“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
― Malcolm Gladwell, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
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?
*****Final Results for “Blink,” by Malcolm Gladwell*****
The club met on this book on November 13, 2018. On a 1-5 scale, the average ratings the group provided are:
Summary of Comments:
“I enjoyed it. It was informative and had a lot of anecdotal information.”
“Enjoyable but forgettable.”
“A fascinating topic with interesting examples.”
“I love this book. Easy to read with an interesting topic.”
“As usual, an informative, easy to read Malcolm Gladwell book.”
1. The central argument of the book is that our unconscious is able to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. This is called ‘thin-slicing.” What kinds of phenomena, if any, do not lend themselves to ‘thin-slicing?’
2. Have you ever had a feeling that a couple’s future is successful or doomed just by witnessing a brief exchange between them? What do you think you’re picking up on?
3. Many couples seek marriage counseling from a therapist, a priest, rabbi etc. But do you think a couple about to get married should go and see John Gottman, the psychologist who can predict with a 95% accuracy whether a couple will be together in 15 years just by watching an hour of their interaction? If you were about to be married or could go back to before you were, would you want to see Gottman and find out his prediction?
4. The psychologist, Samuel Gosling, shows how ‘thin-slicing’ can be used to judge people’s personality when he uses the dorm room observers. Visualize your bedroom right now. What does it say about you?
5. The Iyengar/Fisman study revealed that what the speed-daters say they want and what they were actually attracted to in the moment didn’t match when compared. What does this say for on-line dating services? Can we really predict what kind of person we will ‘hit it off’ with? Is it better to let friends decide who is more suited for you as opposed to scanning profiles that correspond with your notion of what you think you are looking for?
6. The Warren Harding error reveals the dark-side of ‘thin-slicing’—when our instincts betray us and our rapid cognition goes awry. Looking at the example of that 1920 presidency, can we say that this type of error is happening today in political elections? Do you think this explains why there has never been a female president?
7. The Implicit Association Test (IAT) shows that our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values. So like car salesmen who unconsciously discriminate against certain groups of potential customers or businesses that appear to favor tall men for CEOs, do you find it plausible that we are not accountable for these actions because they are a result of social influences as opposed to personal beliefs?
8. The Diallo shooting is an example of a mind-reading failure. It reveals a grey area of human cognition; the middle ground between deliberate and accidental. Do you think the shooting was more deliberate or accidental?
9. Just as the National Symphony Orchestra members were shocked to find their newly employed horn player was a female, do you think that even as far as we’ve come with issue of race and gender equality, we still judge with our eyes and ears rather than our instinct? Are our interpretations of events, people, issues etc filtered through our internal ideologies and beliefs? Do you agree that perception is reality? And with this in mind, could improving our powers of rapid cognition ultimately change our reality?
10. “Blink” has received negative feedback for being overly simplistic. What Gladwell calls “thin-slicing” may well just be deliberative process made unconscious through habituation. What do you think of Posner’s criticism (link below)?
About the Author:
Malcolm Gladwell is a United Kingdom-born, Canadian-raised journalist now based in New York City. He is a former business and science writer at the Washington Post. He has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. He is best known as the author of the books “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference (2000),” “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005),” “Outliers: The Story of Success (2008)” and “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants (2013).”
Malcolm Gladwell’s podcast, “Revisionist History”:
This book provided some interesting and powerful insight into human decision making and beliefs. Some would call this “intuition” but this book provides evidence that reaches beyond one’s own experiences and knowledge base and explains the cognitive processes involved. I’m a bit obsessed with understanding human behavior and the brain science behind it, so this book was a homerun for me.
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