You May Also Like | Tom Vanderbilt

Summary of: You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice
By: Tom Vanderbilt


Imagine being surrounded by an endless array of choices, from food to clothing, and even music. In his book ‘You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice,’ Tom Vanderbilt explores the complexities of preferences and how they shape our lives. Discover how various factors such as childhood experiences, association with pleasurable sensations, evolutionary wiring, and social influences impact our tastes. Delve into the world of algorithms and their role in curating choices for us, and learn how changes in taste and trends can influence our decisions and opinions. This engaging summary will demystify the intricate conundrum that is individual taste for readers from all walks of life.

The Complexities of Preference

Preferences are not as simple as choosing a favorite color. They are contextual and constructed, influenced by personal experiences and associations. Humans are inherently comparative, often liking things because others do. While taste is rarely congenital, it can be influenced by pleasures experienced in infancy. As children grow older, their preferences change based on new associations. Understanding the complexities of preference can help to explain why we like what we like.

How Evolution Shapes Our Food Preferences

Our evolutionary history affects our food preferences, making us wired to crave sweet and avoid bitter tastes. Additionally, our cultural upbringing overrides some of our instincts, as we begin to enjoy foods made bitter by cultural practices. Memory and anticipation also influence what we like to eat. Our recollection of a positive culinary experience can lead us to repeat it, and our expectation of pleasure guides our food choices.

Algorithms and User Reviews

In today’s media-saturated world, algorithms are increasingly being used to help users make choices. By analyzing user data, algorithms can offer tailored recommendations that are often more accurate than relying solely on user ratings. Yelp and other review sites that depend on user feedback can also be problematic due to potential distortions. High ratings can lead to backlash from unhappy customers, and people tend to be overly concerned with how their ratings might appear to others. Ultimately, user reviews can be less about the quality of a product and more about the social effects of others’ preferences.

Music Taste: Clues to Who We Are

Music is a form of individual expression that showcases our personality, political viewpoints, and cultural leanings. Our taste in music can reveal our character, but it never tells the whole story. While the music we enjoy can indicate belonging to a community or individuality, it can also be influenced by our upbringing. It’s too easy to make assumptions about a person based on their preferences, as generalizations don’t always provide accurate conclusions. Nevertheless, our musical preferences can offer a window into who we are, our ideals, and aspirations.

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