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.

Very enjoyable overall. Some great points. His style is conversational, and can sometimes (for me) feel like he's going on longer than he needs to.

I learned to listen more carefully and be more human

So far it has been great, useful for helping me structure my book I am publishing and it's nice to get tips & suggestions from a master such a master.

I hadnt heard of MG before this, nor had I any preconceptions of the course. Im writing my first novella and I was gifted this course by my husband for my birthday. Wow - just wow! Honest, amusing, insightful, generous - I thoroughly enjoyed every lesson! Thankyou MG!


Naphtali S.

This entire class was more than I expected it to be. Thanks Malcolm. FWIW I just downloaded David and Goliath.

Mary S.

Malcolm was another example of a talented "artist" who is not a great teacher. I have spent forty years writing non-fiction as a career civil servant in the field of criminal justice and his references to that field seemed simplistic. But I like that he can take the other perspective on a set of facts and turn them into the unexpected. But I wanted to have him go into depth showing how the "sausage" is made. A single focus on one of his stories could have spanned a number of his lessons instead of jumping to other stories. Ron Howard used at least five sessions of his 20 plus sessions to show us how to shoot a scene. It was very detailed. Malcolm should have done something like that with one of his stories.

Laurence D.

Malcolm Gladwell's compassion, enthusiasm, and humility were truly inspiring. His insights will help to make me a more thoughtful reader and writer. My thanks go out to him.

Tornado T.

Thank you Malcolm Gladwell! I have learned numerous tips about how to impact the reader through a non fiction article or essay, with simple words or, if the matter is complex, with simple and striking explanations that let the public understand the basic concept or the general phenomenon. As a french part's Swiss, I understood you without subtitles, in spite of the fact I'm not bilingual. So in a way, you proved your point. You reached me, and I thank you for your contribution.


Malcolm without the Muddle ... clarity is a wonderful thing. My toolbox is jam packed with new tools. I am ready to dig into other minds and explore the boundaries. Thank you Malcolm for your insights.

Nik S.

This class is about life, about teaching any profession, hobby or self improvement. You can tell the passion for story telling and the love for people he is writing about in any second of this class. I am a marketing freelancer and photographer. I can transfer almost every sentence to my needs, if I want to make something special and emotional. There must be a reason why I have 5 books of him and also watched this masterclass.

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.