Book Reviews

minority influence; errors; 30-second psychology; and more

Compelling minority report

Minority Influence and Innovation: Antecedents, Processes and Consequences
Robin Martin & Miles Hewstone (Eds.)

I remember, many moons ago, taking my first course in social psychology. I loved the class on social influence. I was fascinated by Sherif’s demonstration that the most basic of perceptual processes (a dot of light!) could be altered by the mere presence of people. I was enthralled by the power majorities held in Asch’s conformity studies. Then I was delighted by Moscovici, showing that even minorities – under the right conditions – can fundamentally change how we see the world.

Since these pioneering studies, social influence has become one of the most important, exciting and essential endeavours in social psychology. In Minority Influence and Innovation Robin Martin and Miles Hewstone assemble a team of the world’s foremost scholars to provide a cutting-edge account of classic and contemporary studies. Reading it was a joy – so much so that it has re-awakened my own early passion for minority influence research!

The chapters are organised in a clear and appealing way. The book kicks off logically with chapters on basic processes and theoretical issues. Chapters by Quiamzade et al., Crano, Erb and Bohner, and Tormala et al. set the scene, outlining contemporary theoretical perspectives such as leniency contract theory and the elaboration likelihood model.

In the central section the narrative moves on to examine the conditions that limit, enhance or change the way minorities exert influence. Chapters by Mucchi et al., Gardikiotis et al., and Martin et al. discuss moderators ranging from attitude ambivalence, consensus levels and source status, with Stroebe providing an invaluable methodological analysis.

The final part of the book focuses on the dynamic interplay between majority and minority influence. Levine and Hoon-Seok Choi discuss the impact of newcomers as agents and innovators of social change. Smith and Tindale examine the processes leading to group creativity in freely interacting groups, and Prisilin tackles the consequences for groups when individuals migrate from the majority to the minority. Aime and Linn Van Dyne and Richter et al. take the focus to working contexts, applying social network analysis to majority and minority influence in work groups, and discuss the power of minorities as agents of social change in organisations.

Hewstone and Martin bring all this together in their final chapter, highlighting seven key themes emerging from the diverse, but linked, and integrated perspectives highlighted in the proceeding chapters. These themes help the reader stand back from the individual chapters
and see the key messages emerging from contemporary research on minority influence.

These include a focus on the interplay between minority influence and dual-process models of persuasion, the importance of indirect influence, and relevance in organisational contexts. What is more, the editors expertly weave these themes into a clear roadmap for future research, ensuring that this volume’s influence will resonate for many years to come.

This book is a gem. The chapters are of an extremely high quality, and Martin and Hewstone have done a wonderful job of ensuring that this is not just a collection of high-quality papers on current advances, but a coherent, integrated, and highly compelling treatise on the state of the art. It was a joy to read, a fascinating story and an engaging, balanced account of both classic and contemporary work. I would recommend it both to students seeking an inclusive introduction to the fascinating study of minority influence, and to seasoned scholars wanting an in-depth and critical coverage of current issues.

In education and in business, from groups to organisations, minority influence is critical to understanding the processes that promote innovation, originality, creativity and change. Minority Influence and Innovation provides a wonderful, inclusive and compelling account of this most important of social issues.

Psychology Press; 2010; Hb £47.50
Reviewed by Richard Crisp who is at the Centre for the Study of Group Processes, University of Kent

 

To err is…?

Errors in Organizations
David A Hoffmann & Michael Frese (Eds.)

Human error is the ‘shadow side’ of human endeavour. As organisational activity becomes more complex and its stakes higher, greater is the need for light to be shed on this problem. The basic premise of Hofmann and Frese’s volume is that our focus should not just be on trying to prevent errors from occurring, but also on using those errors that do occur to facilitate learning and performance improvement.

The editors begin proceedings with a review of studies on individual and organisational errors, which sets the scene for several thought-provoking chapters by the contributing authors. These cover various perspectives, ranging from laboratory work on judgement errors to field studies of organisational learning. Each ends with both an agenda for future research and a set of recommendations for organisations; hence, they will appeal to a broad audience.

I found this book an interesting and well-presented read, full of ideas for understanding and dealing with errors in organisations. It will trigger academic debate and inspire practice, and so should be on the bookshelf of anyone interested in risk management.

Routledge; 2011; Hb £44.00
Reviewed by Denham Phipps
who is an occupational psychologist at Human Reliability Associates, Lancashire 

 

Remarkably comprehensive

Mutual Support and Mental Health: A Route to Recovery
Maddy Loat

According to Loat, a mutual support group is a self-facilitating community that improves the psychological well-being of its members, independent of mental health professionals. Mutual Support and Mental Health can be divided into two main sections: section one explains what is meant by mutual support in mental health, and section two provides the evidence base for mutual support and a practical guide on how to apply this knowledge.

The book is informative without being dry, and is aimed at both mental health professionals and people who have experienced mental health problems. Despite its length (143 pages), this short book is remarkably comprehensive, detailing the many possible mechanisms of action of mutual support groups and the many therapeutic approaches that can harness the mutual support ethos. Mutual Support and Mental Health is an essential read for community workers, supported housing workers, and anyone interested in learning more about the strengths-based approach to emotional distress.

Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 2011; Pb £18.99
Reviewed by Chris O’Mahony
who is Services Coordinator with www.turn2me.org

 

'Half a minute…!' 30-Second Psychology

Christian Jarrett
The 50 most thought-provoking psychology theories are presented in this refreshing and fun alternative to more formal introductory texts. The theories mark many milestones, with chapters entitled ‘Old school, new school’, ‘Growth and change’, ‘Decision making and emotions’, ‘Social psychology’, ‘Ways we differ’, ‘Disordered minds’ and ‘Thoughts and language’. In addition to the expected inclusions, Freud’s psychoanalysis and Pavlov’s dogs, and so on, there are less time-honoured choices, such as Kapur’s aberrant salience and Seligman’s positive psychology, plus quirkier theories, such as birth order and nominative determinism.

Theories are explained simply and related to modern-day life, for example linking the James–Lange theory of emotion and reduced emotional influence of facial feedback in women using Botox. Up-to-date research, accompanies theories, whilst chapters profile a relevant luminary.

The text does not offer in-depth analysis but acts as a refresher for those with existing knowledge and provides understandable introductions for the general reader who wants to know more about why we do what we do. This text succeeds in demystifying complex scientific knowledge, making it accessible and engaging.

Icon Books; 2011; Pb £12.99
Reviewed by Laura Cramond
who is a Research Assistant at the University of Liverpool 

 

A superb resource

Oxford Guide to Imagery in Cognitive Therapy
Ann Hackmann, James Bennett-Levy & Emily A. Holmes

Through a series of engaging chapters, this book discusses the role of imagery in cognitive therapy. It fuses the most up-to-date research findings with a practical, user-friendly, ‘how to guide’ for implementing imagery-based interventions.

In the first chapters, the authors present a range of experimental evidence to consider imagery as a transdiagnostic phenomenon, implicated in the development and maintenance of a range of affective and non-affective mental health problems. The latter sections of the book cover the clinical utility of imagery. The authors discuss the practicalities of preparing imagery-based interventions and explain how these can be used in clinical practice to transform negative, or create positive, imagery. Throughout the book, the authors present case vignettes to illustrate their points, drawing on their clinical expertise. They provide clear examples and guidance on how to use imagery in clinical practice that incorporates assessment, formulation and intervention.

As such, this book serves a duality of purposes. Firstly, it offers valuable insights into the clinical utility of imagery and of imagery-based interventions. Moreover, it establishes imagery as an important area for empirical investigation with relevance to a range of mental health difficulties. It should be a key text for those interested in third-wave approaches to CBT, clinicians seeking guidance on how to use imagery-based interventions in clinical practice, and for academics involved in researching the aetiology of, and/or processes of recovery underlying, mental health difficulties. This book has the potential to make a significant contribution to the progression of cognitive therapy.

Oxford University Press; 2011; Pb  £29.95
Reviewed by Lee. D. Mulligan
who is an assistant psychologist on the RECOVERY Programme, Greater Manchester West Mental Health NHS Foundation Trust

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