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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engaging and interesting
For a first time writer, of a psychology book no less, Sam Sommers has a great way of taking what could be a very dry subject and gave it life with his smart aleck style of writing. I know there a lot more books out there that I wish he wrote. Heck, I even enjoyed the Acknowledgments.

This is an interesting topic, one we can all understand, how the situation...
Published on November 25, 2011 by atmj

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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Situations Do Matter More Than We Think
I read this book as a member of the Amazon Vine Program. This book is about the science of situations and how situational context contributes to human behavior. More often than not, we tend to think that behavior is driven by traits or personality, so we overlook or don't see the role the situational context plays in our and others' behaviors.

By overlooking...
Published on November 25, 2011 by William McPeck


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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly engaging and interesting, November 25, 2011
By 
atmj (Rochester, NY USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
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For a first time writer, of a psychology book no less, Sam Sommers has a great way of taking what could be a very dry subject and gave it life with his smart aleck style of writing. I know there a lot more books out there that I wish he wrote. Heck, I even enjoyed the Acknowledgments.

This is an interesting topic, one we can all understand, how the situation we are in often will influence our behavior. I'm sure if people were to consider many of these situations upfront they would deny that they could act this way, but the data does not lie.

The chapters are: Paraphrased by me.
Prologue
1. WYSIWYG: Talks about how when we see people in one situation, and assume it reflects their behavior in all situations.
2. Help Wanted: How we assume other people will address a situation observed in public, such as a call for help. Let someone else help. And more importantly, how to change this behavior.
3. Go with the Flow: The influence of crowds and authority figures on behavior.
4. You're not the person you thought you were; Everything is relative
5. Mars and Venus here on earth: Gender differences are more explained by socialization than biology.
6. Love: Who we love is more explained by geography, familiarity and state of mind than we realize.
7. Hate: Them versus Us, the bigots in us all.
Epilogue
Acknowledgments

Having read many a dry but interesting psychology book, this author had a way to make the subject matter come alive. I can see where this would be required reading in many a (fortunate) psychology class, however better yet, this books calls for us to be better people.

* We need to realize people are not always what they seem in one situation.
* We need to realize that even in groups, we have the responsibility to help and not expect the crowd to do so.
* If something seems wrong to us, we should not let the crowd or the authority figures dictate our behavior.
* Women and Men are more similar than different and should not be so categorized, or limited in our expectations.
* Sometimes by acknowledging differences between groups, we find freedom to move on, or at least recognition of our own reactions
* Last but not least, observe and don't assume and in being more considerate, we can live together more harmoniously.

Not often you find so many gems in a psychology book...
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Worth Reading, November 15, 2011
By 
Zoeeagleeye (Belfast, ME United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
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Sam Sommers must be quite an engaging man especially in the classroom. The tone of his book "Situations Matter" is light even as he pitches some rather dark stats your way. With his statistics and studies he explains why crowds smother independent thinking, and then shows us how "crowds diffuse (individual) responsibility." Much of his work indicates a need for people to think for themselves, and then he illustrates what in our society mitigates against doing that.

One of the reasons social commentators leave out has to do with a strong unconscious need to protect ourselves from others' vibes, which thereby closes us down. Or, as Sommers has it, "in crowded settings we're just less tuned in to everything around us." He calls it "sensory overload." I guess the trick is to remain alert while protecting yourself against other peoples' vibes.

One part of the book teaches you how to ask for help, especially in crowds where you might not get attention: "When you need help, be direct. Target specific individuals. Paint yourself in the most empathetic light possible." Sounds a little bleak. Oh, and if you smile and you're pretty, you have the edge over the rest of us. Sorry, guys.

Sommers writes that there is no way to know what true perceptions are so "the gurus of self-help got it wrong." He seems happy about that. I think he is short- sighted. Perceptions are far more fluid than he allows and therefore self-help advice has got to be right at least some of the time. But, nicely, he also points out that authenticity isn't static. It flows over time and place and situations. You can recognize it inside yourself in any case, and others can sense it. No immutable law here, it is a creative thing that can both grow and diminish.

Sometimes Sommers writes, and cites studies, as if behavior can be quantified across the board. He writes as if people do not know when they are acting, faking, or hiding their reactions. Some of us may act unconscious, but really, we know all along what we're doing!

While I did enjoy the author's voice, I confess at times I found it distracting especially when he decides to be "funny" during a serious paragraph. While writing about emotional impacts, Sommers quips, "Mostly they just looked on at the irate actor with a mix of befuddled curiosity and annoyed resignation -- a bit like the face that White House officials make when they watch Joe Biden ad-lib near a microphone." This, like much of his referential humor, will mean nothing to those reading this book in ten years time.

The book begins to fall a little short near the end when it becomes a tad preachy. The light tone is gone and earnestness replaces it. Sommers talks about "spacial relationships," which I wish he had defined more clearly, giving us the curious information that playing video games improves this skill in both boys and girls. "Just imagine the cumulative effects of an entire childhood devoted to gaming," he says. But, oh, Sam, what a missed opportunity to create and dream what those effects might be!

His take on gender gaps was a bit ho-hum, summed up in this obvious statement: "reminding people how men and women are "supposed to" act exacerbates gender gaps." He devolves into a pleading not to turn girls into "standard issue" conceptions of femininity -- about 30 years too late!

The "Love" chapter peters out into his giving advice on love. In "Hate" we get scolded about our prejudices. And yet, there are also some very good points to be made in each of these latter chapters. Which is why I gave the book 4 stars and found it worth reading.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Situations Do Matter More Than We Think, November 25, 2011
This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
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I read this book as a member of the Amazon Vine Program. This book is about the science of situations and how situational context contributes to human behavior. More often than not, we tend to think that behavior is driven by traits or personality, so we overlook or don't see the role the situational context plays in our and others' behaviors.

By overlooking the situational context, Sommers points out that we end up with a simplified view of human behavior. Sommers calls this the WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) view of life. The WYSIWYG view, according to Sommers, gives us a false confidence that we can predict the behavior of others by relying only on our internal explanations of behavior. To demonstrate the problem with WYSIWYG, Sommers explores how situations contribute to behavior by looking at confessions, crowd behavior, gender issues, love and hate.

Sommers did a great job of illuminating the role played by context in behavior through research reviews and personal stories. As I was reading the book though, I kept asking myself the question, so what? How can I use this information? While Sommers did provide a Lessons Learned at the end of each chapter, I believe the book would have been much better and of greater use to readers if the Lessons Learned material had been developed further by the author.

The book is easy to read, despite being heavy with research findings. Sommers does a masterful job of translating these research findings for the lay reader. Personally though, I could have done with less of the author's attempts at humor. I feel it detracted from the book's message.

Despite being well researched and written, this book left me flat....
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars I couldn't finish it either, July 2, 2012
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This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
This is a whole book about the fundamental attribution error. Let me repeat that. This is a ... whole ... book ... about ... the ... fundamental ... attribution ... error.

It's an interesting topic, it has some major repercussions, there have been some classic experiments that tie into it, it definitely has some important things to teach us humans. But a whole 250-page book?

So, what happens when you try to turn a decent article into a book? You repeat yourself, you drag things out, you rehash the same old experiments, you bore the reader.

I blame Malcom Gladwell. His books took a fascinating subject (people), combined that with excellent writing, and basically started a major industry. It seems every psych professor out there has now taken a shot at turning out a book now. Surprisingly, some of these are very well written (Dan Ariely, David Buss, Geoffrey Miller). But that style is not for everybody. Sommers, for example. Clunky, boring, awkward, obvious.

Okay, "Prof," have at me.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must for Anyone Who Interacts with Others, January 9, 2012
This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
Situations Matter is a new book by Sam Sommers whose goal is to demonstrate how situations influence our thoughts and behaviors. The book more than accomplishes this goal by also providing techniques to interpret situations that are influencing behaviors and providing techniques to better respond to these situations.

The author starts by recounting an experience in which he and his wife missed a connecting flight and how he interpreted the situation to negotiate a hotel voucher from the airlines customer service agent. In this case the author explains how he considered the situation in which the agent was operating to successfully frame his request. The lesson is that the agent is not a heartless ogre who did not want to assist the stranded travelers but instead an amicable person who was put in a tough situation by the airline. This discussion is very well aligned with the powerful negotiation techniques presented by Stuart Diamond in Getting More: How to Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World.

Sommers then discusses why, when presented with three game show hosts to tutor our child, we would immediately pick a certain one since he is viewed as more knowledgeable based on the game show that he hosts.

The remainder of the book covers several specific situational topics as I outline below.

WYSISYG - What you see is what you get. In this chapter, Sommers explains how we respond to what we see and discusses why we do not typically analyze and interpret the specific situation. In particular there is a discussion on how westerners will focus on a main object in a picture while those from eastern cultures look at the entire picture- frame and all! The most interesting analogy I found in this section was comparing the 2006 Olympics Opening Ceremony in Atlanta with the 2008 Olympics Opening Ceremony in China. As you may recall the 2008 games in China opened with 2008 people playing the drums while the 2006 games in Atlanta opened with a single performer - Celine Dion. Interesting insight indeed!

Help Wanted - In this chapter Sommers explores the perplexing reasons of why people in crowds will not assist those in need. Many real life examples along with results of studies (including the famous Good Samaritan study conducted at Princeton University) demonstrate that we will shirk responsibility when we are in the mix of a crowd as opposed to being alone.

Sommers also provides his insights onto the infamous lack of crowd response to the extended assault on Kitty Genovese in Queens during 1964. This is the classic case study of crowds which analyzed in many other books include Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. Overall this chapter is an impressive synopsis as to why crowds affect our responses and behaviors.

Go with the Flow - This section introduces the Crows Whisperer aka `Super Fan'. This is the guy at sporting events who gets you to break out of the norms and scream passionately for your team. The most important take a ways from this chapter are techniques that can help you break yourself and others from the crowd affect that paralyze us during emergencies.

You are Not Who You Think You Are - In this section, Sommers presents evidence that we not only view others differently given the situation, but we also view ourselves differently. The results of several research experiments show that depending on our location and context we will identify ourselves differently. The author also gives great advice on how we should view ourselves as opposed to how many `self help' experts try to convince us to view ourselves. Overall this is a well written and very insightful chapter for understanding how we view ourselves.

Love and Hate - The final two chapter address how and when we love and hate are both influenced by situations. In the love section Sommers outlines the situational influences that affect who we end up choosing to date and marry as opposed to the traits we seek in a mate.

In my opinion, the chapter on Hate is the most important in the book. Finally, someone has addressed why we have a hard time initially distinguishing people within different ethnic backgrounds. This is a critical concept for anyone to understand when they interact and work with people who we do not classify within one of our `in groups'. This section also provides useful lessons for Project Managers who need to manage a team that consists of different groups, organizations or backgrounds.

My conclusion is this is a great book for helping to remind us that when viewing and judging the actions of others we need to consider their situation. It's main strength is that it also provides insights and strategies for dealing with the potential harm of crowd affects along with overcoming biases, both our own and others.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who interacts with other people. For further reading on these topics I also recommend reviewing the author's blog.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining and educational, January 9, 2012
This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
Sam Sommers does a great job explaining how and why situations affect our daily lives and decisions. His self-deprecating sense of humor keeps the reader engaged in the material and eager to learn more. It's a pretty fast and easy read, especially as it's very hard to put it down.

As a graduate student in social psychology, most of the topics and major studies Sommers discusses were already familiar to me, but I appreciated his original ways of presenting the material. Plus, as the book explains, familiarity breeds liking. This is a great book for anyone interested in social psychology or knowing more about what makes people tick (especially if you like books to be based on actual research).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent information, witty delivery, January 5, 2012
This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
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.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great read!, January 4, 2012
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This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
Situations Matter is a great, easy, and very enjoyable read that I would highly recommend. Sommers voice is addictive - intelligent, witty (I laughed out loud quite a bit), and genuine. The book defies categorization - not a self help book yet it changes the way you view yourself and the world, not an intro to social psychology book but you will find that you learn quite a bit without even realizing it. The negatives mentioned by other reviewers - being a little repetitive or discussing "obvious" findings - I think are due to the fact that this topic could easily be bogged down by research details and overcomplicated, but Sam was able to turn it into information that is straight-forward and digestible. Truly, this is a fun, fast-paced, can't-put-it-down book that people of all walks of life will enjoy.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderfully engaging, January 3, 2012
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This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
This read was well worth it. Sommers has a way with words that makes the book hard to put down. He is able to educate and tell his story, all the while entertaining with pop culture references and hilarious one-liners. As I read this book, I would laugh out loud enough times that my wife was pushing me to finish it so she could read it next.
As a layperson, I have immediately noticed examples of his lessons throughout my life. After reading the book, I engage people with a perspective that makes me a more effective communicator and listener. In other words, simple lessons that Sommers espouses have made me work and interact more efficiently with my world. This book is a must read, and belongs amongst the best that Malcolm Gladwell et al, can produce.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Can Help You Appreciate the Significance of Context in Your Life and Work, December 22, 2011
This review is from: Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World (Hardcover)
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This is a delightful book. The author writes gracefully. He presents references and information that back his points, without being academic or abstruse.

His fundamental point: context influences our thought and decision-making processes to a much great extent than we tend to be aware. From choice of marriage partners to our reactions to advertising and other communications, context can be decisive.

This suggests that our listening and observation powers can be cultivated to our great benefit. It can also mean that simply tweaking one aspect of a situation can occasion a significant change in behavior and others' expectations. Sommers' example o the effects of having women--rather than men--circulate in speed dating is interesting and instructive.

In sum, 'Situations Matter' is an interesting read. Can be of real value in comprehending circumstances. Also useful in helping us understand the ways we frame situations that affect how others view us in work and life.
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Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World
Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World by Sam Sommers (Hardcover - December 29, 2011)
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