From Malcolm Gladwell's MasterClass

Conclusion: A Theory of Other Minds

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

Topics include: Conclusion


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

Topics include: Conclusion

Malcolm Gladwell

Teaches Writing

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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.

Mr. Gladwell shared many important and interesting points about writing. My interest is in writing non-fiction. I learn many new ways to approach writing that I wasn't aware of. I now will go through the workbook and come back and review the class again at a later time. Thank you for this. I have loved Mr. Gladwell's books since I read the first one!

Amazing way to pass some knowledge to others writer's. Befora watching this Masterclass I haven't heard about Malcolm, and this class took me in a journey in non-fiction writing that changed my perspective.

Thank you, Malcolm. My writing energy is charged!

Great insights from one of my favourite authors


Carlene G.

Thank you so much for sharing your insights and truths. It was wonderful to listen to and watch. Your so interesting and I feel privileged for the opportunity to see inside your mind!

A fellow student

I found fascinating the clarity of Malcom Gladwell talks.For some years now I have felt that I have to transfer my family stories to the new generation in the family and if I do not write them all those amazing stories will be lost forever. Never new how to do it , never got inspired . After this Master Class I feel I am ready to start. Thank you Malcom G.


This has been the most thought provoking Master Class on writing. Be true to yourself and your subject. My perspective has changed because of this course.

Shirley H.

My favorite master class so far and I’ve taken quite a few. I’m not even an aspiring non-fiction writer (songwriter who after 30 years wants to write fiction) But your insights and philosophies hold true to fiction too and are In fact, great practical advice for living life well. I believe that to do good in the world - be a good person first, then do what interests you. You, Malcolm are a great example of this. I could listen to you talk about the phonebook sir.

Vickijolene R.

Malcolm, Thank you not only for your insights but the grace and permission to follow our own instincts.

Cristina O.

Thank you very much for this class, Malcolm. Every chapter was great. I enjoyed so much being here.

Nathan V.

Thank you for a meaningful and well-taught class, I have found every bit of it intriguing. I continue to enjoy applying all that you have taught me.

Phil A.

Most of all I love how much positive energy, and how engaging Malcom was. It was like listening to a sage friend talk, and it's kind of sad seeing him walk out the door at the end there. Still. I feel grateful for all his sage wisdom he shared with me.

Larae M.

Hello Malcolm, first let me thank you for taking the time to teach this class. I debated on taking this course because I write fiction and wondered what I might take away from a course about writing non-fiction. I can’t believe I almost passed this up, what was I thinking! I learned more than I will attempt to express in this little comment. Thank you! To those who are reading the comments trying to decide...YES, you want to take this course.

Loretta C.

Sad that’s finished. Thank you for inspiration. Thank you for what you do.