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Talking to Strangers / (by Malcolm Gladwell, 2019) -

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Talking to Strangers /    (by Malcolm Gladwell, 2019) -

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know / . , (by Malcolm Gladwell, 2019) -

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Talking to Strangers / (by Malcolm Gladwell, 2019) -
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2019
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Malcolm Gladwell
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Malcolm Gladwell
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upper-intermediate
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08:42:07
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64 kbps
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mp3, pdf, doc

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know / . , :

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: Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know

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In July 2015, a young African American woman named Sandra Bland drove from her hometown of Chicago to a little town an hour west of Houston, Texas. She was interviewing for a job at Prairie View A and M University, the school she_d graduated from a few years before. She was tall and striking, with a personality to match. She belonged to the Sigma Gamma Rho sorority in college, and played in the marching band. She volunteered with a seniors group. She regularly posted short, inspirational videos on YouTube, under the handle _Sandy Speaks,_ that often began, _Good morning, my beautiful Kings and Queens._ I am up today just praising God, thanking His name. Definitely thanking Him not just because it_s my birthday, but thanking Him for growth, thanking Him for the different things that He has done in my life over this past year. Just looking back at the twenty-eight years I have been on this earth, and all that He has shown me. Even though I have made some mistakes, I have definitely messed up, He still loves me, and I want to let my Kings and Queens know out there to that He still loves you too. Bland got the job at Prairie View. She was elated. Her plan was to get a master_s degree in political science on the side. On the afternoon of July 10 she left the university to get groceries, and as she made a right turn onto the highway that rings the Prairie View campus, she was pulled over by a police officer. His name was Brian Encinia: white, short dark hair, thirty years old. He was courteous_at least at first. He told her that she had failed to signal a lane change. He asked her questions. She answered them. Then Bland lit a cigarette, and Encinia asked her to put it out. Their subsequent interaction was recorded by the video camera on his dashboard, and has been viewed in one form or another several million times on YouTube. Bland: I_m in my car, why do I have to put out my cigarette? Encinia: Well, you can step on out now. Bland: I don_t have to step out of my car. Encinia: Step out of the car. Bland: Why am I_ Encinia: Step out of the car! Bland: No, you don_t have the right. No, you don_t have the right. Encinia: Step out of the car. Bland: You do not have the right. You do not have the right to do this. Encinia: I do have the right, now step out or I will remove you. Bland: I refuse to talk to you other than to identify myself. [crosstalk] I am getting removed for a failure to signal? Encinia: Step out or I will remove you. I_m giving you a lawful order. Get out of the car now or I_m going to remove you. Bland: And I_m calling my lawyer. Bland and Encinia continue on for an uncomfortably long time. Emotions escalate. Encinia: I_m going to yank you out of here. [Reaches inside the car.] Bland: OK, you_re going to yank me out of my car? OK, all right. Encinia: [calling in backup] 2547. Bland: Let_s do this. Encinia: Yeah, we_re going to. [Grabs for Bland.] Bland: Don_t touch me! Encinia: Get out of the car! Bland: Don_t touch me. Don_t touch me! I_m not under arrest_you don_t have the right to take me out of the car. Encinia: You are under arrest! Bland: I_m under arrest? For what? For what? For what? Encinia: [To dispatch] 2547 County FM 1098. [inaudible] Send me another unit. [To Bland] Get out of the car! Get out of the car now! Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You_re trying to give me a ticket for failure_ Encinia: I said get out of the car! Bland: Why am I being apprehended? You just opened my_ Encinia: I_m giving you a lawful order. I_m going to drag you out of here. Bland: So you_re threatening to drag me out of my own car? Encinia: Get out of the car! Bland: And then you_re going to [crosstalk] me? Encinia: I will light you up! Get out! Now! [Draws stun gun and points it at Bland.] Bland: Wow. Wow. [Bland exits car.] Encinia: Get out. Now. Get out of the car! Bland: For a failure to signal? You_re doing all of this for a failure to signal? Bland was arrested and jailed. Three days later, she committed suicide in her cell. 2. The Sandra Bland case came in the middle of a strange interlude in American public life. The interlude began in the late summer of 2014, when an eighteen-year-old black man named Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. He had just, allegedly, shoplifted a pack of cigars from a convenience store. The next several years saw one high-profile case after another involving police violence against black people. There were riots and protests around the country. A civil rights movement, Black Lives Matter, was born. For a time, this was what Americans talked about. Perhaps you remember some of the names of those in the news. In Baltimore, a young black man named Freddie Gray was arrested for carrying a pocket knife and fell into a coma in the back of a police van. Outside Minneapolis, a young black man named Philando Castile was pulled over by a police officer and inexplicably shot seven times after handing over his proof of insurance. In New York City, a black man named Eric Garner was approached by a group of police officers on suspicion that he was illegally selling cigarettes, and was choked to death in the ensuing struggle. In North Charleston, South Carolina, a black man named Walter Scott was stopped for a nonfunctioning taillight, ran from his car, and was shot to death from behind by a white police officer. Scott was killed on April 4, 2015. Sandra Bland gave him his own episode of _Sandy Speaks._ Good morning, my beautiful Kings and Queens._ I am not a racist. I grew up in Villa Park, Illinois. I was the only black girl on an all-white cheerleading squad._ Black people, you will not be successful in this world until you learn how to work with white people. I want the white folks to really understand out there that black people are doing as much as we can_and we can_t help but get pissed off when we see situations where it_s clear that the black life didn_t matter. For those of you who question why he was running away, well goddamn, in the news that we_ve seen of late, you can stand there and surrender to the cops and still be killed. Three months later, she too was dead. Talking to Strangers is an attempt to understand what really happened by the side of the highway that day in rural Texas. Why write a book about a traffic stop gone awry? Because the debate spawned by that string of cases was deeply unsatisfying. One side made the discussion about racism_looking down at the case from ten thousand feet. The other side examined each detail of each case with a magnifying glass. What was the police officer like? What did he do, precisely? One side saw a forest, but no trees. The other side saw trees and no forest. Each side was right, in its own way. Prejudice and incompetence go a long way toward explaining social dysfunction in the United States. But what do you do with either of those diagnoses aside from vowing, in full earnestness, to try harder next time? There are bad cops. There are biased cops. Conservatives prefer the former interpretation, liberals the latter. In the end the two sides canceled each other out. Police officers still kill people in this country, but those deaths no longer command the news. I suspect that you may have had to pause for a moment to remember who Sandra Bland was. We put aside these controversies after a decent interval and moved on to other things. I don_t want to move on to other things. 3. In the sixteenth century, there were close to seventy wars involving the nations and states of Europe. The Danes fought the Swedes. The Poles fought the Teutonic Knights. The Ottomans fought the Venetians. The Spanish fought the French_and on and on. If there was a pattern to the endless conflict, it was that battles overwhelmingly involved neighbors. You fought the person directly across the border, who had always been directly across your border. Or you fought someone inside your own borders: the Ottoman War of 1509 was between two brothers. Throughout the majority of human history, encounters_hostile or otherwise_were rarely between strangers. The people you met and fought often believed in the same God as you, built their buildings and organized their cities in the same way you did, fought their wars with the same weapons according to the same rules. But the sixteenth century_s bloodiest conflict fit none of those patterns. When the Spanish conquistador Hern?n Cort?s met the Aztec ruler Montezuma II, neither side knew anything about the other at all. Cort?s landed in Mexico in February of 1519 and slowly made his way inland, advancing on the Aztec capital of Tenochtitl?n. When Cort?s and his army arrived, they were in awe. Tenochtitl?n was an extraordinary sight_far larger and more impressive than any of the cities Cort?s and his men would have known back in Spain. It was a city on an island, linked to the mainland with bridges and crossed by canals. It had grand boulevards, elaborate aqueducts, thriving marketplaces, temples built in brilliant white stucco, public gardens, and even a zoo. It was spotlessly clean_which, to someone raised in the filth of medieval European cities, would have seemed almost miraculous. _When we saw so many cities and villages built in the water and other great towns on dry land, we were amazed and said that it was like the enchantments,_ one of Cort?s_s officers, Bernal D?az del Castillo, recalled. _And some of our soldiers even asked whether the things that we saw were not a dream?_ I do not know how to describe it, seeing things as we did that had never been heard of or seen before, not even dreamed about._ The Spanish were greeted at the gates of Tenochtitl?n by an assembly of Aztec chiefs, then taken to Montezuma. He was a figure of almost surreal grandeur, carried on a litter embroidered with gold and silver and festooned with flowers and precious stones. One of his courtiers advanced before the procession, sweeping the ground. Cort?s dismounted from his horse. Montezuma was lowered from his litter. Cort?s, like the Spaniard he was, moved to embrace the Aztec leader_only to be restrained by Montezuma_s attendants. No one embraced Montezuma. Instead, the two men bowed to each other. _Art thou not he? Art thou Montezuma?_ Montezuma answered: _Yes, I am he._ No European had ever set foot in Mexico. No Aztec had ever met a European. Cort?s knew nothing about the Aztecs, except to be in awe of their wealth and the extraordinary city they had built. Montezuma knew nothing of Cort?s, except that he had approached the Aztec kingdom with great audacity, armed with strange weapons and large, mysterious animals_horses_that the Aztecs had never seen before. Is it any wonder why the meeting between Cort?s and Montezuma has fascinated historians for so many centuries? That moment_500 years ago_when explorers began traveling across oceans and undertaking bold expeditions in previously unknown territory, an entirely new kind of encounter emerged. Cort?s and Montezuma wanted to have a conversation, even though they knew nothing about the other. When Cort?s asked Montezuma, _Art thou he?,_ he didn_t say those words directly. Cort?s spoke only Spanish. He had to bring two translators with him. One was an Indian woman named Malinche, who had been captured by the Spanish some months before. She knew the Aztec language Nahuatl and Mayan, the language of the Mexican territory where Cort?s had begun his journey. Cort?s also had with him a Spanish priest named Ger?nimo del Aguilar, who had been shipwrecked in the Yucat?n and learned Mayan during his sojourn there. So Cort?s spoke to Aguilar in Spanish. Aguilar translated into Mayan for Malinche. And Malinche translated the Mayan into Nahuatl for Montezuma_and when Montezuma replied, _Yes, I am,_ the long translation chain ran in reverse. The kind of easy face-to-face interaction that each had lived with his entire life had suddenly become hopelessly complicated.1 Cort?s was taken to one of Montezuma_s palaces_a place that Aguilar described later as having _innumerable rooms inside, antechambers, splendid halls, mattresses of large cloaks, pillows of leather and tree fibre, good eiderdowns, and admirable white fur robes._ After dinner, Montezuma rejoined Cort?s and his men and gave a speech. Immediately, the confusion began. The way the Spanish interpreted Montezuma_s remarks, the Aztec king was making an astonishing concession: he believed Cort?s to be a god, the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy that said an exiled deity would one day return from the east. And he was, as a result, surrendering to Cort?s. You can imagine Cort?s_s reaction: this magnificent city was now effectively his. But is that really what Montezuma meant? Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, had a reverential mode. A royal figure such as Montezuma would speak in a kind of code, according to a cultural tradition in which the powerful projected their status through an elaborate false humility. The word in Nahuatl for a noble, the historian Matthew Restall points out, is all but identical to the word for child. When a ruler such as Montezuma spoke of himself as small and weak, in other words, he was actually subtly drawing attention to the fact that he was esteemed and powerful. _The impossibility of adequately translating such language is obvious,_ Restall writes: The speaker was often obliged to say the opposite of what was really meant. True meaning was embedded in the use of reverential language. Stripped of these nuances in translation, and distorted through the use of multiple interpreters_not only was it unlikely that a speech such as Montezuma_s would be accurately understood, but it was probable that its meaning would be turned upside down. In that case, Montezuma_s speech was not his surrender; it was his acceptance of a Spanish surrender. You probably remember from high-school history how the encounter between Cort?s and Montezuma ended. Montezuma was taken hostage by Cort?s, then murdered. The two sides went to war. As many as twenty million Aztecs perished, either directly at the hands of the Spanish or indirectly from the diseases they had brought with them. Tenochtitl?n was destroyed. Cort?s_s foray into Mexico ushered in the era of catastrophic colonial expansion. And it also introduced a new and distinctly modern pattern of social interaction. Today we are now thrown into contact all the time with people whose assumptions, perspectives, and backgrounds are different from our own. The modern world is not two brothers feuding for control of the Ottoman Empire. It is Cort?s and Montezuma struggling to understand each other through multiple layers of translators. Talking to Strangers is about why we are so bad at that act of translation. Each of the chapters that follows is devoted to understanding a different aspect of the stranger problem. You will have heard of many of the examples_they are taken from the news. At Stanford University in northern California, a first-year student named Brock Turner meets a woman at a party, and by the end of the evening he is in police custody. At Pennsylvania State University, the former assistant coach of the school_s football team, Jerry Sandusky, is found guilty of pedophilia, and the president of the school and two of his top aides are found to be complicit in his crimes. You will read about a spy who spent years undetected at the highest levels of the Pentagon, about the man who brought down hedge-fund manager Bernie Madoff, about the false conviction of the American exchange student Amanda Knox, and about the suicide of the poet Sylvia Plath. In all of these cases, the parties involved relied on a set of strategies to translate one another_s words and intentions. And in each case, something went very wrong. In Talking to Strangers, I want to understand those strategies_analyze them, critique them, figure out where they came from, find out how to fix them. At the end of the book I will come back to Sandra Bland, because there is something about the encounter by the side of the road that ought to haunt us. Think about how hard it was. Sandra Bland was not someone Brian Encinia knew from the neighborhood or down the street. That would have been easy: Sandy! How are you? Be a little more careful next time. Instead you have Bland from Chicago and Encinia from Texas, one a man and the other a woman, one white and one black, one a police officer and one a civilian, one armed and the other unarmed. They were strangers to each other. If we were more thoughtful as a society_if we were willing to engage in some soul-searching about how we approach and make sense of strangers_she would not have ended up dead in a Texas jail cell. But to start, I have two questions_two puzzles about strangers_beginning with a story told by a man named Florentino Aspillaga years ago in a German debriefing room. 1 The idea that Montezuma considered Cort?s a god has been soundly debunked by the historian Camilla Townsend, among others. Townsend argues that it was probably just a misunderstanding, following from the fact that the Nahua used the word teotl to refer to Cort?s and his men, which the Spanish translated as god. But Townsend argues that they used that word only because they _had to call the Spaniards something, and it was not at all clear what that something should be._In the Nahua universe as it had existed up until this point, a person was always labeled as being from a particular village or city-state, or, more specifically, as one who filled a given social role (a tribute collector, prince, servant). These new people fit nowhere._ Part One Spies and Diplomats: Two Puzzles CHAPTER ONE Fidel Castro_s Revenge 1. Florentino Aspillaga_s final posting was in Bratislava, in what was then Czechoslovakia. It was 1987, two years before the Iron Curtain fell. Aspillaga ran a consulting company called Cuba Tecnica, which was supposed to have something to do with trade. It did not. It was a front. Aspillaga was a high-ranking officer in Cuba_s General Directorate of Intelligence. Aspillaga had been named intelligence officer of the year in the Cuban spy service in 1985. He had been given a handwritten letter of commendation from Fidel Castro himself. He had served his country with distinction in Moscow, Angola, and Nicaragua. He was a star. In Bratislava, he ran Cuba_s network of agents in the region. But at some point during his steady ascent through the Cuban intelligence service, he grew disenchanted. He watched Castro give a speech in Angola, celebrating the Communist revolution there, and had been appalled by the Cuban leader_s arrogance and narcissism. By the time of his posting to Bratislava, in 1986, those doubts had hardened. He planned his defection for June 6, 1987. It was an elaborate inside joke. June 6 was the anniversary of the founding of the Cuban Ministry of the Interior_the all-powerful body that administered the country_s spy services. If you worked for the General Directorate of Intelligence, you would ordinarily celebrate on June 6. There would be speeches, receptions, ceremonies in honor of Cuba_s espionage apparatus. Aspillaga wanted his betrayal to sting. He met up with his girlfriend Marta in a park in downtown Bratislava. It was Saturday afternoon. She was Cuban as well, one of thousands of Cubans who were guest workers in Czech factories. Like all Cubans in her position, her passport was held at the Cuban government offices in Prague. Aspillaga would have to smuggle her across the border. He had a government-issued Mazda. He removed the spare tire from the trunk, drilled an air hole in the floor, and told her to climb inside. Eastern Europe, at that point, was still walled off from the rest of the continent. Travel between East and West was heavily restricted. But Bratislava was only a short drive from Vienna, and Aspillaga had made the trip before. He was well known at the border and carried a diplomatic passport. The guards waved him through. In Vienna, he and Marta abandoned the Mazda, hailed a taxi, and presented themselves at the gates to the United States Embassy. It was Saturday evening. The senior staff was all at home. But Aspillaga did not need to do much to get the guard_s attention: _I am a case officer from Cuban Intelligence. I am an intelligence comandante._ In the spy trade, Aspillaga_s appearance at the Vienna embassy is known as a walk-in. An official from the intelligence service of one country shows up, unexpectedly, on the doorstep of the intelligence service of another country. And Florentino _Tiny_ Aspillaga was one of the great walk-ins of the Cold War. What he knew of Cuba_and its close ally, the Soviet Union_was so sensitive that twice after his defection his former employers at the Cuban spy service tracked him down and tried to assassinate him. Twice, he slipped away. Only once since has Aspillaga been spotted. It was by Brian Latell, who ran the CIA_s Latin American office for many years. Latell got a tip from an undercover agent who was acting as Aspillaga_s go-between. He met the go-between at a restaurant in Coral Gables, just outside Miami. There he was given instructions to meet in another location, closer to where Aspillaga was living under his new identity. Latell rented a suite in a hotel, somewhere anonymous, and waited for Tiny to arrive. _He_s younger than me. I_m seventy-five. He_s by now probably in his upper sixties,_ Latell said, remembering the meeting. _But he_s had terrible health problems. I mean, being a defector, living with a new identity, it_s tough._ Even in his diminished state, though, it was obvious what Aspillaga must have been like as a younger man, Latell says: charismatic, slender, with a certain theatricality about him_a taste for risks and grand emotional gestures. When he came into the hotel suite, Aspillaga was carrying a box. He put it down on the table and turned to Latell. _This is a memoir that I wrote soon after I defected,_ he said. _I want you to have this._ Inside the box, in the pages of Aspillaga_s memoir, was a story that made no sense. 2. After his dramatic appearance at the American embassy in Vienna, Aspillaga was flown to a debriefing center at a U.S. Army base in Germany. In those years, American intelligence operated out of the United States Interests Section in Havana, under the Swiss flag. (The Cuban delegation had a similar arrangement in the United States.) Before his debriefing began, Aspillaga said, he had one request: he wanted the CIA to fly in one of the former Havana station chiefs, a man known to Cuban intelligence as _el Alpinista,_ the Mountain Climber. The Mountain Climber had served the agency all over the world. After the Berlin Wall fell, files retrieved from the KGB and the East German secret police revealed that they had taught a course on the Mountain Climber to their agents. His tradecraft was impeccable. Once, Soviet intelligence officers tried to recruit him: they literally placed bags of money in front of him. He waved them off, mocked them. The Mountain Climber was incorruptible. He spoke Spanish like a Cuban. He was Aspillaga_s role model. Aspillaga wanted to meet him face-to-face. _I was on an assignment in another country when I got a message to rush to Frankfurt,_ the Mountain Climber remembers. (Though long retired from the CIA, he still prefers to be identified only by his nickname.) _Frankfurt is where we had our defector processing center. They told me a fellow had walked into an embassy in Vienna. He had driven out of Czechoslovakia with his girlfriend in the trunk of his car, walked in, and insisted on speaking to me. I thought it was kind of crazy._ El Alpinista went straight to the debriefing center. _I found four case officers sitting in the living room,_ he remembers. _They told me Aspillaga was back in the bedroom making love with his girlfriend, as he had constantly since he arrived at the safe house. Then I went in and spoke to him. He was lanky, poorly dressed, as Eastern Europeans and Cubans tended to be back then. A little sloppy. But it was immediately evident that he was a very smart guy._ When he walked in, the Mountain Climber didn_t tell Aspillaga who he was. He was trying to be cagey; Aspillaga was an unknown quantity. But it was only a matter of minutes before Aspillaga figured it out. There was a moment of shock, laughter. The two men hugged, Cuban style. _We talked for five minutes before we started into the details. Whenever you are debriefing one of those guys, you need someone that proves their bona fides,_ the Mountain Climber said. _So I just basically asked him what he could tell me about the [Cuban intelligence] operation._ It was then that Aspillaga revealed his bombshell, the news that had brought him from behind the Iron Curtain to the gates of the Vienna embassy. The CIA had a network of spies inside Cuba, whose dutiful reports to their case officers helped shape America_s understanding of its adversary. Aspillaga named one of them and said, _He_s a double agent. He works for us._ The room was stunned. They had no idea. But Aspillaga kept going. He named another spy. _He_s a double too._ Then another, and another. He had names, details, chapter and verse. That guy you recruited on the ship in Antwerp. The little fat guy with the mustache? He_s a double. That other guy, with a limp, who works in the defense ministry? He_s a double. He continued on like that until he had listed dozens of names_practically the entire U.S. roster of secret agents inside Cuba. They were all working for Havana, spoon-feeding the CIA information cooked up by the Cubans themselves. _I sat there and took notes,_ the Mountain Climber said. _I tried not to betray any emotion. That_s what we_re taught. But my heart was racing._ Aspillaga was talking about the Mountain Climber_s people, the spies he_d worked with when he had been posted to Cuba as a young and ambitious intelligence officer. When he_d first arrived in Havana, the Mountain Climber had made a point of working his sources aggressively, mining them for information. _The thing is, if you have an agent who is in the office of the president of whatever country, but you can_t communicate with him, that agent is worthless,_ the Mountain Climber said. _My feeling was, let_s communicate and get some value, rather than waiting six months or a year until he puts up someplace else._ But now the whole exercise turned out to have been a sham. _I must admit that I disliked Cuba so much that I derived much pleasure from pulling the wool over their eyes,_ he said, ruefully. _But it turns out that I wasn_t the one pulling the wool over their eyes. That was a bit of a blow._ The Mountain Climber got on a military plane and flew with Aspillaga directly to Andrews Air Force Base outside Washington, DC, where they were met by _bigwigs_ from the Latin American division. _In the Cuban section, the reaction was absolute shock and horror,_ he remembers. _They simply could not believe that they had been had so badly, for so many years. It sent shock waves._ It got worse. When Fidel Castro heard that Aspillaga had informed the CIA of their humiliation, he decided to rub salt in the wound. First he rounded up the entire cast of pretend CIA agents and paraded them across Cuba on a triumphant tour. Then he released on Cuban television an astonishing eleven-part documentary entitled La Guerra de la CIA contra Cuba_The CIA_s War against Cuba. Cuban intelligence, it turned out, had filmed and recorded everything the CIA had been doing in their country for at least ten years_as if they were creating a reality show. Survivor: Havana Edition. The video was surprisingly high quality. There were close-up shots and shots from cinematic angles. The audio was crystal clear: the Cubans must have had advance word of every secret meeting place, and sent their technicians over to wire the rooms for sound. On the screen, identified by name, were CIA officers supposedly under deep cover. There was video of every advanced CIA gadget: transmitters hidden in picnic baskets and briefcases. There were detailed explanations of which park bench CIA officers used to communicate with their sources and how the CIA used different-colored shirts to secretly signal their contacts. A long tracking shot showed a CIA officer stuffing cash and instructions inside a large, plastic _rock_; another caught a CIA officer stashing secret documents for his agents inside a wrecked car in a junkyard in Pinar del Rio; in a third, a CIA officer looked for a package in long grass by the side of the road while his wife fumed impatiently in the car. The Mountain Climber made a brief cameo in the documentary. His successor fared far worse. _When they showed that TV series,_ the Mountain Climber said, _it looked as though they had a guy with a camera over his shoulder everywhere he went._ When the head of the FBI_s office in Miami heard about the documentary, he called up a Cuban official and asked for a copy. A set of videotapes was sent over promptly, thoughtfully dubbed in English. The most sophisticated intelligence service in the world had been played for a fool. 3. This is what makes no sense about Florentino Aspillaga_s story. It would be one thing if Cuba had deceived a group of elderly shut-ins, the way scam artists do. But the Cubans fooled the CIA, an organization that takes the problem of understanding strangers very seriously. There were extensive files on every one of those double agents. The Mountain Climber says he checked them carefully. There were no obvious red flags. Like all intelligence agencies, the CIA has a division_counterintelligence_whose job it is to monitor its own operations for signs of betrayal. What had they found? Nothing.1 Looking back on the episode years later, all Latell could do was shrug and say that the Cubans must have been really good. _They did it exquisitely,_ he said. I mean, Fidel Castro selected the doubles that he dangled. He selected them with real brilliance_Some of them were trained in theatrical deception. One of them posed as a na?f, you know_He was really a very cunning, trained intelligence officer_You know, he_s so goofy. How can he be a double? Fidel orchestrated all of this. I mean, Fidel is the greatest actor of them all. The Mountain Climber, for his part, argues that the tradecraft of the CIA_s Cuban section was just sloppy. He had previously worked in Eastern Europe, up against the East Germans, and there, he said, the CIA had been much more meticulous. But what was the CIA_s record in East Germany? Just as bad as the CIA_s record in Cuba. After the Berlin Wall fell, East German spy chief Markus Wolf wrote in his memoirs that by the late 1980s we were in the enviable position of knowing that not a single CIA agent had worked in East Germany without having been turned into a double agent or working for us from the start. On our orders they were all delivering carefully selected information and disinformation to the Americans. The supposedly meticulous Eastern Europe division, in fact, suffered one of the worst breaches of the entire Cold War. Aldrich Ames, one of the agency_s most senior officers responsible for Soviet counterintelligence, turned out to be working for the Soviet Union. His betrayals led to the capture_and execution_of countless American spies in Russia. El Alpinista knew him. Everyone who was high up at the agency did. _I did not have a high opinion of him,_ the Mountain Climber said, _because I knew him to be a lazy drunkard._ But he and his colleagues never suspected that Ames was a traitor. _It was unthinkable to the old hands that one of our own could ever be beguiled by the other side the way Ames was,_ he said. _We were all just taken aback that one of our own could betray us that way._ The Mountain Climber was one of the most talented people at one of the most sophisticated institutions in the world. Yet he_d been witness three times to humiliating betrayal_first by Fidel Castro, then by the East Germans, and then, at CIA headquarters itself, by a lazy drunk. And if the CIA_s best can be misled so completely, so many times, then what of the rest of us? Puzzle Number One: Why can_t we tell when the stranger in front of us is lying to our face? 1 The CIA makes a regular practice of giving its agents lie-detector tests_to guard against just the kind of treachery that Aspillaga was describing. Whenever one of the agency_s Cuban spies left the island, the CIA would meet them secretly in a hotel room and have them sit for a polygraph. Sometimes the Cubans would pass; the head of the polygraph division personally gave a clean bill of health to six Cuban agents who ended up being doubles. Other times, the Cubans would fail. But what happened when they did? The people running the Cuban section dismissed it. One of the CIA_s former polygraphers, John Sullivan, remembers being summoned to a meeting after his group gave the thumbs-down on a few too many Cuban assets. _They ambushed us,_ Sullivan said. _We were berated unmercifully._All these case officers were saying, _You guys just don_t know what you_re doing,_ et cetera, et cetera. _Mother Teresa couldn_t pass you._ I mean, they were really very, very nasty about it._ But can you blame them? The case officers chose to replace one method of making sense of strangers (strapping them to a polygraph machine) with another: their own judgment. And that is perfectly logical. Polygraphy is, to say the least, an inexact art. The case officer would have had years of experience with the agent: met them, talked to them, analyzed the quality of the reports they filed. The assessment of a trained professional, made over the course of many years, ought to be more accurate than the results of a hurried meeting in a hotel room, right? Except that it wasn_t. _Many of our case officers think, _I_m such a good case officer, they can_t fool me,__ Sullivan said. _This one guy I_m thinking of in particular_and he was a very, very good case officer_they thought he was one of the best case officers in the agency._ He was clearly talking about the Mountain Climber. _They took him to the cleaners. They actually got him on film servicing a dead drop. It was crazy._ CHAPTER TWO Getting to Know der F?hrer 1. On the evening of August 28, 1938, Neville Chamberlain called his closest advisor to 10 Downing Street for a late-night strategy session. Chamberlain had been the British prime minister a little over a year. He was a former businessman, a practical and plainspoken man, whose interests and experience lay with domestic affairs. But now he faced his first foreign-policy crisis. It involved Adolf Hitler, who had been making increasingly bellicose statements about invading the Sudetenland, the German-speaking portion of Czechoslovakia. If Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, it would almost certainly mean a world war, which Chamberlain wanted desperately to avoid. But Hitler had been particularly reclusive in recent months, and Germany_s intentions were so opaque that the rest of Europe was growing nervous. Chamberlain was determined to resolve the impasse. He dubbed his idea, which he put to his advisors that night, Plan Z. It was top secret. Chamberlain would later write that the idea was _so unconventional and daring that it rather took [Foreign Secretary Lord] Halifax_s breath away._ Chamberlain wanted to fly to Germany and demand to meet Hitler face-to-face. One of the odd things about the desperate hours of the late 1930s, as Hitler dragged the world toward war, was how few of the world_s leaders really knew the German leader.1 Hitler was a mystery. Franklin Roosevelt, the American president throughout Hitler_s rise, never met him. Nor did Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader. Winston Churchill, Chamberlain_s successor, came close while researching a book in Munich in 1932. He and Hitler twice made plans to meet for tea, but on both occasions Hitler stood him up. The only people in England who spent any real amount of time with Hitler before the war were British aristocrats friendly to the Nazi cause, who would sometimes cross the Channel to pay their respects or join the F?hrer at parties. (_In certain moods he could be very funny,_ the fascist socialite Diana Mitford wrote in her memoirs. She dined with him frequently in Munich. _He did imitations of marvelous drollery._) But those were social calls. Chamberlain was trying to avert world war, and it seemed to him that he would benefit from taking the measure of Hitler for himself. Was Hitler someone who could be reasoned with? Trusted? Chamberlain wanted to find out. On the morning of September 14, the British ambassador to Germany sent a telegram to Hitler_s foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop. Would Hitler like to meet? Von Ribbentrop replied the same day: yes. Chamberlain was a masterly politician with a gift for showmanship, and he artfully let the news slip. He was going to Germany to see if he could avert war. Across Britain, there was a shout of celebration. Polls showed that 70 percent of the country thought his trip was a _good thing for peace._ The newspapers backed him. In Berlin, one foreign correspondent reported that he had been eating in a restaurant when the news broke, and the room had risen, as one, to toast Chamberlain_s health. Chamberlain left London on the morning of September 15. He_d never flown before, but he remained calm even as the plane flew into heavy weather near Munich. Thousands had gathered at the airport to greet him. He was driven to the train station in a cavalcade of fourteen Mercedes, then had lunch in Hitler_s own dining car as the train made its way into the mountains, toward Hitler_s retreat at Berchtesgaden. He arrived at five in the evening. Hitler came and shook his hand. Chamberlain would later report every detail of his first impressions in a letter to his sister Ida: Halfway down the steps stood the F?hrer bareheaded and dressed in a khaki-coloured coat of broadcloth with a red armlet and a swastika on it and the military cross on his breast. He wore black trousers such as we wear in the evening and black patent leather lace-up shoes. His hair is brown, not black, his eyes blue, his expression rather disagreeable, especially in repose and altogether he looks entirely undistinguished. You would never notice him in a crowd and would take him for the house painter he was. Hitler ushered Chamberlain upstairs to his study, with just an interpreter in tow. They talked, sometimes heatedly. _I am ready to face a world war!_ Hitler exclaimed to Chamberlain at one point. Hitler made it plain that he was going to seize the Sudetenland, regardless of what the world thought. Chamberlain wanted to know whether that was all Hitler wanted. Hitler said it was. Chamberlain looked at Hitler long and hard and decided he believed him. In the same letter to his sister, Chamberlain wrote that he had heard back from people close to Hitler that the German leader felt he had had a conversation _with a man._ Chamberlain went on: _In short I had established a certain confidence which was my aim, and on my side in spite of the hardness and ruthlessness I thought I saw in his face I got the impression that here was a man who could be relied upon when he had given his word._ Chamberlain flew back to England the next morning. At Heston Airport, he gave a quick speech on the tarmac. _Yesterday afternoon I had a long talk with Herr Hitler,_ he said. _I feel satisfied now that each of us fully understands what is in the mind of the other._ The two of them would meet again, he promised, only this time closer to England. _That is to spare an old man such another long journey,_ Chamberlain said, to what those present remembered as _laughter and cheers._ 2. Chamberlain_s negotiations with Hitler are widely regarded as one of the great follies of the Second World War. Chamberlain fell under Hitler_s spell. He was outmaneuvered at the bargaining table. He misread Hitler_s intentions, and failed to warn Hitler that if he reneged on his promises there would be serious consequences. History has not been kind to Neville Chamberlain. But underneath those criticisms is a puzzle. Chamberlain flew back to Germany two more times. He sat with Hitler for hours. The two men talked, argued, ate together, walked around together. Chamberlain was the only Allied leader of that period to spend any significant time with Hitler. He made careful note of the man_s behavior. _Hitler_s appearance and manner when I saw him appeared to show that the storm signals were up,_ Chamberlain told his sister Hilda after another of his visits to Germany. But then _he gave me the double handshake that he reserves for specially friendly demonstrations._ Back in London, he told his cabinet that he had seen in the F?hrer _no signs of insanity but many of excitement._ Hitler wasn_t crazy. He was rational, determined: _He had thought out what he wanted and he meant to get it and he would not brook opposition beyond a certain point._ Chamberlain was acting on the same assumption that we all follow in our efforts to make sense of strangers. We believe that the information gathered from a personal interaction is uniquely valuable. You would never hire a babysitter for your children without meeting that person first. Companies don_t hire employees blind. They call them in and interview them closely, sometimes for hours at a stretch, on more than one occasion. They do what Chamberlain did: they look people in the eye, observe their demeanor and behavior, and draw conclusions. He gave me the double handshake. Yet all that extra information Chamberlain gathered from his personal interactions with Hitler didn_t help him see Hitler more clearly. It did the opposite. Is this because Chamberlain was naive? Perhaps. His experience in foreign affairs was minimal. One of his critics would later compare him to a priest entering a pub for the first time, blind to the difference _between a social gathering and a rough house._ But this pattern isn_t confined to Chamberlain. It also afflicted Lord Halifax, who would go on to become Chamberlain_s foreign secretary. Halifax was an aristocrat, a superb student at Eton and Oxford. He served as Viceroy of India between the wars, where he negotiated brilliantly with Mahatma Gandhi. He was everything Chamberlain was not: worldly, seasoned, deeply charming, an intellectual_a man of such resolute religiosity that Churchill dubbed him the _Holy Fox._ Halifax went to Berlin in the fall of 1937 and met with the German leader at Berchtesgaden: he was the only other member of England_s ruling circle to have spent time with the F?hrer. Their meeting wasn_t some meaningless diplomatic reception. It began with Halifax mistaking Hitler for a footman and almost handing him his coat. And then Hitler was Hitler for five hours: sulking, shouting, digressing, denouncing. He talked about how much he hated the press. He talked about the evils of communism. Halifax listened to the performance with what another British diplomat at the time called a _mixture of astonishment, repugnance, and compassion._ Halifax spent five days in Germany. He met with two of Hitler_s top ministers_Hermann G?ring and Joseph Goebbels. He attended a dinner at the British Embassy, where he met a host of senior German politicians and businessmen. When he returned home, Halifax said that it was _all to the good making contact_ with the German leadership, which is hard to dispute. That_s what a diplomat is supposed to do. He had gained valuable insights from their face-to-face encounter about Hitler_s bullying and volatility. But what was Halifax_s ultimate conclusion? That Hitler didn_t want to go to war, and was open to negotiating a peace. No one ever thought Halifax was naive, yet he was as deluded after meeting with Hitler as Chamberlain was. The British diplomat who spent the most time with Hitler was the ambassador to Germany, Nevile Henderson. He met Hitler repeatedly, went to his rallies. Hitler even had a nickname for Henderson, _The man with the carnation,_ because of the flower the dapper Henderson always wore in his lapel. After attending the infamous Nuremberg Rally in early September 1938, Henderson wrote in his dispatch to London that Hitler seemed so abnormal that _he may have crossed the borderline into insanity._ Henderson wasn_t in Hitler_s thrall. But did he think Hitler had dishonorable intentions toward Czechoslovakia? No. Hitler, he believed, _hates war as much as anyone._ Henderson, too, read Hitler all wrong.2 The blindness of Chamberlain and Halifax and Henderson is not at all like Puzzle Number One, from the previous chapter. That was about the inability of otherwise intelligent and dedicated people to understand when they are being deceived. This is a situation where some people were deceived by Hitler and others were not. And the puzzle is that the group who were deceived are the ones you_d expect not to be, while those who saw the truth are the ones you_d think would be deceived. Winston Churchill, for example, never believed for a moment that Hitler was anything more than a duplicitous thug. Churchill called Chamberlain_s visit _the stupidest thing that has ever been done._ But Hitler was someone he_d only ever read about. Duff Cooper, one of Chamberlain_s cabinet ministers, was equally clear-eyed. He listened with horror to Chamberlain_s account of his meeting with Hitler. Later, he would resign from Chamberlain_s government in protest. Did Cooper know Hitler? No. Only one person in the upper reaches of the British diplomatic service_Anthony Eden, who preceded Halifax as foreign secretary_had both met Hitler and saw the truth of him. But for everyone else? The people who were right about Hitler were those who knew the least about him personally. The people who were wrong about Hitler were the ones who had talked with him for hours. This could all be a coincidence, of course. Perhaps Chamberlain and his cohort, for whatever private reason, were determined to see the Hitler they wanted to see, regardless of the evidence of their eyes and ears. Except that the same puzzling pattern crops up everywhere. 3. The judge was middle-aged, tall, white-haired, with an accent that put his roots squarely in the borough of Brooklyn. Let_s call him Solomon. He had served on the bench in New York State for over a decade. He wasn_t imperious or intimidating. He was thoughtful, with a surprisingly gentle manner. This was a Thursday, which in his courtroom was typically a busy day for arraignments. The defendants were all people who had been arrested in the past twenty-four hours on suspicion of some kind of crime. They_d just spent a sleepless night in a holding cell and now they were being brought into the courtroom in handcuffs, one by one. They sat on a low bench behind a partition, just to Solomon_s left. When each case was called, the clerk would hand Solomon a file containing the defendant_s rap sheet, and he would start flipping through, bringing himself up to speed. The defendant would stand directly in front of Solomon, with his lawyer on one side and the district attorney on the other. The two lawyers would talk. Solomon would listen. Then he would decide if the defendant would be required to post bail, and if so, how much the bail should be. Does this perfect stranger deserve his freedom? The hardest cases, he said later, involved kids. A sixteen-year-old would come in charged with some horrible crime. And he would know that if he set bail high enough, the child would end up in a _cage_ in the city_s notorious Rikers Island facility, where_he put it as delicately as he could_there_s basically _a riot waiting to happen at every turn._3 Those cases got even harder when he looked up into the courtroom and saw the kid_s mom sitting in the gallery. _I have a case like this every day,_ he said. He had taken up meditation. He found that made things easier. Solomon was faced day in, day out with a version of the same problem that had faced Neville Chamberlain and the British diplomatic service in the fall of 1938: he was asked to assess the character of a stranger. And the criminal justice system assumes, as Chamberlain did, that those kinds of difficult decisions are better made when the judge and the judged meet each other first. Later that afternoon, for example, Solomon was confronted with an older man with thinning, close-cropped hair. He was wearing blue jeans and a guayabera shirt and spoke only Spanish. He_d been arrested because of an _incident_ involving the six-year-old grandson of his girlfriend. The boy told his father right away. The district attorney asked for $100,000 bail. There was no way the man had the resources to raise that amount. If Solomon agreed with the DA, the man in the guayabera would go straight to jail. On the other hand, the man denied everything. He had two previous criminal offenses_but they were misdemeanors, from many years ago. He had a job as a mechanic, which he would lose if he went to jail, and he had an ex-wife and a fifteen-year-old son whom he was supporting with that income. So Solomon had to think about that fifteen-year-old, relying on his father_s paycheck. He also surely knew that six-year-olds are not the most reliable of witnesses. So there was no way for Solomon to be sure whether this would all turn out to be a massive misunderstanding or part of some sinister pattern. In other words, the decision about whether to let the man in the guayabera go free_or to hold him in jail until trial_was impossibly difficult. And to help him make the right call, Solomon did what all of us would do in that situation: he looked the man right in the eyes and tried to get a sense of who he really was. So did that help? Or are judges subject to the same puzzle as Neville Chamberlain? 4. The best answer we have to that question comes from a study conducted by a Harvard economist, three elite computer scientists, and a bail expert from the University of Chicago. The group_and for simplicity_s sake, I_ll refer to it by the economist_s name, Sendhil Mullainathan_decided to use New York City as their testing ground. They gathered up the records of 554,689 defendants brought before arraignment hearings in New York from 2008 to 2013_554,689 defendants in all. Of those, they found that the human judges of New York released just over 400,000. Mullainathan then built an artificial intelligence system, fed it the same information the prosecutors had given judges in those arraignment cases (the defendant_s age and criminal record), and told the computer to go through those 554,689 cases and make its own list of 400,000 people to release. It was a bake-off: man versus machine. Who made the best decisions? Whose list committed the fewest crimes while out on bail and was most likely to show up for their trial date? The results weren_t even close. The people on the computer_s list were 25 percent less likely to commit a crime while awaiting trial than the 400,000 people released by the judges of New York City. 25 percent! In the bake-off, machine destroyed man.4 To give you just one sense of the mastery of Mullainathan_s machine, it flagged 1 percent of all the defendants as _high risk._ These are the people the computer thought should never be released prior to trial. According to the machine_s calculations, well over half of the people in that high-risk group would commit another crime if let out on bail. When the human judges looked at that same group of bad apples, though, they didn_t identify them as dangerous at all. They released 48.5 percent of them! _Many of the defendants flagged by the algorithm as high risk are treated by the judge as if they were low risk,_ Team Mullainathan concluded in a particularly devastating passage. _Performing this exercise suggests that judges are not simply setting a high threshold for detention but are mis-ranking defendants._The marginal defendants they select to detain are drawn from throughout the entire predicted risk distribution._ Translation: the bail decisions of judges are all over the place. I think you_ll agree that this is baffling. When judges make their bail decisions, they have access to three sources of information. They have the defendant_s record_his age, previous offenses, what happened the last time he was granted bail, where he lives, where he works. They have the testimony of the district attorney and the defendant_s lawyer: whatever information is communicated in the courtroom. And they have the evidence of their own eyes. What is my feeling about this man before me? Mullainathan_s computer, on the other hand, couldn_t see the defendant and it couldn_t hear anything that was said in the courtroom. All it had was the defendant_s age and rap sheet. It had a fraction of the information available to the judge_and it did a much better job at making bail decisions. In my second book, Blink, I told the story of how orchestras made much smarter recruiting decisions once they had prospective hires audition behind a screen. Taking information away from the hiring committee made for better judgments. But that was because the information gleaned from watching someone play is largely irrelevant. If you_re judging whether someone is a good violin player, knowing whether that person is big or small, handsome or homely, white or black isn_t going to help. In fact, it will probably only introduce biases that will make your job even harder. But when it comes to a bail decision, the extra information the judge has sounds like it should be really useful. In an earlier case in Solomon_s courtroom, a young man in basketball shorts and a gray T-shirt was charged with getting into a fight with someone, then buying a car with the man_s stolen credit card. In asking for bail, the district attorney pointed out that he had failed to appear for his court date after two previous arrests. That_s a serious red flag. But not all _FTAs_ are identical. What if the defendant was given the wrong date? What if he would lose his job if he took off work that day, and decided it wasn_t worth it? What if his child was in the hospital? That_s what the defendant_s lawyer told the judge: Her client had a good excuse. The computer didn_t know that, but the judge did. How could that not help? In a similar vein, Solomon said the thing he_s most alert to in bail cases is _mental illness with an allegation of violence._ Those kinds of cases are a judge_s worst nightmare. They let someone out on bail, then that person stops taking their medication and goes on to commit some horrible crime. _It_s shoot a cop,_ Solomon said. It_s drive a car into a minivan, killing a pregnant woman and her husband. It_s hurt a child. [It_s] shoving somebody in front of a subway train and killing them. It_s an awful situation at every possible angle._No judge would ever want to be the one having made the release decision on that case. Some of the clues to that kind of situation are in the defendant_s file: medical records, previous hospitalizations, some mention of the defendant_s being found not competent. But other clues are found only in the moment. _You also will hear terms thrown around in the courtroom of _EDP__emotionally disturbed person,_ Solomon said. That will come from either the police department who_s brought them in and handed you an envelope that_s from a doctor at a hospital where he_s been screened at a psychiatric ER prior to arraignment._Other times, that information will get into the DA_s folder and the DA will ask questions._That_s a fact for me to think about. He_ll look at the defendant, in those cases_closely, carefully, searching for, as he put it, sort of a glassy-eyed look, not being able to make eye contact. And not the adolescent unable to make eye contact because the frontal lobe hasn_t developed. I_m talking about the adult off their meds._ Mullainathan_s machine can_t overhear the prosecutor talking about an EDP, and it can_t see that telltale glassy-eyed look. That fact should translate into a big advantage for Solomon and his fellow judges. But for some reason it doesn_t. Puzzle Number Two: How is it that meeting a stranger can sometimes make us worse at making sense of that person than not meeting them? 5. Neville Chamberlain made his third and final visit to Germany at the end of September 1938, two weeks after his first visit. The meeting was in Munich at the Nazi Party_s offices_the F?hrerbau. Italian leader Benito Mussolini and French prime minister ?douard Daladier were also invited. The four of them met, with their aides, in Hitler_s private study. On the morning of the second day, Chamberlain asked Hitler if the two of them could meet alone. By this point, Chamberlain felt he had the measure of his adversary. When Hitler had said his ambitions were limited to Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain believed that _Herr Hitler was telling the truth._ It was now just a matter of getting that commitment in writing. Hitler took him to his apartment on Prinzregentenplatz. Chamberlain pulled out a piece of paper on which he had written a simple agreement and asked Hitler whether he would sign it. As the interpreter translated the words into German, _Hitler frequently ejaculated, _Ja! Ja!_ And at the end he said, _Yes I will certainly sign it,__ Chamberlain later wrote to one of his sisters. __When shall we do it?_ I said, _now,_ and we went at once to the writing table and put our signatures to the two copies which I had brought with me._ That afternoon, Chamberlain flew home to a hero_s welcome. A crowd of journalists surged toward him. He took the letter from his breast pocket and waved it to the crowd. _This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor Herr Hitler, and here is a paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine._ Then it was back to the prime minister_s residence at 10 Downing Street. _My good friends, this is the second time in our history that there has come back from Germany to Downing Street peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts._ The crowd cheered. _Now I recommend you go home, and sleep quietly in your beds._ In March 1939, Hitler invaded the rest of Czechoslovakia. It had taken him less than six months to break his agreement with Chamberlain. On September 1, 1939, Hitler invaded Poland, and the world was at war. We have, in other words, CIA officers who cannot make sense of their spies, judges who cannot make sense of their defendants, and prime ministers who cannot make sense of their adversaries. We have people struggling with their first impressions of a stranger. We have people struggling when they have months to understand a stranger. We have people struggling when they meet with someone only once, and people struggling when they return to the stranger again and again. They struggle with assessing a stranger_s honesty. They struggle with a stranger_s character. They struggle with a stranger_s intent. It_s a mess. 6. One last thing: Take a look at the following word, and fill in the two blank letters. Do it quickly, without thinking. G L _ _ This is called a word-completion task. Psychologists commonly use it to test things such as memory. I completed G L _ _ as GLUM. Remember that. The next word is: _ _TER I completed that as HATER. Remember that too. Here are the rest of the words: S_ _RE P_ _ N TOU_ _ ATT_ _ _ BO_ _ FL_ _ T SL_ T STR_ _ _ GO_ _ CHE_ _ _ _OR SL_ _ _ SC _ _ _ _ _ NNER B_ _ T PO _ _ _ BA_ _ _RA_ _ _ _EAT I started out with GLUM and HATER and ended up with SCARE, ATTACK, BORE, FLOUT, SLIT, CHEAT, TRAP, and DEFEAT. That_s a pretty morbid and melancholy list. But I don_t think that says anything about the darkness of my soul. I_m not melancholy. I_m an optimist. I think that the first word, GLUM, popped into my head, and then I just continued in that vein. A few years ago, a team of psychologists led by Emily Pronin gave a group of people that same exercise. Pronin had them fill in the blank spaces. Then she asked them the same question: What do you think your choices say about you? For instance, if you completed TOU_ _ as TOUCH, does that suggest that you are a different kind of person than if you completed it as TOUGH? The respondents took the same position I did. They_re just words. _I don_t agree with these word-stem completions as a measure of my personality,_ one of Pronin_s subjects wrote. And the others in the group agreed: _These word completions don_t seem to reveal much about me at all._Random completions._ _Some of the words I wrote seem to be the antithesis of how I view the world. For instance, I hope that I am not always concerned about being STRONG, the BEST, or a WINNER._ _I don_t really think that my word completions reveal that much about me._ Occurred as a result of happenstance._ _Not a whole lot._ They reveal vocabulary._ _I really don_t think there was any relationship._ The words are just random._ _The words PAIN, ATTACK, and THREAT seem similar, but I don_t know that they say anything about me._ But then things got interesting. Pronin gave the group other people_s words. These were perfect strangers. She asked the same question. What do you think this stranger_s choices reveal? And this time Pronin_s panel completely changed their minds. _He doesn_t seem to read too much, since the natural (to me) completion of B_ _K would be BOOK. BEAK seems rather random, and might indicate deliberate unfocus of mind._ _I get the feeling that whoever did this is pretty vain, but basically a nice guy._ Keep in mind that these are the exact same people who just moments before had denied that the exercise had any meaning at all. _The person seems goal-oriented and thinks about competitive settings._ _I have a feeling that the individual in question may be tired very often in his or her life. In addition, I think that he or she might be interested in having close personal interactions with someone of the opposite sex. The person may also enjoy playing games._ The same person who said, _These word completions don_t seem to reveal much about me at all_ turned around and said, of a perfect stranger: _I think this girl is on her period._I also think that she either feels she or someone else is in a dishonest sexual relationship, according to the words WHORE, SLOT (similar to slut), CHEAT._ The answers go on and on like this. And no one seemed even remotely aware that they had been trapped in a contradiction. _I guess there is some relationship._He talks a lot about money and the BANK. A lot more correlation here._ _He seems to focus on competition and winning. This person could be an athlete or someone who is very competitive._ _It seems this individual has a generally positive outlook toward the things he endeavors. Most words, such as WINNER, SCORE, GOAL, indicate some sort of competitiveness, which combined with the jargon, indicate that he has some athletic competitive nature._ If the panel had seen my GLUM, HATER, SCARE, ATTACK, BORE, FLOUT, SLIT, CHEAT, TRAP, and DEFEAT, they would have worried for my soul. Pronin calls this phenomenon the _illusion of asymmetric insight._ She writes: The conviction that we know others better than they know us_and that we may have insights about them they lack (but not vice versa)_leads us to talk when we would do well to listen and to be less patient than we ought to be when others express the conviction that they are the ones who are being misunderstood or judged unfairly. This is the problem at the heart of those first two puzzles. The officers on the Cuba desk of the CIA were sure they could evaluate the loyalty of their spies. Judges don_t throw up their hands at the prospect of assessing the character of defendants. They give themselves a minute or two, then authoritatively pass judgment. Neville Chamberlain never questioned the wisdom of his bold plan to avert war. If Hitler_s intentions were unclear, it was his job, as prime minister, to go to Germany and figure them out. We think we can easily see into the hearts of others based on the flimsiest of clues. We jump at the chance to judge strangers. We would never do that to ourselves, of course. We are nuanced and complex and enigmatic. But the stranger is easy. If I can convince you of one thing in this book, let it be this: Strangers are not easy. 1 The one exception was Canadian prime minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. He met Hitler in 1937. He loved him. He compared him to Joan of Arc. 2 The Nazi official Henderson knew even better was G?ring, Hitler_s deputy. Henderson would go stag hunting with G?ring. They had long conversations. Henderson was convinced that G?ring wanted peace as well, and that underneath his Nazi bluster was a decent man. In a memoir of his time in Berlin, written just as war broke out, Henderson said that G?ring _loved animals and children; and, before ever he had one of his own, the top floor at Karinhall contained a vast playroom fitted up with every mechanical toy dear to the heart of a modern child. Nothing used to give him greater pleasure than to go and play there with them. The toys might, it is true, include models of airplanes dropping heavy bombs which exploded on defenseless towns or villages; but, as he observed when I reproached him on the subject, it was not part of the Nazi conception of life to be excessively civilized or to teach squeamishness to the young._ (In case you were wondering, that_s what Nazism was really

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