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Blink : the power of thinking without thinking (edition 2007)

by Malcolm Gladwell

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15,898317111 (3.74)193
Member:rsubber
Title:Blink : the power of thinking without thinking
Authors:Malcolm Gladwell
Info:New York : Back Bay Books, 2007.
Collections:Your library
Rating:*****
Tags:non-fiction

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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

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English (311)  Dutch (2)  Romanian (1)  Spanish (1)  Russian (1)  French (1)  Swedish (1)  All (318)
Showing 1-5 of 311 (next | show all)
First of all, am thankful or Tracey, John, Shauna, and the other people who were very quick and incisive in their recommendation of this book.

When asked if this book was ‘worth a read,’ the unanimous vote of all these people was more than enough for me. Am very grateful for them giving me their honest opinion not too long ago, because now after having been able to read it, it was more than worth it.

Blink – The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell, is quite a unique book. In essence, it offers countless examples, much of it backed by experiments or notable circumstances which show what takes place in the first moments when people are rapidly sifting through information.

In that way, the book is a slight misnomer, because although it states partly in its title ‘the power of thinking without thinking,’ just because the conscious mind isn’t ‘thinking’ does not mean that the subconscious mind isn’t processing information at warp speed. The latter part is what many people overlook in their daily lives, and sometimes mistakes get made of monumental proportions when in hindsight, it should have been the most obvious thing to some.

Gladwell hones in on a bevy of examples that buttress his thesis quite well. From snap decisions, to fascinating aspects of the subconscious mind, to what he calls thin-slicing, each of these ideas is touched upon by the author. All of these concepts help the individual get to the kernel of whatever circumstances they are going through and achieve a deeper, more accurate understanding.

One particular section that was of interest was one called ‘The Importance Of Contempt’, which discusses the work of John Gottman. In it the author details why what looks like positive interactions between married couples, are in fact negative. But this can only be seen if one knows what to look for.

The author also discusses the notion of priming people. Priming is where words are used in order to stimulate the brain to think about a particular thing/emotion. If the person knows not of this technique, they might be subject of manipulation, as countless emotions can be brought to bear by those unknowingly, by simply repeating certain words or having the person read words that convey a common theme.

An excellent, although nefarious, example of this is when George Bush [as well as others] in his post-9/11 speech used the word terrorism dozens of times in that newscast. Of course, the word was immediately ingrained into the populaces psyche, and a new era of terror was brought into the fold. That however was a rather obvious version of priming. If priming is used in a subtle way, it can serve to socially engineering people to particular emotions/agendas.

Moving forward, the author also covers another straight forward experiment in which when people in a minority group were “asked to identify race on a pretest questionnaire, that simple act was sufficient to prime them with all the negative stereotypes associated with being African American and academic achievement – and the number of items they got right was cut in half.”[1]

The author further elaborates:

“As a society, we place enormous faith in tests because we think that they are a reliable indicator of the test taker’s ability and knowledge. But are they really? If a white student from a prestigious private high school gets a higher SAT score than a black student from an inner-city school, is it because she’s truly a better student, or is it because to be white and to attend a prestigious high school is to be constantly primed with the idea to be “smart”?”[2]

The author proceeds to link the above not only into discussions about the unconscious, but also into his central thesis.

As the author states:

“The results of these experiments are, obviously, quite disturbing. They suggest that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influence than we realize.”[3] [Bold Emphasis Added]

All of the above concepts, and much more, are discussed at length by the author as he links at times seemingly unrelated topics to show how important that initial reaction before one blinks is, and how although it can lead one to profound and correct answers, can sometimes steer one awry.

In the society we currently live in, being able to have lightning-quick, accurate discernment is highly beneficial, especially given how much propaganda takes place in various forms of media.

Being able to ascertain who has agendas, who wants to profit from you, and who doesn’t care about throwing you under the bus is priceless in a world where in certain sectors its getting more ‘dog-eat-dog’.

—————————————————————————-​

Sources:

[1] Malcolm Gladwell, Blink – The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking, p. 56
[2] Ibid., pg 56-57
[3] Ibid., pg 58 ( )
  ZyPhReX | Jan 5, 2017 |
A debate between Superforcasting author Philip E. Tetlock and Malcolm Gladwell, the author of Blink, would be interesting. Blink focuses on what Gladwell terms our unconscious decision-making processes. These processes, developed as a consequence of life experience, enable us to make lightning quick decisions in the blink of an eye. Gladwell's thesis, as sated on page 52, is:
… if we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that — sometimes — we're better off that way.

In contrast, Tetlock focuses on the development of rational (conscious) decision-making skills that rely on the painstaking collection of research data and the analysis of that data. His thesis is that decision-makers can improve their ability to forecast future events (the essence of decision-making) by maintaining an open-minded receptivity to incoming data and a willingness to refine or significantly modify their predictions in light of new information.

Both authors provide anecdotes supporting their claims and both cite examples in which the approach favored by the other is inferior. In contrast to Tetlock, however, Gladwell relies almost entirely of anecdotes and self-reports. He provides little evidence to support the conclusion that snap judgments result in reliable, accurate predictions. Instead, he relies on anecdotes describing instances in which snap judgments have been accurate, leaving the impression that these decision-making processes are routinely dependable and accurate. At points he cites inconclusive evidence and implies that this information provides strong support for his thesis. Blink is essentially an extended series of anecdotes.

Blink begins with interesting stories of snap judgments that turned out to be correct but it lacks a tight focus. Gladwell strays from that focus to cover research showing almost the opposite of his thesis. For example, he reports that the amount of contempt expressed in a marital relationship is a good predictor of divorce. However, that conclusion was formed by John Gottman after years focusing on conversations between marital couples. These conversations were videotaped in a psychology research lab and the participants were wired to measure numerous physiological responses. Gladwell seems to assume that we will not recognize that this is antithetical to his thesis.

Gladwell also cites research showing that the personal attention a physician gives patients is negatively associated with the likelihood the physician will be sued for malpractice. Physicians who act superior and lecture their patients are most likely to be sued. Again, this conclusion was obtained from a structured research program that analyzed recordings and patient reports of doctor-patient interactions and related that to their history of malpractice lawsuits. It has nothing to do with the unconscious decision-making processes Gladwell is touting.

In short, these findings and other evidence covered by Gladwell contradict his thesis. Both provide much stronger support for Tetlock's thesis that the systematic collection and analysis of data leads to superior predictions.

Blink is an interesting read, but it is not without significant flaws. For example, the readability of the book suffers from Gladwell's fondness of never-ending paragraphs, some of which go on for more than a full page. The anecdotes that form the backbone of Blink are interesting and the variety helps the reader avoid ennui, but readers will need to maintain a healthy dose of skepticism and ignore the weak support Gladwell provides for his thesis. In the final analysis, I found Blink to be less interesting than Gladwell's earlier book, The Tipping Point. ( )
  Tatoosh | Dec 28, 2016 |
4 ( )
  ronchan | Nov 14, 2016 |
Interesting book. To summarize, it is basically about the human ability to use our subconscience mind to make decisions and notice profound things in the blink of an eye. An expert can spot a fake statue at a glance when months of scientific testing seems to say it is genuine. A true marriage expert can accurately predict if a couple is going to stay together after listening to just a minute of them talking with each other (in this example, the "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" are defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism and contempt).

An interesting thing to note that this is very different from a hunch from someone who doesn't know what to look for. In another example, it is possible to tell in a minute which doctors are the most likely to be sued. But you don't look at their skill. It turns out you have to look at how they talk to their patients.

This subconscience mind takes place behind a closed door. We don't know what goes on behind their. We are attracted to some people (like in dating) even though we verbally say we are attracted to a different type of people. But because it's behind a closed door, we don't know if our unwarranted biases are playing a role. In sales for example, it helped one car salesman to squash a biased first impression that drowns out the other clues he can pick up on.

Whether it is in the ER or war, more information is not better. Doctors had too much info to accurately predict heart attacks. After a lot of research and focused study, it was able to be distilled down to a few key things to look out for.

This book is not a "how to" book. It does an interesting job of looking at this subject from all different perspectives such as when it works great and things that can throw it off. ( )
  kikowatzy | Nov 3, 2016 |
Loved it. ( )
  JennysBookBag.com | Sep 28, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 311 (next | show all)
Beyond question, Gladwell has succeeded in his avowed aim. Though perhaps less immediately seductive than the title and theme of The Tipping Point, Blink satisfies and gratifies.
 
If you want to trust my snap judgment, buy this book: you'll be delighted. If you want to trust my more reflective second judgment, buy it: you'll be delighted but frustrated, troubled and left wanting more.
 
"Blink" brims with surprising insights about our world and ourselves, ideas that you'll have a hard time getting out of your head, things you'll itch to share with all your friends.
added by stephmo | editSalon.com, Farhad Manjoo (Jan 13, 2005)
 
You can't judge a book by its cover. But Gladwell had me at hello — and kept me hooked to the final page.
 
As a researcher, Gladwell doesn't break much new ground. But he's talented at popularizing others' research. He's a clever storyteller who synthesizes and translates the work of psychologists, market researchers and criminologists.
added by stephmo | editUSA Today, Bob Minzesheimer (Jan 10, 2005)
 

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0316010669, Paperback)

Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of "thin slices" of behavior. The key is to rely on our "adaptive unconscious"--a 24/7 mental valet--that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.

Gladwell includes caveats about leaping to conclusions: marketers can manipulate our first impressions, high arousal moments make us "mind blind," focusing on the wrong cue leaves us vulnerable to "the Warren Harding Effect" (i.e., voting for a handsome but hapless president). In a provocative chapter that exposes the "dark side of blink," he illuminates the failure of rapid cognition in the tragic stakeout and murder of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. He underlines studies about autism, facial reading and cardio uptick to urge training that enhances high-stakes decision-making. In this brilliant, cage-rattling book, one can only wish for a thicker slice of Gladwell's ideas about what Blink Camp might look like. --Barbara Mackoff

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:18:19 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

How do we think without thinking, seem to make choices in an instant--in the blink of an eye--that actually aren't as simple as they seem? Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, the author reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.… (more)

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