I’m working on my thesis (trying to start actually) and listening in background at Malcolm Gladwell’s talk at SXSW Interactive 2005 (hosted at itconversations.com). I undestand 30% (also because I’m not paying attention) but I guess this is useful anyway for my English (get new words, listen to correct accent). People often laugh and this probably means that Gladwell’s talk is also funny (and profound).
He is speaking about “how we make decisions and, more importatly, about how we don’t realize how many biases are behind our daily decisions”. I got news of this podcast (mp3 of a talk) via a post on Corante that is very interesting, since it is a short description of what Malcom is speaking about. [UPDATE: a complete (?) description by Nancy White] In particular there is an interesting point. At a point in time, only 5% of musicians in orchestras were women (and there were many theories explaining the reasons). Then, Orchestra unions decided to force all auditions to be behind a screen to reduce favoritism.Guess what happened? The percentage of women musicians in orchestras raised quickly from 5% to 50%. Read the following and the entire article on corante and listen Malcolm Gladwell’s talk at SXSW Interactive 2005 (hosted at itconversations.com).
Excerpt from entire article on corante:
At the time, very few women played in professional orchestras anywhere—it was generally believed that men were inherently better musicians, based on “objective measures” such as auditions. Many theories were proposed to explain it, but the underlying supposition wasn’t changed.
But when orchestras formed unions, they decided to force all auditions to be behind a screen to reduce favoritism. The moment they put the screen up, an extraordinary thing happened: they started hiring women. In large numbers. In fact, the percentage of women musicians in orchestras raised quickly from 5% to 50%, meaning that women were winning more of the auditions once the screen was in place.
Does this suggest that women are inherently superior? Perhaps. But more importantly, what certainly suggests is that the evidence of the maestro’s eyes overrode the evidence of his ears.
There’s an enormous amount of complexity underlying snap judgments. So, what can we learn about how we make decisions from this story?
Snap judgments play a much bigger role in the way we make sense of the world than we normally acknowledge. As an example, professor evaluations based on a one-hour video are virtually identical to those based on a full semester’s course. In fact, this holds true for a 1/2 hour video. And, it seems, even after 5 minutes. And, incredibly, even with the sound turned off, it remains the same.