This book tells the story of Peter Cathcart Wason, offering unique insights into the life of the pioneering research psychologist credited for establishing a whole new field of science: the psychological study of reasoning. And this was just one of the major contributions he made to psychology.
Covering much more than Wason’s academic work, the author, Ken Manktelow, paints a vivid and personal portrait of the man. The book traces Wason’s eclectic family history, steeped in Liberal politics and aristocratic antecedents, before moving through his service in the Second World War and the life-changing injuries he sustained at the end of it, and on to his abortive first attempt at a career and subsequent extraordinary success as a psychologist. Following a chronological structure with each chapter dedicated to a significant transition period in Wason’s life, Manktelow expertly weaves together personal narratives with Wason’s evolving intellectual interests and major scientific discoveries, and in doing so simultaneously traces the worlds that vanished during the twentieth century.
A brilliant biography of one of the most renowned figures in cognitive psychology, this book will be of interest not only to students and scholars in thinking and reasoning, but to anyone interested in the life and lasting contribution of this celebrated scholar.
Table of Contents
List of figures and tables
Preface and style notes
2. Hell and heaven
3. End of a world
5. The most important moment
6. Oxford to London, via Scotland
7. Curiosity pays
8. Life and chess
9. Clearing the fog
10. As easy as 2-4-6
11. Hits of the 60s
12. Moving on
13. Fruits of the field
14. Working with the problem
15. Two minds
16. Reading and writing
17. New problems
18. Turning tides
19. The final chapter
Appendix 1: Wason's family tree: Paternal line
Appendix 2: Wason's family tree: Maternal line
Appendix 3: Wason's family tree: Chronological list
Notes and sources
Ken Manktelow was formerly Professor of Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton, having begun his academic career with a PhD on reasoning, examined by Wason himself. He is the author of several books and articles on the topic.
This beautifully crafted biography provides us with a rare opportunity to know the man behind the science. The eccentric personality of Peter Wason, who made such a lasting impact on his field of psychology, is exposed in clinical detail. Manktelow shows us that while in many ways a man of his time, upbringing, and social class, Wason was also a highly creative researcher with a most distinctive style of working and writing. A fascinating read and highly recommended. - Jonathan St B T Evans, Emeritus Professor, University of Plymouth, UK.
He was an extraordinary individual. He could drive a tank (in WWII) but not a car, he could write like an angel but not type, and he could play chess like a grand master but not program. But, above all he — Peter Cathcart Wason — was a psychologist of genius, creating experiments that cut to the core of human reasoning. This deep and entertaining biography brings him back to life. And, perhaps, it’ll earn him the recognition he deserved. — Prof. P.N. Johnson-Laird, of Princeton University and New York University
Ken Manktelow was born to write this book! Blessed with a deep understanding of the issues and a lively prose style, Manktelow presents a gripping portrait of Peter Wason against the background of a now all-but-vanished era in the history of psychological research on thinking. Like Michael Lewis's the Undoing Project, Manktelow's book illustrates both the human side to a research career and the richness of a life devoted to the study of thinking and reasoning. — Prof. Aidan Feeney, of Queen’s University Belfast.