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The Storytelling Problem

Malcolm Gladwell, in his new book Blink, takes a look at how people make snap decisions. More specifically, he describes how people make snap decisions without knowing they are doing so. And when asked to explain their reasoning, these people attribute all the wrong reasons to their decisions. This is, according to Gladwell, because we humans have a 'storytelling problem'.

"We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We're a bit to quick to come up with explanations for things we don't really have an explanation for."

This becomes quite apparent when we interview experts. Being experts, these people "thin-slice" most of the time, and that too, in a subconscious manner. When we interview them, we are asking them to peep into their subconscious (their "locked door") and to come up with explanations for their actions. But its difficult for experts to figure out why they do what they do -- they can't open their "locked door" -- so they end up telling us only the most plausible story, which as Gladwell describes, can be far from the truth. It is only with sustained interviews with many experts that we can get some patterns or principles of their "thin-slicing".

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