The British Psychological Book Award seeks to recognise works of excellence in the literature of psychology. This year’s winner is The Psychology Book, published by DK and written by Voula Grand, Catherine Collins, Nigel Benson, Joannah Ginsburg, Merrin Lazyan and Marcus Weeks.
The Psychology Book, published in February this year. aims to examine big ideas in psychology and explain them in a straightforward way, to provide an overview of psychology to the interested reader, (rather than for professional psychologists) using graphics and charts as well as a narrative account.
As one of six contributors, I wrote the section on the Psychology of Difference, looking at psychologists who studied differences in intelligence, in personality (creativity for example) in emotional styles, in motivation, and in sanity. I also contributed a chapter to the section on the Philosophical Roots of Psychology, entitled “The Intelligence of an Individual is not a Fixed Quantity” exploring Alfred Binet’s (the founding father of IQ testing) theory of intelligence.
I wrote my contribution in the summer of 2011, when my novel, Honor’s Shadow had already gone to press, so it made quite a change from fiction writing; it was my task to report on a famous psychologist’s theory, and identify where it fitted within a whole body of work around that idea.
For example, I was given this quote, by Gordon Allport: “Did Robinson Crusoe lack personality traits before the advent of Friday?” and I had to present Allport’s ideas around that notion. (The answer, by the way, is Yes and No!)
Accuracy was very important – it was not my job to make anything up, but to explain that idea in a particular way for a particular audience – for the general public, rather than for the specialist psychologist. There were days when that felt stressful: to get somebody else’s work factually correct: it was easy to be wrong, against an objective standard.
Writing fiction is a very different way of writing – it’s imaginative – I am making things up! So I can’t be wrong….
I am immensely proud and happy to have been part of such a great project as The Psychology Book.