Why do we say one thing and then do something completely different? In his new book, which will be launched at an event next month, Edge Hill psychologist Professor Geoff Beattie explains how the conflicting subsystems of the human mind, one slow, deliberate and conscious, one fast, automatic and unconscious, operate together to such telling effect.

The Conflicted Mind – And Why Psychology Has Failed to Deal With It, which was recently published by Routledge to international critical acclaim from leading psychologists, is aimed at a wide audience from students and academics to the general reader.

“This book explores that wide and deep gulf between our experienced lives and our psychological models,” Professor Beattie says. “We think of ourselves as positive and fair-minded, caring about other people and our environment, yet our behaviour lets us down time and time again.”

“Both science and literary writing are integral to the book,” he continues. “I have situated a critical academic perspective in literary descriptions of everyday life. The aim is to bring the two genres closer together.”

In this ground-breaking new book, Professor Geoff Beattie shows how the idea of the ‘conflicted mind’ has been central to some of the most important research in social psychology over the decades. Each chapter begins with a detailed description of a time, place and behaviour to situate the psychology, and ultimately to test it.

To understand the conflicted habit of smoking and how it was promoted so successfully by tobacco companies using psychoanalytic ideas, he describes working-class Belfast in the sixties, what smoking meant in his street, and how it was defended.

To appraise psychologist Leon Festinger’s well-known work on cognitive dissonance, he writes about the boxing gyms of Sheffield where many ‘counter-attitudinal’ statements were said without any apparent effects on underlying attitudes.

To explore conflicted memories he sits down with the artist Tracey Emin who describes her early memories and her attempts at resolving them, and how these processes have influenced her art.

Professor Beattie said: “All kinds of areas in our lives – our attitudes, habits, communication, roles, and memories – are affected by the decisions our conscious and unconscious selves make. From love to politics, and from race to survival, how can we balance the rational and reflective side of ourselves with a darker side, seemingly hidden from view and subject to all sorts of biases?”

The book asks why classic social psychological research fails to deal adequately with the conflicted mind, and what lessons are to be learnt for psychologists (and wider society) going forward.

It has received rave reviews from leading psychologists including Professor David McNeill from the University of Chicago who wrote that it was ‘fascinating and beautifully written. Bold and original it adds a new dimension to a conception of mind being developed now across psychology’. He also praised its ‘rich, nuanced discussions of the six 20th century social psychology giants.’  Professor Marcel Danesi from the University of Toronto, one of the world’s leading semioticians, said that the book ‘deconstructs psychology brilliantly, but also offers an in-depth and powerful assessment of the sources and outcomes of confused and inconsistent emotions. This is a brilliant book.’

Geoff Beattie is Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University. He has a PhD from the University of Cambridge, and was previously Professor of Psychology at the University of Manchester and Visiting Professor at the University of California Santa Barbara. He has published 22 books, and is a Fellow of the British Psychological Society (BPS) and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine. He was awarded the Spearman Medal by the BPS for ‘published psychological research of outstanding merit’ for his work on nonverbal communication and the internationally acclaimed Mouton d’Or for his work in semiotics.

He is well known for bringing analyses of behaviour, and particularly nonverbal communication, to a general audience by appearing as the on-screen psychologist on eleven series of Big Brother in the U.K. He has also presented a number of television series including Life’s Too Short (BBC1), Family SOS (BBC1), The Farm of Fussy Eaters (UKTV Style) and Dump Your Mates in Four Days (Channel 4).

The Conflicted Mind – And Why Psychology Has Failed to Deal With It launch will be held in the University’s Tech Hub on Thursday 1st February.