Who’s telling the truth?
Malcolm Gladwell’s new book delves into why we aren’t good at accurately reading other people, and what we can do to make it right
Why do we often get other people wrong? Why is it so hard to detect a lie, read a face or judge a stranger’s motives? Malcolm Gladwell tries to answer these questions in his new book, Talking To Strangers: What We Should Know About The People We Don’t Know.
Don’t get misguided by the title though. The strangers he talks about are not those we meet in our everyday life—the fellow Metro traveller, the ATM queue-jumper, the loud phone-talker. Gladwell’s strangers are people we talk or hear about, including Amanda Knox, the American student who was convicted of murdering her roommate in Italy and later acquitted; Sandra Bland, the African-American woman who was found hanged in a jail cell in Texas, three days after being arrested during a traffic stop; Brock Turner, who was convicted of sexual assault against an intoxicated fellow student; even Lord Halifax, who believed that Adolf Hitler had no intentions of starting a world war.
One of Gladwell’s starting questions is, how is it that we so often are wrong in interpreting a stranger’s behaviour? He answers by using American communication professor, researcher and theorist Timothy R. Levine ’s theory that we have a “default to truth". That is, our “operating assumption is that the people we are dealing with are honest".
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