fascinating study of why we misread those we don’t know

Andrew Anthony in The Guardian:

Some years and several books ago, the New Yorker journalist Malcolm Gladwell moved from being a talented writer to a cultural phenomenon. He has practically invented a genre of nonfiction writing: the finely turned counterintuitive narrative underpinned by social science studies. Or if not the inventor then someone so closely associated with the form that it could fall under the title of Gladwellian.

His latest book, Talking to Strangers, is a typically roundabout exploration of the assumptions and mistakes we make when dealing with people we don’t know. If that sounds like a rather vague area of study, that’s because in many respects it is – there are all manner of definitional and cultural issues through which Gladwell boldly navigates a rather convenient path. But in doing so he crafts a compelling story, stopping off at prewar appeasement, paedophilia, espionage, the TV show Friends, the Amanda Knox and Bernie Madoff cases, suicide and Sylvia Plath, torture and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, before coming to a somewhat pat conclusion. The tale begins with Sandra Bland, the African American woman who in July 2015 was stopped by a traffic cop in a small Texas town. She was just about to begin a job at Prairie View A&M University, when a police car accelerated up behind her. Doing what almost all of us would have done, she moved aside to let the car pass. And just like most of us in that situation, she didn’t bother indicating. It was on that technicality that the cop, Brian Encinia, ordered her to pull over.

More here.

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