59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot

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UK, first edition hardcover.

59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot is a popular psychology book written by Richard Wiseman and published on 2009-12-29. In the introduction, Dr. Wiseman explains how a friend was duped by a self-help book which gave tips to make yourself happier, but most of the tips went against established science. Wiseman began a lengthy explanation about the research, but the friend interrupted him and wanted the 59-second abridged version. Seeing that many people don't have time for long psychology discussions, Wiseman set out the task of condensing the psychological research of various areas of study into segments that can be explained in 59 seconds, although, he also gives a much more detailed version explaining the research behind each segment for those who want a more thorough understanding.

I learned about Dr. Wiseman because he is popular in the skeptic community. This led me to reading his book Paranormality which talked briefly about this book which led me to reading this one as well.


I do not own this book, but I have read it as an audio book.



  • Wiseman covers a lot of different topics in psychology including creativity, self-esteem, dating, addiction, and more.
  • I like how the book demonstrates that a lot of conventional wisdom is flat out wrong. For example, hitting a pillow actually increases aggressive behavior, visualizing yourself succeeding actually prevents you from trying harder, etc.
  • Wiseman doesn't just explain why certain behaviors are unhelpful, he suggests alternate behavior instead. For example, congratulating a child for doing well on a test tends to cause them to do poorly on the future tests, but congratulating them on studying and trying hard tends to cause them to do better.


  • Occasionally, Wiseman cites less-than-reputable research conducted by evolutionary psychologists. For example, one suggests that men are naturally superior at music, not because the music industry is run by men, but because of their higher testosterone levels. This seems very specious, and it causes me to question the rest of his citations.
  • Wiseman, in no uncertain terms, says that Freud and Jung were both wrong in their theories about behavior, which I appreciate, but still has a section describing Freud's id, ego, and superego hypothesis. I hate when psychologists bring up Freud's ideas as though there might be something to them, even though they agree they're both wrong and unscientific.


  • Nothing.