Friday, January 07, 2005

I Track Culture So You Don't Have To

I've been a Malcolm Gladwell fan for a long time. He's the science writer for the New Yorker, and several years ago produced his first book, The Tipping Point, which is about how ideas diffuse in social systems (or as he puts it, "social epidemics"). It explains, among other things, why VHS beat out Betamax, why Rudy Gullliani was able to clean up the NY subway system, and why one Chicago grandmother is a power broker of enormous national influence.

Great book, and it puts his talent of making reams of academic literature and research accessible on full display.

It's on display again in his latest book, Blink, which while not officially available, I was for some reason able to buy at an airport news kiosk this past Tuesday. Blink is about rapid cognition (or as Gladwell puts it, "thinking that happens in the blink of an eye"): gut reactions and first impressions and why, very often, they are equally or more reliable than lots of analysis ... unless they're not, as they often aren't when people instantly think tall people are more credible and black people are more dangerous.

Really cool book. Read it (and trust your instincts).


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