Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World

After having watched the Zimbardo Discovering Psychology series multiple times every year since about 1990, I have wanted more from social psychology in terms of examples and current and relevant research to support concepts within the topic.  The author, Sam Sommers does so with humor, both pointed and self-deprecating.

I also have a colleague who is very much in the "free will" camp philosophically and I have a difficult time convincing him about the social forces that shape our behavior.  If you are like me then you will love this new book I had the opportunity to review recently.  It is called, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World.  It will be released at the end of the year.  Short review: if you like social psychology you will like this book and it's a worthwhile read.

For years I have struggled with coming up with great examples and additional research that had not been dealt with by the introductory texts.  Now I have that book I've been looking for.  Some highlights and observations from my dog-eared copy:
  1. judging people's expertise by our own narrowly ranged knowledge base
  2. being seduced by character is something we do when attributing explanations of behavior
  3. using famous people in advertising testimonials--do they really use the products they are hawking?
  4. realizing that situations are often invisible to us--we need to learn how to see them and their influence (the tools in this book can help me do this with my students)
  5. Numerous explanations of situations and the influence of context on people's behavior ("what's wrong with these people?"
  6. The wisdom of crowds--how real is it?  when should we use/avoid it?
  7. Asch's study, conformity and mimicry of nonverbal behavior
  8. Who are you?  An examination of self-definition that is flexible by situation and context
  9. What we think we will do and what we do are often very different things--some research
  10. A breakdown of the Singer-Schacter experiment--some details that are missing in the textbooks
  11. An overview of what is commonly called "The Lake Wobegon Effect"--where everyone is above average
  12. how we are skilled at self-deception
  13. achievement based on what we are told about intelligence
  14. gender differences--how much is biology and how much is society
  15. proximity and love--how location influences who we are attracted to
  16. how making yourself visible makes you more attractive 
  17. Much, much more
There are more examples and much more research referred to in the book.  Bottom line is that it is an extremely helpful book to have for support for your social psychology unit. 

If you have questions for the author, please comment below and we will do our best to get them answered.
You can find more of the author and this book at these links:

Author's website

posted by Chuck Schallhorn


Sam Sommers said...

Chuck, thanks for the writeup-- glad you enjoyed the book and found it potentially useful for your teaching!


Anonymous said...

I'm glad that you found the book so useful for your classroom work! Thanks for being a part of the book tour.