Dark psychology deals specifically with things like influence, manipulation, and persuasion. It’s so named because it’s seen as the darker side of the study of the human mind.
While some might use this for unethical reasons, much of the subject’s literature focuses on noticing these behaviours in others and how to deal with them.
So, if you want to learn how to identify and deal with manipulative behaviour in others, here are some of the best books on dark psychology to get you started.
Best Books on Dark Psychology
1. The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene
Robert Greene’s book focuses on seduction as a form of social power. It identifies nine types of seducer and explains how they win power. The book also features an anti-seducer profile and 18 types of victim.
Its purpose is to label and describe different types of seducer so the reader is armed against their tactics. The book features historic figures as examples of each seducer and explains how they became powerful. Importantly, this isn’t a book for learning seduction tactics, as it doesn’t read like an instruction manual.
While the book is written in a clear and informative style, its examples are somewhat disconnected. For example, learning how Madame de Pompadour seduced people isn’t exactly helpful for understanding modern seduction techniques.
- Clearly identifies and describes different types of seducer.
- Also includes victim types.
- Well researched and thought out.
- Historical examples are disconnected from a modern setting.
2. In Sheep’s Clothing: Understanding and Dealing with Manipulative People by George Simon
The title tells you all you need to know about this book. It explains how manipulative people work and how you can protect yourself against them.
There are various examples of manipulation. These include abusive relationships and workplace power tactics among others.
Importantly, the book also helps the reader to identify weaknesses in their own personality that are ripe for manipulation. It then provides 12 clear tools for improving your emotional strength to create better relationships.
While the book’s information is helpful, it doesn’t then provide strategies for dealing with manipulators. Readers are left to develop their own methods, which can be problematic.
- Clear examples of manipulative behaviour.
- Provides empowerment strategies.
- Logical structure and language.
- Falls short of providing coping strategies.
3. 30 Covert Emotional Manipulation Tactics: How Manipulators Take Control in Personal Relationships by Adelyn Birch
This is another book with a self-explanatory title. It describes manipulation as a game, and just like any other game, learning its strategies allows you to beat it.
You’ll find 30 clear manipulation tactics, including early warning signs. It focuses on covert emotional manipulation, which can be much harder to spot.
It uses the general term “personal relationships”, but its advice is specifically aimed at romantic relationships. That said, many of the tactics transfer to other relationships.
Birch’s book is entry-level, and its language and information reflect this. So, if you have prior experience of dark psychology and manipulation, it might be worth looking elsewhere for a deeper dive into the subject.
- Covers 30 emotional manipulation tactics.
- Language is clear and concise.
- Helps the reader to improve their boundaries in relationships.
- Aimed at romantic relationships, but includes transferable information.
- Entry-level look at the topic.
4. Beyond Persuasion: How to Recognise and Use Dark Psychology, Neuro-Linguistic Programming, and Mind Control in Everyday Life by Rebecca Dolton
While this sounds like a potentially unethical book, it actually focuses on the positive aspects of manipulation and persuasion. For example, it helps you to identify personalities and situations that would typically dominate you.
As the book suggests, this can be helpful in the workplace for improving motivation within a team.
It also offers tips for identifying and dealing with manipulators in all areas of your life, meaning it covers both sides of the equation. If you’re concerned about the ethical implications of the book, it provides a section on using its techniques responsibly.
This book is an easy introduction to concepts such as body language, manipulation, controlling behaviours, and more. So, if you’re new to dark psychology, this might be a great cover-all book.
That said, the book’s main failing is that it doesn’t reference the scientific research it discusses. This might not bother most readers, but it means you’ll have to spend time finding the studies yourself if you want more details.
- Offers good background information to anyone new to dark psychology.
- Provides ethical ways to persuade.
- Well written and easily readable.
- Doesn’t reference scientific studies.
5. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini
Robert Cialdini is a Professor of Psychology and has managed to write a book that’s scientific yet accessible to the everyday reader. It explains the concept of influence in relation to “Compliance Professionals” (manipulators).
The key message is that people become overloaded with information, and so fall back on generalizations to make their decisions. Compliance Professionals can manipulate these generalizations for their own gain.
Within this premise are the six principles of influence; each includes examples. It also explains how you can use these principles in everyday situations. Ethically, of course.
All the information comes from Cialdini’s own research, which has spanned more than 35 years. Also, it’s all been peer-reviewed and so has good credibility.
Perhaps the biggest issue in this book is that its examples are geared towards American marketing psychology. As a result, it can be difficult for readers from other countries to connect with and understand its meaning.
- Research-backed information.
- Includes six principles of influence.
- Accessible to the everyday reader.
- Examples might be difficult for non-Americans to identify with.
Dark psychology easily has the potential to become unethical. But, the best books on this subject understand this and deal with concerns appropriately.
That said, learning more about dark psychology certainly has the potential to make you a more authoritative and less easily influenced person.