Saturday, October 02, 2004

"Momemtary Autism"

Writer Malcolm Gladwell (author of The Tipping Point) gave a presentation today at The New Yorker Festival about his forthcoming release, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, published by Little, Brown with a January 2005 release date.

The premise of his new book overlaps with neuroscience, psychology, and social psychology. What happens to our thinking and decision-making skills when an acute event locks us into an immediate choice? Using circumstances from notable police events (e.g., the 1999 shooting of Amadou Diallo or the beating of Rodney King), Gladwell describes how acute physiological reactivity (e.g., resulting in the senses of tunnel vision, reduced auditory processing, and subjective time slowing) and the immediacy of time demands (one second, two seconds) results in the acute loss of social context and in the ability to engage in so-called "mind reading" of the other person --- "...social blunders with guns..." and "instantaneous moments when things go wrong, leading to heartbreak..." is how he phrased it at times. Discussing some psychological research, he outlined the fragility of human cognitive skills in acute situations that take us from our sophisticated abilities to the momemtary autism of the moment.

His book also examines the flip side of this, which he calls "thin slicing," when intuition kicks in accurately despite the most minimum of information.

I don't know how in depth he gets with his neuroscientific source material, but it sounds like it could be a good read early in the new year.

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