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Old 25-09-2011, 12:49 PM   #1
Barrett Dorko
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Default Whence instinct II

I remember hearing Burton say that he strongly disagreed with some of the things said by Gladwell in Blink. I had enjoyed both of their books but must say that I feel Burton was right. Trusting our first impression of something or first thoughts about what a situation means isn’t a very good idea. Having these impressions or thoughts however is unavoidable.

This is all made clear in Wray Herbert’s new book, On Second Thought.

Herbert’s primary subject is the heuristic; a commonly used shortcut we all use many times each day in order to proceed from one moment to the next. It seems that heuristics are both formed in ways that are related to our survival and in ways that simply help us make sense of our surroundings. Without them, any movement we make would be accompanied by an uncertainty most would find unbearable.

However acquired, heuristics can rule every decision we make, and it is only in hindsight that we can see how mistaken a decision might have been though at the time it seemed the best choice. Herbert examines dozens of heuristics and I’m sure there are many more. Years ago, I wrote of one I consider fatal.

In any case, heuristics help us survive, they mislead us, we use them to form opinions that are both accurate and wildly untrue and while their tendency to be formed is innate, the ways in which they drive our behavior is powerful and changeable. It is instinctive to have them, but how we use them is another matter.
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It seems they must be examined continually in order to keep them in their place. They are both a useful tool and a destructive force. In the essay linked above I suggest that they have misled my profession because we’ve attended to our own instinct rather than the patient’s.

Thoughts?
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Old 25-09-2011, 06:57 PM   #2
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I think the patient, for the most part, is considered wrong or faulty. We (meaning the patient) give up our reins to the therapist very quickly. Especially when the environment and language quickly bury us into submission.

After 10 years of therapists I can actually challenge them better than I used to. How many patients will learn all that would be needed to learn to do that? Even still I would be quickly overwhelmed with more technical information that I didn't understand.

Although I have lost a little of my excitement for Gladwell's books I do still like them. In Blink didn't he discuss how "thinking without thinking" could also lead us astray? As in when he discussed how the 4 undercover policemen shot the innocent man because they thought his wallet was a gun. Or the fact that police have to wait after a high speed car chase because they will see things (like guns) that aren't there when their adrenaline is at full speed.
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Old 25-09-2011, 10:29 PM   #3
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You're right, Gladwell makes the point that "not thinking" is powerful - just not always accurate. Burton's problem is with something else, but I can't remember exactly what.

On Facebook David Fluecke asks (quite reasonably) whether it's our patient's heuristics we need to attend to or our own.

I think we need to examine both with a great deal more care.
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