Review of Situations Matter by Sam Sommers

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World is a fascinating read on how we are manipulated by the world around us and how context shapes our behaviour. His first chapter is called WYSIWIG (“what you see is what you get”), which is interesting in light of this book being published the same year as Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking, Fast and Slow, in which Kahneman uses the term WYSIATI (“what you see is all there is”).

Sam Sommers discusses the power of crowds and social situations, how we go with the flow, and how we often conform even when the evidence in front of us suggests that is the wrong thing to do, as in Solomon Asch’s and other (in)famous social psychology experiments.

He discusses love and hate and how our emotions often reflect the situation much more than any underlying values or principles we have. Why do we find other people more desirable when we are walking across a dangerous bridge than when we are on a safer path? Why do negative feelings and stereotypes depend on which particular group we feel a member of at that time?

Situations Matter is a good reminder that context drives much more of our behaviour than we often admit too. This book will help you examine your life and understand the power of situations.

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