In a society that seems to value the newest ideas and innovations, it is sometimes difficult to find respect for classical concepts that are the foundation of thought. The most influential book in psychology was published more than 100 years ago, and the passage of time has served to increase its importance. Five classics are “must reads” for anyone who aspires to study psychology.
Classic Number One: Psychological Types by Carl Jung
Jung’s psychological theory introduced a new path to understanding the different ways in which people relate to the world around them. With his knowledge of classical philosophy and experiments with word association, he developed a theory that provided a common language regarding psychic activity. Isabel Briggs Myers popularized Jungian theory with her Myers-Briggs Type Indicator that allows a person to identify personality types. Students of psychology can get an insight into Jung’s theories by taking the test. (http://www.christosg.com/images/Christos–Type%20and%20Individuation–10-03.pdf)
Classic Number Two: Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frankl
Writing about Nazi concentration camp experiences, Frankl describes ways to manage difficult situations. “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves” is a quote from the book shows that his philosophy of logotherapy was based on his personal experiences. His theory underscores his understanding that people are motivated by a sense of meaning and a feeling of belonging.
Classic Number Three: Pioneers of Psychology by Raymond Fancher
Originally published in 1979, Fancher’s book is in its third printing. Professor Emeritus at York University, Francher wrote a history of psychology that describes various theories. Students who are new to the field may find the book easy to read as it defines complex psychological theories in a way that is easy to understand. By writing about the great thinkers as people who have human attributes, feelings and frailties, Professor Fancher describes the work of major contributors such as Descartes, Freud, Darwin and Locke.
Classic Number Four: Walden Two by B. F. Skinner
Psychologists ranked Skinner as one of the most influential psychologists in the 20th century in a 2002 survey. His theory of behaviorism and operant behavior was counter to Darwin’s thoughts on anticipated reward. In Walden Two, he said “Some of us learn control, more or less by accident. The rest of us go all our lives not even understanding how it is possible, and blaming our failure on being born the wrong way.” A controversial novel when it appeared in 1948, the book remains an important contribution to psychological literature.
Classic Number Five: The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud
Written by the most dominant figure in modern psychology, the book is regarded as the foundation of therapy. Freud’s theories of the id, the ego and the superego remain as relevant today as they were when he wrote about them in 1899.
Any serious student of psychology needs an understanding of various theories that contribute to the science. Classical status is assigned to books that make a lasting contribution and helps advance the application of psychology.