Although Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is mainly concerned with the ability of the human mind to make quick, accurate judgements, the sixth chapter of his book provides one example of an occasion on which such a snap judgement was tragically mistaken.
The incident occurred during the winter of 1999, when a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot to death outside his South Bronx building by a quartet of mostly young, plainclothes New York police who mistook the wallet he was withdrawing from his back pocket for a gun.
Given the fatal result of the officers' failure to correctly interpret the response of their victim, Gladwell seeks to examine the scope of human ability to read the behavior and facial reactions of others in social, public situations, as he discusses the work of Sylvan Tompkins and Paul Ekman. After decades of research, these psychologists have found the muscular patterns of human facial responses to be surprisingly universal in the emotions they express. At the same time, his description of an autistic man's 'mindblindness', an inability to read the expressions and behavior of others, demonstrates an extreme of human incomprehension.
Gladwell finally returns to the possible causes of police error in the Diallo case. The inexperience of three of the officers, the distorted tunnel vision provoked by an extremely stressful situation, and biased judgement based on racial prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, all seem to have played on a role in this awful event.