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Review: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Editorial Review - Bookreporter.com - Anne Miller

After his bestselling book brought the phrase "tipping point" into popular usage, which is that moment when an idea, product or concept suddenly catches fire with the population at large, Malcolm Gladwell now gives us two more phrases that are likely to become equally wellknown: "blink" and "thinslicing." We "blink" when we think without thinking. We do that by "thinslicing," using limited ... Read full review

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by Zoey Smith
This nonfiction work by the name of Blink covers the implications and benefits of having an adaptive unconscious. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that our unconscious does so much more than
what was previously thought in the world of science. He relates it to (and I quote), “a kind of computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings (Gladwell, 11).” After reading this book anyone would understand that humans would not be able to live with out it. A very important thing it helps us do is “thin slice” situations. Thin slicing is the ability to look at a situation, person, place or thing, and size it up immediately, gaining many different types of information at once. This is the major topic Gladwell discusses in this book and is the inspiration for its title of Blink.
Gladwells ability to eloquently explain all of the highly detailed studies to the typical layperson is commendable. Even with 277 pages of large print there are many different studies with varying results. We do not always need to explain the why behind our snap decisions but the what. Anyone who is interested in the social sciences, likes to share cool facts or asks himself or herself “why did I suddenly think of that?” should read this book. It is informative and suggestive while illuminating the intricacy of the human mind.
Gladwell uses many examples of thin slicing but a very surprising one is his study of professors in colleges. He references a psychologist named Nalini Ambady and her studies about “thin slicing.” Ambady gave students three 10-second soundless videotapes of a teacher lecturing. Then those same students were asked to rate the teachers in the films. Their ratings matched the ratings from students who had taken the teacher's course for an entire semester. To further test her theory Ambady she cut the videotape down to just two seconds and showed them to a new group. The ratings shockingly still matched those of the students who'd sat through the entire term. This powerful study proves that thin slicing may be just as beneficial, or even more so in gathering information, than long periods of time experiencing the same things (Gladwell, 13).
This however was an example of how thin slicing could be advantageous… but thin slicing can also be very harmful to those doing the thin slicing. For example a study was done on priming and thin slicing. The study was done on a group of African-Americans students who were asked to take a test. Half the group was asked before hand to identify their race while the other half were not. The simple act of determining their race was proven to be harmful. Gladwell explained how the half that were asked, did 50% worse on the test than the ones that were not. He also went on to explain that African Americans are primed throughout life with negativities about their race. Race was incorporated with painful memories and therefore the unconscious linked immediately to thoughts of inadequacy. The ones who did badly were not able to explain why they did so but Gladwell was. Part of the mystery of the unconscious is that it thin slices without the person even being aware (Gladwell, 56).
 

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Attractive title, strong explanation about our unconscious thoughts, but sudden ending. Would had been better if author is able to tell us how to harness our unconscious.

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Don't stop writing!
I have kite runner, outliers, tipping point. I need to get this as well. I think through the small cracks that most would miss, Gladwell fills these cracks with knowledge.

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"This a terrific book! The author does a deep analysis of how human decision making works with lots of cases. "

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Reading _How We Decide_ reminded me of this book, which describes how quick, impulsive guesses are likely to result in the right choices. It's a fascinating read, but it doesn't really do much to explain why this is the case, or provide guidance for when it's untrustworthy.

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Another cool book by Gladwell. Gives insight into when to be thoughtful and when to go with your gut.

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"Blink" addresses some interesting questions about "intuitive" vs "analytic" decision making. I was negatively impressed, however, by some of the material in Chapter 4 about medical decision making. I was made aware early in my medical training that some gifted and experienced physicians can rapidly reach accurate perceptions about patients and can't adequately explain their reasoning. Although they knew a lot about analytics, they obviously made intuitive leaps that they had difficulty explaining. But I think Gladwell over-simplifies and trivializes the issues in Chapter 4, and that makes me suspicious of his reasoning and reporting in other parts of the book. Those who are very interested may wish to review some of the published discussion by Goldman <<http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199712043372302#t=article>> and by Reilly <<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12117399>>. In my reading of these articles, the issues are more complex and nuanced, the outcomes a lot less clear, than Gladwell's book suggests. 

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