Tag Archives: Malcolm Gladwell


Slavonic Room, New York Public Library (1919)

I’m a little bemused by my behavior over the last several weeks.

Reality is starting to set in.

As are the migraines – again. But that is another story for another time.

Since I’ve succumbed to the lure of the Library I have made a dent in my non-fiction reading list. Lately it’s been the science of happiness and decision making. I’ve finished “Stumbling on Happiness” by Daniel Gilbert and “How We Decide” by Jonah Lehrer  and have just started on “Nudge” by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein.

I also read “Getting Things Done” which has caused a revolution in how I organize myself. Although I’m still adapting the methodology to my specific project issues. As usual such improvements are ongoing adaptive processes, kind of like Agile Project Management.

But I digress.

I’m reading about decisions and happiness.

What I’ve learned is that we need to recognize the power of our brain to lead us through complicated decisions by absorbing the information – distracting ourselves with something else – then coming back and letting our emotions lead us.

Yes… our emotions not the rational, logical, “thinking” portion of the brain.

The interesting thing is that this works best if we have trained our brain to deal with these types of decisions by deciding things. Like an expert authenticating a work of art who in the first few moments knows that it’s a fake. We thin slice the world and make a gut decision. A decision based on the sum of our life’s work, our experience, and made instantaneous by all the decisions, right and wrong, we’ve made in the past.

But now we are into “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.

It isn’t that we are making an “emotional” decision. It is that our brain is processing the information and making an informed decision that it simply can’t put into concrete actionable concepts. So it pushes us by making us feel pleasure – if it’s decided it wants something, or fear – it its decided that we really shouldn’t go into the lion’s den even though mom isn’t around and those cubs look so cute.

The thing that I find most amazing is not what the research is telling us about happiness or decisions. What amazes me, having spent some time in research science, is the elegance of the experiments. People are difficult to experiment on. Plus there are all these nasty rules that keep us from raising children in dark basements to see what impact it has on their development, or deactivating sections of the brain just to find out what would happen.

Kidding aside, behavioral neural science has to work with people, experiment on people, and create experiments that lead to measureable, repeatable, and statistically relevant data.

I now have pages and pages of bibliography from the books I’ve read to sift through and see which ones I can gain access to, to get a better understanding of the methods involved. But if you want a better understanding of what makes us happy and unhappy, or how best to choose strawberry jam vs. an impressionist painting – read up and enjoy.

~ Tess


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