Tag Archives: david brooks

tuesday roundup of interesting nytimes articles.

Some days, the New York Times seems particularly stacked with good articles. It could just be that those are the days I actually focus and read the articles (rather than just skimming the headlines), but for whatever reason, today was a good day. In no particular order, and with quite a range of topics, enjoy:

  • I haven’t been watching American Idol much this season, but according to Stephen Holden, we’ve got an interesting finale on our hands: sweet — if slightly boring — Southern dude versus androgynous L.A. dude. I might actually have to tune in tonight. Holden convinced me that along with being something of a godsend for Idol’s ratings, the matchup will make for some very watchable teevee. Better than the forgettable Davids of last year.
  • Speaking of Davids, according to David Brooks and a study called “Which C.E.O. Characteristics and Abilities Matter?”, warm and fun and friendly people are less likely to be C.E.O.’s. Basically, “warm, flexible, team-oriented and empathetic people are less likely to thrive as C.E.O.’s. Organized, dogged, anal-retentive and slightly boring people are more likely to thrive.” Of course, those sets of qualities can’t be mutually exclusive, but the study makes a point. Boring people of the world: aim high. Fun ones: go into politics.
  • What do our college degrees and cell phones say about us? According to this John Tierney article, they can potentially say a lot — and most of us like to believe they say a lot, which is why we aim for Ivy Leagues and iPhones — but it only matters if other people are paying attention. In other words, “A Harvard diploma might get you a date or a job interview, but what you say during the date or the conversation will make the difference. An elegantly thin Skagen watch might send a signal to a stranger at a cocktail party or in an airport lounge, but even if it were noticed, anyone who talked to you for just a few minutes would get a much better gauge of your intelligence and personality.”
  • I found this reflective piece by Dana Jennings to be quite thought-provoking. In it, he recounts three major hospital visits in his lifetime: one at the age of 12, one at the age of 27, and one just last year, at the age of 51. All of the visits were relatively serious and had the potential to be life-threatening, but the way he reacted to the hospital stays predictably changed a lot over the years. As he puts it, “When I was young and ill, all I cared about was the result, about scalpels and scars. But in this waltz with prostate cancer, I’ve cared about the process, too. All along, I’ve wanted to know what this cancer could teach me, and I’d like to think I gripped it just as hard as it has gripped me.”

[Posted by Mallory]

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some david brooks for your tuesday.

My psychology professor just sent my class an interesting article about perception from good ol’ David Brooks over at the NY Times. We’ve talked a lot in my class about the way you essentially see what you want to see. You pay more attention to facts that fit with what you already know; you attribute your own successes to hard work and others’ successes to dumb luck; etc.

In this article, “The Behavioral Revolution,” Brooks links this idea to The Second Great Depression. It’s a thought-provoking article, and worth reading at least these excerpts:

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb] believes that our brains evolved to suit a world much simpler than the one we now face. His writing is idiosyncratic, but he does touch on many of the perceptual biases that distort our thinking: our tendency to see data that confirm our prejudices more vividly than data that contradict them; our tendency to overvalue recent events when anticipating future possibilities; our tendency to spin concurring facts into a single causal narrative; our tendency to applaud our own supposed skill in circumstances when we’ve actually benefited from dumb luck.

He goes on:

If you start thinking about our faulty perceptions, the first thing you realize is that markets are not perfectly efficient, people are not always good guardians of their own self-interest and there might be limited circumstances when government could usefully slant the decision-making architecture (see “Nudge” by Thaler and Cass Sunstein for proposals). But the second thing you realize is that government officials are probably going to be even worse perceivers of reality than private business types. Their information feedback mechanism is more limited, and, being deeply politicized, they’re even more likely to filter inconvenient facts.

This meltdown is not just a financial event, but also a cultural one. It’s a big, whopping reminder that the human mind is continually trying to perceive things that aren’t true, and not perceiving them takes enormous effort.

[Posted by Mallory]

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