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Sam Sommers
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Sam Sommers (@samsommers) is a professor of psychology at Tufts University. His book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World, is now out in paperback. You can find his TEDx talk on the extraordinary power of ordinary context here.

Blog Entries by Sam Sommers

Why Do the Boston Marathon Bombings Make Me Feel Guilty?

(0) Comments | Posted April 23, 2013 | 6:17 PM

We've just passed the one-week anniversary of the start of a heartwrenchingly sad series of events here in Boston. All of us in the city have been touched by the marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt in various ways -- some of us, unfortunately, more viscerally and irreversibly than others.

But...

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Point, Click, Save This Woman's Life

(0) Comments | Posted April 2, 2013 | 2:25 PM

It's well-documented that there are a variety of obstacles that often stand between us and the decision to offer help to someone else in need. Dozens and dozens of research papers have been written on the topic. Blog posts too. Indeed, the factors that prevent us from getting involved in...

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Life, Oversimplified

(9) Comments | Posted March 8, 2013 | 7:00 AM

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

Personality is overrated.

One of our biggest misconceptions about human nature is that the people around us are of consistent, predictable character. When thinking about one...

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Highlight this Blog Post at Your Own Risk

(9) Comments | Posted January 31, 2013 | 5:12 PM

How did you study? It's question I often find myself asking college students during office hours when they come by to talk about a disappointing exam score or ask for suggestions for improving future performance. One thing you learn when you ask this question is that people approach studying in...

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What's Your Theory of Evolution?

(20) Comments | Posted January 11, 2013 | 8:00 AM

Watch the TEDTalk that inspired this post.

What I think is most important about Cuddy's message -- fake it 'til you become it -- is the deceptively simple word "become." This word conveys an image of the self as fluid, as evolving. And too often in...

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What a Pretty Face Can't Tell You

(8) Comments | Posted November 28, 2012 | 11:20 PM

Just what, exactly, can we learn from a pretty face?

Because despite axiomatic warnings to the contrary, when we meet other people we spend an awful lot of time judging books by their covers. Encounter someone attractive, and it's hard for us to look away. But it's...

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To Regift or Not to Regift, That Is the Question

(19) Comments | Posted October 21, 2012 | 11:51 AM

I admit it: I'm a chronic regifter.

There are few things in life that give me more pleasure than finding a new home for an item that's just taking up space in my house. So one of my kids gets a birthday present she already has? She may see...

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Hey, CNN: I'll Analyze My Own Debate Perceptions, Thank You

(0) Comments | Posted October 3, 2012 | 11:04 PM

Tonight's first presidential debate just ended, and I've reached an important decision. No, nothing to do with whom to vote for. Rather, I've decided that I'm buying one of those perception analyzer dials so that I can give on-line ratings of everyone I interact with all day long.

What's...

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Sex, Drugs and Raising Kids

(4) Comments | Posted September 21, 2012 | 11:21 AM

"Anything in moderation," the saying goes. But does this wisdom apply to the decisions we make as parents?

The temptation exists, particularly when our kids are young, to try to shield them from anything that might be even the slightest bit upsetting, unhealthy, unpredictable or dangerous. As they grow, however,...

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Just How Independent Are Independent Voters?

(82) Comments | Posted August 15, 2012 | 2:20 PM

The American electorate is more divided today than ever, cable news pundit wisdom informs us. With entrenched battle lines separating the two major parties, everything comes down to Independent voters, the story goes. So pick your election topic du jour -- a vice presidential selection, new campaign ads, debate performance...

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What's in a Name?

(10) Comments | Posted July 16, 2012 | 1:27 PM

"Your first name's white, your second is Hispanic, and your third belongs to a black. No wonder you don't know who you are." So reads an article in this week's Sports Illustrated, quoting a former teammate talking to baseball Hall of Famer Reginald Martinez Jackson. Or Reggie Jackson...

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The LeBron Narrative and the Psychology of Sports Fans

(9) Comments | Posted June 25, 2012 | 11:30 AM

Right now I'm sitting in my living room, watching LeBron James put the finishing touches on his first NBA title. It's funny, I went into this series with the clear intent to root for Oklahoma City and Kevin Durant. And I wouldn't go so far as to suggest I'm now...

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When Good People Behave Badly

(16) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 2:26 PM

I'm sitting on a plane to Washington, D.C., thinking about unethical behavior. (Insert your own politician joke here.)

No, it's not my impending proximity to Congress that has me pondering such matters. Rather, it's that I'm headed to give a keynote address at the annual meeting of Compliance...

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The Native American Mascot: Tribute or Stereotype?

(17) Comments | Posted May 28, 2012 | 6:16 PM

In yet another chapter of a continuing debate, the State of Oregon announced last week that its public schools must discontinue the use of Native American nicknames and mascots. The Board of Education gave state schools until 2017 to stop using team names such as "Indians," "Chiefs," "Braves,"...

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Sex Objects in a World Turned Upside-Down

(7) Comments | Posted April 27, 2012 | 4:51 PM

Just how often do people objectify women? According to recent research, we're so used to treating women as sex objects that we can do it even when standing on our heads.

In a study published in this month's issue of Psychological Science, Belgian and American psychologists took advantage...

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Is the Man Who Killed Trayvon Martin a Racist? Who Cares?

(21) Comments | Posted March 27, 2012 | 2:21 PM

The story of the tragic shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin continues to unfold. Each day seems to bring with it a new revelation, whether an eyewitness coming forward for the first time or the release of a new audio recording. And a great deal of attention is being...

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Getting the Most Out of Life, One Chocolate at a Time

(7) Comments | Posted March 19, 2012 | 7:23 AM

One of the many reasons why studying human nature makes for such an intriguing pastime (or career, for that matter) is the frequency with which there's divergence between the factors that we think influence our decisions and those that actually shape how we see the world around us.

Take order,...

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The Power of Hello

(0) Comments | Posted March 6, 2012 | 1:43 PM

It remains one of the most influential memories of my time as a college professor. I was in my office over the summer, reading through written comments from the back of my teaching evaluations (yes, we do read those). While this was a large class with close to 100 students,...

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Looking for Love in All the Web Places

(2) Comments | Posted February 14, 2012 | 1:46 PM

With Valentine's Day upon us, there are some interesting conclusions to note from soon-to-be-published research regarding that most 21st-century of romantic developments: the dating website.

In this past weekend's New York Times Sunday Review, psychologists Eli Finkel and Benjamin Karney provide a preview of their article to appear in this...

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Mars and Venus in the... Parking Garage?

(0) Comments | Posted February 6, 2012 | 11:51 AM

It's official. Empirical research has finally demonstrated that which many of us instinctually knew all along: men are better parkers than women.

This news won't come as a surprise to many. Ask men and women to rate their own parking abilities, and men are more generous. Moreover, just think about...

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