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Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2011-09-19
- Reviewer: Staff
With a conversational, laid-back tone and a penchant for storytelling, Tufts University psychology professor Sommers explores the power of context, its ability to “shape our private sense of self, color our notion of the differences between men and women, determine who we love and who we hate.” Most potently, Sommers investigates the notion that “when surrounded by others, we become different people than when we’re on our own.” He finds context responsible for why we feel safer (but more impotent) in crowds, why being reminded of gender stereotypes makes girls do poorly on math tests, and how your apartment building’s floor plan determines how many dates you get. In prose peppered with pop culture anecdotes and stories from his own life, Sommers keeps reader engaged as he unpacks how self-perception affects performance and how mastery of the unspoken norms that govern situations will “alter the way you think about human nature, thereby making you a more effective person...and navigate your social universe more shrewdly.” The book shares its heritage with the bestselling Influence by Robert B. Cialdini. It trots out similar studies and cases, with only a slight twist on Cialdini’s original thesis about power and politics. With its softer approach toward deploying these techniques (referencing awareness more than power) and its personal references, Sommers’s book is the lighter, more pleasurable version. (Jan.)