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Not by Chance Alone: My Life as a Social Psychologist

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  186 ratings  ·  18 reviews
How does a boy from a financially and intellectually impoverished background grow up to become a Harvard researcher, win international acclaim for his groundbreaking work, and catch fire as a pioneering psychologist? As the only person in the history of the American Psychological Association to have won all three of its highest honors--for distinguished research, teaching, ...more
Hardcover, 284 pages
Published August 24th 2010 by Basic Books (AZ) (first published July 28th 2010)
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John Kaufmann
Good autobiography, should be 3.5 stars. I don't read a lot of biographies, particularly autobiographies - I usually find them too self-congratulatory and full of anecdotes and stories that may (or may not) be interesting but that are ultimately meaningless and/or irrelevant. But I've really admired Aronson's writings, and thought this book worth a try. I was amply rewarded. Aronson traces his intellectual development over the years, as well as his interactions with other major players in his fi ...more
Aug 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
I read this book over the duration of a few days. I picked this book up after reading a few chapters of "The Social Animal" by Aronson. I enjoyed his writing in both, to say the least. I was, and continue to be, hungry for personal insight into the world of academia, which I've had little of with the exception of speaking with a few professors. This book satisfied my appetite for the time being.

I enjoyed Aronson's approach to his own biography.
As he notes in his introduction, there seem to be tw
Nałogowa Czytaczka Natalia
A fantastic read not only for psychologists. The author describes his life in a smart and witty way showing how apparently insignificant events led him to find his purpose and meaning in life. It offers also some interesting insight into the academic work at different universities ( e.g. Harvard being a disappointment)during a period of big cultural changes ( caused by Vietnam war, civil rights' movement, feminism). It was so well written that I didn't even mind reading for the tenth time about ...more
Peter Geyer
Elliot Aronson isn't a particularly familiar name to me, although I bought this book because I wanted to know more about psychology in America, a long-standing interest.

To be honest, it lay fallow on my bookshelves for a couple of years, until yesterday, when I picked it up randomly and it seemed like something accessible and worth reading on a quiet Saturday. I finished it last evening with the football on mute.

The book is written in a friendly, open style, beginning with his family origins in
Nov 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: autobiography
An amazing autobiography of Aronson. This book includes a brief biography of his greater mentors as well as greatest psychologists. The author acknowledged that something lucky happened to him. Otherwise, it was almost impossible for him to attend a lecture on the Introductory Psychology of Maslow, which he had once thought not practical. Only after the lecture did he find himself interested in psychology so much. The opportunity to work with McCelland was offered by Maslow and it was Vera, his ...more
Oct 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I don’t rate many of my completed books because it’s too reductionist to my mind. There are so many reasons I might like a book but my reasons may not be the same as yours. Occasionally, however, I read a book that is so good on many levels and I think contains enough truth that I do want others to know. Elliot Aronson’s memoir is one of those. His attitude toward life, his love of his older brother, his respect for his wife, and his brilliant scientific mind all conspire to make a great tale th ...more
Yanyu AB
Oct 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful life! I really love this book, enjoyed it so much that I couldn't stop turning the pages. When reading it I couldn't help thinking: if I had the chance to read it 10 years ago, my life would be different...Aronson is a very engaging story teller, a resilient gifted student, a warm-hearted scientist and a powerful teacher. I have found great warmth, honesty, knowledge, insight and wisdom from this book, highly recommended! ...more
Matthew Schaffer
Oct 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I stumbled upon this interview with Aronson ( and thought it was so well written I must check out his autobiography. His prose is so inviting and light and my favorite subject to read about is social psychology. So between how kind sounding he is in his words, I got to learn more about the experiments, trials, and tribulations that made up his life.

His life is one like all of our, ups, downs, twists, corkscrews. Life is all about luck and the hard work yo
Esther Bradley-detally
Nov 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Liked it; i learned a great deal; i don't have the structured mind that a social scientist has; but i liked all of the author's accounts; think he lived in a fertile time and impacted many lives; i read a lot; so familiar with a lot of names; i found his determination, perseverance, and commitments to every aspect of this life wonderful. ...more
Jacek Czarnecki
Dec 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
Klimat jak w „Pan raczy żartować Panie Fayneman”.
Mar 08, 2016 added it
I'm still not quite used to memoirs and this is the my first-time reading memoir of a social psychologist. I enjoyed learning about the stories on cognitive dissonance research, how psychology was done in the 60s and 70s. It puts the social and cognitive psychology I study now into perspective. Life and research stories are nicely curated. But again, there is something awkward about memoirs. Studying psychology has distant myself a little bit from my own self-concepts on the conscious level. Rea ...more
Austin Simpson
May 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the best book I've read since 'Infinite Jest' this past summer. Besides being a vivid portrait of a life lived following the same passion I find myself to have, Aronson's autobiography is funny, fascinating, heartbreaking, and encouraging all at once. An absolute must read for anybody who loves psychology, learning, or understanding being human. ...more
May 04, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An inspiring autobiography of the famous psychologist Elliot Aronson. It documents his life's journey as well as scholarly discoveries. The book reveals a kind and humble soul underneath a smart academic. ...more
Feb 07, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Eliot Aronson seems to be an amazing combination of talented writer, researcher and humanist and he tells his story with a lot of humor. Added bonus: I learned a lot about the field of social psychology.
Oct 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Turned out pretty good, i just took forever.
Kurien Parel
Currently my favourite book
Beebee Pomegranate
Feb 25, 2016 rated it liked it
cute story, well told. You feel like Elliot Aronson invited you to tea to tell you his life story.
Oct 12, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in social psychology
Very interesting scientific insights and positive implications for our society. Aronson is an amazing social psycholigist and a great contributor to society.
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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 ...more

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