Friday, July 29, 2016

You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt ****

"I like this." What does it mean that we like something?
You May Also Like by Tom Vanderbilt makes it clear that that tastes are transient both for individuals and for societies. In the short term, our preferences are are consistent, but in the long run, they vary significantly. In experiments where people could not remember making a choice, that choice still influenced there preferences.
"We seem to have a preference that we prefer our preferences."
The act of choosing leaves a lasting impact on our likes.

A word on the title: You May Also Like. This title misled me to believe that there would be a lot about recommendation engines such as those used by Netflix and Amazon. There was one chapter (it was great), but most of the research was about food, beer, and cats. Much of this latter research is older and has been presented before.

As a senior citizen, I found myself thinking that the entire question of taste and style, identifying the best, and striving for excellence is a pastime of younger folks. I could not identify with the urgency and dedication to selecting be best beer or music. Could it be that the drive for comparison with peers is something that wanes with maturity? Or could it be that we've seen so many fashions come and go that the ebb and flow of style is no longer interesting?

This book is fascinating because tastes are so contradictory. Like rats, we are neophobic omnivores. We will eat anything, but are wary of new foods. This is balanced by food monotony, where we resist eating the same thing day after day (except for breakfast, and 3rd world societies). An enjoyable read with lots of stories of scientific studies and judging food, beer, and cats.

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