What is the difference between choking and panicking? Why are there dozens of varieties of mustard but only one variety of ketchup? What do football players teach us about how to hire teachers? What does hair dye tell us about the history of the 20th century?
In the past decade, Malcolm Gladwell has written three books that have radically changed how we understand our world and ourselves: The Tipping Point, Blink, and Outliers. Now, in What the Dog Saw, he brings together, for the first time, the best of his writing from The New Yorker over the same period.
Here you’ll find the bittersweet tale of the inventor of the birth control pill, and the dazzling creations of pasta sauce pioneer Howard Moscowitz. Gladwell sits with Ron Popeil, the king of the American kitchen, as he sells rotisserie ovens, and divines the secrets of Cesar Millan, the “dog whisperer”
Who can calm savage animals with the touch of his hand? He explores intelligence tests and ethnic profiling and why it was that employers in Silicon Valley once tripped over themselves to hire the same college graduate.
What The Dog Saw and Other Adventures PDF
In his essay on Enron (Open Secrets), Gladwell considers the difference between puzzles and mysteries. With puzzles, we just need more information to answer the question. Gladwell is more interested in mysteries; however, where our wisdom can help us pull together diverse information, sort it, and subsequently see our world more clearly.
We like puzzles with simple answers: “I’ll make America great again.” (How???). We like to know that the right person can step up and set the world right – as there is a simple, missing piece that can solve the puzzle.
Instead, Gladwell pokes at and appreciates mysteries. We trust mammograms and other photographic proofs, but Gladwell demonstrates that mammograms are often read with poor reliability. He answers questions using unexpected information, as in Troublemakers, where he writes about pit bulls in order to understand crime and racial profiling.
The pit bulls he wrote about don’t seem like the gentle dogs I’ve met – and even as I began thinking this, he observed, “not all pit bulls are dangerous. Most don’t bite anyone”. He is willing to see the generalizations, but then observes how his generalizations are overly glib: “A pit-bull ban is a generalization about a generalization about a trait that is not, in fact, general”.
He can find these mysteries anywhere. How should we write ads? In True Colors, Gladwell argues that the brilliance of Shirley Polykoff’s and Ilon Specht’s differing campaigns for, respectively, Clairol and L’Oreal, is that they connected with women’s deep psychological needs. Clairol’s slogan, Does she or doesn’t she?
Recognized women’s desires to assimilate to the expectations of the larger culture: to look blonde and WASPy, yet no one knows the difference. L’Oreal’s later campaign, Because I’m worth it, asked women to consider their inherent worth.
L’Oreal’s even later shift to Because YOU’RE worth it reflects women’s difficulties in acknowledging their self-worth, but also our willingness to advocate for other women. Think about these campaigns in terms of what women could imagine for themselves and what the advertising industry was willing to imagine for them.
It was a mystery, but in Gladwell’s hands, this mystery become clear. What is exciting about Gladwell’s books, then, is that he takes something particular – a dog attack, an advertising campaign, a mammogram – and finds something unexpected and bigger in it. And that’s what writing should do for us: enlarge our worlds.
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|Book Title||What The Dog Saw and Other Adventures|