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During the Vietnam War, he was a conscientious objector, and there is still something of the '60s hippie about him, like the Mao cap he sometimes wears over his braided yarmulke.
He is a psychologist by training, but he also studied mathematics at MIT, and the rigor and precision of mathematics clearly moves him as much as anything else.
Later, some of the people who worked in the lab would say they were the kind of couple that is easy to like-intelligent and attractive and funny in a droll, ironic kind of way-and that much is immediately obvious from the videotape Gottman made of their visit. Each couple has been videotaped, and the results have been analyzed according to something Gottman dubbed SPAFF (for specific affect), a coding system that has twenty separate categories corresponding to every conceivable emotion that a married couple might express during a conversation.
Malcolm Gladwell is the author of five New York Times bestsellers: The Tipping Point, Blink, Outliers, What the Dog Saw, and David and Goliath. Can we tell if their relationship is healthy or unhealthy? Sometimes they feel as though they could almost kill each other, but then they go on vacation and come back sounding like newlyweds.
He is also the co-founder of Pushkin Industries, an audio content company that produces the podcasts Revisionist History, which reconsiders things both overlooked and misunderstood, and Broken Record, where he, Rick Rubin, and Bruce Headlam interview musicians across a wide range of genres. I suspect that most of us would say that Bill and Sue's dog talk doesn't tell us much. Marriages are buffeted by more important things, like money and sex and children and jobs and in-laws, in constantly changing combinations. In order to "know" a couple, we feel as though we have to observe them over many weeks and months and see them in every state-happy, tired, angry, irritated, delighted, having a nervous breakdown, and so on-and not just in the relaxed and chatty mode that Bill and Sue seemed to be in.
Under their chairs, a "jiggle-o-meter" on the platform measured how much each of them moved around. When they watch a marriage videotape, they assign a SPAFF code to every second of the couple's interaction, so that a fifteen-minute conflict discussion ends up being translated into a row of eighteen hundred numbers-nine hundred for the husband and nine hundred for the wife.
Two video cameras, one aimed at each person, recordedeverything they said and did. I petted her, and my hands didn't stink or feel oily. The notation "7, 7, 14, 10, 11, 11," for instance, means that in one six-second stretch, one member of the couple was briefly angry, then neutral, had a moment of defensiveness, and then began whining.Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; "New Coke"; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police.