Conclusion: A Theory of Other Minds

Malcolm Gladwell

Lesson time 7:52 min

Malcolm delivers his parting words about the true intent of nonfiction writing.

Malcolm Gladwell
Teaches Writing
In 24 lessons, the author of Blink and The Tipping Point teaches you how to find, research, and write stories that capture big ideas.
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There's a principle in psychology called the other minds problem. And the other minds problem is the problem that a child faces when he or she first comes into the world. In the very beginning, a child assumes that the contents of their own mind is the same as the contents of everyone else's mind. If a child wants a cracker, the child assumes that his mom wants a cracker. He doesn't-- he can't make a distinction. But there's a certain point-- a crucial point in the development of a child-- when it suddenly occurs to him or her that if he wants a cracker it doesn't necessarily follow that his mom wants a cracker. That is when a child develops a theory of other minds, right, that people have minds different from his own. And it's a crucial point in development. And a lot of what a two-year-old does, when a two-year-old is being terrible, is a two-year-old is simply experimenting with this new insight. The reason the 2-year-old does something outrageous and then looks at his mother or father is that he's so delighted by the notion that his father and mother think differently than he does. It's never occurred to him, to that point. And I think that it's not just two-year-olds who are fascinated with the discovery of other minds, this marvelous, incredible insight that every single human being on the planet has something different going on inside their head. I think that we all are, and that a lot of what-- a lot of what makes us brings us pleasure. In reading or in writing or in the active engagement with all sorts of art, is a version of the other minds discovery. It is the pleasure we get in investigating the contents of someone else's mind, and being reminded, once again, how amazing it is that you don't think like me, right? So I wanted to read something that I wrote on this, as it-- as it pertains to writing, and then talk a little bit about that. Because that goes to the heart of why I do what I do, because I think very explicitly about the other minds question when I'm writing. And I'm reading this selection from the introduction to my book, "What the Dog Saw," which you should all buy in triplicate. And I start by talking about this two-year-old thing. "Why is a two-year-old terrible? Because she is systematically testing the fascinating and, to her, utterly novel notion that something that gives her pleasure might not actually give someone else pleasure. And the truth is that as adults we never lose that fascination. What is the first thing that we want to know when we meet someone who is a doctor at a social occasion? It isn't 'What do you do?' We know, sort of, what a doctor does. "Instead, we want to know what it means to be with sick people all day long. We want to know what it feels like to be a doctor, because we're quite sure that it doesn't feel at all like what it means to sit at a computer all day long, or teach school, or sell cars. Such questions are not dumb or obvious. Curiosity about the interior li...

Transform the ordinary

Ketchup. Crime. Quarterbacks. Thanks to Malcolm Gladwell’s books, these ordinary subjects have helped millions of readers grasp complex ideas like behavioral economics and performance prediction. Now, the renowned storyteller and best-selling author of Blink and The Tipping Point is teaching his first online writing class. Craft stories that captivate by learning how Malcolm researches topics, crafts characters, and distills big ideas into simple, powerful narratives.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

This class has given me a framework for writing my first non-fiction book. I'm excited to re-watch the lectures and embark on a path where I can submit a story to the New Yorker and write a longer book.

Honestly I didn't expect I was going to enjoy this course so much. I enjoyed Malcom Gladwell classes as much I've enjoyed and learnt from all his books. His voice (its color, speed and temperature) touched me. I listened to his lessons while meditating, while walking with my dogs, while driving, while having dinner, and it game me inspiration, company and tricks. Thanks Malcolm.

Fantastic. Amazing. Outstanding! Malcolm is awesome!

I listened diligently to his class the first time, took notes, and worked on my own story. I learn more every time I listen to the class. Great!


A fellow student

All these lessons have been inspiring and insigthful. To become a good writer takes dedication and time, like many would say, there is no rush. Mr. Gladwell is a great teacher, information and enthusiasm is not bad

Adrianna R.

It was a great experience to take a MasterClass from Malcolm Gladwell--he is such a wonderful, thoughtful writer. As a neurosurgeon, I've spent my career writing in a very different way--scientific writing for medical journals is factual/evidence-based and non-creative. It is highly formulaic and meant to convey insights to the medical community. As a person with a lifelong love for learning, language and artistic expression--beyond the scope of science and medicine--this MasterClass was truly fascinating and inspiring. There are elements of Mr. Gladwell's instruction that can inform and improve anyone's efforts to communicate through writing, for any genre. My own career has gifted me with a wealth of stories, all worthy of sharing. I am so grateful to Mr. Gladwell for sharing his pearls of wisdom on writing. I would love to learn more from him!

Mary A.

Loved this, As a writer/reader I am inspired to aprroach my process with new eyes. Thank you Malcolm Gladwell you are great teacher and storyteller.

Tiffany C.

I enjoyed all segments of Mr. Gladwell’s course, but this concluding statement acknowledging what we Behavioral Neurologists refer to as Theory of Mind is so true! And I’m so especially glad to have learned some of what is in Mr. Gladwell’s very open mind.


I didn't want this class to end! Will any other masterclass be as good? Well, I'll have happy memories of this one. So many happy memories.

Michael E.

If i had paid the price of £170 just for this class alone, it would have been totally worth it! I love the way Malcolm articulates his processes — he has made a lot of sense out of my nonsense. What I have always thought of as my weird and wonderful quirks, have have actually turned out to be perfectly legitimate processes. I've been both blessed and inspired by this course!

Brian Francis Hume

Although I have finished listening to all of the courses, it is just the beginning. I plan to go back through all of the courses to highlight areas that I need to focus on as I work on my manuscript. It has been a delight to listen to Malcolm share from his fascinating array of thoughts on writing. But I feel there's still unfinished business to take care of that I must finish by going through the course one more time through.

Omar N.

malcolm. for no other reason than being a human being who is fascinated by life. the idea, or the greatest idea, is to have a mind that asks the questions it wants to know the answer to. you seem to have gone for that pursuit. and the world has rewarded you for it; deservingly so in my humble opinion.

Suzie G.

Amazing. I loved every minute of this class. I'm sad it's over. Thank you Malcolm.

Rafa T.

Thank you very much, Malcolm, for sharing your energy and experience, I enjoyed every moment and thanks to your class today I feel closer to the writer within me.