What the dog saw!

 

Great book – lots of small articles from the past – all very interesting.  Good, easy read.

 

What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures by Malcolm Gladwell

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Last annotated on May 9, 2010

Curiosity about the interior life of other people’s day-to-day work is one of the most fundamental of human impulses,Read more at location 62

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People at the top are self-conscious about what they say (and rightfully so) because they have position and privilege to protect — and self-consciousness is the enemy of “interestingness.”Read more at location 108

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Many years ago, one mustard dominated theRead more at location 486

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My father will sit down and give you theories to explain why he does this or that. But I remember seeing it as a kid and thinking, Jesus Christ, at least half of this is bullshit. I mean, you know the reason he changes his position on the market or whatever is because his back starts killing him. It has nothing to do with reason. He literally goes into a spasm, and it’s this early warning sign.Read more at location 747

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He is a man of moods, and when his world turns dark the eyebrows come together and the eyes narrow and it is as if he were giving off an electrical charge.Read more at location 770

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“We built the protocol, and the reason we did was to tell the guys, Don’t listen to me, listen to the protocol. Now, I have the right to change the protocol, but there is a protocol to changing the protocol. We have to be hard on ourselves to do what we do. The bias we see in Niederhoffer we see in ourselves.”Read more at location 944

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Unlike Niederhoffer, Taleb never thought he was invincible. You couldn’t if you had watched your homeland blow up, and had been the one person in a hundred thousand who gets throat cancer, and so for Taleb there was never any alternative to the painful process of insuring himself against catastrophe.Read more at location 1015

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The truth is that we are drawn to the Niederhoffers of this world because we are all, at heart, like Niederhoffer: we associate the willingness to risk great failure — and the ability to climb back from catastrophe — with courage. But in this we are wrong.Read more at location 1018

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What’s striking is that the little girl’s hair is the same shade of blond as her mother’s. The “Does she or doesn’t she?” print ads always included a child with the mother to undercut the sexual undertones of the slogan — to make it clear that mothers were using Miss Clairol, and not just “fast” women — and, most of all, to provide a precise color match.Read more at location 1094

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companies are at delivering it.” Puzzles are “transmitter-dependent”; they turn on what we are told. Mysteries are “receiver-dependent”; they turn on the skills of the listener, and Macey argues that, asRead more at location 2239

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Puzzles are “transmitter-dependent”; they turn on what we are told. Mysteries are “receiver-dependent”; they turn on the skills of the listener, and Macey argues that,Read more at location 2239

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Power-law problems leave us with an unpleasant choice. We can be true to our principles or we can fix the problem. We cannot do both.Read more at location 2487

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Guilty by Reason of Insanity.Read more at location 2896

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Any patent you received would protect your intellectual property for twenty years, but after that anyone could take your invention. You get an initial monopoly on your creation because we want to provide economic incentives for people to invent things like cancer drugs. But everyone gets to steal your breast-cancer cure — after a decent interval — because it is also in society’s interest to let as many people as possible copy your invention; only then can others learn from it, and build on it, and come up with better and cheaper alternatives. This balance between the protecting and the limiting of intellectual property is, in fact, enshrined in the Constitution: “Congress shall have the power to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited” — note that specification, limited — “Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”Read more at location 2975

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Fischhoff calls this phenomenon “creeping determinism” — the sense that grows on us, in retrospect, that what has happened was actually inevitable — and the chief effect of creeping determinism, he points out, is that it turns unexpected events into expected events.Read more at location 3218

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President had such formidable intelligence on how to attack the economic ills of the Great Depression. In his classic 1967 work Organizational Intelligence, Wilensky pointed out that Roosevelt wouldRead more at location 3309

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the rivalry between the FBI and the CIA is essentially marital, that it is the dysfunction of people who ought to work together but can’t. But it could equally be seen as a version of the marketplace rivalry that leads to companies working harder and making better products.Read more at location 3344

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When that happens, we say variously that people have panicked or, to use the sports colloquialism, choked. But what do those words mean? Both are pejoratives. To choke or panic is considered to be as bad as to quit. But are all forms of failure equal? And what do the forms in which we fail say about who we are and how we think? We live in an age obsessed with success, with documenting the myriad ways by which talented people overcome challenges and obstacles.Read more at location 3405

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Under conditions of stress, however, the explicit system sometimes takes over. That’s what it means to choke.Read more at location 3423

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Stress wipes out short-term memory. People with lots of experience tend not to panic, because when the stress suppresses their short-term memory they still have some residue of experience to draw on.Read more at location 3444

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Panic, in this sense, is the opposite of choking. Choking is about thinking too much. Panic is about thinking too little. Choking is about loss of instinct. Panic is reversion to instinct. They may look the same, but they are worlds apart.Read more at location 3455

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Choking is a central part of the drama of athletic competition, because the spectators have to be there — and the ability to overcome the pressure of the spectators is part of what it means to be a champion. But the same ruthless inflexibility need not govern the rest of our lives. We have to learn that sometimes a poor performance reflects not the innate ability of the performer but the complexion of the audience; and that sometimes a poor test score is the sign not of a poor student but of a good one.Read more at location 3566

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And he was bound by the particular etiquette of choking, the understanding that what he had earned was something less than a victory and what Norman had suffered was something less than a defeat.Read more at location 3587

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When it was all over, Faldo wrapped his arms around Norman. “I don’t know what to say — I just want to give you a hug,” he whispered, and then he said the only thing you can say to a choker: “I feel horrible about what happened. I’m so sorry.” With that, the two men began to cry.Read more at location 3588

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Over the past few years, a group of scholars has begun making the unsettling argument that the rituals that follow things like plane crashes or the Three Mile Island crisis are as much exercises in self-deception as they are genuine opportunities for reassurance. For these revisionists, high-technology accidents may not have clear causes at all. They may be inherent in the complexity of the technological systems we have created.Read more at location 3613

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What caused the accident was the way minor events unexpectedly interacted to create a major problem.Read more at location 3645

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famously called a normal accident. By normal, Perrow does not mean that it is frequent; he means that it is the kind of accident one can expect in the normal functioning of a technologically complex operation. Modern systems, Perrow argues, are made up of thousands of parts, all of which interrelate in ways that are impossible to anticipate. Given that complexity, he says, it is almost inevitable that some combinations of minor failures will eventually amount to something catastrophic.Read more at location 3647

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fundamental tendency to compensate for lower risks in one area by taking greater risks in another.Read more at location 3701

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In other words, the ABS systems were not used to reduce accidents; instead, the drivers used the additional element of safety to enable them to drive faster and more recklessly without increasing their risk of getting into an accident. As economists would say, they consumed the risk reduction, they didn’t save it.Read more at location 3709

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Why did the introduction of childproof lids on medicine bottles lead, according to one study, to a substantial increase in fatal child poisonings? Because adults became less careful in keeping pill bottles out of the reach of children.Read more at location 3714

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Sweden changed over from driving on the left-hand side of the road to driving on the right, a switch that one would think would create an epidemic of accidents. But, in fact, the opposite was true. People compensated for their unfamiliarity with the new traffic patterns by driving more carefully. During the next twelve months, traffic fatalities dropped 17 percent before returning slowly to their previous levels.Read more at location 3717

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The top eleven are, in order, T. S. Eliot’s “Prufrock,” Robert Lowell’s “Skunk Hour,” Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” William Carlos Williams’s “Red Wheelbarrow,” Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Fish,” Ezra Pound’s “The River Merchant’s Wife,” Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy,” Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,” Frost’s “Mending Wall,” Wallace Stevens’s “The Snow Man,” and Williams’s “The Dance.”Read more at location 3783

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On the road to great achievement, the late bloomer will resemble a failure: while the late bloomer is revising and despairing and changing course and slashing canvases to ribbons after months or years, what he or she produces will look like the kind of thing produced by the artist who will never bloom at all. Prodigies are easy. They advertise their genius from the get-go. Late bloomers are hard. They require forbearance and blind faith.Read more at location 3876

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To her, ten years didn’t seem unreasonable. “It takes a while to decide whether you like something or not,” she says. And when ten years became twelve and then fourteen and then sixteen, and the kids were off in high school, she stood by him, because, even during that long stretch when Ben had nothing published at all, she was confident that he was getting better. She was fine with the trips to Haiti, too. “I can’t imagine writing a novel about a place you haven’t at least tried to visit,” she says. She even went with him once, and on the way into town from the airport there were people burning tires in the middle of the road.Read more at location 3933

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All this came before Vollard agreed to sit 150 times, from eight in the morning to eleven-thirty, without a break, for a picture that Cézanne disgustedly abandoned. Once, Vollard recounted in his memoir, he fell asleep, and toppled off the makeshift platform. Cézanne berated him, incensed: “Does an apple move?” This is called friendship.Read more at location 3969

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This is the quarterback problem. There are certain jobs where almost nothing you can learn about candidates before they start predicts how they’ll do once they’re hired. So how do we know whom to choose in cases like that?Read more at location 4030

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Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year.Read more at location 4044

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The problem with picking quarterbacks is that Chase Daniel’s performance can’t be predicted. The job he’s being groomed for is so particular and specialized that there is no way to know who will succeed at it and who won’t. In fact, Berri and Simmons found no connection between where a quarterback was taken in the draft — that is, how highly he was rated on the basis of his college performance — and how well he played in the pros.Read more at location 4113

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People like Deutschlander are referred to as gatekeepers, a title that suggests that those at the door of a profession are expected to discriminate — to select who gets through the gate and who doesn’t.Read more at location 4231

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He wrote many books, including Instant Shrink: How to Become an Expert Psychiatrist in Ten Easy Lessons.Read more at location 4282

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writes in his memoir, Casebook of a Crime Psychiatrist. “I’d seen that look before, mostRead more at location 4284

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In Inside the Mind of BTK, the eminent FBI criminal profiler John Douglas tells the story of a serial killer who stalked the streets of Wichita, Kansas, in the 1970s and ’80s.Read more at location 4317

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His first two bestsellers, Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit and Obsession: The FBI’s Legendary Profiler Probes the Psyches of Killers, Rapists, and Stalkers and Their Victims and Tells How to Fight Back,Read more at location 4330

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“Generally, a psychiatrist can study a man and make a few reasonable predictions about what the man may do in the future — how he will react to such-and-such a stimulus, how he will behave in such-and-such a situation,” Brussel writes. “What I have done is reverse the terms of the prophecy. By studying a man’s deeds, I have deduced what kind of man he might be.”Read more at location 4345

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What I try to do with a case is to take in all the evidence I have to work with… and then put myself mentally and emotionally in the head of the offender. I try to think as he does. Exactly how this happens, I’m not sure, any more than the novelists such as Tom Harris who’ve consulted me over the years can say exactly how their characters come to life. If there’s a psychic component to this, I won’t run from it.Read more at location 4368

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The magician Ian Rowland, in his classic The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading, itemizesRead more at location 4469

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You have just been promoted to head of an important department in your organization. The previous head has been transferred to an equivalent position in a less important department. Your understanding of the reason for the move is that the performance of the department as a whole has been mediocre. There have not been any glaring deficiencies, just a perception of the department as so-so rather than very good. Your charge is to shape up the department. Results are expected quickly. Rate the quality of the following strategies for succeeding at your new position. a) Always delegate to the most junior person who can be trusted with the task. b) Give your superiors frequent progress reports. c) Announce a major reorganization of the department that includes getting rid of whomever you believe to be “dead wood.” d) Concentrate more on your people than on the tasks to be done. e) Make people feel completely responsible for their work. Wagner finds that how well people do on a test like this predicts how well they will do in the workplace: good managers pick (b) and (e); bad managers tend to pick (c). Yet there’s no clear connection between such tacit knowledge and other forms of knowledge and experience. The process of assessing ability in the workplace is a lot messier than it appears.Read more at location 4597

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In the early 1990s, the psychologists Robert Hogan, Robert Raskin, and Dan Fazzini wrote a brilliant essay called “The Dark Side of Charisma.” It argued that flawed managers fall into three types. One is the High Likability Floater, who rises effortlessly in an organization because he never takes any difficult decisions or makes any enemies. Another is the Homme de Ressentiment, who seethes below the surface and plots against his enemies. The most interesting of the three is the Narcissist, whose energy and self-confidence and charm lead him inexorably up the corporate ladder. Narcissists are terrible managers. They resist accepting suggestions, thinking it will make them appear weak, and they don’t believe that others have anything useful to tell them. “Narcissists are biased to take more credit for success than is legitimate,”Read more at location 4650

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The students who believed that their intelligence was a fixed trait were so concerned about appearing to be deficient that they preferred to stay home.Read more at location 4678

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“Students who hold a fixed view of their intelligence care so much about looking smart that they act dumb,” Dweck writes, “for what could be dumber than giving up a chance to learn something that is essential for your own success?”Read more at location 4679

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They simply did what people do when they are immersed in an environment that celebrates them solely for their innate “talent.” They begin to define themselves by that description, and when times get tough and that self-image is threatened, they have difficulty with the consequences. They will not take the remedial course. They will not stand up to investors and the public and admit that they were wrong. They’d sooner lie.Read more at location 4687