As usual, Gladwell is entertaining and intriguing but skimps on statistical and scientific rigor. It's an enjoyable book, but I never feel at ease wheAs usual, Gladwell is entertaining and intriguing but skimps on statistical and scientific rigor. It's an enjoyable book, but I never feel at ease when reading him, so I classify him as entertainment more than mind-expanding. (And no, I'm not even a serious academic or pedant or literati.)
I found the second half of the book more engaging and interesting than the first.
I find it a bit dissappointing that Gladwell has at times addressed the mind's ability (necessity) to invent rationale for its decisions after the fact and even reverse its memory of judgments that it made, yet the topic doesn't come up in the 'blink'-style evaluation of art forgeries which dominate the beginning of the book and which resurface later. I, for one, am skeptical of the ability of the art experts to recognize forgeries. (Though I will suggest that in a community of a hundred experts, it's no wonder if some subset of that sample avers forgery and then milks their correct prediction for credibility afterward. That's a simple matter of the law of large numbers.)
If you know someone who firmly believes that experts can judge art and recognize a forgery, you might invite them to read "The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick (subtitled "A True Story of Vermeer, Nazis, and the Greatest Art Hoax of the Twentieth Century"). ...more
I really enjoyed the sections on David and Goliath, Lawrence of Arabia, colleges, and dyslexics. However, this book is a good example of how anecdotalI really enjoyed the sections on David and Goliath, Lawrence of Arabia, colleges, and dyslexics. However, this book is a good example of how anecdotal Malcolm Gladwell tends to be. (Contrast it with the more detailed, data-driven analysis of Leavitt and Dubner of Freakconomics.)
This book loses points because some of the material is not presented in a compelling fashion (anecdotal instead of rigorous). Be warned as well that this book is rife with lengthy descriptions of brutality, and it is a darkening thing to read so much of it at one time.
I was ready to believe Gladwell and be wowed when he set the stage for his argument that the penal system is too strict to be optimally effective, But when he laid out his three arguments, my opinion turned completely against him:
1. Meth addicts don't think about the consequences of their actions, so changing the consequences won't influence their actions. 2. A criminal's third arrest tends not to happen until late in his life, just when his criminal activities should be tapering off, So sentencing him to life won't prevent future crimes. (The axiom here is just not supported. Moreover, examples in the book disagree with it.) 3. Some studies show that harsher penalties were effective, but some studies show the opposite, And in 2012 California passed a referendum overturning the "three strikes and you're out" system. This is the best argument of the three, but seriously? Sorry, but having the demos pass a law is far from indicative that the science behind it is correct. And of course some social studies had one results and others had opposite results. That's social science. Gladwell didn't even indicate which side outweighed the other.
Nevertheless, I wholeheartedly agree that the excessive use of force creates legitimacy problems....more