The Gladwell Effect

Jessica Love complains about the lazy tendency of social-science researchers to inflate the relevance of “counterintuitive” studies for a clickable headline:

[It is] this irksome spin that makes [these studies] such fodder for the popular press. Indeed, had the researchers not spun it this way, the press (and, alas, I include bloggers like myself) might have done so for them. Why read “Social Connections Evoke a Variety of Strong Emotions” when you can read “What Makes Us Happy Can Make Us Sad“? Why click on “Intelligence No Cure-all for Cognitive Bias” when you can go to “Why Smart People Are Stupid”? …

The counterintuitive has its place. But our love affair comes at a cost. It leaves little room in the public consciousness for social scientific work that is incremental, for work that shores up and teases apart, for work that complicates, for work on the boundary conditions—those fragile social and mental habitats upon which decisions turn. In other words, it leaves little room for most of social science.