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The Person and the Situation [Paperback]

Malcolm Gladwell , Lee Ross , Richard E. Nisbett
3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

30 Aug 2011 1905177445 978-1905177448 2nd Revised edition
How does the situation we're in influence the way we behave and think? Professors Ross and Nisbett eloquently argue that the context we find ourselves in substantially affects our behavior in this timely reissue of one of social psychology's classic textbooks.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pinter & Martin Ltd.; 2nd Revised edition edition (30 Aug 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1905177445
  • ISBN-13: 978-1905177448
  • Product Dimensions: 23.3 x 16.1 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 153,865 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best psychology books I've read 3 Jan 2012
By Sami
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a classic in social psychology. Nisbett and Ross, two prolific psychologists, argue that human behaviour is more the result of context than personality, with people often mistakenly inferring the causes of their own and other's behaviour. They highlight that laypeople (and even academic psychologists in everyday life) often ascribe personality traits to explain observed behaviour - John steals because he is dishonest and Jane volunteers at a soup kitchen because she is kind. However, as Walter Mischel first pointed out in Personality and Assessment, existing research shows that cross-situational correlations of personality traits (e.g. conscientiousness at work versus at home) are remarkably low (around .10, which is indistinguishable from no correlation). Instead, Nisbett and Ross point out in a gleefully contrarian manner that it's the situation, and the individual's interpretation of that situation, that determines behaviour.

The highlight of the book for me is that canonical psychology studies are reviewed through the lens of situationism, giving an interesting slant to Milgram's Obedience to Authority studies, Festinger's Theory of Cognitive Dissonance, Latane and Darley's bystander studies, and Asch's 'conformity' experiments (I put the word in inverted commas as Nisbett and Ross correctly point out that the original experiment was as much about independence as it was about conformity, disabusing the much-repeated myth of this classic study).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Caveat emptor! 12 Jan 2012
By dr_sasp
For those who are less than pedantic in purchasing publishing: Malcolm Gladwell is not a main author of this book. He has written the foreward and endorses the text.

This is not apparent when using the Recommendations link, where he is listed first among the authors, or on the Amazon for mobiles app.

Useful and interesting text, nonetheless: just not what I thought I was buying.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The fundamental attribution error 19 July 2012
By DigiTAL
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Perhaps the major insight of social psychology is that situational factors and pressures exert more influence on behaviour than commonly thought. This means that differences in personality are actually far less predictive than we expect. Yes, we see people acting in consistent ways over time -- e.g. someone is often shy and bookish, or alternatively extroverted -- but much of this perceived stability is confounded by our tendency to observe that person across similar social situations. Put that person into a novel area, for example a psychologist's lab (e.g. in the infamous Milgram obedience experiments Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View), and a lot these individual differences will be washed away. For example a majority of subjects ended up giving what they thought were lethal electric shocks in some versions of Milgram's study.

"The fundamental attribution error" was coined by the authors to explain how we tend to underestimate these situational variables in our explanations of others' behaviour, instead attributing their actions to aspects of their personalities. Seeing Bob acting in an abrupt manner makes us think him a rude and inconsiderate person. Interestingly, we're actually more accurate when looking at our own behaviour, being much readier to attribute actions to situational variables -- e.g. having a poor night's sleep.

Perhaps the most liberating aspect of this research is the potential it uncovers for changing behaviour that we dislike both in ourselves and others. For instance the authors share some successful interventions in education and the workplace, and also dissect some less successful studies under the lens of social psychology.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A very informative read! 31 Dec 2011
By Alyson
I found this book to be very well written, giving a thoruogh insight into the major research and philosopies within Social Psychology. I didn't read this book for study purposes so it was a little difficult to get through given the academic language but I imagine it would be a fantastic companion to anyone studying Social Psychology. I am a psychology graduate but I didn't opt to take social psychology as a major option in my degree so this book really added to my knowledge and understanding while also acting as a reminder of what I had previously learned. It's well refenced and would be very useful for essay or report writing. Overall I would definatley recommend this book. well written, well refenced and a great overview!
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