Pavlov’s Dog by Adam Hart-Davis explains the evolution of psychology by divulging 50 of the most innovative experiments into the human mind. From Charles Darwin’s 1881 study into earthworms to a 2007 study into out-of-body experiences, this book looks to break down experiments so that everyone can understand.
Told chronologically, these 50 investigations are easy to understand but not in the least bit patronising. Each explanation only takes 3 or 4 pages, meaning you learn without being bombarded with information. Whilst this means you only really get an overview, unless you’re interested in an in-depth analysis of the study, what’s provided in Pavlov’s Dog is enough to satisfy a psychology craving.
Psychology is not Hart-Davis’ specialist topic, which is perhaps why the book is so easy to understand; it is not written by someone who knows everything about each of the experiments. He writes in a way that is informative but not too intimidating. There are touches of humour interspersed with the science.
The book is complete with obscure, cute illustrations by designer Jason Anscomb. These lighten what is arguably a heavy topic. Some of the images help explain the experiments and are extremely useful and a perfect addition.
At times the syntax is confusing. Sentences seem more complex than they actually are. “In the first part of the second stage” should be simple but amongst science jargon, at times it was anything but simple.
Look out for the companion book Schrödinger’s Cat: And 49 Other Experiments That Revolutionised Physics this June.
Any Cop?: This brief and succinct dive into human psychology is enlightening. It’s the perfect way to dip your toes into the subject for the first time to get to grip with the basics.