Amherst Magazine

What They Are Reading

Catherine A. Sanderson, assistant professor of psychology at Amherst, teaches courses in Health Psychology and Close Relationships. Below she offers suggestions for those who are interested in reading about these topics on their own.

Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, by James W. Penne-baker (Guilford Press, 1997). This book blends psychological theory and research with interesting anecdotes about the benefits of writing and talking about traumatic events on physical and psychological health. Pennebaker explains a variety of real-life phenomena, including the tendency to share our deepest, darkest secrets with strangers on airplanes, the great interest in participating in self-help groups, and even the value of keeping a journal.

Why Zebras Donít Get Ulcers, by Robert M. Sapolsky (Freeman, 1994). Although this book is written by a neuroscientist and contains highly technical information about the impact of stress on the body, it explains even highly complex physiolo-gical processes in an easy-to-understand manner (and is laugh-out-loud funny). Learn why you lose your appetite when you are scared, why ìType Aî people have more heart attacks, and, of course, why zebras donít get ulcers.

White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts: Suppression, Obsession, and the Psychology of Mental Control, by Daniel M. Wegner (Guilford Press, 1994). This very readable book examines why attempting to suppress unwanted thoughts can actually lead to obsession (think about trying not to think about cheesecake when you are dieting). The author then gives some practical advice about confronting suppressed thoughts in order to let them go.

Intimate Relationships, by Sharon Brehm (McGraw-Hill, 2002). This book provides a thorough review of virtually all of the topics studied in the field of close relationships, including attraction, communication, love, sexuality, conflict, jealousy, loneliness, and divorce. Although the focus of this book is on romantic relationships, it also includes a chapter on how the nature of friendships changes across the life span.

Why Marriages Succeed or Fail, by John Gottman and Nan Silver (Simon, 1994). This book reviews the findings from many long-term clinical studies of marital interaction. The authors describe different marriage styles, specific warning signs of marital problems, and gender differences in marital interaction. The book includes several self-tests for people to evaluate their own relationships and ends with some concrete suggestions for improving their relationships. Although the research this book is based on was conducted entirely with married couples, this material would be relevant for those in any long-term romantic relationship.

The Case for Marriage: Why Married People are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially, by Linda J. Waite and Maggie Gallagher (Doubleday, 2000). The authors review considerable research examining the benefits and costs of married versus single life. They ultimately conclude that marriage is associated with a number of benefits for both men and women, including longer lives, less illness and disability, greater wealth, and even better sex.