Author: Nigel C. Benson
Publish Date: October 2003
Publisher: Icon Books
Catalog ID: ISBN: 978-1840468526
Review by M.T. Bennett
Originally published in 1994 and updated in 2003, Introducing Psychology by Nigel C. Benson is a great addition to Icon Books’ Introducing: Graphic Guides series. These are simple, digestible, yet informative books on a variety of topics written by various experts. Dr. Benson is no stranger to introductory books on psychology as he has written Introducing Psychiatry (2004) and Introducing Psychotherapy (2003) for Icon Books, as well as The Psychology Book: Big Ideas Simply Explained (2011) in conjunction with several colleagues.
Introducing Psychology is exactly that, a great introductory work on the world of psychology. While the information is basic, it is comprehensive. It begins with definitions of psychology, what it is and what makes it different from other scientific fields. Benson then reviews basic research methodology which is well placed in the beginning of the book because it teaches the reader how research is done and how to evaluate it. This is helpful because the next section of the book covers the history of psychology and prevailing schools of thought. The reader is taught about different prominent psychologists and their theories and can use research methodology, and their own experiences, to judge the theories for themselves.
Different landmark cases and research, which are key for any introductory student to know about, are presented throughout the book, such as the Bobo Doll experiment where children modeled adults’ aggressive behavior towards a doll, Pavlov’s classical conditioning with his dogs, or Harry Harlow’s mother-infant attachment studies in Rhesus macaques. The book wraps up with discussions on controversies such as sexism, racism, validity of IQ testing, ethics of human and animal research. Then it ends by explaining possible career options in psychology. This is a fantastic book for an undergraduate introductory psychology course or anyone looking to get their feet wet in the subject. It gives an informative and exhaustive overview of all aspects of the field.
The shortcoming of the book is in its “graphic” component. The informational aspect and written portion are very well done and easily understood. However, the illustrations seem more like afterthoughts added in to make this fit the Graphic Guide series. Mostly the pictures are black and white drawings reminiscent of Victorian comic strips, or early 20th century cartoons with captions that may loosely relate the picture to the content being described. Sometimes the captions are just more discussion of the subject and have nothing to do with the picture itself, like a Victorian family lounging around with a father and toddler discussing psychological theory. Sometimes the graphics are grainy black and white photo scans. They rarely add to the discussion and sometimes even take away from the quality. Occasionally there are charts and diagrams such as one would expect in a textbook but mostly it is confusing misplaced jumbles of images.
In Introducing Psychology Dr. Benson is the “illustrator” as well as author. In his later additions to Icon’s Graphic Guide series, he focuses on the written content and an illustrator takes care of the graphic content. This hopefully is for the best because Benson excels at the informational and written content of Introducing Psychology. In the end if the poor graphics are largely ignored this book is a very good resource for an undergraduate or someone just entering the field of psychology.
M.T. Bennett is a student at Trinity School of Medicine. He enjoys writing and spending time with his wife and two sons. Bennett is the author of “Dark and Bright: Poetry and Prose.” His poetry and articles have appeared in Intuition, Chiasm, Poet’s Choice, HEAL, America Media, and KevinMD. Twitter handle: @BennettEmpty