Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Downside of the PhD

I finally picked up Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. As a best seller, I am quite sure that I am one of the few people that hasn't read this book. But I've been kind of busy over the past couple years so I am just now getting around to it.

When the book came out I read a review in the New York Times Review of Books and, of course, I was interested in the premise and put it on my to-read list. But now that I've started reading I feel sort of like ehhh, it is what it is. I'm 64 pages in and I am wondering how many examples he is going to give of basically the same thing over and over again.

But what really has me frustrated is the lack of data. Gladwell writes about a number of different studies from observing couples to playing card games, and he summarizes these studies succinctly and in an entertaining way. But it's just not enough for me.

This morning I read the section on "priming" in which Gladwell references a study by Claude Steele. Now, I happen to be familiar with this particular study because about stereotype threat and I used that concept in my dissertation. Gladwell devoted one paragraph to this particular phenomenon and didn't even mention the name (sterotype threat). What if someone (like me, for instance) wanted to read more about this particular study? There is not even a reference list in the back. And even if I wasn't interested in reading the study wouldn't it be nice to know where Gladwell got this information? And, not incidentally, wouldn't it be nice if the researchers get credit for their work that Gladwell has used to make millions? And lastly, wouldn't it be nice to be able to seek out a particular study, if one was so inclined, to really understand the research and results and the analyis and discussion.

So while I feel this is probably a worthwhile book, I am frustrated by the lack. The lack of referencess. The lack of data. The lack of analysis. I want more.

2 comments:

Wild Cayuse Creek said...

I am right here with you. I feel this way all the time. I want to be able to check references, if I am so inclined. There are just too many areas (including where I work) that a person's opinions are presented as absolute fact, without data to back it up.

Hyperreflexia said...

You make me laugh. Truly the intellectual. I am happy to have time to read fluff. I suspect you aren't done with your educational process.