Sam Sommers

  • Award-Winning Psychology Professor and Researcher

Sam Sommers is an award-winning teacher and researcher of social psychology at Tufts University in Medford, MA.  At Tufts, Sommers is known for his engaging and humorous lecture style and has won multiple teaching awards, including his selection by the student senate as the Professor of the Year in 2009.  He earned his PhD from the University of Michigan, and his research specialties include how people think, communicate, and behave in diverse settings, as well as psychological perspectives on the United States legal system.  His research has been featured by media outlets including Good Morning America, National Public Radio, Harper’s Magazine, MSNBC, the London Times, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.  

His first book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World combined behavioral science findings with pop culture analysis, examples from politics and sports, and personal anecdotes to offer an accessible exploration of the invisible forces shaping our daily lives. In his new book, This is Your Brain on Sports, Sommers teams up with L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated to explore what the world of sports has to teach us about business success, leadership, coaching, parenting, and human nature more generally.  

 
  

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Smart, funny, and brimming with insights.

A Sample of the Groups That Have Hosted Sam Sommers
  • Harvard Business School Professor
  • Harvard University
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The Psychology of Unethical and Biased Behavior

Our knee-jerk response to ethically dubious or outrageous behavior is to rely upon a bad apples explanation (i.e., bad people are to blame for bad things). In reality, there’s much more to it, as any compliance official knows. Drawing upon examples from business, sports, and other domains, thi ...

Our knee-jerk response to ethically dubious or outrageous behavior is to rely upon a bad apples explanation (i.e., bad people are to blame for bad things). In reality, there’s much more to it, as any compliance official knows. Drawing upon examples from business, sports, and other domains, this talk explores the ways in which unethical behaviors are often surprisingly context-dependent, incremental, unintentional, and contagious.

The Curse of Expertise: Why the Best Players Make the Worst Coaches

Across sports, there is no shortage of examples of elite players who have tried their hands at coaching and front office positions with less than impressive results. Explanations for this tendency abound, but an important and often overlooked factor is what behavioral scientists refer to as the cur ...

Across sports, there is no shortage of examples of elite players who have tried their hands at coaching and front office positions with less than impressive results. Explanations for this tendency abound, but an important and often overlooked factor is what behavioral scientists refer to as the curse of expertise: as people become more expert in performing a given task, we simultaneously tend to become worse at explaining this performance to others. This talk considers the curse of expertise in sports, as well as business and other endeavors in which transmitting knowledge from one entity to another is essential, and identifies strategies for overcoming it. 

Lessons from Sports for Making Better Decisions

Why do fans fling themselves over upper-level railings to catch free t-shirts they wouldn’t spend a dollar of their own money on? Why do front offices pull the trigger and fire head coaches so frequently despite evidence that doing so hurts rather than helps teams in the long run? Why does roo ...

Why do fans fling themselves over upper-level railings to catch free t-shirts they wouldn’t spend a dollar of their own money on? Why do front offices pull the trigger and fire head coaches so frequently despite evidence that doing so hurts rather than helps teams in the long run? Why does rooting for a losing team cement identity in a way that rooting for a winner can’t duplicate? This talk explores these and other questions, as well as the lessons they offer for consumer psychology, brand loyalty, personnel decisions, and other domains related to improving decision-making in your professional and personal life.

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<p>This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-shirt Cannon.</p>

This Is Your Brain on Sports: The Science of Underdogs, the Value of Rivalry, and What We Can Learn from the T-shirt Cannon.

Publishers Weekly gives a brief synopsis of this captivating work.

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Biography

Sam Sommers, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at Tufts University, where he was named Professor the Year and has won multiple teaching awards. Sommers is an expert on the psychology of everyday life, having published dozens of research articles on how people think, communicate, and make decisions. His first book, Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World combined behavioral science findings with pop culture analysis, examples from politics and sports, and personal anecdotes to offer an accessible exploration of the invisible forces shaping our daily lives. In his new book, This is Your Brain on Sports, Sommers teams up with L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated to explore what the world of sports has to teach us about business success, leadership, parenting, and human nature more generally. Sommers regularly speaks to audiences on topics such as organizational culture/climate, the psychology of unethical behavior and bias, judgment and decision-making, and the obstacles of translating personal expertise into effective leadership.