image courtesy of the Getty Museum, see museum’s online entry here.

In the 1980s the Getty Museum in LA purchased an incredibly rare Ancient Greek kouros, or statue of a nude youth.  As in this statue was one of 12 existing kouroi.   Initial testing of the statue indicated authentic construction and patina, and the purchase was considered a coup.  And then something odd happened.

People started thinking that something looked a bit funny with the statue.  Like something was off.  It just didn’t feel right.  Curator after historian after curator started complaining of a “gut feeling” that suggested the statue was false; the pose was wrong, it wasn’t self-supported, the patina looked off.  So the tests were redone.  This time tests indicated that the weathered patina (or de-dolomotization, thanks Wikipedia) on the kouros was due to, of all things, potato juices.  If it it is a forgery, the culprit has yet to be identified.

Today the kouros is still displayed with the caption: “Greek, about 530 B.C., or modern forgery.”

This story is also used to introduce the main subject of the book Blink by Malcolm Gladwell.  It’s all about you should occasionally listen to your gut instincts and snap judgments because they frequently turn out to be correct.