Sunday, November 27, 2011

Situations Matter by Sam Sommers

Sam Sommers, Psychology Professor from Tufts University, has written an interesting book about context that compares to books written by journalist Malcolm Gladwell.  If you liked Blink and The Tipping Point, you would enjoy Sommers' analysis of the importance of paying attention to the situational elements of life which can deeply affect how we understand ourselves, our relationships and our community.

Sommers' readable book combines personal anecdotes from his teaching life and family, stories from popular culture, and current psychological studies to illustrate interesting concepts about day to day problems.  My favorite chapter was called "You're not the person you thought you were" and discusses how our own self-perceptions are shaped daily--perhaps hourly--by the context in which we find ourselves.  He critiques the idea of the authentic self because the self we wish to be within our family might be different that the self we want to be at work and so on.  The self is ever a work in progress, and no self-help book on earth tries to explain that to us.

He does a good chapter on gender which I also enjoyed, but found it overlapped with some reading I had done on current gender trends by Peggy Orenstein in Cinderella ate my Daughter. The chapter on race described a lot of training I had many years ago when I worked as a student affairs administrator.  Those ideas were re-treads for me, but my own unique context might be different from another reader's. I loved the chapter on finding a mate and falling in love.  I also loved the chapter on why often many people witnessing a crime or distressing event fail to act.  We really aren't bad people.  Perhaps lazy, but not malicious.  He ends with several emails and anecdotes from former students who have taken his ideas and theories and used them in the wider world.  All the information felt really useful and practical for understanding common situations.

Much of his storytelling and thinking seemed to me, fresh and original.  I read several chapters of this book aloud to my husband as we drove to various destinations on the Thanksgiving holiday.  The stories and ideas prompted thoughtful conversation with one of the most interesting people I know.  (Wanted you to know my own context for enjoying this book.)  I highly recommend Situations Matter and would love to lend this early review to anyone who is interested.

1 comment:

Steph said...

OK, definitely requesting this so many you review!