How Well Do We Know Ourselves?

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David Myers is on a mission to give psychology away to the wider public. Myers is a prolific writer whose thought leadership has inspired wonder in students with psychology textbooks, explained psychological science in everyday life within his trade books, and advanced the field of research with his scholarly articles. He’s written on everything from the science of happiness, the powers and perils of intuition, and the meeting ground between psychological science and faith.

As an author with Macmillan Learning for the past 40 years whose textbooks have sold over eight million copies worldwide, we’ve been inspired by Myers for quite some time. That’s why we’re so thrilled that his work will be seen by an even broader audience. Recently, his book How Do We Know Ourselves? was one of only two books chosen by The Next Big Idea Club (curated by Malcolm Gladwell, Adam Grant, Susan Cain, and Daniel Pink) for their Season 20 read. 

The idea for this book of essays came out of Myers' work on his well-read TalkPsych blog, where he writes about “new findings, everyday applications, and observations on all things psychology.” In a letter to instructors about How Do We Know Ourselves?, he explained the goal of the book: “I hope to enable people, amid a sea of misinformation, to think smarter about their lives, and to savor the wonders of their lives … Each of its 40 essays has a simple premise: Although we all know a lot, we don’t know what we don’t know—even about ourselves.”

In honor of this accomplishment, we asked some Macmillan Learning employees that have worked alongside him to share their favorite TalkPsych blog post. 

A recent Talk Psych blog from author and friend, David Myers, sparked my interest and a few discussions within my household: “Your Nightly Pre-Sleep Amnesia — and Mine.” Each night, the moments before sleep are lost to memory; a common experience researchers refer to as mesograde amnesia. The idea is simple; the experiment novel. Our short term memories are not captured in the waning moments of wakefulness as sleep fall upon us; we don’t recall the one to two minute moments of wakefulness in the middle of the night stirred in the moment but an experience left unrecorded by our brains. But it was David Myers, about to undergo a sensitive operation, who took the upcoming procedure not only as an opportunity to reduce or retroact his hearing loss but to replicate for himself a test of mesograde amnesia in the moments altered by anesthesia as he fell from consciousness to unconsciousness. The experiment revealed yet again the curious mind that has driven a career communicating psychological science to students and the general public. -- Charles Linsmeier, EVP & General Manager

My favorite recent TalkPsych essay, Social Media and Teen Mental Health: A Sterling Example of How Psychological Science Works, discusses a topic that is hugely relevant to our society today.  As a parent of teens, I am especially interested in the research around social media and not just what I hear, anecdotally, or what I believe to be true.  This essay highlights how psychological research can truly help us tackle societal questions and challenges.  David Myers also asks really great questions in the essay that prompted lively discussion at our dinner table! -- Carlise Stembridge, Sr Executive Program Manager

There are quite a few TalkPsych essays that have stuck with me over time. I find myself repeating the information I learn from David Myers about a seemingly small psychological concept that can have a big impact on everyday life. One of my favorite essays that fits this description is The Happy Science of Micro-Friendships. David Myers wrote this at the height of the pandemic. However, the idea has stuck with me, and I find myself repeating the big idea to others: A seemingly small and inconsequential social interaction with a stranger can have a big, positive impact. When my teen children point out how my chit chat with strangers is embarrassing, I can respond that my “prosociality” is a positive for both the stranger and for me! -- Kate Nurre, Executive Marketing Manager

I think one of the most important of David Myers’ TalkPsych essays is his 2021 Do Replication Failures Discredit Psychological Science? This well written synopsis gives instructors all that they will need to respond to cynical students, or to engage novice students on the topic. Myers has provided numerous specific examples of both replicated and non-replicated research. And he makes clear that despite the number of studies that have not been replicated, there is still a mountain of important results (a large majority of psychology’s research studies) that have stood up to scrutiny. And I love his explanation that psychology is a science– “a self-checking, self-correcting process that gradually weeds out oversimplifications and falsehoods.” Thus, some non-replication is to be expected, and is all a part of the scientific process as our understandings about this field continue to develop -- Christine Brune, Executive Development Manager.

“Implicit Egotism”: Astonishing Ways We Gravitate Toward Places, People, and Professions We Associat... drew me right in with the concept of surname-occupation matching. I recently read a book about walking by Annabel Streets, finding delight in her name as I pictured her walking through the streets. Perhaps her implicit egotism unconsciously influenced her passion! Dave Myers has a way of writing that captures your interest and attention, teaches you something new, and has you pondering and asking questions that encourage you to join him on a journey of lifelong learning. --Shani Fisher, VP, Social Sciences & High School

You are welcome to visit the TalkPsych blog to get Myers opinions on everyday psychology at no charge. Also, instructors this Fall will be able to access five essays from How Do We Know Ourselves? along with assessments in Macmillan Learning’s Myers/DeWall Psychology for Achieve courses.