Friday, December 30, 2011

Situations Matter by Sam Sommers Review

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your WorldSituations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
An "entertaining and engaging" exploration of the invisible forces influencing your life-and how understanding them can improve everything you do. The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your innermost instincts and your most private thoughts. And you don't even realize it. Every day and in all walks of life, we overlook the enormous power of situations, of context in our lives. That's a mistake, says Sam Sommers in his provocative new book. Just as a museum visitor neglects to notice the frames around paintings, so do people miss the influence of ordinary situations on the way they think and act. But frames- situations- do matter. Your experience viewing the paintings wouldn't be the same without them. The same is true for human nature. In Situations Matter, Sommers argues that by understanding the powerful influence that context has in our lives and using this knowledge to rethink how we see the world, we can be more effective at work, at home, and in daily interactions with others. He describes the pitfalls to avoid and offers insights into making better decisions and smarter observations about the world around us.
My take: Through social scientist maneuvering, the author studies context by creating situations and plugging it into some scientific algorithm. Okay, I made up the algorithm part. Still, Doogie Howser (he is a very young Ph.D) brilliantly plays with social situations and watches reactions, recording them. He then changes the context and finds the reaction is different. It is a fascinating read, particularly if you are a sociological nerd. Which I'm not. I just couldn't put the book down to finish any other task for a day or two. Well written, interesting content, and quite funny, in a professor kind of way.

About the Author: Sam Sommers is an award-winning teacher and researcher of social psychology at Tufts University outside Boston. His research specialties include how people think, communicate, and behave in diverse settings, as well as psychological perspectives on the U.S. legal system. 

At Tufts Sommers is known for his engaging lecture style and has won multiple teaching awards, including being selected by the Student Senate as the Professor of the Year in 2009. (His wife would insist on mentioning that he was also voted by the student newspaper the "hottest" male professor on campus; however, being well-versed in the power of situations, he'd note that the honor had less to do with him than with the anything-but-fierce state of the competition.)

Sommers has given talks at dozens of colleges and universities, including Harvard, Yale, M.I.T., Dartmouth, Cornell, Emory, UMass, and Rutgers. His research has been featured by a wide range of media outlets, and he has testified as an expert witness in criminal trials in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Oregon. 

In his free time, Sommers enjoys hanging out with his wife and two daughters, blogging on the Psychology Today website, batting lead-off for the vaunted Tufts Psychology summer softball team, and exerting more effort than he probably should editing Seinfeld and Daily Show clips for use in the classroom.

I beg to differ. Anybody who can segue into a Seinfeld episode in a psychology class really must continue doing so. It would be criminal to stop.

1 comment:

Cozy in Texas said...

It's always good to hear that a book has the ability to keep you reading. I haven't come across one like that in a long time.