Must say second-time-over-reading has it's positives - you know when you're in a boring or not so interesting part so you can happily fast-forward.
Following my recent post on Categories vs. Relationships I guess my mind was skewed when I hit a good story on some strawberry jam testing experiments:
In short, from the book - a group of food experts ranked 44 types using their usual arsenal of specific measurements like texture and taste. Taste of course split into many subcategories. Texture could be "adhesive to lips, firmness, denseness, slipperiness" and so forth. Each of those again getting a number from 1 to 15. Pretty complex, but we're talking about people with long experience and a second nature of how slippery a jam is.
Then they simplified and took the first-, eleventh-, twenty-fourth-, thirty-second-, and forty-forth-ranking jams and gave them to a group of college students. And lo and behold, their relative ranking was pretty close to the experts.
Then they repeated the same with a different group of students, but this time they gave the students a questionnaire and asked them to enumerate the reasons for the ranking. Now the results were dramatically different from the two earlier ones.
This Mr. Gladwell argues is another proof that rapid cognition or "blink" thinking is pretty good, and will be immediately ruined by too much thinking unless you're a highly trained expert.
Sounds plausible indeed, and he has lots of other examples supporting the theory. I agree, but I was lacking a good explanation as to why we're so good at rapid cognition and bad at the "long thinking".
Thus, allow me to try to add something to his theory: The third experiment was for me a classic example of using a complex system of categories or taxonomy by the untrained, a given that it does not work. Categories requires education and training. Slipperiness of jams as felt in the mouth surely more than other taxonomies - as can be witnessed by the training period for food taste experts and perfume designers, not much of four week training courses there, more like twenty years internships and much sniffing and spitting. No training and chaos ensues. As always.
But what about the second one? Or rather what's connecting the first and the second so the results becomes similar?
Taste and smell, both having very strong emotional memory (ever get flashes of memories when you pass some flowers or blossoming tree?), would give immediate relationships - "that reminds me of my grandmother's jam and sunny days during summer vacation", a sure measurement of "good taste" I would suspect.
Or the "yech, that's like the cheap stuff I have to buy on a student budget" - probably not getting high marks in the taste department.
And obviously, the whole idea about the "taste-taxonomy" would be to recognise what triggers the "good" relationships, those that triggers the good memories and the natural linking to strawberries in a field on a sunny day. Relationships thus being the common base for one and two.
If you have the book, check the other experiments and examples of rapid cognition or blink moments and you might suspect the same as me - if conscious or unconscious relationships exists in our experience we'll have a quick and easy path to decisions. Try to explain the decisions by using categories (as we're usually meant to if "thinking") and you'll find that nobody but the experts will have a chance. Obviously.
After all, relationships - between, and the actions involving, objects - is the basis for all our learning until we're put in school - and a damned good method it is. And here's good indication that categorising is fools way if you're not specifically trained so why not leave categories methods alone, accept the relationships method as better and develop it further for education and for practical daily use?
As said earlier - awast ye scurvy categories!