Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell was rather far away

Nonetheless, I could hear perfectly, and I really enjoyed his talk at the MedSci building at U of T yesterday. The man gives good lecture. He was talking about Blink, which I haven't read yet but which is on the painfully long list of books I want to read. It's about how most of the decisions we make -- even the ones we believe we've carefully thought through -- are actually snap decisions, made within a few seconds and grounded in instincts and unconscious biases. The notion that very little human behaviour is really based in rational thought sounds pretty Humean to me -- it's interesting how many current writers in psychology and cognition seem to be riffing on Hume. If you're interested in this stuff and you haven't read An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, you really should. As he usually does, Gladwell illustrated his points with a lot of great anecdotes. He described a study which showed that subjects formed a more accurate assessment of a person's personality after being shown his or her bedroom than after interviewing the person for a job. Perhaps, he said, the job interview should be replaced by "the successful date." I hope not: I can't imagine anyone ever wanting to hire me after seeing the state of my bedroom. And I've had more successful job interviews than successful dates.

Nice to see the auditorium packed for this event, even though it meant I had to stand at the back of the balcony. It was the same at the Charles Taylor event a few months ago. I like what it says about Toronto that people turn out in droves for things like this.

Incidentally, my current frenzy of content generation will not last past the end of reading week. I just want to get enough stuff up to justify this blog's existence. I expect to update maybe two or three times a week under normal circumstances.


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