Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Hardcover – Jan 11 2005
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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.
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
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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."
Most recent customer reviews
Another thoughtful and fascinating analysis by Malcom Gladwell of things you thought you new.Published 2 months ago by Del CHATTERSON
Gladwell has opened my eyes to a world I never thought existed before I read blink. Filled with interesting stories about how quickly humans react in a situation and how to hack... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Brennan
Mr Gladwell is a story teller , Blink is about the experience of others.
written without thinking great for a university social work course
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