He examines a set of diverse case studies as he tries to understand how something like a routine traffic stop can lead to the driver killing herself in prison a day later, as happened with US citizen Sandra Bland. Many of us think we are good at ‘reading’ people, at knowing whether their intentions are good or not, but we really are not. That is why Gladwell has subtitled this book “What We Should Know About the People We Don’t Know.”
How did a spy work undetected in the Pentagon for decades? How did Churchill know not to trust Hitler when he had never met him, while Chamberlain spent days in Hitler’s company and thought him honest? Why is a computer being fed data better at judging an accused than a judge in a courtroom? How can we judge someone by their facial expressions or body language when there are so many different cultures in the world? How does alcohol really affect our behaviour and memory? Gladwell provides answers to all these queries and more.