Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Blink on the Battlefield: Spidey-Sense

Interesting lead article in NY Times today on intuition and the battlefield.

The men and women who performed best in the Army’s I.E.D. detection study had the sort of knowledge gained through experience, according to a preliminary analysis of the results; but many also had superb depth perception and a keen ability to sustain intense focus for long periods. The ability to pick odd shapes masked in complex backgrounds — a “Where’s Waldo” type of skill that some call anomaly detection — also predicted performance on some of the roadside bomb simulations.

It reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. I did find it a bit frustrating because it essentially argued that we have instincts that are often quite sharp and accurate, except when they are not. It was a fascinating book with lots of good pop social science, but not quite as strong as his first book, Tipping Point, or his more recent one, Outliers.

The article goes back and forth from stories about soldiers/marines in Iraq to the science of perception/intuition. A fascinating read.

Sometimes I wonder what would have happened if I had not been scared off from switching into Psych 101 two weeks into the term when I realized that chemistry was out and poli sci was in my second year in college.

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