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The Social Animal

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Newly revised and up-to-date, this edition of The Social Animal is a brief, compelling introduction to modern social psychology. Through vivid narrative, lively presentations of important research, and intriguing examples, Elliot Aronson probes the patterns and motives of human behavior, covering such diverse topics as terrorism, conformity, obedience, politics, race relations, advertising, war, interpersonal attraction, and the power of religious cults.

512 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1972

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About the author

Elliot Aronson

36 books182 followers
Elliot Aronson (Born January 1932) is listed among the 100 most eminent psychologist of the 20th Century, best known for his Jigsaw Classroom experiments, cognitive dissonance research, and bestselling Social Psychology textbooks. He is the only person in the 120-year history of the American Psychological Association to have won all three of its major awards: For distinguished writing (1973), for distinguished teaching (1980), and for distinguished research (1999). In 2007 he received the William James Award for Distinguished Research from APS.

Aronson has taught at Harvard University, the University of Minnesota, the University of Texas, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. He is the recipient of many honors. He was chosen by his peers as one of the 100 most influential psychologists of the 20th century, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and won the prestigious William James Award from the Association for Psychological Science for his lifetime achievements. He has won distinguished research awards from a variety of professional organizations, including the American Psychological Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Experimental Social Psychologists, and others. He also won the Gordon Allport Prize for his work on reducing prejudice. In 1982 he was named "Professor of the Year" by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 198 reviews
120 reviews8 followers
May 12, 2014
This is one of the best and most illuminating books I have ever read.

This book is what every self-help book dreams of being; instead of anecdotes or feel-good advice, there's 400 pages of meticulously referenced (sadly just endnotes, not sidenotes or footnotes) peer-reviewed articles. Aronson's life work is, as he concludes the book, understanding "how we think, how we behave, what makes us aggressive, and what makes us loving." So many books peck around the edges of that topic; this book, now in its 13th edition, is the sum total Aronson's life work as a social psychologist dedicated to providing scientific answers in that field.

It's certainly a slow read, as it's very nearly a textbook; there's some repetition, and there are likely topical and perhaps scientific differences between editions. (Early editions, I am told, focused overmuch on the Kent State shooting. That is how long Aronson has worked on this book.) However, even with those extremely minor caveats, this woefully under-read book painstakingly encapsulates so much of what makes us human, good and bad, and nearly all of it is based on landmark scientific research from all over the world. It is a brilliant life's work.
Profile Image for May 舞.
283 reviews4 followers
March 4, 2020
I can’t believe it! I’ve finally finished The Social Animal!
Took me quite a while but it was worth every minute. I learned about conformity, persuasion, social cognition, self-justification, aggression, prejudice, love, and social psychology as a science. The book includes many scientific experiments that I found very interesting and insightful.
I highly recommend it to anyone interested in how society affects us and shapes our thoughts and actions.
Profile Image for Amir Tesla.
161 reviews659 followers
July 10, 2018
Amazing book, full of lessons and wisdom which literally makes you a more Cute and effective person in life.
Profile Image for عبدالرحمن عقاب.
672 reviews754 followers
August 8, 2013
هذا الكتاب يعتبر بحق مقدمة نافعة و متقنة في مجال علم النفس الاجتماعي.
فصوله الثلاث الأولى أهم في موضوعاتها وأكثر إتقانا في عرضها من الأخيرة.
يمتاز الكتاب بسلاسة الأسلوب، وترتيب الأفكار. ويعيبه طول فصوله وإسهابه في مواطن لا تحتاج إلى الإسهاب والإطالة ويمكن فيها الاستغناء بذكر تجربة أو اثنتين والتركيز على النتائج. وينقصه الجداول والملخصات في الهوامش فهي لو أضيفت ستعطيه إفادة وتميزا وفائدة أكبر.
Profile Image for Jurij Fedorov.
362 reviews63 followers
September 11, 2020
Well, I really wanted to like it. I love psychology and I love social psychology. This seemed like a book written by a knowledgeable person on the topic... but in the end this is too much pseudoscience for my liking. I read everything I can about psychology and even I thought this was boring. So, I really don't know who will enjoy this book. So it really baffles me that so many people give it high ratings. Who the hell reads this book? If you actually know a bit about psychology you will discover that he doesn't understand basic concepts or how the brain actually works. Which is weird as he on the other hand does understand other basic concepts! So who reads this book and says it is good? Probably the same people who like Sex at Dawn I guess.

This book has a lot of experiments in it. That's always a good thing. A lot of these experiment are exiting and interesting. And when he stays on the actual science his explanations are good. So about 50% of this book is really good.

Okay, the science is good... at times. But he keeps going back to being a social justice supporter, time and time again. And every time he writes about black people or women he totally abolishes all science and starts talking about affirmative action and whatnot. I really don't like him mixing social science and his personal opinions like that. He keeps talking about women and black people and keeps bringing up what we should do, and how bad they have it. And every single time he somehow archives to fit the experiments into his view of the world. If he had just made those opinions separate from the science or found experiments that supported his bias it would have been quite fine. Very biased book.
As a book on social science it is just not good. As a book on social justice it might be for you. But the philosophical aspect of it is very low level. Too me it seemed like it didn't know what it was. Was it a scientific book or a manifesto? At the end it read like a boring manifesto. And the at times terrible science makes this a bad read for anyone interested in social psychology. Find something unbiased if you can.

Again, it could have been a good book, even without pictures. But currently this is not acceptable. Maybe someone can rewrite it?

Also, another thing. What the hell is wrong with all these books with terrible social science in them? I am getting very tired of this. Superfreakomics was not about psychology as such, but it also had the same problem with terrible psychology science every time they tried to find solutions or explain problems. And this is interesting as Elliot Aronson is clearly very left leaning and the Freakonomics guys are very libertarian. So, it's not like only one political side is misusing this science. And I am not picking one or the other side personally. I just want to read good science, nothing else. I don't want even my biases needlessly supported, whatever they might be.
Profile Image for Saeed.
173 reviews53 followers
March 16, 2018
When I was in college, I first got interested in social psychology because it dealt with some of the most exciting aspects of being human: love, hate, prejudice, aggression, altruism, social influence, conformity, and the like. At that time, I didn’t care a great deal about how this impressive body of knowledge came into existence. I simply wanted to know what was known. It wasn’t until I entered graduate school that it suddenly dawned on me that I could be more than a consumer of this knowledge—I could become a producer, as well. And a whole new world opened up for me—the world of scientific social psychology. I learned how to ask important questions and do the experiments to find the answers to those questions—contributing, in my own small way, to the body of knowledge that I had read about as a student. And I have been passionately involved in that activity ever since.

- Elliot Aronson

کتاب خیلی قویه و درباره ی مهروزی و پرخاشگری انسان ها فصل های بسیار قوی داره
شاید بعضی از مطالبش با کتاب های دیگه تداخل داشته باشه ولی سبک کتاب به این صورت که جدیدترین یافته های علمی روان شناسی اجتماعی رو نویسنده با قدرت تمام برای خواننده بازگو میکنه. بدون شک این کتاب رو همه باید بخوانند
10 reviews1 follower
July 14, 2009
The author states that he purposely left this book brief so that it could serve as an introduction to social psychology. As valid a goal as that might be, Elliot Aronson's approach leaves the reader with a book that only provides examples and defines barely any terms or theories. Aronson must have known that his book may be used as primary text for a social psychology class (as it was in mine), which makes the inadequacies of this book inexcusable.

The author bolds key terms but a review of the dictionary proves it exceedingly lacking. Many of the definitions are social psychology spins on general terms with which many people are already familiar (i.e. self-esteem, self-justification, stereotype, prejudice, insufficient punishment, etc.). Other definitions are of words not specific to psychology that people could easily look up in a regular dictionary (i.e. amygdala, heuristics, catharsis, etc.). Terms actually used in the discipline with which the reader might not be familiar are not even briefly defined (i.e. Prejudiced Personality Theory).

Within the text itself, social psychology theories are still only briefly introduced and not expanded upon. The author seems to think that providing one or two examples of the theory's application will be enough for the reader to understand it. This may be true for simple theories but not the intricate ones with several prongs that were developed over significant periods of time.

Lastly, purely from a layout standpoint, the text is extremely dense. There are so many sections that could have benefited from bullet points that it appears as if the author left it out deliberately so he could avoid having to outline the actual theories in any detail. This makes it difficult for the student to study for tests and there were definitely one or two questions on an exam that I got wrong because I could not remember which set a certain prong belonged to. Ultimately, this book is at best a supplemental text but should not be relied upon to provide any significant understanding of social psychology.
Profile Image for Mai Tien.
42 reviews10 followers
February 14, 2021
Everyone should read this book!!!! One of the most mind blown reads ever

Especially fascinated about the topic of cognitive dissonance which was elaborated excessively on this book. Let's say you hold a 2 conflicting ideas about something such as 1) you think you always the person taking initiative and 2) you find yourself unable to ask someone out. So #2 will be in conflict with what you think about yourself aka #1. The conflict will create a discomfort for us and naturally we will reduce this discomfort by 1) change what we think about ourselves or 2) change what we think about the other person. So you either 1) think you may not always take the initiative or 2) convince yourself that the other person's not worth for you to ask her out.

It’s a made up funny example but if this is applied in a more serious context like serial killers or wars, then the interesting questions is under which circumstances and to what extent will we degrade or lower others to self justify, and in which situation will we modify our original belief about ourselves.

Scientific and thorough while still engaging, The social animal discusses different psychology concepts that deciphers why human act the way they do. Various research and historic events are used to demonstrate the application of discussed concepts, making this book really engaging and fascinating. (Events such as the Columbine high school massacre, 9/11, American wars, etc.).

If one interested in questions such as why there’s discrimination towards a group of minority or religion, what’s this phenomenon called love, aggression, altruism, basically everything that makes up of what it means to be a human, then this book is perf for u

152 reviews4 followers
September 5, 2014
Social Psychology is a really captivating topic, and as a primer this book was great. The author sure seems to know what he is writing about, giving examples and case studies from findings. But along with that his writing is captivating and drew me to read more and become more curious on the matter he was writing. I am keen on knowing more about the subject and applications of it.

Strongly recommend this book, can't think of a reason how it cannot impact anybody and everybody. We all are social animals and need to figure out how and why we do what we do.
Profile Image for Sadhbh.
24 reviews
March 2, 2016
It's a bit dated now, but this is the book that pretty much taught me everything I wanted to know about people and social psychology when I signed up to do my BA. The discussion of Bystander Syndrome absolutely blew my mind at the time. Well worth a read.
Profile Image for Belal Al Droubi.
53 reviews12 followers
April 19, 2018
i could talk so much about this book and it would still be difficult to express how valuable i found it to be
this is a textbook on the beautiful science of Social Psychology, although a TEXTBOOK, it is the farthest thing from being boring or low-yield.
you truly are lucky if this is your assigned book in a Social Psych class.

it discusses all the main areas of social psychology from conformity to prejudice to social cognition and self-justification (which i found to be the most mind-blowing chapter in the book)

i didn't take a psychology course and never studied psychology professionally in a university so i read this book on my own, and yet i found it extremely vivid and clear in it illustrations and engaging in its style. i frequently had ideas aggressively jumping through my head when thinking of the many way the concepts in the book can be applied in real life to improve our lives, professions, community and education.

the author puts concepts in the right order and refers scientific findings back to real-world examples which i found very engaging.

i also deeply appreciate the scholarly accuracy of the author in his conclusions and discussions of experiments where i often made many errors in my conclusions only to find prof. Aronson correct my mistake in the next few lines down the page

i definitely plan to read it again and will also buy prof. aronson's Textbook "social psychology" to learn more and more on these topics

very insightful book <3
this book was worth every single minute and penny i put into it :D
Profile Image for Ravikiran Gunale.
8 reviews11 followers
July 8, 2018
Nice book about social psychology and behaviours. How good/bad stereotypes are created. It explains lot about how we develop good/bad attitude towards certain groups. Why people conform to a ideology . In what situation people are most/least influenced. Basically its a toolbox to understand individual and group interactions. Almost every statement made by author is scientifically validated by experiments.
Profile Image for Anita Tóth.
19 reviews6 followers
November 21, 2019
Aronsont jó olvasni és nagyon fontos témákról ír!! Én egy 1994-es kiadást olvastam, de biztosan kezembe veszem majd az újabb kiadást is, főleg, hogy rájöttem, az is a polcomon csücsül. Ráadásul az általam olvasott kiadásban találtam olyan gondolatokat melyekről a szociálpszichológia már többet és pontosabbat tud mondani.
Néhány téma a kötetből: konformitás, propaganda, önigazolás, emberi agresszió, előítélet. Bővebb értékelést inkább az újabb kiadásról írnék.
Profile Image for Arina.
10 reviews
December 8, 2022
Yes I read this for class. Honestly I enjoyed it more than I thought I would! I thought it was cool that he provided research based evidence for all of the topics, but he also kept it entertaining and lighthearted. One of the better class textbooks I’ve read 👍🏼
Profile Image for Jivko Djamiarov.
50 reviews2 followers
November 25, 2021
С основание книгата е бестселър. Тя особено полезна като наръчник как да разберем хората и техните емоции, особено в сегашното несигурно време на социална изолация, страх и разделение между хората.
Profile Image for Nguyen Vy .
31 reviews11 followers
December 27, 2017
This is an awesome book about social influences that helps explain why people behave the way they do in different situations. The fundamental philosophy of The Social Animal is that human behaviors, belief, and attitude do not reflect dispositional qualities in individuals because it is the variables in the situations that produce behaviors, belief, and attitude. This is a very generous view in regard of human nature. It implies that we have the capacity to change people for the better if we understand and know how to adjust the right variables in our social environment. Every chapter offers illuminating examples backed by research on relevant kinds of situations we face in life. I could not help reflecting on my own experience when the chapters touched on common things such as cognitive dissonance, self-justification, human aggression, or prejudice. What is also important and adds great value to the read is how the author explain solutions, strategies, or ideas for possible ways to drive prosocial behaviors, especially on violence and prejudice reduction. They give a sense of hope when we get to explore how to handle our human natures and allow us to have stronger believes in those natures’ capability to improve our lives.
Profile Image for Yvonne.
26 reviews2 followers
January 4, 2009
I had to read this book for my Social Psychology class and it was (quite possibly) the only "text" book I ever actually read. It was a fascinating merging of psychology in a social context. The subject is immediately applicable to real life.
Profile Image for Elari.
256 reviews40 followers
June 12, 2020
Great refresher on a social psychology class I took in 2013 (time flies). Definitely accessible to the layperson.
39 reviews7 followers
September 6, 2019
წიგნს ვუწერ 5-იანს, შესანიშნავი შესავალია, ძალიან კარგად არის შედგენილი და დაწერილი, როგორც თემატიკის თვალსაზრისით, ასევე თხრობის სტილითაც. თუმცა, ვაკლებ ქულას, რადგანაც თარგმანში უამრავი შეუსაბამობაა, მათ შორის სტილისტიკის, ზოგიერთი ინგლისური ტერმინის არაერთგვაროვანი და არასწორი/არაზუსტი ქართული ვერსიის, და, რაც ყველაზე მნიშვნელოვანია, შინაარსობრივი შეცდომების თვალსაზრისთ - გარკვეულ მონაკვეთებში თარგმანი ორიგინალთან შეუსაბამოა და, რიგ შემთხვევებში, მოყვანილია ორიგინალის საპირისპირო დასკვნა. მუდმივად მიწევდა წიგნის ინგლისურ ვერსიასთან შედარება ზუსტი ინფორმაციის მისაღებად.
Profile Image for VRDrive.
33 reviews
September 21, 2022
The bible of social psychology, absolute beast of a book. Easy to read even for a layman. Though hilariously outdated on a couple of subjects, a third of the books examples are not applicable in today's strange society.
Profile Image for Nick.
47 reviews
June 7, 2020
Overall one of the best introductions out there for learning about social psychology. While this book is essentially a textbook, I would not let that discourage anyone from taking the time to read this. In terms of a starting place and general overview on basic concepts, this book is hard to beat. “The Social Animal” covers a lot of concepts the are relevant and things we all come across in our lives, divided into chapters dedicated to: Social cognition, self justification, conformity, influence/propaganda of the media, prejudice/bias, as well as emphasizing our feelings/behaviors regarding relationships with other people.

For me, every chapter was worth reading as there were so many relevant and interesting concepts. Unlike a lot of psychology books that can be pretty conceptual (definition of concept, collection of overused experiments, and a simple conclusion), I was engaged going through each chapter. What makes “The Social Animal” different is that it is insightful, concise and includes relevant examples that were actually pretty relatable. The concepts were thoroughly researched and the experiments were things anyone can understand (you don’t have to be studying psychology to get drawn in by this book, it’s something for anyone).

I appreciated how there were a lot of cause and effect examples mentioned as it made the book very easy to follow and kept me interested. In my opinion it’ll give any reader a clearer understanding of yourself and others around you, why things happen, and how society influences our behavior, thoughts and emotions. I think the author Elliott Arson summarizes it best when he wrote in this book, “One of the reasons I was first drawn to social psychology is that it is a field that studies change and progress.” That’s the value this book has in my opinion. After reading it, I am now more aware and mindful of a lot of things I may not have thought about much before. Identifying the “root cause” of things while understanding how ourselves and society are impacted.
Profile Image for Yousra Bushehri.
415 reviews2 followers
October 19, 2019
I picked up this book while doing some initial research on psychology in order to write a well versed personal statement and statement of purpose for my PhD applications. And this book is an amazing introduction to the world of psychology. But it is JUST an introduction. The amazing thing about it is that it helps you and leads you to more sources regarding the topics and experiments described in this book. So it kind of works like a portal into more information. I will definitely read this again without the pressure I felt this time to finish it and write something good.

It was easy to follow and understand and the language was clear.
Profile Image for Swarnima.
25 reviews1 follower
July 28, 2021
This book is a textbook on social psychology. It is a dense read and perhaps only for those who love to geek out on this stuff, but if you are then this is a goldmine!

Personally it helped me understand a ton of concepts and phenomena that are hard to rationalise with and make sense of in the outside world: human aggression, irrational 'crazy behaviours', propaganda and genocide. The most WOW concept? Cognitive dissonance and what it makes us do.

Highly recommend for this genre
Profile Image for Chaouki.
49 reviews1 follower
June 13, 2021
"in the hands of a demagogue, these techniques could turn our society into an orwelian nightmare". I wonder how many books out there have these sorts of warnings in them? I mean, not just contain them, but seriously mean them? . Well This has been one of the least fun reads I have had, right next to sun tzu's "the art of war". But boy did this book strike a chord.
To the misfortune of Humanity, "One can easily conclude that humans are really pathetic irrational silly organisms who blind themselves from seing things as they are". Well, this all surely makes sense out of racism, divorces, crimes and wars,.. But the tricky thing is that we humans are wired and motivated to have a touching need to "believe we are wise and decent and Good", though this need "frequently leads us to perform actions that are neither good nor sensible".
The writer's optimism about human concioussness being the only solution to all this craziness is endearing. The existence of salvation, and the idea that every perverse phenomemon we humans show could be Identified and reversed brings some consolation and hope.
36 reviews1 follower
April 11, 2020
This is a textbook on social psychology which studies emotions, attitudes, prejudices, aggression, love, violence, and many other interesting aspects of our life.

My main takeaways from the book:

-cognitive dissonance causes fires in our brain which needs to be put out as soon as possible.

-talking about feelings, not about judgements can help give feedback and resolve conflicts.

-attributing people's behavior to their situation rather than their personality may reveal the real cause of the problem.
Profile Image for Tennyson C. Robin.
96 reviews17 followers
Shelved as 'nonfiction-must-read'
January 21, 2019
Chapter 2: Conformity
Why do we conform? Because either we believe that our judgement is erroneous or we seek approval/acceptance of others to belong to the group. Evolutionarily speaking, social exclusion could have a devastating result on an individual: receiving no protection, little opportunity to reproduce, hence the ingrained need to conform.

Factors affecting conformity include unanimity, commitment, accountability, the person and the culture, and the group exerting pressure.
Profile Image for Oren Mizrahi.
255 reviews11 followers
February 2, 2022
an incredible survey of topics in social psychology. each chapter is a different phenomenon and the author includes a plethora of studies to discuss and prove his points. in some cases, the study outcomes are counterintuitive, which provides for the most interesting thought. a great general, timeless read. the last two chapters were out of place.
Profile Image for Neeramitra Reddy.
95 reviews10 followers
October 17, 2022
A very good primer into social psychology, biases, mental models, evolutionary wiring, and psychology as a whole.
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