Human beings are by nature trusting — of people, technology, everything. Often, we’re too trusting, with tragic results. But if we didn’t suppress thoughts of worst-case scenarios, we’d never leave the house. We definitely wouldn’t go on dating apps or invest in stocks or let our kids take gymnastics.
The “default to truth” theory is Mr. Gladwell’s latest obsession and the theme of his first book in six years. Lots of readers will scoff. After his first two pop-science smash hits — “The Tipping Point” (2000) and “Blink” (2005) — Mr. Gladwell’s reviews have steadily worsened, with prominent critics savaging his anecdote-heavy methodology. I counted myself among the skeptics. I doubted the premise of “Talking to Strangers” and dismissed it as armchair psychology.
How “Talking to Strangers” is received could cement Mr. Gladwell in one of those camps for good. The book is weightier than his previous titles. There are no romps through pop culture (“The Tipping Point”), no tinge of self-help about the power of first impressions (“Blink”). Rather, Mr. Gladwell asks readers to rethink grim topics like police misconduct, child sexual assault, suicide and campus rape, all through the prism of our often disastrous instinct to trust that the people we meet are telling us the truth.