2018 – Abigail Marsh
Abigail Marsh's outstanding book The Fear Factor: How One Emotion Connects Altruists, Psychopaths and Everyone in Between explores the extremes of human generosity and cruelty — so appropriate for the times we live. In addition to being a best-selling author, Abigail is a TED speaker and an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and the Interdisciplinary Neuroscience Program at Georgetown University. She directs the Laboratory on Social and Affective Neuroscience at Georgetown and her research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, and the John Templeton Foundation.
2017 – Robert B. Cialdini
Pre-suasion, written by Robert Cialdini, is the winner of the 2017 SPSP Book Prize. Pre-suasion is a terrific book, full of useful information that is entertainingly presented. A unique aspect of this book is that Cialdini takes studies – many of which appear in other general audience books -- and presents them through a new lens – that of together as "pre-suasion". Cialdini defines pre-suasion as “the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it” (p. 4). This, Cialdini argues, is how to effectively persuade -- by setting the stage properly in the moment before an influencer attempts to persuade their target. Throughout the book, the anecdotes are compelling and the general structure of the manuscript is clear and smooth. Pre-suasion will undoubtedly help spread knowledge gained by social and personality psychology research to a broader audience. Overall, Cialdini really knows how to present social and personality psychology research findings through his engaging writing style that appeals to a broad audience. This is not only evidenced by this outstanding book but also by the fact that Pre-suasion is not Cialdini’s first New York Times best seller.
2016 - Traci Mann
The 2016 SPSP Book Prize for the Promotion of Social and Personality Science goes to Traci Mann’s Secrets from the Eating Lab: The Science of Weight Loss, the Myth of Willpower, and Why You Should Never Diet Again. This book takes a fresh look at one of the most important, most rewarding, and often most vexing aspects of life — eating. Mann dispels the idea that dieting is the best (or even a viable) route to achieving a healthy weight, in part by evaluating diets as scientists evaluate health interventions. Are diets successful? Are they safe? Do they entail adverse side effects? As described in clear, sharp prose, the answers are no, yes, and yes. Mann also dispels the notion that unhealthy eating stems from losses of self-control and offers other eye-opening insights, including concerning measurement. Did you know that over the past 60 years the standard for what qualifies as weight loss, as agreed upon by the dieting industry and health scientists alike, has become evermore lax? Because higher standards were essentially unattainable, the mark now is 5% of initial weight. That means that if a 200-pound person loses 10 pounds, the diet or weight loss program is considered a success. Personable, engaging, and data-driven, Secrets from the Eating Lab is the dissemination of psychological science at its finest. Countless books have been written on eating, weight and shape, and dieting. This is the one people should be reading.
2015 - Nicholas Epley
Mindwise, by Nicholas Epley, tells the classic story of why people care about what others think — which, in a sense is the classic story of our field — by calling on top-of-the-line social and personality science and peppering in examples from politics, celebrities, and Epley’s own personal life. People walk around with a sixth sense — the capacity to get inside others’ minds and know what they experience. While people’s sixth sense can be accurate, it can also be misguided, both in terms of attributing more to others’ inner worlds than is warranted (such as beloved pets or unruly computers) and by way of discounting the richness of others’ minds (such as outgroup members or wrongdoers). What’s a person to do? Mindwise avoids trotting out gimmicky salves and instead, wisely, recommends asking concrete questions coupled with really hard listening and a dose of humility to combat the errors and biases that lead to a misreading of others’ minds.
2014 - Matt Lieberman
The 2014 Media Book Prize goes to Matthew Lieberman for his book "Social: Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect" (Crown Publishers, 2013). Social provides the penetrating overview of social neuroscience that many in our field have been awaiting for some time, one that any curious person will profit from and enjoy. Presenting the full range of neuroscientific evidence in a rigorous yet entertaining fashion, Lieberman makes the case that humans are social creatures through and through. Readers will come away from the book impressed by all the mental feats people routinely pull off in order to understand and live with one another, and the ingenuity of the scientists who have clarified those feats.
2013 - Jonathan Haidt
The 2013 Media Book Prize goes to Jonathan Haidt for his book "The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion" (Pantheon Books, 2012). Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind takes us on a tour of how people bind themselves to political and religious teams and the moral narratives that accompany them. Using a range of arguments – anthropological, psychological, and evolutionary – he invites his readers to entertain the proposal that the political left and the right in the United States emphasize different virtues and he earnestly suggests that we use that discovery to try to get along. Whether you ultimately agree with Haidt’s view or not, it is one that is well worth considering given that the country is confronted by an ideological impasse of unprecedented magnitude.
2012 - James Pennebaker
The 2012 Media Book Prize goes to James W. Pennebaker, for "The Secret Life of Pronouns: What our Words Say About Us." Before reading this book, anyone other than the most devoted lexiphile might ask, "Who cares about pronouns?” But Pennebaker shows why pronouns matter: they reflect our personality, goals, and context. The science is compelling, the thrust is novel, and the conclusions furnish a provocative basis for expanding the way we understand and study human behavior. By weaving in references to online self-tests, well-known public figures, and literary characters, Pennebaker has created a book that is engaging, fun, and accessible to readers well beyond the field of Psychology. As such, The Secret Life of Pronouns generates broad interest in the science of psychology and the importance of the research done in our field.