Best Psychology Books on Human Behavior

Humans are fascinating.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve enjoyed watching documentaries about great historical figures, reading autobiographies, and delving into the minds of geniuses and infamous psychopaths.

I was intrigued to learn why and how great (or at least influential) people did what they did.

As I grew older, I was motivated to understand the underlying mechanisms that control human behavior — and perhaps use this knowledge to my advantage.

Naturally, I picked up a lot of basic human psychology books. But for the most part, they were disappointing. Sure, they’d talk about the motives, the urges, and human nature but they lacked the depth I was looking for.

Best Psychology Books on Human Behavior

Soon, I realized I was looking at the wrong place. Most of these books are, for better or worse, self-help books.

Don’t get me wrong, some of those books might change your life. But, if you’re looking to find: what makes people tick, how to ask for a raise and get it, how to defuse fights, how to read a room…

Then keep reading!

Because, fortunately for you, I did the groundwork and collected the best psychology books on human behavior.

9 of the Best Psychology Books On Human Behavior

These are some of the best psychology books on human behavior that I’ve found the most:

  • Helpful
  • Applicable
  • Realistic

When it comes to humans behavior, there’s a lot of nonsense out there. That said, keep an open mind and do your own research. Let’s begin!

1. “Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman

“Thinking, Fast and Slow” by Daniel Kahneman
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The first book that pops up in my mind when someone mentions psychology and human behavior.

On a surface level, it looks like a lengthy (500 pages!) academic paper on how the human brain functions.

Once you start getting deeper into it, you’ll find that it’s more of an instruction manual for you!

Daniel Kahneman discovered that the brain operates using two systems. One is automated and we use it most of the times. The second one is more analytical and it requires effort on our part to use it — hence we don’t!

And that can be a problem when facing difficult decisions and judgment calls.

The good news is that the book offers advice to help you harness the full potential of your mind while avoiding the pitfalls of using system one exclusively.

2. “48 Laws of Power” by Dan Greene

“48 Laws of Power” by Dan Greene
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48 Laws of Power is a front-row ticket for history and how we shaped it.

In this book, you get to re-live the lives of people who’ve used the power of psychology to manipulate their environment and get what they want.

Most importantly, you’ll learn to defend yourself from these people by recognizing their motives.

And who knows, you may find some very familiar stories or faces that resonate with you in your current situation…

3. “Emotions Revealed” by Paul Ekman

“Emotions Revealed” by Paul Ekman
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Body language! But with a twist…

I could recommend one of the “popular” books on nonverbal communication (like What Everybody Is Saying) but they work backward in my opinion.

Ekman studies human emotion: the why and how it manifests. And using experiments and data he has collected over the years, he “maps” your face with these emotions, predicting where they’re going to manifest.

It’s a neat book that starts from the inside to explain what’s happening on the outside. If you want to be a better communicator and understand what makes you feel a certain way, grab yourself a copy.

4. “Psychological Subtleties” by Banachek

“Psychological Subtleties” by Banachek
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(WARNING: Don’t read this book if you don’t want to know how many famous magic tricks work!)

I told you, this is not a conventional list about the basic human psychology books. We want the opinions of professionals, people who play with human behavior for a living.

And that means performers. Specifically? Mentalists.

You may have seen the Derren Brown clip where he makes some wild predictions about a stranger.

Well, this book will teach you “how” he does that. Specifically, it explains how he tricks people to give up information using Barnum statements, cold reading techniques, and one-step-ahead effects.

You’ll also find some very interesting cognitive biases con artists use to take advantage of you. All playing on primal human instincts.

5. “The Road To Jonestown” by Jeff Guin

“The Road To Jonestown” by Jeff Guin
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While this isn’t listed as a “psychology book,” I believe it sheds more light to human nature than most mainstream books.

If you live in the USA, you’ve heard Jim Jones’ story and its tragic ending. Unfortunately, most documentaries focus on the events rather than the motives.

Guin’s succinct and to-the-point book will reveal the personality flaws that allow cult leaders to take over your mind.

I believe this book is more relevant than ever:

“Magisterial. . . . Guinn’s exhaustive research, shrewd analysis, and engaging prose illuminate a monstrous yet tragic figure — and the motives of those who lost their souls to him.”

6. “The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo

“The Lucifer Effect” by Philip Zimbardo
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Continuing on the same page, The Lucifer Effect is an analysis of the Stanford Experiment and its consequences to the way we look at the world.

This book is a controversial read. Honestly, I don’t agree with many of the author’s assertions — but that what’s makes it so damn intriguing.

The moral conversation you’re going to have in your head is worth it.

It’s one of these books that you have to stop every few pages and think. An active kind of reading!

As I said, it has mixed reviews. Yet, you can’t deny the results of the experiments. Once you finish reading the book, check out the movie.

7. “Fascinate” by Sally Hogshead

“Fascinate” by Sally Hogshead
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I was pleasantly surprised by this book. I expected the same old advice on how to persuade and influence. You know, the same stuff you can find in any pop-psychology blog post.

Instead, I found something more effective. Something most people ignore: positioning.

The author argues that instead of trying to make everyone like you or bending yourself backward to fit in, you should try to find a space where your talents are appreciated. You can offer the best version of yourself, without faking it!

She teaches the basic triggers that can create “fascination” around you and attract the right kind of people, in any situation. 

8. “Triggers” by Joseph Sugarman

“Triggers” by Joseph Sugarman
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If you’ve read my posts, you’ll know that my go-to books for human behavior are sales books. But it makes sense. These are the people who get fired when they can’t perform. They have skin in the game, so everything they say is tested.

What makes this book different is that you use what you learn TODAY.

You can read a few chapters, go out there, and apply the psychological triggers Sugarman suggests.

It’s a powerful book you should use with caution. It’s also a fun book that will make you rethink your past purchases.

Did you really need a new orange peeler or did the salesman manage to dig into your brain and convince you to buy it?

9. “The Essential Guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming”

“The Essential Guide to Neuro-Linguistic Programming”
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Written by three coaches, this book is a “101” manual to NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) and its application.

NLP belongs to the gray area of psychology and many people have mixed feelings about it. But the best way to find out if something works is to test it!

Even if you have ZERO experience with this kind of practice, you can follow the 21-day guide and start applying the basic principles to your life.

I’m not promising life-changing experiences and whatnot… I’m just saying: Give NLP a shot. You might discover a lot of things you didn’t know about yourself.

How To Apply What You Learn From the Best Psychology Books on Human Behavior

Even if you read half of the best psychology books on human behavior, you’ll have a better understanding of human behavior than 90% of people. That alone could save you from a lot of headaches.

If you want to get the most out of your reading, I suggest a more active approach. Theoretical knowledge is fine, but it should always enhance your life!

  • Be observant. Start noticing body language, tone inflection.
  • Investigate the deeper motives and intentions of those around you.
  • Pick one or two ideas at a time, then go out and test them.

Little by little, it’ll become subconscious, second nature. But beware…

You don’t want to end up trapped in your head, trying to read a room. I’ve seen many people being obsessed with human behavior, trying to analyze every detail.

You’ll quickly find out (after reading the books) that the best way to apply these principles is to be in the moment.

P.S – The author of this article is not responsible for the cults the readers might create (JK).

Which book are you going to read first?

About the Author

George Kourakos is an ad-man by day, a writer by night. He is a mathematician with a creative side. Working full time as a copywriter, George wants to explore his creative side by writing about his favorite topics.

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