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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking [Paperback]

Malcolm Gladwell
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 4 2006
In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made 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? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; "New Coke"; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink 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 "thin-slicing"-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking + The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference + Outliers: The Story of Success
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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study. As he displays again in this entertaining and illuminating look at how we make snap judgments—about people's intentions, the authenticity of a work of art, even military strategy—he can parse for general readers the intricacies of fascinating but little-known fields like professional food tasting (why does Coke taste different from Pepsi?). Gladwell's conclusion, after studying how people make instant decisions in a wide range of fields from psychology to police work, is that we can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts—and that less input (as long as it's the right input) is better than more. Perhaps the most stunning example he gives of this counterintuitive truth is the most expensive war game ever conducted by the Pentagon, in which a wily marine officer, playing "a rogue military commander" in the Persian Gulf and unencumbered by hierarchy, bureaucracy and too much technology, humiliated American forces whose chiefs were bogged down in matrixes, systems for decision making and information overload. But if one sets aside Gladwell's dazzle, some questions and apparent inconsistencies emerge. If doctors are given an algorithm, or formula, in which only four facts are needed to determine if a patient is having a heart attack, is that really educating the doctor's decision-making ability—or is it taking the decision out of the doctor's hands altogether and handing it over to the algorithm? Still, each case study is satisfying, and Gladwell imparts his own evident pleasure in delving into a wide range of fields and seeking an underlying truth.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Gladwell writes about subtle yet crucial behavioral phenomena with lucidity and contagious enthusiasm. His first book, The Tipping Point (2000), became a surprise best-seller. Here he brilliantly illuminates an aspect of our mental lives that we utterly rely on yet rarely analyze, namely our ability to make snap decisions or quick judgments. Adept at bridging the gap between everyday experience and cutting-edge science, Gladwell maps the "adaptive unconscious," the facet of mind that enables us to determine things in the blink of an eye. He then cites many intriguing examples, such as art experts spontaneously recognizing forgeries; sports prodigies; and psychologist John Gottman's uncanny ability to divine the future of marriages by watching videos of couples in conversation. Such feats are based on a form of rapid cognition called "thin-slicing," during which our unconscious "draws conclusions based on very narrow 'slices' of experience." But there is a "dark side of blink," which Gladwell illuminates by analyzing the many ways in which our instincts can be thwarted, and by presenting fascinating, sometimes harrowing, accounts of skewed market research, surprising war-game results, and emergency-room diagnoses and police work gone tragically wrong. Unconscious knowledge is not the proverbial light bulb, he observes, but rather a flickering candle. Gladwell's groundbreaking explication of a key aspect of human nature is enlightening, provocative, and great fun to read. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Extremely interesting book with insightful theories on why and how we make decisions. Unfortunately, you don't find out until the disappointing end that the "chapters" were independent essays. As with most books, I looked forward to finding out how the author will wrap everything up and tie the stories together in the end. Apparently, Gladwell either didn't feel it was necessary, or ran out of steam. The ending was so abrupt that I found myself frantically scanning the notes at the end for some sort of closure (to no avail). That said... I do think this book is worth reading. Just read it as if it was a group of short stories, so you won't be disappointed.
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65 of 70 people found the following review helpful
By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
Like The Tipping Point, Blink has a very simple point which it elaborates from a variety of perspectives. In this case, the point is that our subconscious mind can integrate small, subtle clues to very quickly make great decisions . . . as long as we have been trained to know what clues to focus on.

In developing that simple idea, Mr. Gladwell makes the case for "going with your gut" in many instances . . . especially when time is of the essence (such as during emergencies and in combat). He also rescues analysis to show how analysis can train people to know what to look for so they can use their instincts more effectively.

But instincts have a downside. Based on conditioning, we make associations that are harmful to ourselves and to others. He recounts how an innocent man became a victim of under trained, over stimulated police officers and how even African-Americans display prejudice against African-Americans.

Most of the book is devoted to looking at prejudice and how to overcome it. For those who are interested in that subject, this book will be much more interesting than for those who want to understand how to improve their decision-making.

I thought that the book failed to reach the average mark as a book about how to improve decision-making. There's no real guidance for what we can each do to improve our important decisions. We are just left with hope that we can do better. I graded the book up a bit because I liked the insights into racism.

I thought the material on branded products was much too long and didn't add anything to what I knew already.

Mr. Gladwell writes well, though, so it's mostly a pleasant trip in the book.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By Daniel Jolley TOP 50 REVIEWER
There is plenty of food for thought in the pages of Blink. Malcolm Gladwell does indeed, to some degree, inspire you to rethink your whole way of thinking. I'm not sure how much of a practical effect the book has on a reader, though, because Gladwell never really comes out with a systematic method for training yourself to think differently. I would sum the book up this way: Your unconscious is smarter than you are - but not always. It isn't that radical of an idea. We've all been such advice as: if you don't know the answer, go with your first instinct; you never get a second chance to make a first impression; and the ubiquitous follow your gut. What Gladwell does is validate these sorts of common sense notions. Going further, though, he also describes situations in which your unconscious can lead you astray. Ideally, one must strike a balance between instinct and deliberation.

The book features all manner of excellent examples to fit Gladwell's argument - although at times, it gets a little bogged down in minutiae (such as a veritable laundry list of scientific names for facial muscles). First, he talks about a Greek statue that was scientifically verified as authentic but almost immediately declared a fake (and rightly so) by a number of experts in that form of art. How could these experts see the truth instantaneously? Why can other people see and know things that logic dictates it is impossible to know? These are the questions Gladwell asks. It all comes down to thin-slicing, he tells us. Thin-slicing involves the filtering out of all but the most relevant data, and the human unconscious thrives at this special skill. Then comes the more interesting part - ask someone to explain how he knew something spontaneously, and he/she will struggle to do so.
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best coverage of an interesting topic March 20 2006
By R
Malcolm Gladwell takes a "gee wiz" approach to the topic of split-second decision making, tossing around research without discrimination or critical analysis, and not following through on the implications of what he's saying.
For example, he starts with an example of an art forgery that the scientific tests missed while several art experts could tell "in a blink" that there was something fishy. Interesting anecdote and let's assume that it's true. Would any one of those art experts advise that scientific testing should no longer be used to detect forgeries? Of course not. Would any of them be able to detect forgeries on a consistent basis by gut reaction? No. Gladwell reads way too much into the anecdote. He also doesn't seem to get the fact that most of his examples of split-second decision making are done by people who are highly trained in the subject. A closer analogy might be learning to play the piano.
A much, much better take on this material (also a more engaging read) is Jay Ingram's "Theatre of the Mind: Raising the Curtain on Consciousness."
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great eye opener
Published 7 days ago by Bart Marcoux
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book for an amazing price!
Great Book for an amazing price!
Published 19 days ago by Alec Buiko
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
it's malcolm.. enough said
Published 1 month ago by andrew klotz
3.0 out of 5 stars Great TedTalk, boring book
I started reading this book, but got bored, so I started to read the The Alchemist. I will finish it eventually, but it feels like I am reading a textbook with mini stories.
Published 1 month ago by Jeannine Chandra
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Good read
Published 1 month ago by sviatoslav romaniuk
4.0 out of 5 stars Opens ones eyes to our unconscious belief system that rules many of...
Helped me recognize how brain washed I am and have been from childhood, gives me the room to be wrong without it being about intelligence or aptitude. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Barb Mottishaw
5.0 out of 5 stars I will buy on this seller again
The book is like you have to listen to your intuition once in a while based on the background knowledge you know on the subject.
Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, like all the Gladwell books.
I enjoyed this book, as I have enjoyed many of Malcolm Gladwell's other books, and I look forward to reading more in the future.
Published 6 months ago by Natasha Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars was perfect
I loved this book the way that they described stuff in it was perfect I could see it all in my mind.
Published 8 months ago by Kyleobrien
4.0 out of 5 stars Very enlightening
I would highly recommend this non-fiction book by the author of the best-selling book Tipping Point – which I also loved. Read more
Published 14 months ago by Diana E. Young
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