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10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Updated: Nov 2, 2023

What Really Drives Suicide Bombers.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Human behavior is like tangled yarn.

It is complicated and unpredictable. Sometimes you see people doing insane things. That makes you wonder, ‘Who in their right mind would do that?’

Psychology explains, or at least attempts to explain the normal and the bizarre of human actions.

If you are one of the psychology geeks, you are bound to enjoy the following books.

Affiliate Disclaimer: This post features Amazon affiliate links, which means I may earn a small commission if you make a purchase through these links.

Is public shaming poison or a cure?

Using historical anecdotes, the writer lets us know how shame has been a part of punishment in human society. A few examples are public beatings, wearing of signs, etc.

Today’s public shaming is like a loose cannon, thanks to social media and the internet.

What happens when one single post or tweet is used to demonize a human?

Online vigilantes think they are doing good, bringing a criminal to task.

“But we know that people are complicated and have a mixture of flaws and talents and sins. So why do we pretend that we don’t?”

For the victims of online shaming, the consequences are disastrous. They lose their reputation and even their jobs. They might even go into depression or suffer from PTSD.

The author gives many examples of the victims of cancel culture who suffered the above consequences.

Every single human is a mixture of good and evil. On the internet, we pretend to have a moral high ground. Like we are above all others.

“When shamings are delivered like remotely administered drone strikes, nobody needs to think about how ferocious our collective power might be.”

The takeaway from this book is to keep your emotions and ego in check, even in the virtual world.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

What’s in the mind of a suicide bomber?

Adam Lankford, a Criminal Justice professor at Alabama, tells us what REALLY motivates suicide killers, whether suicide bombers or mass shooters.

“The myth is that suicide terrorists are making a sacrifice for a cause they believe in.”

The long-standing consensus is that such killers are motivated by self-sacrifice. They are committed to their ideology and a higher cause.

Among other things, Lankford analyzed suicide notes, videos, letters, and diaries. He reached a different conclusion.

He says that these people are suicidal. They want to escape pain, whether it stems from mental health, bad relationships, or something else.

Behind a mass killer is a combination of ‘rage’ and ‘shame’.

The way Lankfort looks at the psychology of these killers can help us a lot. Only if we know the real reason behind these acts, can we curb these criminals.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

We are all evil in the right settings.

If you are like me, the true crime genre is your favorite. If that is so, like me, you wonder the same about every bad act committed. HOW can someone be that evil?

In reality, we cannot draw a line between the population of this world to classify good and evil people. Ordinary people do evil acts.

“Evil that arises out of ordinary thinking and is committed by ordinary people is the norm, not the exception.”

In this book, Zimbardo discusses what makes someone act evil. He says that our surroundings make us act in a certain way. Our behavior changes in different social settings.

“…each of us has the potential, or mental templates, to be saint or sinner, altruistic or selfish, gentle or cruel, submissive or dominant, sane or mad, good or evil.”

How can we not act evil?

Zimbardo tells us to take responsibility for all our actions and to not turn the blame elsewhere.

Throughout the book, the author continually cites his famous Stanford prison experiment.

Recently, his experiment has come under fire for being a fraud. This casts a shadow of doubt over his work and conclusions.

I do believe though, that Zimbardo is right in the hypothesis that humans are a mixture of good and evil. And the right settings can make a good person act horrendously.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Are killers born or made?

Adrian Raine, a professor of criminology and psychiatry, takes us on a ride through the various factors that play a role in making a criminal.

He starts from his violent encounter with a thief who tried to cut his throat in a hotel room in Turkey, and his conflicting feelings about the perpetrator.

“Risk factors like poor nutrition, brain trauma from childhood abuse, and genetics are beyond an individual’s control, and when those factors are combined with social disadvantages and our society’s anemic ability to spot and treat potential offenders, the odds are that people with these disadvantages will turn to crime.”

He counts human physiology as the most important factor in determining behavior.

Raine doesn’t discount the effect of the environment. The interaction of the environment with biological factors is important in his eyes. Still, the most responsible are the genes and the brain.

He cites many studies that observe the brains of criminals vs noncriminals.

“Biology is not destiny.”

The implications of Raine’s work are far-reaching. From early interventions for kids who are at risk of violent behavior to judges and lawmakers who award punishment to those responsible for crimes.

This book is for everyone interested in crime and the reasons behind it.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Can we kill if we are told to?

The famous ‘Milgram Experiment’ was conducted by the author in the early 1960s. In this book, he discusses the series of experiments and his findings.

“It is not so much the kind of person a man is as the kind of situation in which he finds himself that determines how he will act.”

In these experiments, there were three people. ‘Student’, ‘teacher’, and ‘figure of authority.’

The figure of authority was Milgram himself in a lab coat. People participating in the study were given the role of teacher, while the student was one of Milgram’s colleagues.

“The essence in obedience consists in the fact that a person comes to view himself as an instrument for carrying out another person’s wishes and he therefore no longer regards himself as responsible for his actions.”

The figure of authority would tell the teacher to shock the student with electrical voltage if they got the answers wrong.

More than half of the participants were willing to increase the voltage at Milgram’s insistence. Half refused to apply deadly voltage.

When experiment conditions were altered, the results changed.

The Overwhelming majority refused to comply when a non-authority figure told them to increase voltage.

In one variation, the screen between teacher and student was removed. The teacher had to apply shock by placing the student’s hand on a shocking device.

Here, 70% of participants denied direct orders. In the initial case more than 75% obeyed orders.

This book is a very interesting read. You’ll think twice when following orders next time.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

What happens when our brain is sick?

A 1985 book with compelling storytelling of people suffering from various neurological disorders.

“Such [medical case] histories are a form of natural history — but they tell us nothing about the individual and his history; they convey nothing of the person, and the experience of the person, as he faces, and struggles to survive, his disease.”

Sacks humanizes the diseases as he shares what his patients endure. Some learn to cope in weird ways. Others are not so lucky.

Some even have rare talents like the twins John and Michael, who had great mathematical gifts.

The stories are simple but have difficult medical terminology. Thank God, we have Google for it would be uncomfortable to read the book not knowing what ‘meningioma’ means.

Some people might feel a sense of apathy from Sacks who is at times fascinated by the medical issue that is in front of him.

For a man who dedicated his life to studying it, can you really blame him?

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Ditch the ‘us vs them’ approach and embrace variety.

Of course, all human societies are different.

When we look at cultural practices in another part of the world, sometimes we are taken aback. For example, we might look at arranged marriages with disdain. How can you NOT marry for love?

Haidt gives us the answer to the differences among people that exist across the globe, whether they are political, religious, ideological, or social.

“Morality binds and blinds. It binds us into ideological teams that fight each other as though the fate of the world depended on our side winning each battle.”

Morality stems from 6 basic roots. They are Care/harm, Fairness/cheating,

Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/subversion, Sanctity/degradation, and Liberty/oppression.

A group of people focuses on different roots. They might also look at the same thing differently from another social group. This explains the difference in moral values.

Nothing is good or bad, the author says. Our thinking makes it so.

This book will make you open-minded and empathetic to those who are different from you.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Is war better than peace?

The book is an eye-opening account of a journalist and a writer as he reflects on the modern way of life.

In old times humans lived in closely-knit tribes. It allowed for a communal and social bond which is virtually nonexistent in today’s world.

Junger gives the example of the European settlers and native Indian tribes in America. Americans preferred living in the Indian tribes. Even many of the freed white prisoners returned to the Indians.

The tribal lifestyle was egalitarian, simple, and social. The bond among people and the slow life that allowed leisure activities was too attractive.

“Humans don’t mind hardship, in fact they thrive on it; what they mind is not feeling necessary.”

Junger goes on to give examples of times of war and natural disasters. In the aftermath of such incidents, crime rates decrease and the extent of psychological diseases falls. Members of a community lose all their belongings and sit on equal footing. People come together to help each other.

According to the author, the key is to replicate the social bonding during times of peace.

“When people are actively engaged in a cause their lives have more purpose… with a resulting improvement in mental health”

Even if you feel that Junger has romanticized violence and tribal living, this book will make a fascinating read.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

How much comfort is too much comfort?

If there is one book that I’ll urge you to get, it would be this.

This book is also a recommended read by the famous Nassim Taleb, writer of ‘Antifragility’. I can see why.

The authors push us to confront our concept of staying safe. The culture of safetyism is preventing us from becoming ‘strong and healthy’, they say.

“I wish you bad luck, again, from time to time so that you will be conscious of the role of chance in life and understand that your success is not completely deserved and that the failure of others is not completely deserved either.”

When kids are kept from everything remotely risky and dangerous, their development and ability to face different situations is hindered.

“Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind).”

In college-going adults, the obsession with comfort transforms into close-mindedness. Where students cannot face opposition or disagreement.

The intentions were good in keeping children safe but the negative consequences are far reaching.

10 Criminally Underrated Psychology Books I’m Furious No One Is Talking About

Too much freedom is a bad thing.

From toothpaste in grocery stores to the number of people on dating apps, we have a lot of freedom to choose. Is it making us happier? No, says Schwartz.

“…a greater variety of choices actually makes us feel worse.”

Having some options is good. Too many options make us paralyzed. We may not make a decision at all. If we do, we aren’t happy with what we chose.

We are consumed by the thoughts of ‘What if the other choice was better?’

Schwartz uses studies and experiments to back up his arguments.

The author divides decision-makers into two categories: maximizers and satisficers. Maximizer wants to pick the best thing. Satisficer is content with the choice that makes them happy.

To be happy, we have to settle on ‘good enough’ instead of looking for the perfect choice.

“…self-determination within significant constraints — within ‘rules’ of some sort — that leads to well-being, to optimal functioning”

For us, the lesson is to artificially limit our choices.


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If you enjoyed these book recommendations, check out the rest of my book lists on my blog-


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