDC did issue guidance that vaccinated people need not wear masks indoors when they are with other vaccinated people. But recent studies show that vaccinated people can become carriers (although substantially less often than unvaccinated people). Furthermore, people get their information about Covid from a multitude of sources, and misinformation abounds. Nevertheless, the vaccines have lowered the risk of getting and certainly of dying from Covid-19. So, are people just making rational risk assessments to decide whether or not the discomfort of masks and the isolation of social distancing is worth it? Alternatively, people might be ignoring scientific advice because they lack trust. Some come from racial minority groups that have historically been poorly served by the medical community, or their behavior is driven by information from sources that do not share the medical establishment’s views.

The word on the street, and on many newscasts, is that the issue is ideological. Is it? Ideology seems to pervade so much these days. There is clearly a split in Americans’ confidence in experts; Democrats show more than Republicans (Pew Research, 7/21/19). Experts themselves are speaking pretty much with a single voice: With only a few eccentric exceptions, medical experts recommend avoiding close proximity to strangers, wearing masks in public, certainly indoors and outdoors if you have to be close to people you don’t know (or don’t trust), and get vaccinated. Who is following the advice, and who isn’t, and why?

In two surveys involving almost 1700 US adults, we asked people whether they take preventive behaviors (mask-wearing and social distancing) and whether they support policies that encourage such behavior. We also asked respondents several questions about their political attitudes (conservative versus liberal), about their own risk from the coronavirus, their understanding of the transmission of the virus, how well they perceive their own understanding of the virus, and some other facts about themselves. We found that the best predictor of their behavior and their attitudes was their political leanings. Suppose you want to know whether an American is likely to wear a mask or practice social distancing. In that case, the single best question to ask them turns out to be what party they vote for.

This finding is consistent with a plethora of research. We looked for published and unpublished manuscripts made available by early 2021 that included measures of Covid-mitigation attitudes and also measured political ideology. Forty-four papers provided data that allowed us to evaluate which variables predicted those attitudes. Out of 141 observations from the 44 papers, political ideology was a significant predictor of responses in 112 (79%). Moreover, ideology was by far the best predictor of COVID-19-related attitudes overall. Other factors did surpass ideology’s predictive value in a few cases: age (8 cases), gender (8 cases), education (14 cases), and race/ethnicity (7 cases), along with various measures of news consumption (10 cases). Ideology did best 62 times.

In another study of over 1100 Americans led by Mae Fullerton, we found that not only did people’s risk profiles fail to predict their mask-wearing and social distancing, but even their perception of their own risk failed to predict them. As usual, partisanship turned out to be a better predictor, along with being an essential worker. Not surprisingly, another good predictor was believing compliance was important.

These studies are, of course, correlational. We have no direct evidence that one’s partisanship causes one’s willingness to take mitigating or preventive behaviors against Covid. It could be, for instance, that Republicans tend to live in Republican communities or regions of the country and Democrats in Democratic communities, and that people behave in line with their community, as opposed to their ideology. But alternative explanations like this just emphasize our bottom line: In the case of Covid, health-related behavior is not governed by a rational assessment of risk but by the attitudes of the people who surround us. Our data suggest that it is not primarily a function of race, age, or any of the other variables that have been offered as big players, but rather variables related to ideology.

In a recent book, one of us argued that human beings are tribal all the way down, all the way to the processes that govern thought. In other words, we let others think for us. We keep expecting to find exceptions to this rule. When it comes to matters of life and limb, for instance, or when behavior is obviously foolish or capricious, we would expect people to rely on their ability to reason, not to simply channel the people around them. Yet we keep being surprised. Covid is a matter of life and death and the strong consensus among experts means that deciding what to do is not very complicated, and yet people seem to be as influenced by social processes and pressures as they are in cases that seem much more benign (like how much respect one should have for economists) and topics that do not lend themselves to such easy conclusions (like how we should handle immigration).

Everyone makes mistakes. But when it comes to freeing the country from the bonds of a tiresome pandemic, some of us keep making the same mistake over and over.

You can reach Steven at: Steven_Sloman@Brown.edu. His website is: https://sites.google.com/site/slomanlab/

You can reach Mugur at geanam@ku.edu

and Check out the Human Tech podcast episode where Steven Sloman and his co-author, Philip Fernbach talk about their book The Knowledge Illusion.

Design is evolving—and designers need to evolve with it.

Below is a guest post from Nathan Shedroff

Nathan Shedroff

‘While designers have evolved over the last 25 years to be advocates for the audience/customer, we now need to be advocates for the rest of everyone else, democracy, society, and the planet, itself.

I was taught design in a world and a time where the word primarily referred to things you could see, touch, and maybe hear. Design craft is often focused singularly on pleasing our senses. Fair enough, but design has changed a lot since my undergrad days. It wasn’t OK to ignore the impacts and outcomes of our work then, and it’s much, much less now.

It’s Not About You

The kind of design I was taught essentially told us designers to “go out into the world and redesign it in your vision!” If we did that, we were told, we would be rewarded—with money, with recognition, with awards, etc. Mostly, that isn’t what happens. It’s been very recently that popular appreciation for the kind of design that wins awards has emerged. For most of the past, the “design aesthetic” of the moment did not align with what most people appreciated or wanted. One of the biggest achievements of companies like Appen and Nike has been the promotion of design qualities that design industries mostly emphasize. Never before have non-designers cared about, let alone sought-out, design that the “experts” agree are well-designed. This is particularly true in UX/UI design though there are disagreements, often.

Happily, the majority of how design is taught today has changed drastically, partly because many more people have entered the field but, mostly, because the design industry has steadily leveled-up its process, aims, cares, and context. Sure, there’s a few programs and faculty who only care about appearance and the plastic parts of “craft.” But, most reputable programs teach the process of design research, which extols the virtues of understanding our audiences/customers/etc. before we begin making things for them. This is a huge advancement! While some industries still reward and recognize only the starchitects of their worlds, most design organizations have started to refocus themselves around impact.

The famous Frog Design, under its original founders, thought their incredible innovation was to put the client CEO at the center of the design process. Today, even Frog Design puts the customer at the center now. Progress.

UX/UI/interaction/interface/etc. design has led much of this progress. It’s now no longer acceptable to jump straight into screen design without first investigating customers—well, unless it’s an agile project. It’s still the case that much of that customer research is really, really, poorly done, but at least the step is there in the process chart and, sometimes, there’s someone designated as the researcher.

It’s Not About Us, Either

But, designing for others isn’t enough. Therefore, design research isn’t enough, either. There are still too many steps in the process and people in the system who don’t understand, care about, or want to create designs that work for others, instead of merely for themselves. Even when designers know and do better, everyone else in an organization, from CEO or client to layers of managers, to peers in other divisions, can foul this process and prevent better design responses. This is simply the reality of systems made from real people, instead of idealized ones. It’s not a reason not to design, but it complicates our efforts and stifles progress. It requires us to not only better understand the context of our own work but levels of context above, below, and to the side that impact our work and, more importantly, are impacted by it.

This is why designers need to be taught so much more than traditional design. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t understand the basics of form, shape, color, light, seeing, composition, etc. By all means, these are probably more important than ever. But, we need to find ways to add in much more about the impacts of our work, which I’ll admit, isn’t easy.

It’s About Everything, Now

I know this sounds daunting, and we’re definitely adding levels of complexity and context, but these levels are necessary, not only for ethical and just work but also for financially successful work, too. Today, in order to be a successful designer (or, rather a designer creating work successfully), we also need to understand (in no particular order):

• The social contexts of our work (including impact, issues, and meaning)

• The ecological impacts and consequences of our work (and ALL of it has some impact)

• How value is created and flows between people, organizations, and stakeholders

• How to better communicate with all of these people

• How to lead and manage people (I, know, ugh, right?)

• How to respect (and transcend) the quantitative data available to us (and sometimes foisted upon us)

All of the above helps us be more ic in our work (which is another, critical issue, entirely)

That’s a tall order, I know, but necessary if you want to practice design successfully now and in the future. For sure, you’ll be able to inquire with and be joined by others. You won’t be alone (though it may often feel that way).

I’ll try to make it simple. I’ve been working on these issues for quite a while now. You don’t even need to go get another degree to know the above. There are even tools in existence for these (and several more on the way). There aren’t a lot of books that describe the list above, but there are many videos.

The first context for design is the environment around us. Nature supports everything else on this planet. If it falters, changes, or ceases to support us as we’ve become accustomed, everything else changes—sometimes radically. You don’t have to spend the rest of your life, or even the rest of the year, reading about this. I wrote the book, Design is the Solution, to cover it all, in fact (though others have, too). But, you need to know the basics because nothing else works otherwise. It’s your duty as a designer to know these things. No, scratch that. It’s your duty as a human on this planet to know these things. Period.

The second realization is that while society is supported by Nature, society supports (or suppresses) everything else. You can’t have an economic system without a social system. The main context you will design around will be the social ones (there are many). You don’t get to skirt this one either. It permeates everything. It governs what is considered good or bad, successful, or frivolous, important or not. And, there are more social impacts and issues than I can list. But the most important are going to be: equity, justice, respect, desire, need, privacy, and safety. If all you do is investigate how your audience understands and relates to these, you’re doing better than 90% of the rest of people you work with.

The only thing I’ll say about the economic context is this: markets are incredible optimizers. They really are. However, they only optimize what you put into the equation and the things we care about most have been left out of the economic equation by economists and “businesspeople” for far too long. And, optimization may not be called for at all. Just know that that uneasy feeling you have that business is missing some important things is absolutely true. I won’t get into the entire argument (you can read an intro here) but know that:

  1. People are NOT rational actors
  2. People don’t only optimize for money (they absolutely WILL pay more for some things)
  3. Rich people do NOT create jobs

That will keep you busy for a while.

Next, the same way we can measure the ecological impacts of a product, service, or other experience, we can also measure social impacts of what we create. We probably can’t measure everything (there are so many) but we can measure enough—if we care to. Someday, we may even be able to put these into business terms.

This isn’t a case of garbage-in/garbage-out. Instead, it’s about what we don’t put into the process—we can still get garbage out. Remember those Segways? They aren’t even mostly Segways anymore. But, a LOT of money was wasted to get there. That’s what you’re trying to prevent for your companies and clients.

We should have to perform all of these roles. It should be standard operating procedure for all of this to be covered in the process—even for start-ups. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. While designers have evolved over the last 25 years to be advocates for the audience/customer, we now need to be advocates for the rest of everyone else, democracy, society, and the planet, itself. That’s the design job ahead of us. Sorry, but it is—because few others in organizations will rise to the challenge (and the challenge doesn’t go away).

Or, you know, we can evangelize and recruit others, too. There’s plenty of work to go around and we don’t have to go it alone. But, we’ll have to leave the safety of our design ghetto studios to do it.

Check out the conversation we had with Nathan at our Human Tech podcast.

You can reach Nathan at www.nathan.com

Human Factors in Healthcare: An interview with Russ Branaghan

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Every day around the world thousands of people receive medical treatment. They, or their health care practitioner are using a medical device: an xray machine, a pacemaker, a medication infusion pump… So how well designed is that medical device? Did a human factors expert work on the design to help make it error proof? How can you prevent human error in the use of the device?

In this episode of Human Tech we speak with Russ Branaghan. Russ has a Ph.D. and has worked as a human factors engineer, with a specialty in healthcare for decades. He is President of Research Collective, a human factors and UX consulting firm and the author of Humanizing Healthcare — Human Factors for Medical Device Design, which was published in February of 2021.

Humanizing Healthcare – Human Factors for Medical Device Design:  9783030644321: Medicine & Health Science Books @ Amazon.com

We talk about what it’s like to design medical devices from a human factors point of view  Also, in this episode Russ offers to give career advice to anyone who’s interested in getting into the field.

To reach Russ you can email him at russ@research-collective.com

and here is a link to the website of his company: www.research-collective.com

Humans Calculate By Feel on the Human Tech Podcast

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In this Human Tech podcast episode we talk about behavioral economics, specifically about the idea that people don’t calculate the value of products and services rationally, but they do so by following how they feel about what something is worth. Guthrie walks us through the research and the practical implications.