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Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
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Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

3.74  ·  Rating Details ·  1,051 Ratings  ·  129 Reviews
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 co
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published December 29th 2011 by Riverhead Books
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Bo Bennett
May 20, 2013 Bo Bennett rated it it was amazing
Shelves: psychology
This was a great book. As a PhD student in psychology specializing in research and social cognition, I have read close to 100 (non textbook) books within the last year alone, and this one stood out for several reasons. First let me say that I am highly critical of books in this genre, and it is rare that I write a review.

Why this book deserves to be read:

1) It is entertaining. Sommers breaks the mold of dry findings reporting and has "the audacity" to inject his own authentic humor. Granted, man
Jan 10, 2012 Nadia rated it it was amazing
To kick off 2012 I thought I would start off with something in the nonfiction genre, so I picked up Sam Sommers' Situation Matters. Its a self-help type of book that has you looking at the bigger picture - looking at a situation as a whole and not just in the context of how it relates to only you. Basically, we need to expand our awareness, because the context of situations do matter and the way we react to them does in fact influence and impact the ways in which we conduct our daily lives. Pret ...more
Jeff Scott
Nov 01, 2011 Jeff Scott rated it really liked it

Bookstores are filled with the latest in pop behavioral studies. Malcolm Gladwell is one of the more prominent writers that has made the subject so popular with books like Blink and Outliers. It is an encouragement to look closer on how we behave in certain situations and the causation. What Sam Sommers does in his new book Situations Matter is to go over the same territory, but instead of just looking at the phenomenon he also examines what to do about it. At the heart of it, is an encouragemen
Oct 30, 2011 Caren rated it really liked it
The author is a psychology prof at Tufts and the book reads like a college course for undergrads. It is very accessible and a lot of fun. I imagine he is a popular professor. The point of the book is that your choices, decisions, and behavior are very much influenced by the context in which you find yourself. You may believe you act independently, but there is research to prove that you are heavily influenced by your surroundings. The author consistently reminds that WYSIWYG ("what you see is wh ...more
Jul 25, 2012 Kurt rated it it was amazing
Dr. Sam Sommers is trying to challenge my assumptions about intelligence. He presents me with a hypothetical situation in which I must hire a tutor for my child, and my choices are Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak, and Ryan Seacrest. He knows that, like most people, I will choose Alex Trebek, since seeing a game show host who always has the answers to hard questions makes me think that he is intrinsically smarter than the other two choices. Then Dr. Sommers challenges me: "But is this a wise decision? May ...more
Nov 07, 2011 Melissa rated it it was amazing
I won this book through a Goodreads Giveaway, and I am so glad I did. I was a little apprehensive when I first began the book, simply because it is different than what I’m used to (I’ve just started getting into nonfiction, and most of what I’ve read thus far is more creative, personal nonfiction, not research), but I was pleasantly surprised within the first few pages, as Sommers set up an engaging read that I thoroughly enjoyed. Situations Matter is a sort of self-help book (although Sommers s ...more
Apr 10, 2012 Jesse rated it liked it
I would never have read this book if not for AJ Jacobs. The day I finished Jacobs' Drop Dead Healthy, I biked to the library and took out Sommers' debut. That's because I enjoyed the former work immensely. And in that book, Jacobs discusses how influential Situations Matter was to him. So in a daisy-chain of intellectual engagement, I read Sommers' book which directly influenced Jacobs' book, which influenced me to read Sommers' book. And so on.

Actually, I've had numerous chances to read Situati
Dec 30, 2011 Nancy rated it it was amazing
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 ot ...more
Kathleen (Kat) Smith

We've all seen the recent TV show, "What Would You Do?" where the American public is secretly video taped to see what their reactions would be for a variety of situations, will people get involved or will they simply act like they don't know what is going on, or simply chose to ignore it.

It is more interesting to understand the dynamics behind why people will react one way in a situation that doesn't involve a group of people and in a completely different way when faced with group pressure. Most
Morgan Blackledge
Apr 20, 2014 Morgan Blackledge rated it really liked it
Situations Matter:

This book is a lot of fun. I like this book a lot. But.........wholly shit is it corny. Not in the "trite, banal or mawkishly sentimental" sense. But rather in the chock full of cringeworthy jokes sense. The author is perhaps the hardest working comedian in psychology. And the hard work doesn't seem to be paying off.

I understand that, as with beauty, humor is largely a matter of personal opinion. This is literally the only polite explanation for the success of comedians such a
Sean Goh
Nov 05, 2016 Sean Goh rated it liked it
Shelves: psych
Nothing very new (then again it is 5 years old), but a good range of psych studies covered, in a readable way.
We're easily seduced by the notion of stable character. So much of who we are, how we think, and what we do is driven by the situations we're in, yet we remain blissfully unaware of it.

The feeling of anonymity in crowds affects our tendency to help as well. Crowds allow us to relinquish responsibility, because someone else will take care of this.

Knowing about bystander apathy mak
Domenico Conza
Sep 03, 2015 Domenico Conza rated it really liked it
“Situation Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World” by Professor Sam Sommers is an enjoyable, humorous book that states that we are affected by our surroundings even if we believe that they don’t influence our decisions. Prof. Sommers is a funny, but intelligent author that creates the text easy and fun to read while teaching us topics of situational vs dispositional and nature vs nurture debates with examples that were conducted in previous studies such as Piliavin et al. “Good ...more
Oct 04, 2011 Heather rated it it was amazing
We all act a little differently in different situations, right? Sure, but this book is about so much more than that! There are so many things in our lives, from who we love to how well we do on math tests, that have to do with context. This book is a real eye-opener.

We have a false confidence in our ability to predict the behavior of others. It is easier, as the author says, to see others as "what you see is what you get," than to actually consider the context of the other person. We like to se
Aug 16, 2012 Preethi rated it it was amazing
This was a really fantastic book detailing how the context in which individuals find themselves has everything to do with how they behave. It was along the lines of Malcolm Gladwell, but with actual research as opposed to anecdotal evidence.

I found the chapters on groupthink, gender, and race particularly fascinating. As a female of Indian descent, I think my cultural background far outweighed any stereotypes of girls not being good at math; it was simply expected, both within my family and with
Tamra Karl
Apr 27, 2014 Tamra Karl rated it it was ok
First off, my rating for this book is very personal. I suppose all book ratings are personal, but I like to think they are also based on an educated response to the quality of the writing. I rated this book pretty low because of my graduate degree in psychology which means I had already studied most of the experiments referenced in this book and thus felt bored by much of the return to those studies. Not just because I don't like reading the same thing more than once, but because there was a lot ...more
Nov 17, 2013 Carmen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone
This was a very good psychology book. It is light and funny enough to be interesting to even the most ignorant of readers but backed up with enough research and interesting facts to hook a person who already knows a lot about psychology. The author is very personable, and offers frequent humorous anecdotes illustrating his concepts. He also includes one or two “try it yourself” experiments that are super-easy to do and don't even require getting up. The book is all about how we judge people very ...more
Jan 19, 2012 Nichola rated it liked it
Most of the first half of each section is stuff any college grad will have covered in Psych101, with a few contemporary updates. The interesting part is when the author tries to turn that research into tools you can use, showing how to stand back and assess a situation and use that info to your advantage, or at least to minimize a disadvantage. Particularly thought provoking was the section about gender expectations and learning. Who would have thought that 'Good Morning Boys and Girls' could be ...more
Feb 22, 2012 Noëlibrarian rated it really liked it
A few years after I became a driver, I realized that if I used a simple trick -- a silly trick, really -- to explain away the exasperating actions of other drivers, I could keep my cool behind the wheel. When a driver ahead of me creeps along at 3 miles below the limit, or especially when that overcautious motorist takes fo-r-e-vvv-er to complete a turn, I say to myself, "He probably has a fresh pie on the seat next to him." This generates some empathy in my mind, and at least always gets a chuc ...more
H Wesselius
Feb 23, 2012 H Wesselius rated it it was ok
I think I've read too many behaviourial economics/psychology lately. Although the focus may vary from book to book, many of the same experiments and observations are cited in each book. In Situations Matter, how context affects decision making is the focus yet the usual crowd behaviour, racial bias, priming, etc experiments are cited. In some ways, Sommers states the obvious -- proximity and location matter even in cases of who we marry, for example. And its unfortunate, Sommers avoids the more ...more
Oct 22, 2011 Robin rated it liked it
Received the book for free through Goodreads First Reads and got it FAST!

An important read for everyone. The topics were interesting and all tied together well. A bit repetitive in some chapters, particularly towards the end. However, I enjoyed this author and feel he is probably a great professor. I may be biased since I studied Sociology in undergrad, so to those who may not have been exposed to some of the research, it may seem less repetitive. We all need to be more sensitive to others and t
Jul 13, 2011 John rated it it was amazing
I'll never look at a situation as wysiwyg (what you see is what you get) again. Really opens you mind to the peripheral context of situations that you've been in. So many situations highlighted in the book are things we've all experienced, and failed. Entertaining and informative, a great read. Highly recomend.
Jan 05, 2012 Janssen rated it really liked it
I liked it, but I didn't love it. Malcolm Gladwell has ruined me a little, I think.

I came back and changed this to a four. I keep thinking about it and it's really made me consider how I act in many many situations.

Full review here:
Mar 11, 2012 Dolly rated it it was amazing
Almost none of the content was new to me and yet, I loved reading this. Funny and clever -- a real pleasure to read.
Jan 09, 2012 Ali rated it really liked it
I have long considered myself an individual with higher-than-average empathy, but not spent nearly as much time thinking about the why or how behind that characteristic. The most that I have figured, is that I am sympathetic toward other people because I can relate to their troubles and would want other people to be equally sympathetic toward my own.

After reading this book, however, I am convinced that my empathy probably stems from an ability to imagine and understand the power of situational c
Mar 19, 2017 Anya rated it it was ok
While there was nothing wrong with the information in this book and the studies referenced were valid and relevant this book had a few issues. Firstly, it dragged, one concept would be over analysed and peppered with anecdotes that didn't really add any understanding to the concept. Secondly, the book was very one dimensional, it focused so narrowly on situations and behaviour of an average healthy individual to the point of basically dismissing everything else in play, yes, situations do matter ...more
David Glad
Nov 05, 2012 David Glad rated it really liked it
Shelves: achieve, ideas, think
Nice book that makes you examine the context of a situation and really knows how to make you feel a deep sense of guilt if you don't do the right thing in a given situation.

Two examples that happened to me WHILE listening to this audiobook (and occurring on separate days at the gym!):
A person slammed his locker and in the process accidentally dropped his gym membership card (would mean a $5 replacement fee and quite a lot of wonderment on WHERE you lost it, I'd think), so after quickly noticing
Mar 08, 2012 Deb rated it it was amazing
*The power of context*

Want to know what really makes people (including yourself) tick?

Then, grab a copy of _Situation Matters_ and hold on tight as you witness the powerful influence of context on human behavior. As the author reveals:
"The world around us is constantly pulling our strings, coloring how we think and guiding how we behave. And yet we rarely notice." (p. 7)

But, after reading this book, you *will* start to notice just how much situation matters. You'll see how when it comes to human
Mar 09, 2012 Anna rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio
I loved this book. It was fun and engaging and the narrator was terrific. Sam Sommers is a professor of psychology and he writes about the science of situations and human nature from the unexceptional to the profound. He talks about crowds, genocide, gender, love and racism. His basic argument is that we make decisions based on what we see (wysiwig) and are easily seduced by the idea of stable character. I really like the idea that a lot of self-help is predicated on the idea of finding out who ...more
Jan 21, 2012 Supertramp rated it really liked it
This is my first non-fiction book. Before that I have an impression on non-fiction as they were boring and they were just like text-books. This book changed my perception towards them a little.

Sam Sommers has written this in taking 7 kinds of human characteristic which make the impression or decision on people.

It starts with WYSIWYG( What you See Is What You Get) is the first chapter which deals with the basic tendency of humans in understanding/misunderstanding the situation. Marty Tankleff i
Aug 18, 2013 Brittany rated it really liked it
Most of us think we are better than others. Do not tell me this thought had not crossed your mind. We hear about situations on TV about people who didn’t do something in crisis. Or maybe there was a study done saying how most people act a certain way. In your mind that is everyone except you. We think we are in control of what we do, but we have been shaped by external factors even when we do not realize what they are.

If you think you would be the one who acted differently or are not shaped by
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UX Book Club PDX: Thoughts after the meetup 2 26 Jul 03, 2012 01:47AM  
What's your WYSIWYG moment? 2 22 Feb 09, 2012 12:26AM  
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