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By: Pavan Brar
Malcolm Gladwell wrote a non-fiction book titled Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.” The title gives a preview to what the book is going to be about; different ways of thinking. The book was published on October 14, 2012, which means that the book is relatively new, so the information is still relevant.
In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking. Gladwell discusses the choices we make that seem to be made in an instant, but in reality, there is much more thought that goes into these decisions. He accomplishes this by giving examples of why some people are brilliant decision makers, and why some people are not. Gladwell discusses how, in some cases, people who use their initial instinct, end up getting better results than people who try to think of a well-developed answer. Gladwell is able to portray all this information by giving examples of how a phycologist can predict whether a marriage will last. A tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even touches the ball. Art experts who can recognize fake pieces at a glance. Gladwell also rebuts these scenarios by discussing Warren Harding, a researcher who gave subjects Coke and Pepsi. The subjects were asked what drink each person preferred. Gladwell also gives the example of the Amadou Diallo shooting and how rapid cognition and thin slicing could backfire. Gladwell reveals that the best decision makers are not the ones who spend the most time deliberating, but the ones who can make the most accurate snap decisions.
Malcolm Gladwell discusses various ways of thinking including thin slicing, rapid cognition, and priming. Blink’s main focus is about thin-slicing – the ability to make decisions with limited information - and rapid cognition – the ability to process and think about something quickly. Gladwell focuses on different ways of thinking, for different types of situations. Gladwell explains how thin slicing is just accurate, if not more, as well-researched thinking through many examples in the text. He also shows the dark side of thin slicing and gives examples of how it can backfire. Gladwell never really takes a stance on the “right-way” to think about something until the end of the text. He first shows an example of how thinking a certain way is beneficial, then does the opposite and shows how it cannot be beneficial. He talks about how thin slicing is usually just as accurate, if not more, as researched answers. He explains his proposition through many examples throughout the book. He also shows the other side how thin-slicing can backfire and cause unfavorable circumstances.
Gladwell formatted his book in a reader-friendly way. Each chapter talked about a different way of thinking and to start off each chapter, Gladwell gave a short anecdote that would best represent his point. Each chapter would have a story in the beginning, which was then followed by an analysis of the story. The next chapter usually built on the previous chapter, because he referred to previous chapters continuously throughout the book. This book is technically a science based book because all the information he represents was researched and done by scholars in various disciplines, but the book was written a friendly tone so that anyone could read the book.
Gladwell pursues research based evidence to make claims based on researched decisions. Blink was written using simple language, considering this was a researched based book. This way, anyone interested could read the book and understand what Gladwell was teaching. This could have made some researchers unhappy because they would probably prefer this book written more in the science genre. Since the tone Gladwell used was simple, he allowed Blink to be interpreted by a larger audience. All of the concepts he explains, he explained through well researched and physiological experiments. However, he represents all of his hard researched evidence in a simple way, like
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by Christine Pavona
Blink, written by Malcolm Gladwell, explores why people think the way we do and how those thoughts influence our perception of the world. This book combines everyday cases with psychology concepts to demonstrate how people’s subconscious impacts our decisions.
The introduction describes a kouros statue that the Getty Museum bought in 1986. The statue was inspected by many experts on the time period, and they deemed it to be legitimate. However, once the statue was on display, art historians and other professionals said that something seemed wrong with it, without being able to put their finger on exactly what. In the end, the statue remains on display, but people are still skeptical of whether it’s a forgery or not. This example is significant because it is referenced throughout the book to touch on how and why some experts knew more about the statue at first glance than the ones who extensively researched it.
“Thin slicing,” or making quick decisions with a very small amount of information, is the backbone of this book. John Gottman is known for his ability to predict the outcome of a couple’s relationship with 95% accuracy after watching only an hour of conversation between them. Some would say that you need to know the ins and outs of a relationship to make such a prediction, but for Gottman it’s all in the nuances of the couple’s facial and vocal expressions. Sometimes more can be said about what a person is thinking or feeling based on their involuntary facial expressions than based on the words they’re saying. Basically, people do not always need to comprehensively research and sift through information to come to a conclusion about a person or situation. In fact, sometimes knowing more information makes us unable to form a definite opinion at all. Our unconscious has the ability to pick out the information that is useful to decision-making and ignore the irrelevant, without us even realizing we’re doing it.
Yes, Gottman is an expert on thin slicing and predicting, but regular people do these things every day. Gladwell’s examples include speed dating – where people make snap judgments about others and find themselves attracted to some people without knowing why, sports – where people, like Vic Braden, can predict when a tennis player is going to double-fault, and movies – where you can like an actor without actually knowing them at all. By giving these real world examples, Gladwell appeals to nearly everyone. Everyone has had experiences where they felt an unexplained gut sense about someone or something, but couldn’t really clarify why. As a reader, Blink helped me to understand why this happens and why I should trust my instincts more.
However, snap judgments can be very detrimental, especially when preconceived notions are ingrained in us from society. For example, in chapter 6 Gladwell recounts a tragic story of an immigrant living in the Bronx who was shot and killed by police officers for simply standing on the stoop of his apartment. The officers were patrolling the neighborhood because of its high crime rates when they spotted Amadou Diallo. Their first snap judgment was that he was committing some type of crime. So, they approached him. Their second snap judgment was that when he reached his hand in his pocket he was pulling out a gun. All of the police officer present open fired on Diallo, shooting a total of 41 times. None of the officers seemed particularly mean or racist, and yet they made fatal errors based on assumptions they formed in a matter of seconds. This is a great example of how outside/social influences can change someone’s opinion without them even realizing it. Because that neighborhood was known to have a lot of crime, and because most of the people living there were non-white, the officers’ subconscious made that connection to Diallo. They were “thinking without thinking.”
Overall, this book was very entertaining and informative. Although it came out about 11 years ago, the examples Gladwell used are still