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We all have tastes. For instance, Tom Vanderbilt doesn't particularly care for white cars or fennel - even if he doesn't quite know why. Taste is an incredible fuzzy construct: Everyone has likes and preferences, but what do actually know about them? How do we acquire tastes, and how do they change? Why does our taste in the moment not reflect our taste in the future? And yet, as arbitrary as taste can often seem to be, consider how much taste governs our lives, how much we set sail by our unassailable tastes, how many times in an average day we make what psychologists call an "affective judgment," expressing one's like or dislike of something. How do we know what we like? What stories do we tell ourselves about those preferences, and how do we explain them? How stable are these likes and dislikes? Under what conditions do our tastes change, on an individual and societal level? Is there such a thing as "universal" taste? There is, the cliche goes, "no accounting for taste." But what if there was?
Tom Vanderbilt writes on design, technology, science, and culture for many publications, including Wired, Slate, The London Review of Books, The Wall Street Journal, Artforum, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine and Popular Science. He is contributing editor to award-winning design magazines I.D. and Print, contributing editor to Business Week Online, and contributing writer of the popular blog Design Observer. He is the author of three previous books: Trafic: Why we drive the way we do (and what it says about us), Survival City: Adventures Among the Ruins of Atomic America and The Sneaker Book.