The Conflicted Mind: And Why Psychology Has Failed to Deal With It

2017 Routledge

One of the greatest paradoxes of human behavior is our tendency to say one thing and do something completely different. We think of ourselves as positive and fair-minded, caring about other people and our environment, yet our behavior lets us down time and time again. Part of the reason for this is that we may have two separate 'selves': two separate and dissociated mental systems - one conscious, reflective and rational, and one whose motives and instincts are rooted in the unconscious and whose operation resists reflection, no matter how hard we try. In all kinds of areas of our life – love, politics, race, smoking, survival - one system seems to make very different sorts of judgements to the other, and is subject to distinct, hidden biases. The Conflicted Mind explores how and why this system operates as it does and how we may use that knowledge to promote positive behaviour change.

However, the ‘conflicted mind’ is a broader concept than just the clash between potential (hypothetical) systems of thinking, because in one form or another it forms the very pillars on which the edifice of social psychology is built. This unique book therefore examines key social psychology theories and research in a new light, including Festinger’s concept of cognitive dissonance, Milgram’s obedience experiments, Bateson’s description of conflict in communications, and Bartlett’s explorations of the constructive nature of human memory.

Geoffrey Beattie argues that although these classic studies were sometimes great and imaginative beginnings, they were also full of flaws, which social psychology must remedy if it is to make the kind of impact it aspires to. In doing so, he offers a ground breaking perspective on why we think and act in the way we do, to see what lessons can be learned for the discipline of social psychology going forward. Written in the author’s distinct open and engaging style, The Conflicted Mind is a fascinating resource for researchers, specialists, and students in the field, as well as the general reader.

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It has received rave reviews from leading psychologists including Professor David McNeill from the University of Chicago who wrote that it was ‘fascinating and beautifully written. Bold and original it adds a new dimension to a conception of mind being developed now across psychology’. He also praised its‘rich, nuanced discussions of the six 20thcentury social psychology giants.’

Professor Marcel Danesi from the University of Toronto, one of the world’s leading semioticians, said that the book‘deconstructs psychology brilliantly, but also offers an in-depth and powerful assessment of the sources and outcomes of confused and inconsistent emotions. This is a brilliant book.’