Top 10 Introductory Psychology Books for Students

best psychology textbooks

The field of psychology is a large area of social science that piques the interests of students at many colleges and universities throughout the United States. In fact, psychology is a top pursued major at a large number of schools. All students who want to earn a bachelor’s in psychology must start at the beginning – Psychology 101.

Intro Psychology courses generally cover a similar curriculum of material including topics such as the historical approaches to the field, how to employ the scientific method for use in psychological research and a basic understanding of the major methods used in professional psychology.

There are a great many introductory psychology books available for instructors to choose from. This list highlights the best, most widely used and most student-approved textbooks currently available. Many of these publications are subsequent editions of an ongoing series of texts, indicating that those texts have maintained a high level of success over the years. In order to be included on this list, the introductory psychology textbook must be peer-reviewed, used nationally, have received acclaim from both students and instructors and have positive reviews online.

An Introduction to the History of Psychology

B.R Hergenhahn and Tracy Henley

Year of Publication: 2013

An Introduction to the History of Psychology is a non-traditional textbook co-authored by Hergenhahn and Henley. This contemporary text immediately engaged the reader by presenting the early puzzle that was addressed by Greek philosophers – dreams. Philosophers were stumped for a long period of time as to what dreams were, the purpose they served and how valuable were the contents. From this puzzle came a great number of elaborate theories each attempting to explain human memory and perception. One theory put forth by famous philosopher Descartes explained that the brain was filled with “animal spirits.” The textbook continues on to cover the history of the field of psychology from its creation, to more modern research methods. This seventh edition of the text asserts the majority of interests among modern psychologists are expressions of themes and theories that have been a part of psychology for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. The textbook includes many photographs and academic devices, complete with a plethora of biographical information on the important figures in psychology. Students receive the balance between visual stimulation and narration to expand their understanding of each chapter. This book can be used in unison with the InfoTrac Student Collection.

CLEP Introductory Psychology Book with Online CLEP Test Preparation Second Edition

Don J. Sharpsteen

Year of Publication: 2012

The CLEP Introductory Psychology Book is not your average Psych 101 book. This introductory textbook was written with a different kind of psychology student in mind. CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. The College Board, the group of individuals who created the high school AP program and the SAT program, developed this unique program to meet the needs of students who would not use the traditional college path. The CLEP program remains the most widely trusted credit-by-examination program for more than 40 years, accepted by 2,900 colleges and universities and administered in over 1,800 test centers. This exam is an excellent option for non-traditional students, specifically those serving in the military. The CLEP Introductory Psychology Book is designed to offer students training in the area of introductory psychology. The text covers a high percentage of the topics included on the test and was created for use with the Online CLEP Test Preparation system. While the book was specifically designed for students who plan to take the CLEP Test, it covers enough of the basic psychological topics to make it an excellent choice for any introductory psychology course. It can be used for those studying the topic on their own, as well as those engaging in a traditional introductory psychology course. This distinctive psychology textbook is an excellent option for hobbyists, or those seeking non-traditional learning outcomes.

Introduction to Psychology 10th Edition

James W. Kalat

Year of Publication: 2013

One of the mist widely used introductory psychology textbooks is the Introduction to Psychology series, written by James Kalat. In the 13th edition of this series the text moves beyond simply covering the major theories and studies within psychological science. This advanced edition encourages students to question the information they are given and ask the important question, “How was this conclusion reached?” and “Does the evidence really support it?” This interactive approach helps students to become amateur scientists. By using this approach, students not only gather the knowledge expected at the introductory level, but they also learn to think critically and become better consumers of research. In this highly student-praised book, the author, a North Carolina State University professor, challenges students previously-held ideas about the field of psychology to allow them to evolve into more informed consumers of information throughout their college experience as well as in post-college life. Kalat uses a humorous writing style and hands-on learning, “Try It Yourself” exercises throughout the book. By combining these teaching strategies, the textbook is able to suit the learning style needs of a wider audience of students. Students using this introductory psychology text can take advantage of the InfoTrac Student Collection.

Introduction to Psychology 10th Edition

Rod Plotnik and Haig Kouyoumdjian

Year of Publication: 2013

The 10th edition of Rod Plotnik and Haig Kouyoumdjian’s Introduction to Psychology can be summed up in just one important word – interesting. When you read student reviews of the text the word you see again and again is interesting. While many introductory psychology textbooks tend to be dry and boring, this book stands out as quite the opposite. It features a look and style that mimics a magazine or graphic novel, with visual displays and graphics. In this edition the reader is immediately drawn, showing just how fascinating the study of the human mind can be. The book uses a modular, visual approach to outline the basic tenets of the field of psychology and psychological research. The innovative “visual” or “magazine” style approach allows for even the most challenging concepts to be viewed as both engaging and entertaining for students. The entire book has been individually planned, written, and formatted to be effective in combining the use of Visual Cues, which helps students to better remember the information they have read. This latest update, uses the psychological concept of “chunking,” a method of taking a larger concept and breaking it into smaller, more easily digestible sections that allow students to learn at a pace ideal to their needs. This is one of the best introductory psychology textbooks on the list for students who traditionally struggle with learning from a textbook. The unique approach makes it easy to follow and engage in the material. Students learning from this text also have access to the InfoTrac Student Collection.

Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews

Dennis Coon and John O. Mitterer

Year of Publication: 2008

This vastly applauded introductory psychology textbook was co-authored by professionals who have each received a great deal of praise and rave reviews from instructors and students with each succeeding edition. They are both leaders in their field and among the best textbook authors in the world. The 12th edition of Introduction to Psychology: Gateways to Mind and Behavior with Concept Maps and Reviews has been designed for student learning. The careful design of the layout of the text is intentionally visually rich. This edition continues to use an innovative integration of the proven-effective SQ4R learning system (Survey, Question, Read, Reflect, Review, Recite), which increases critical thinking skills, while guiding students to a greater understanding of psychology’s wide-ranging concepts and multiplicity of topics. The text covers the historical beginnings of developmental psychology, in unison with a thorough discussion of the empirical scientific method. In each fascinating chapter, these active learning tools are paired with the book’s example-ridden writing style, discussions of positive psychology, pioneering coverage of the field’s new research findings, and top-notch media resources. This combination allows the user to find the study of psychology interesting, relevant, and most importantly, accessible. It is an excellent text for a wide range of learning and teaching styles.

Psychology – 10th Edition

David G. Myers

Year of Publication: 2011

The 10th edition of David Myers Psychology is a leader in the field of introductory psychology. One of the highest compliments this book continuously receives from both students and professors is how engaging the material is, from the table of contents and the very first chapter. Both the material itself, as well as the easy-to-use presentation, outlines the broad subject of human behavior in a very concise, appealing manner. The narrative is easy to read and concise to cater all kinds of learners. David Myers’ highly regarded introductory text has reached an extremely wide audience of students and instructors with each subsequent edition. In each edition he betters the one before, with an increasing amount of commendations from professionals and students alike. Myers works closely with a team of researchers and writers, all of whom are leaders in the field, to grasp the importance of psychological research and the needs of the instructors and students. The text covers all of the pertinent historical information, outlines the scientific method as it applies to psychology and shows students the breadth of modem psychological practice. Over ten million student “class testers” and thousands of adopting instructors can testify to the high quality of this book. Myers used these testers to find inherent flaws in the previous edition of the text, and he made all necessary changes. This made the text more user-friendly and much more enjoyable. In keeping with previous editions, the 10th edition of this landmark series is another robust, deeply considered revision.

Psychology: A Concise Introduction

Richard Griggs

Year of Publication: 2014

Richard Griggs’ Psychology: A Concise Introduction is one of the most affordable introductory psychology textbooks available on the market today. This succinct textbook is an affordable yet authoritative alternative to the introductory psychology text. Students immediately enjoy the low price tag, but quickly find that the book is worth well beyond the low price. It is an unsurpassed volume that offers a thorough review of the psychology field’s rudimentary ideas and the research behind them. Students learn the ins and outs of the empirical scientific method, how to plan and implement research and how to understand the findings. There are several chapters that allow students to understand where psychology started and how far it has come. There is a great deal of depth and breadth found within the books pages. In addition to the textbook, there is a robust, specifically designed supplement package for students and instructors. No other text and supplement package can offer the same value for the affordable price. The 4th edition of the text is thoroughly updated, specifically in target areas such as neuroscience, mental health, and in coverage of topics affected by the release of the new DSM-5.

Psychology: An Introduction

Benjamin Lahey

Year of Publication: 2011

The 11th edition of Benjamin Lahey’s Psychology: An Introduction is a modern update to a time-honored classic introductory psychology textbook. This latest edition holds true to the reputation of this classic text with modernizations that make it even more enjoyable for students. It is designed to help beginning psychology students master the important concepts and historical details of the field. There is also a detailed description of how to conduct effective psychological research. The 11th edition has been comprehensively updated to include the latest research with an emphasis on Consciousness, Development, Abnormal Psychology and Social Psychology. Lahey, a renowned professional in teaching psychology, integrates empirically based knowledge throughout the text, to provide students with an accurate representation of modern psychology. The updates to this text have made it even more student-friendly with clear chapter openers and updated modernizations that make the material even more relevant to students. The proven learning system helps students grasp the concepts presented in the book. Lahey’s text places a hallmark emphasis on diversity and culture, which is present throughout the text, making this book a well rounded introduction to all areas of psychology. This textbook is designed to be a good fit for psychology students of all levels and types, from community college through university.

Psychology: Themes and Variations, 9th Edition

Wayne Weiten

Year of Publication: 2012

In this textbook’s 9th edition, author and psychologist, Wayne Weiten introduces the greater field of psychology in a clear and concise manner. This most recent edition of a widely used introductory psychology textbook, preserves the book’s tradition of academic strengths while also addressing market changes. The text includes new learning objectives, updated material and a fresh new design. It is designed to offer users an innovative array of psychology that meets three goals:

  • To demonstrate the unity and diversity of psychology’s subject matter
  • To illuminate the research process and its link to application
  • To make the material challenging and thought-provoking yet easy to learn

This text maintains a pleasing balance of scientific rigor and a student-friendly approach by integrating seven book-wide themes, an unrivaled instructive art program, real-world examples from everyday life, and modernized learning aids. These elements are kept in balance to help students understand research so they can better comprehend the larger picture concepts within the field. Major topics covered in most introductory psychology courses are all included in this text, such as evolutionary psychology, neuropsychology, biological psychology, positive psychology, applied psychology, psychological disorders, and multiculturalism and diversity. Students report that this text is easy to read, extremely user friendly, and helpful in their classroom instruction.

Understanding Psychology

Robert Feldman

Year of Publication: 2014

In the 12th edition of this extensively used introductory psychology textbook, Robert Feldman weaves together the many historical details that underlie the modern field of psychology. Understanding Psychology is designed to instruct students in a manner that best fits their academic style. The highly customized program uses a revolutionary revision process that creates a fully integrated learning system including the “Students First” goal. This adaptive learning program, SmartBook, offers students a customized academic experience that suits their individual needs. The 12th edition of this text uses “HeatMap” technology to outline the revisions that have been made based upon previous editions. Feldman used previous data to see where students struggled most, and he identified these as “hot spots” that needed to be refined and updated. Each of these areas was adjusted to be more clear and concise. This has made the already successful text even more clear and impactful. This textbook is based in Feldman’s accessible instruction and important research, as well as the “modules-within-chapters” format that is manageable for students and allows instructors the ability to assign and cover the topics they choose. This is an excellent textbook for psychology students of all learning styles.

People Also Ask

What is introductory psychology?
Introductory psychology, or Introduction to Psychology, is one of the most popular undergraduate courses, attracting even those who are not interested in majoring in the subject. The course usually covers the history of psychology as a scientific discipline, a survey of influential psychologists, and the basics of human behavior.

How can I teach myself psychology?
Of course! If you are not in a position to take a formal psychology class, then you can begin your own education by reading an Introduction to Psychology textbook, or finding a free psychology course from Coursera or edX.

Do I need to take a course to study psychology?
If you intend to study psychology to become a clinical psychologist, then you will need to take formal psychology courses and earn an accredited degree.

Top 10 Introductory Psychology Textbooks

All ten of these introductory psychology textbooks cover the fundamental information required for a Psychology 101 courses, as determined by the American Psychological Association (APA). Each includes information on the historical approaches that have been used in the field since its inception, the details of the empirical scientific method and the many current theories in the field. The differences between the texts are subtle differences in the way in which the material is presented. While some students learn best from a more graphic approach with diagrams, pictures and indexes, others benefit from a more lengthy narrative. Regardless of the kind of textbook that best suits each students needs, these ten introductory psychology textbooks are among the best in the country and suit the needs of the greatest number of students.


100 Greatest Psychology Books of All Time