1st Edition

Doubt A Psychological Exploration

By Geoffrey Beattie Copyright 2023
    178 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    178 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Blending the latest academic research with case studies of famous figures, this highly insightful book presents ‘doubt’ as a central concept for psychology. It is a concept which has been oddly neglected in the past, despite its ubiquitous nature and far-reaching influence.

    Exploring everything from self-doubt and impostor syndrome to the weaponisation of doubt with respect to climate change and the marketing of cigarettes, bestselling author Geoffrey Beattie navigates readers through the various ways doubt can start and develop, changing the individual in the process. Written in Beattie’s distinctive and engaging style, Doubt takes the reader into the lives of transformational thinkers, artists, scientists and writers to explore how and why doubt was crucial in their lives and how the likes of Kafka, Jung, Picasso and Turing succumbed to doubt or learned to control it. Beattie argues that doubt is central to the self; it can be either a safeguarding mechanism or a distraction, rational or irrational, systematic or random, healthy or pathological, productive or non-productive. The book helps readers to recognise how doubt may have been operating in their own lives and to identify how and when it has been used against us – for example, to prevent climate action – and at what personal and societal cost.

    Presenting a compelling case for why doubt cannot be ignored, this book is of major interest to academics from a wide range of disciplines, including social and cognitive psychology, clinical and counselling psychology, sport psychology, sociology, business studies, politics, art and literature, as well as the general public, who may well see something of themselves in its pages.

    Acknowledgements  1. Introduction: The Nature and Meaning of Doubt  2. Alone in Doubt  3. Jung’s Dream  4. Feeling Like a Fraud  5. ‘I, the King’  6. The Perils of a Doubt-Free Life  7. Treating Doubt the Hard Way  8. Manufacturing Doubt  9. Our House is on Fire  10. Concluding Remarks  References  Index


    Geoffrey Beattie is a prize-winning academic, author and broadcaster. He received his PhD from Trinity College Cambridge and is now Professor of Psychology at Edge Hill University, as well as fellow of the British Psychological Society, the Royal Society of Medicine and the Royal Society of Arts.

    "This is one of the most brilliant books I have ever come across. Its aim is to address the question of what is doubt, not directly in any circumscribed definitional standard, but by examining the powerful role it has had (and continues to have) in human life. To do so, Geoff Beattie takes the reader on a narrative journey into the minds of some of the greatest writers and scientists of history tin order to cast light on how their doubts shaped their creative and scientific accomplishments. He also looks at how doubt is harnessed maliciously to spread conspiracy theories about such things as climate change. Written in his usual accessible narrative style – let us not forget that Beattie is also an accomplished novelist as well as a distinguished psychologist – this book will be hard to put down. Its implications for grasping who we are as a species – we are the only species that possesses doubt – and for harnessing or counteracting its enormous power of control over human life, make it a must read for everyone."

    Marcel Danesi, PhD, FRCS, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, University of Toronto, Canada

    "Beattie brilliantly illustrates the science of doubt with fascinating case studies from doubters like Kafka, to non-doubters like Picasso and how it can be addressed therapeutically, as in Brendan Ingle’s boxing gym in Sheffield."

    Brian Butterworth, Professor Emeritus of Cognitive Neuropsychology, University College London, UK

    "Geoff Beattie has written a brilliantly entertaining book about the little considered phenomenon of doubt, focusing mainly but not exclusively on self-doubt. Part memoir, part an examination of the psychology of doubt, and part an examination of the role of doubt (or lack of it) in the lives of key historical figures – Jung, Kafka, Picasso, Ernest Dichter (a psychoanalyst who devoted his talents to promoting the consumption of cigarettes) and Alan Turing – the book offers a wide-ranging and unique appreciation of the importance of doubt in individual minds and in human affairs."

    Richard Bentall, PhD, FBA, Professor of Clinical Psychology, University of Sheffield, UK