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Last Updated on October 8, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 435

The Nature of People's Judgments About Others

One of the main arguments in Gladwell's book is that many people are not accurate in how they judge others. This is especially true for strangers—particularly those who are presented to the masses in the media—but it also extends to people we know personally. These inaccurate judgments can easily lead to lasting misconceptions and appreciable consequences. Gladwell analyzes various cases (including those of Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, Amanda Knox, and Adolf Hitler) in order to address the multiple processes and outcomes of such errors in our judgment of other people. Gladwell dissects why people like the figures mentioned were judged incorrectly—whether for good or for ill.

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Gladwell concludes that we project our own personalities and concepts of ethical conduct onto others. For instance, Bernie Madoff was initially considered a business genius because he presented himself as someone who is intelligent and capable of handling complex finances. Therefore, he was trusted by the public. However, people misjudged him based on the common assumption that Madoff knew things that others don't know; as a result, he was able to defraud investors of billions of dollars over decades without detection. The US Securities and Exchange Commission investigated Madoff multiple times without unearthing proof of his elaborate Ponzi scheme, in part because they insufficiently explored accusations by sources.

Deception by Manipulating Perceptions

Because of the way people judge others—that is, based on the tendency to project their own intentions onto others' actions—it can be relatively simple for immoral individuals to mislead the public. People like Bernie Madoff, Jerry Sandusky, and Adolf Hitler were accomplished liars, and Gladwell examines how they were able to influence...

(The entire section contains 435 words.)

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