Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li


I've been intrigued by Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, and when one of amberley's boxes revealed a copy of his Blink, I dove right in, and read it right through in two days. (DO check out the online references and bibliography... it's well worth doing). I'd highly recommend Blink to anyone that wants a better understanding of how people react, sometimes better than when they try to think things through.

It's all about the human ability to decide things on very little data and in very short amounts of time; and how those decisions can be very very good when faced with a mountain of possible data to be sifted through or how those decisions can be very, very bad given a short time frame, pressure, and subconscious biases already formed. I think the most interesting part of it has to do with the fact that what we consciously think often doesn't affect how we react or feel as much as many people would like to believe it does. Including me.

The most profoundly disturbing of them was the exercise on choosing to shoot or not-shoot on a split second glimpse at the situation. Mildly less disturbing was how much more time it takes to associate people of color to "good" things.

There were lots of intriguing things in the book. Two of which really struck me lately.

One was the whole idea that the subconscious reacts and gives gut feels about certain things that the logical, conscious mind cannot, sometimes, explain. That even experts in a field that get good gut reactions about stuff can't always tell why or how or what exactly it was that triggered their instincts. But what makes them expert is that they have the vocabulary and training in order to differentiate when they really have to think it through. And that an uninformed split second decision is often better than what happens when someone is asked to think it through as to why they liked or preferred one thing to the other. That the process of 'making a story' for a subconscious decision often blurs the usefulness of the conclusion into nothing but random chance.

I suspect that the holy grail of what's in my AI/Human interaction stories is going to be there. In the junction where Cyteen's Flux decision-makers and the biological equipment all geared towards recognition of people, situations, and taking a thousand factors and only paying attention to the two that are necessary lies.

The second thing was that the correlation one might expect isn't the one that's there; but the expectation is what makes a lie feel like the truth.

There was an extensive study by insurance companies to figure out what made it more or less likely for a doctor to be sued for malpractice. There was no correlation between years in service, where the degrees were from, what internships were served where, specialization, or even with the number of actual mistakes made by the doctor and their staff. Yeah. NO correlation between how many mistakes they made and how often they were sued for malpractice. None.

The strongest correlation had to do with the snap decision that nearly anyone could make (they tested the judgment of hundreds of random test subjects and the correlation rate was amazing) listening to a thirty second tape of the doctor speaking to one of their patients. Did the doctor speak to their patient with a respectful tone? Did it seem like the doctor was apt to listen to the patient? It turns out that people will not sue a doctor that they like; and a doctor that treats people as if their opinion and problems don't matter is far more likely to be sued even if they're the most talented, capable, and brilliant physician on record.

Also, all the dozens of possible factors that might go with whether or not chest pains need to be treated boiled down to just three things that actually mattered; but because the decision was one that could result in life or death, people were really unhappy with relying on just those three things when they use to use all those dozens of things to justify their decision, even after those other things could be shown to have no correlation.

It really made me think about people and about how often they like to think they're doing rational things, and how rare it actually seems to be; and now it just makes so much more sense to me. *laughs* The best thing is that it gave me more meat on why I might act irrationally, not just beat myself up over the fact that I do.

The book gave me a lot to think about.
Tags: books, review

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