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Taste in an Age of Endless Choice
Everyone knows his or her favourite colour, the foods we most enjoy, and which season of The Sopranos deserves the most stars on Netflix. But what does it really mean when we like something? How do we decide what's good? Is it something biological? What is the role of our personal experiences in shaping our tastes? And how do businesses make use of this information? Comprehensively researched and singularly insightful, You May Also Like delves deep into psychology, marketing and neuroscience to answer these complex and fascinating questions.
From the tangled underpinnings of our food choices, to the discrete dynamics of the pop charts and our playlists, to our non-stop procession of 'thumbs' and 'likes' and 'stars,' to our insecurity before unfamiliar works of art, the book explores how we form our preferences - and how they shape us. It explains how difficult it is, even for experts, to pinpoint exactly what makes something good or enjoyable, and how the success of companies like Netflix, Spotify and Yelp! depends on the complicated task of predicting what we will enjoy. Like Traffic, this book takes us on a fascinating and consistently surprising intellectual journey that helps us better understand how we perceive and appreciate the world around us.
In his previous book, Vanderbilt (Traffic) wrote about why people drive the way they do. In this expansive follow-up, he takes a deep look at why people like what they like. Vanderbilt covers the topic exhaustively, examining varied social and psychological factors. He interviews, among other people, the vice president of product innovation for Netflix, the principal engineer at "music intelligence" company Echo Nest, and a Dutch psychologist who also happens to be a judge at a Paris cat show. In each chapter, he explores a different area of taste, including food, social networks, music playlists, and art. As he concludes (in a pithy "field guide to liking"), "Trying to explain, or understand, any one person's particular tastes including one's own is always going to be a maddeningly elusive and idiosyncratic enterprise." Reading this book will cause readers to think twice before clicking "like" on Facebook, rating a film on Netflix, or ordering what the server says is the menu's most popular item.