Burton seems to have mischaracterized Blink
, from what I remember of that book. Gladwell doesn't possess a "deeply rooted desire to believe in the rational mind," as Burton claims. While I won't try to summarize Blink
, which I read a few years ago, that book is better written and more convincing than On Being Certain
, in part because it has a lot more real-world examples.
Now, Burton's conclusions about objectivity make total sense. Everyone's reasoning is biased, shaped by their beliefs, pre-conceptions, and way of viewing the world. While Burton gives medical examples, that tendency is most clear to me in news coverage. Whenever something thinks about or writes about the real world, they're also shaped by their personal perspective.
The discussion of back pain reminded me of what my wife went through lately. She suffered from serious back pain for a while, to the extent that she couldn't sit up or go to work. The doctors couldn't identify a clear problem, and the medical treatments and physical therapy didn't help. She eventually read John Sarno's Healing Back Pain: The Mind-Body Connection
, which argues that chronic back pain often arises from emotional issues. After reading that book, her back pain mostly went away, and now her functioning is at normal levels.