The Accidental Guru

Sunday, January 2nd, 2005

Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, has a new book coming out, Blink, about how we make snap judgments. Tyler Cowen describes Malcolm Gladwell as “one of the most influential economic (and social) journalists today” and points us toward this profile, The Accidental Guru:

The impetus for Blink started with Gladwell’s hair (as did his brief splash in the gossip pages when he got ‘a little too close to some candles’ and it ignited during a recent literary event, according to the New York Post‘s Page Six). For most of his adult life, he had worn it closely cropped, but several years ago decided to let it grow out into a woolly Afro. ‘The first thing that started happening was I started getting speeding tickets. . . . I wasn’t driving any faster than I was before, I was just getting pulled over way more.’ Then there was the day Gladwell was walking around New York and cops surrounded him, mistaking him for a rape suspect. ‘I’m exactly the same person I was before,’ recalls Gladwell, who’s half black (his mother, a therapist, is Jamaican). ‘But I just altered the way someone makes up very superficial, rapid judgments about me.’ Rather than merely grouse — legitimately enough — about prejudice, Gladwell, who has the tendency to look in on his own life as a case study, was inspired to try to understand what happens beneath the surface of rapidly made decisions. ‘The idea that something that is extraordinarily harmful in society could be exactly the same in its form as something that’s incredibly useful is really interesting to me.’

Leave a Reply