More musings on books

This isn't book reviews, just a few resonances set off from my reading matter... 

Malcolm Gladwell 'Blink'

One of the least put-downable books I've picked up in the past year. I completed it within about two days of buying it - having got stuck into one of the chapters whilst still in Boku. Once I've bought a book, strangely I like to go to Amazon and find out what others are saying about it, to see if I concur. Passing quickly over Nick Dale's 'Yawn' we reach John Self's award of five stars. Yeah, Mr Gladwell is a powerful writer, and yes, he's a bit fond of cliches. But he's really written an engineer's book on psychology here - more dense and filled with practical applications than the books he draws on. One of the books I haven't yet finished, despite having it on the go for more than four years, is Damasio's 'Descartes Error', and 'Blink' draws on some of this book, even quoting a part. The work he cites of Damasio is parallel to my remarks on Andy Grove's book, so I'll unpack a little here.

There' s an experiment with a couple of packs of cards,  The subject has to decide which pack to draw a card from in order to win the most money. One pack gives high returns but occasionally massive hits. The other pack gives lower returns but no big hits. Most people eventually work out which pack to draw cards from and learn to ignore the other one ( brain damaged ones don't though, which is Damasio's angle ). What happens is that body responses ( sweating I seem to recall ) precede the awareness that one pack is no good by around ten card turns. So this experiment once again demonstrates the relative slowness of awareness, if we needed more evidence !

Other stuff is no less fascinating - especially the meeting with Paul Ekman. Ekman's own book is excellent, but in 'Blink' we really have a very concise distillation of the salient discoveries Ekman has made, plus a few more personal anecdotes about the man himself. As Teresa said to me 'it would be rather difficult to be Ekman's wife or girlfriend' since he's clearly brilliant at reading minds from people's micro-expressions. The anecdote about Bill Clinton is priceless.