We need to place more trust in our “thin-slicer”—our capacity to make instant judgments—but we also need to sharpen its edge more keenly with experience and education.
Gladwell’s second entry into the aren’t-our-brains-amazing genre (The Tipping Point, 2000) has an Obi-Wan Kenobi flavor, a “trust-your-feelings-Luke” antirationalism that attempts, in some ways, to deconstruct the Force. The author’s great strength lies in his stories, and here he crafts a number of engaging ones: an account of art experts fooled by a fake; a summary of how a psychologist, looking at an hourlong video of a married couple conversing, can predict with 95% accuracy if they will divorce; an unnerving narrative about the Millennium Challenge, a war game in which a maverick commander deals a devastating blow to the bean-counting rule-followers on the team that was supposed to win. There are stories of a rock star fighting the odds, of cops shooting an innocent man who looked suspicious, of Coca-Cola making a big marketing mistake. We learn about the Aeron chair, All in the Family, Lee at Chancellorsville. (Unconventional people sometimes surprise.) We ponder the odd political rise of Warren G. Harding. We have a power lunch with some professional food-tasters—the author quips that it was like cello-shopping with Yo-Yo Ma. We chat with a car-selling superstar. Gladwell also rediscovers something Poe described in “The Haunted Palace”: our eyes and our faces are windows to the soul. He tells us that the autistic are unable to decode or even notice the facial information of others. All these stories are nicely written and most inform and entertain at the same time, but they don’t add up to anything terribly profound, despite the author’s sometimes Skywalker-ish enthusiasm.
Brisk, impressively done narratives that should sell very well indeed, particularly to Gladwell’s already well-established fan base.