Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World” as Want to Read:
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  1,106 Ratings  ·  133 Reviews
A "thought-provoking and entertaining" ("The Washington Post") exploration of the invisible forces that influence your life--and how understanding them improves everything you do.
The world around you is pulling your strings, shaping your private thoughts and innermost instincts. And you don't even realize it.
Every day we overlook the enormous power of situations in our l
ebook, 304 pages
Published December 1st 2011 by Riverhead Books
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Situations Matter, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Situations Matter

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
Bo Bennett
May 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: behavior

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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Dec 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Kelley Nunn
Dec 09, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A moment of silence for all the trees who lost their lives to become the pages of this awful, dreadful book. What a complete waste of time.
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
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
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Bart Du Bois
tedious - does it really take 8+ hours to bring this story home? 😤
May 21, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
while the point is valid, the book did not provide tools on how to better understand context and how we often attribute problems to personality rather than surroundings and dumb luck
Mar 19, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
*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
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
UX Book Club PDX: Thoughts after the meetup 2 26 Jul 02, 2012 04:47PM  
What's your WYSIWYG moment? 2 22 Feb 08, 2012 03:26PM  
  • The Branded Mind: What Neuroscience Really Tells Us about the Puzzle of the Brain and the Brand
  • Out of Character: Surprising Truths About the Liar, Cheat, Sinner (and Saint) Lurking in All of Us
  • Beyond Culture
  • At Left Brain, Turn Right
  • The Buying Brain: Secrets for Selling to the Subconscious Mind
  • The Psychology of Attitude Change and Social Influence
  • What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite
  • Neuromarketing: Understanding the Buy Buttons in Your Customer's Brain
  • Healing at the Speed of Sound: How What We Hear Transforms Our Brains and Our Lives
  • Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing
  • Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change
  • Mindfulness
  • Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool
  • The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us
  • The Person and the Situation: Perspectives of Social Psychology
  • Numbers Rule Your World: The Hidden Influence of Probabilities and Statistics on Everything You Do
  • Your Playlist Can Change Your Life: 10 Proven Ways Your Favorite Music Can Revolutionize Your Health, Memory, Organization, Alertness and More
  • Emotional Equations: Simple Truths for Creating Happiness + Success

Nonfiction Deals

  • Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
    $4.99 $1.99
  • Sometimes You Win--Sometimes You Learn: Life's Greatest Lessons Are Gained from Our Losses
    $9.99 $1.99
  • The Rise of Superman: Decoding the Science of Ultimate Human Performance
    $5.99 $1.99
  • The Long Tail: Why the Future Is Selling Less of More
    $9.99 $2.99
  • The Black Count: Glory, Revolution, Betrayal, and the Real Count of Monte Cristo
    $11.99 $1.99
  • Quantum Healing (Revised and Updated): Exploring the Frontiers of Mind/Body Medicine
    $12.99 $1.99
  • Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II
    $15.99 $1.99
  • Prince Charles: The Passions and Paradoxes of an Improbable Life
    $13.99 $2.99
  • Funny In Farsi: A Memoir Of Growing Up Iranian In America
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Effortless Healing: 9 Simple Ways to Sidestep Illness, Shed Excess Weight, and Help Your Body Fix Itself
    $11.99 $1.99
  • The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity
    $5.99 $2.99
  • The Map That Changed the World: William Smith and the Birth of Modern Geology
    $8.99 $2.99
  • Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France
    $8.49 $1.99
  • Bad Boy
    $7.74 $1.99
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X
    $7.99 $1.99
  • Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
    $4.99 $1.99
  • All Over But the Shoutin'
    $11.99 $2.99
  • WEIRD: Because Normal Isn't Working
    $6.99 $2.99
  • Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey: The Lost Legacy of Highclere Castle
    $11.99 $1.99
“...incompetence is context specific.” 3 likes
More quotes…