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Tom Vanderbilt

Journalist and New York Times-bestselling author of Traffic

  • About Tom Vanderbilt

    Tom Vanderbilt writes on design, technology, science, and culture, among other subjects, for many publications, including Wired, Slate, Gourmet, The Wall Street Journal, Men’s Vogue, Travel and Leisure, Rolling Stone, The New York Times Magazine, and Popular Science. He is a contributing editor of Wired (UK), Outside, and Artforum.

    His book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) became a New York Times bestseller. Based on exhaustive research and interviews with driving experts and traffic officials around the globe, Traffic gets under the hood of the everyday activity of driving to uncover the surprisingly complex web of physical, psychological, and technical factors that explain how traffic works, why we drive the way we do, and what our driving says about us. In You May Also Like: Taste in an Age of Endless Choice, Vanderbilt turns to the question of taste, why we like the things we do, and how companies are managing the torrent of online information to effectively market to consumers.

    Tom Vanderbilt has given lectures at colleges and business conferences and has appeared on a wide variety of radio and television programs around the world, including NBC’s Today show, ABC’s Nightline, NPR’s Morning Edition and Fresh Air with Terry Gross, the BBC’s World Service and The One Show, Fox Business, and CNN’s World Business Today, among many others.

    He has been a visiting scholar at NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, a research fellow at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a fellow at the Design Trust for Public Space, and a winner of the Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant, among other honors. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.

  • Speaking Topics

    Taste in an Age of Endless Choice

    Why do people like the things they like? What do these preferences reveal about them, and how can we tell the difference between what people say they like and their actual habits as consumers? In this lecture, Vanderbilt stalks the elusive beast of taste, probing research in psychology, marketing, and neuroscience to show how people make their consumption choices. Using examples from digital giants like Netflix and Spotify, Vanderbilt examines human behavior and shows audiences how companies are harnessing this information in an age where taste has moved online.

    Objects in Mirror Are More Complicated Than They Appear

    In this lecture, Vanderbilt presents findings from his New York Times bestselling book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us). He discusses the dynamics of traffic flow, the social interactions of drivers, the perceptual illusions and cognitive biases that humans behind the wheel are prone to, the relationship between the built environment and our behavior, among other aspects of this complex, yet overlooked, everyday activity.

  • Video

  • Praise for Tom Vanderbilt


    We would like to thank Tom for his important contribution to the success of the 13th European Trend Day. His presentation was thought-provoking and very well received. This also showed in the enthusiastic feedback that we have received from our participants.


    Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute

    Praise for Beginners

    As I’ve gotten older, I’ve discovered that I still want to be an expert at something - anything - even though life, alas, offers so few middle-aged opportunities to learn something new. Which is why it was so wonderful to find Tom Vanderbilt’s book. He explores how to learn completely new skills, how to change our world - even after we’re supposed to be done with schooling. This is a book about how to become a beginner again, and it makes you want to plunge in with both feet.

    Charles Duhigg, best-selling author of The Power of Habit and Smarter Faster Better

    Praise for You May Also Like

    Vanderbilt is an intelligent writer, and there is a lot of interesting material in You May Also Like… Intrepid…Vanderbilt is able to identify two factors that have repeatedly been shown to have a significant influence on taste. One is social consensus; the other is familiarity. We get attracted to things that we see other people are attracted to, and we like things more the longer we like them.

    Louis Menand, The New Yorker

    [A] lively, wide-ranging study… The footnotes have a David Foster Wallace-like wit as Vanderbilt calls our attention to such issues as whether people find donuts less yummy if they taste them in a salmon cannery and whether rats enjoy grape Kool-Aid more if it is infused directly into their stomachs… Convincing… Quite funny… Clear and engaging… He is to be commended for the sheer range of material he makes accessible.

    Lisa Zeidner, The Washington Post

    A tour through the world of human preferences and the companies that try to divine them… [Vanderbilt is an] amiable and thorough guide to a subject that can get either fussy or murky fairly quickly, and he has an obsessive determination to get to the bottom of something we exercise so often and unthinkingly we tend to take it for granted.

    Jennifer Szalai, The New York Times Book Review

    Vanderbilt is a skillful synthesizer, and You May Also Like is full of unexpected connections... [He] bounces the insights of modern data scientists off the work of generations of critics, economists, neuroscientists, philosophers, psychologists, and sociologists. Taste, we learn, is an extremely relative phenomenon currently swerving through an age of extreme relativity… [Vanderbilt’s] key takeaway is that taste remains a complex and erratic phenomenon that’s endlessly shifting according to environmental, physical, and social pressures.

    Felix Gillette, Bloomberg
  • Books by Tom Vanderbilt

  • Media About Tom Vanderbilt

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Tom Vanderbilt travels from Brooklyn, New York

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