To become a sport psychologist as an adult your first step is often taking a MSc Psychology conversion course. Essentially this involved taking the key undergrad modules in a year so that we have covered the basics. One of these modules was cognitive psychology. It should have been fascinating. It was not.  It was dull as dishwater and taught by people who had never learnt how to engage or inspire.

This book is basically what that cognitive psychology module should have been – it covers every element, discussion point and case study – but in a way that is far more engaging and inspiring than the hours and hours of powerpoint decks we were subjected to. So you could save yourself £1000 and just read this book.

Your Brain is Playing Tricks on You it is a great summary of a cognitive psychology module – but that is really all it is. Beyond the facts and figures it doesn’t feel as if there is a real point to the book; it doesn’t set out an argument or a position, just lots of information introduced in a really interesting way. The book gives you the ‘who’ (all of us) and the ‘what’ (our behaviours and feelings), ‘when’ (anytime we need to be safe or take shortcuts) but it misses out the ‘why’ we should care and the ‘how’ we do somethings differently. There is a ton of information but it isn’t sat within a context or framework of why we should care. It doesn’t sell us a reason to learn all this stuff and it doesn’t clearly set out how we can use this new knowledge to behave in a way that helps us perform or live better. The conclusion touches on the impact of social media and the internet for fake news and false information spread and how our biases feed into this – using this as a thread or theme could have been really powerful.

With the lecture style in mind it does give us all the key studies that are used to highlight cognitive psychology and it has a fabulous glossary that actually sums all the key things you can pick up from the book:

  • A Priori Knowledge
  • Ambiguity Reduction
  • Analytical Reasoning
  • Anchoring Bias
  • Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy
  • Argument from Authority
  • Automatic Thoughts
  • Binary Reasoning Fallacy
  • Bistable Image
  • Bystander Effect
  • Choice Blindness
  • Cognitive Biases
  • Cognitive Dissonance
  • Cognitive Homeostasis
  • Confabulation
  • Confidence Index
  • Confirmation bias
  • Disinformation Effect
  • Dunning-Kruger Effect
  • Exposure Therapy
  • Fallacy of the Single Cause
  • False Equivalence Fallacy
  • Fundamental Attribution Error
  • Halo Effect
  • Heuristic
  • Illusion of Explanatory Depth
  • Impostor Syndrome
  • Inference
  • Learned Helplessness
  • Locus of Control
  • Mental Flexibility
  • Mental Rigidity
  • Metacognitions
  • Misinformation
  • Motivated Reasoning
  • Negative Interpretation Bias
  • Negative Stereotyping Bias
  • Nudge
  • Object Permanence
  • Overconfidence bias
  • Present Bias
  • Psychoeducation
  • Representative Bias
  • Selection Bias
  • Social Conformity

As well as this, the book is worth buying alone for Chapter 4. It gives a really nice discussion of stress, anxiety and how the different biases within our brain impact upon us.

This book was first published in French and then translated. Some of the translation makes some descriptions feel a little clunky and lacks flow. Occasionally you will need to read a paragraph a couple of times. A positive of this origin though is that the examples and real life stories given tend to be more internationally based than the usual US and UK based stories.

I would absolutely recommend ‘Your Brain is Playing Tricks On You’ but to read with an anticipation that you are shortcutting having to listen into a series of dull lectures on cognitive psychology rather than being taken on a journey or developing a toolbox of mental tricks.

You can buy it from: Amazon or Waterstones