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A message from Richard Gross

What's new in this 8th Edition?

As with all new editions, the content has been thoroughly updated and revised, but there is more new material in this 8th edition compared with earlier ones. This has resulted in substantial re-writing and reorganising of certain chapters, including Chapters 6, 10, 18, 20, 29, 36, and 44. A small number have changed very little. One or two of the ‘Meet the Researcher’ features have been removed, many have been updated and some have stayed the same.

          ‘Boxes’ have been replaced by ‘Focus’ features, intended to draw the reader’s attention to particular theory, research, or concepts. These are complemented by ‘Evaluation’, another new feature, which considers the strengths and weaknesses of particular theories and research studies. A third new feature is ‘Mythbuster’, aimed at helping the reader understand and reflect on common misconceptions, or ‘myths’, often derived from distorted and misleading media portrayals of psychological research findings. These, in turn, represent another form of evaluation.

          The ‘Ask Yourself’ feature is retained, aimed at engaging the reader: reading can become a rather passive activity, which is contrary to the view that learning should be an active process. This invites the reader to evaluate the theory and research they’ve just read about, by predicting the outcome of a particular study, drawing their own conclusions from the findings, or relating the findings to their own experience or to ‘real life’ more generally.

          Updating isn’t confined to the research literature and related theory, as fundamental as this is. It also involves the real-life examples that are given to illustrate these, as well as the pictures of famous (or sometimes infamous) individuals. Society is constantly changing, and to make the book relevant to the current social and cultural climate, examples need to be kept current and relevant. This is a major task in itself – and can involve a number of people besides the author. Indeed, working  on this edition really felt like a team effort, a collaboration between myself as author and a number of editors/editorial assistants; the finished product has definitely benefited from their input and the writing didn’t feel as lonely an experience as it has done previously.   

As some readers will know, the first edition appeared in 1987. With a new edition every 4-5 years, a big chunk of my adult life (beginning when I was 36) has been devoted to this ‘labour of love’. Clearly, to keep the book renewed and relevant has taken a considerable amount of determination, application, devotion, and conviction that it was a worthwhile undertaking. Without the positive feedback and support of teachers/lecturers and students on a range of courses during those years, an 8th edition may well not have seen the light of day. The fact that it has is also underpinned by the unending support of successive commissioning editors at Hodder and my family.

          At the same time, the new research and theory need to be integrated with the mass of early (or ‘old’ as some see it) research and theory: can we truly understand and appreciate the former without having at least some familiarity with the latter? It’s very rare for the ‘old’ to be so discredited that it can be discarded entirely; more commonly, it gets ‘overtaken’ by new research and theory, but it’s still there, if nothing else, a part of Psychology’s history. While ‘new’/’recent’ doesn’t necessarily imply ‘good’ or ‘better’, so, conversely, ‘old’ doesn’t necessarily imply ‘bad’ or ‘worse’. What the 8th edition, like previous editions, tries to do is achieve a balance between them; because the book can’t be allowed to keep on getting bigger, there has to be a bias towards the new/recent. But whether we’re considering the old or new, we must always be selective – whether we’re students, lecturers, or authors.