It’s a unique approach teaching people how to see and communicate effectively by studying works of art, and it’s practically useful to apply these skills to the everyday life no matter what your occupation is. However, the originality cannot support entire 300+ pages. In a lot of sections, the author keeps offering anecdotes as testimonials to back her lengthy advice, obviously good advice but common senses as well. I’d hope the length of the book could be cut in half or include more drawings, which are the most interesting.
Supernatural beliefs are often associated with religions or superstitious. Does it mean that an atheist or a scientifically-trained highly-rational person is immune from super natural thinking?
We try to avoid touching things that criminals have touched or living in the room that people have died, but eager to shake hands with celebrities. We invite FengShui master exam the house before buying in. We enjoy ghost stories and often get frightened by them. We believe certain naturally-produced weird-looking food has healing power although there is not scientific proof of it. We treasure family album and it is the first thing that most people would save if their house got on fire. Every culture has certain colors, numbers and activities that are considered fortunate or unfortunate. In fact, it is often easier to accept the supernatural beliefs than to reject them.
You may shrug them off by thinking that we only do these things to comply with social norms. However, precisely the reason that they become social norms, instead of just individual beliefs, is worth more studies. The studies are often conducted on children, from new-born baby to teenagers, because they have relatively short time to be influenced by the cultures they lived in. It turns out that the supernatural beliefs can often be rooted to our human nature of recognizing the world around us. We have a tendency to look for human’s image from the cloud, the smoke and the foliage of the forest. This is not surprising because the studies show that babies are very sensitive to human faces. We also tend to classify objects and try to group them into some familiar things. This is an important way to expand our knowledge into unknown world. The same behavior can also be seen in children in early ages. In fact, if something is too different and cannot be organized, we often ignore them or even disgust them.
Throughout the book, the author shows us supernatural beliefs are unavoidable no matter how rational or educated we become; at the end, the author tries to conclude that they are maybe a good thing. We learnt them through millions years of evolution and they are programmed in our brain. They are the surviving skills to bring us here and they will continue evolving with us.
This is a fun book to read with good balance of intriguing anecdotes and scientific evidence. I can see myself through the book as I share many supernatural thoughts that I wasn’t aware of, and I find satisfactory explanation that make me “Eureka!”. It is the beauty of science.
The author starts the book with an event around Getty’s collection of a kouros sculpture: how historians hunch the kouros sculpture might be a fake at the first sight, but all the scientific approaches fail to discover. The author then introduces the center phrase of the book, “thin-slicing”, the human ability to grasp the key of the objects in a very short period of time, and argues it is often more accurate then calculated decisions, because the calculated decision can be polluted by overflowed information and specious evident. Gladwell draw more examples ranging from arts, war-simulation, and medicine to advertising, fire-fighting, sports and speed-dating to demonstrate how we rely on this mostly unconscious ability in our day-to-day life.
Then, Gladwell explains mis-using of thin-slice could also lead to unwanted and sometimes devastating results. This is because our snap judgments are greatly influenced by superficial and biased opinions. That is why talk and good-looking guys are more likely to be elected and black people are often linked with violence symbols. The author hopes by analyzing or at least recognizing the failure can help us avoid the misjudgments.
The problem with the book is, even a lot of interesting examples are presented, the author fails to draw any conclusions on how to know if a blink of decision is good or bad and how to train ourselves to better thin-slicing and avoid mistakes. It seems the only conclusion is the snap decision can be either correct or wrong. It is better to rely on the experts and experienced persons because their decisions are more likely to be right. We gain nothing compared with what we know before reading the book.
More importantly, contradict to what the author tries to prove, I believe more information is always better than less. The only reason that more information sometime becomes misleading is because of our lacking of ability to digest the information. The war-simulation is a perfect example; the simulating team maybe loses today, by adjusting the parameters and aiming the right target, with the help more and more computing power, eventually they will be the winner. This is how Deep Blue defeated Kasparov in 1997, and this is how our human beings advanced over tens of thousands of years.