If you’ve just left school and are heading off to university after the Summer, then you’ll probably be thinking about which are the best psychology textbooks for university.
Your psychology undergraduate degree will be a wide-ranging course, covering topics ranging from neuroscience and anatomy to social psychology and everything inbetween.
In the UK, most psychology degrees are accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS), so that means that the core curriculum will be the same.
But not all psychology degrees are exactly the same, so the best place to get an idea of a particular course is on the specific university’s own website.
General Psychology Textbooks for University
A general textbook gives you an introductory overview on a wide range of topics. These books are great for a first exposure to a topic, and often offer suggestions of recommended reading to learn more about each topic.
This is an absolutely fantastic textbook. It’s super-heavy too, so makes a great door stop when not being read! The book covers every major area in Psychology, and the latest edition has been updated with over 1000 recent studies. Being able to cite recent studies is a surefire way to impress examiners!
With it’s 2020 release, the 8th edition of this comprehensive undergraduate textbook is the most up-to-date textbook at the time of writing. Richard Gross’ textbooks have been the go-to textbooks for Psychology students since the 1980s! Unlike some other general textbooks, this one is more “book”, less “magazine”. So don’t expect it to be colourful with pretty pictures. It gets to the point, and is clear and concise.
This textbook is the “official” general psychology textbook issued by the British Psychological Society. The benefit of getting this book is that you will be sure to cover everything expected in order to achieve BPS accredited status. There’s also an accompanying website where you can take a look at lecture recordings and other useful resources to supplement the textbook.
Specialist Psychology Textbooks for University
Specialist textbooks are extremely useful for gaining that deeper understanding of a topic that is required as you progress through your degree.
Whilst I recommend buying a good general psychology textbook for university, you’ll probably find that your university library has a good selection of specialist textbooks, so you definitely won’t need to buy all of these to do well in your degree.
A quick look through your course information on the university website will highlight any particularly useful specialist textbooks that you might want to take a look at.
Below are some textbooks that I have found particularly useful.
Social Psychology Textbooks for University
I had the pleasure of being taught by Brendan Burchell, and this textbook continues to be very useful.
It’s a little on the old side now (published in 2001), but this book will give you a solid foundation in the development and debates in social psychology.
If you want a bang-up-to-date book on Social Psychology, then the latest edition of this BPS Textbook is the textbook for you.
Released in September 2020, this book has all the background and history of social psychology that Brendan Burchell’s book has, with the added benefit of updated references.
I still use the very first edition of this textbook! The latest edition (8th) looks fantastic – now printed in colour (mine’s all black and white!) and with updated references, this is a reliable textbook to carry you through the social psychology section of your degree. My edition has a foreword by Willem Doise (one of my favourite psychologists).
Developmental Psychology Textbooks for University
This BPS Official Textbook covers conception to adolescence in great detail. However, I feel that by not discussing adulthood or old age this textbook gives a slightly lopsided impression of developmental psychology.
Given that your course is likely to focus on infancy through to adolescence this book will still be useful, just don’t forget that development doesn’t stop when you turn 20!
I think this textbook is great because it’s succinct. Unlike other great tomes that weigh as much as the table they’re placed on, this book is slim and easy to read. The focus is entirely on childhood. The book’s handling of cogntive development, such as language learning is very clear and unintimidating.
This is the most advanced of my three recommendations for developmental psychology textbooks for university. The thing that distinguishes this textbook from the others is its focus on practicalities as well as theory.
I would suggest taking a look at this textbook if you’re interested to complete your dissertation research on an area of developmental psychology.
Cognitive Psychology Textbooks for University
Released in 2020, this edition of the student’s handbook will equip you with up to date references and real-life applications on a wide range of cognitive research areas, including cognitive neuroscience. There’s also a companion website with experiment simulations and a 3D interactive atlas of the brain.
Something that distinguishes this textbook from others is how it juxtaposes typical functioning cognitive psychology with abnormal cognitive disorders. By combining these two angles, students are able to develop a greater understanding of the role and process of different cognitive functions.
If you’ve got an older textbook on cognitive psychology, it’s unlikely to include much (if anything) about cognitive neurosciene as this is a relatively recent development.
This textbook specialises in the field of cognitive neuroscience so is a great resource for students looking to gain a deeper understanding of this specialism.
Research Methods and Statistics Textbooks for University
I think it’s unlikely that you’ll find a psychology student who says their favourite thing about the subject is statistics… but it’s certainly a very important element of the discipline, so well-worth taking a look at a solid textbook like this one to get it right.
Andy Field is a very humourous writer, and if anyone is going to make statistics fun he’s the man to do it!
This book is for complete beginners in statistics, so if you’ve never come across stats before, this is a great place to start.