Then what does that person in authority do? Were you certain that you saw what you thought you saw? Is the person in authority certain of your certainty? And what about his or her superior? In reality most of us have a predisposition to doubt out-of-the-ordinary occurrences.
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Nassar turned out to be a profile abuser. But he was inadvertently protected by parents because, by and large, we assume people — especially those in positions of power — are acting in accordance with our expectations. And when some people did sound alarm bells, the authorities chose to dismiss their concerns because they seemed too incredible. It turns out that a large majority of us are pretty bad at spotting liars. Even supposed specialists in the field are not very good at it.
A study of New York criminal judges found that they scored about as well as random selection when deciding who should and should not be granted bail. But what does all this have to do with Bland? Well, when we try to systemise doubt, argues Gladwell, we empower our worst instincts. If it was suspicion that formed the basis of all interaction between strangers, we would never have learned to cooperate on such a vast and complex scale. In other words, the price of liberty for innocents such as Bland might be allowing the occasional prolific paedophile and con artist to escape early detection.
But his book is seldom less than a fascinating study of gullibility and the social necessity of trusting strangers.
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To order a copy go to guardianbookshop. Topics Society books The Observer. Malcolm Gladwell reviews. Reuse this content. We're looking forward to another great year! They're doing great work on the first day of class!
The first day of school is off to a great start for Green Magnet Academy! Jump to. Sections of this page.
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