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Think too long and you'll miss it ...

  • Aug 29, 2008
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Where does it all go, after you are done experiencing the experience, thinking the thought, feeling the feeling? Nothing is ever lost. The subconscious is like a vast warehouse, limitless, in fact, and as Malcolm Gladwell illustrates in "Blink," we access all that is stored in that warehouse with every blinking and waking moment.

Usually, we call this instant access - gut instinct. Or, the inner voice of wisdom. Instinct, however, is nothing magical or mysterious. It is simply our accumulated and stored knowledge over a lifetime. If there was ever an argument for listening to those who have some serious and well-lived years under their belts, this is it. "Blink" illustrates with numerous and widely varied examples how life experience, the more the better, contributes to our ability to make quick, yet sound decisions. In fact, the quicker, the better.

"Blink" is about what the author calls "thin slicing." He defines this process as the moment of time in which we all make snap judgments. Two seconds, two minutes ... and we make an assessment of a situation or a person or a circumstance. The fascinating thing is - these snap judgments are, more often than not, precise ones. It is when we begin to over analyze and rationalize that we tend to go awry. The trick is to allow the accumulated wisdom rise up and do its magic, trust in it.

Then again ...

Gladwell never does make a concluding statement in his book, and perhaps it is up to the reader to decide (do it quickly?), but his many fascinating examples and his reports on various studies can lead one to think these snap judgments are the way to go - or, then again, thinker beware. For all the many situations in which that moment of initial wisdom is uncannily precise, there are other times that our deeply ingrained biases muck up the clarity of that process. Gladwell cites data to illustrate how stereotypes, for instance, persist - no matter how gallant our conscious efforts to overcome them. Telling yourself you don't really think what you think simply won't work. Only exposure to experiences, or positive visualizations, will change the false ideas and images our subconscious has absorbed over time. All of which is a strong argument for "garbage in, garbage out." That is, be careful of what entertainment you choose (e.g. pornographic images, violent movies or games, etc.), because no matter how hard your conscious mind tries to guide you toward decisions and behavior that is more appropriate, your subconscious will always, but always win out.

The idea of what you present to your eye is what you will later project out to the world is a convincing one, as the author finds himself unable to beat the test on stereotypes when he has to react quickly. Only exposure to more positive images over time can change his test results and dislodge his prejudices.

Gladwell discusses this phenomena of instant response-true response in a manner of ways. How patients respond to their doctors (we sue the physician who has a lousy bedside manner, even if more skilled, but remain loyal to the physician who spends as little as three extra minutes talking with us); how facial expressions, when viewed on slowed down video, will without fail, always reveal deceit (there are facial movements that arise from our subconscious that we cannot control, and no matter how quickly we think we have our facial mask in place, there is always that instant that our faces tell the truth); the intricacies of marketing and advertisement and why the obvious ad, even when based on feedback of focus groups, may not be the effective choice; how military decisions by experienced military leaders are successful, but fail miserably when they are constrained by strategic analysis; how micro-managing in workplaces can only lead to mediocrity while suppressing creativity and innovation; how speed dating may be most effective in finding potential lifelong connections (we read about research that can pick out successful, longterm relationships in observing as little as two minutes of interaction between a couple - and no, it isn't the couple that argues that breaks apart); how our societal subconscious biases for certain physical characteristics, such as height or gender, often mislead us to make dangerously faulty snap judgments (Gladwell observes that most of our leaders are tall and male, and that our corporate world pays tall men higher salaries, factoring dollars down to the inch, regardless of intelligence or ability). On and on, in one fascinating example and study after another, Gladwell intrigues with his findings.

And you know he's right. You know it ... in your gut. But if the author doesn't make any overall conclusion from all of this fascinating data, then the reader is left to her own wiles. Experience counts more than credentials. What we expose ourselves to on a regular basis molds who we are, how we view others, what choices we make and how we behave. Biases and prejudices are far stronger than our conscious will to overcome them; we must align our environment to align our subconscious. Our deepest self forgets nothing. All we have ever done and been and seen and observed leads to who we are today and tomorrow.

All of which gives one pause. But don't pause too long. It is that initial millisecond that may matter most of all.

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More Blink: The Power of Thinking W... reviews
review by . June 11, 2011
Malcolm Gladwell knows how to tell a story. He captures the little details about people and events that give them meaning and make them interesting, something he used to good advantage in The Tipping Point, and almost as well in this book, Blink.      Blink is a book about snap judgments, first impressions, and thin-slicing experiences. It challenges the conventional wisdom of distrusting our first impressions, and brings up several examples where first impressions are actually …
review by . May 24, 2010
In Blink, Malcom Gladwell discusses human instinct and gut reactions, postulating that people's subconscious snap judgments can be incredibly spot-on, even more so than carefully-considered, researched conclusions. He offers several anecdotal instances that support this theory, such as the story of an experienced tennis coach who knows whether or not a player will double fault the instant he or she begins a serve. The fact that the coach cannot explain how he knows it even though he is consistently …
Quick Tip by . July 23, 2010
Malcom Gladwell gives you a new perspective on every day things. Fads, tv shows, etc. Stuff you would have enjoyed learning in high school.
Quick Tip by . June 24, 2010
Rethinking how we think about things
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
This is great!
Quick Tip by . June 14, 2010
'blink' thinking: using already established systems of reaction (specific firing patterns) in application to different problems. 'original' thinking: modifying said systems to apply new permutations to said problems. Be wary of context before you decide which modes of thought to use. Maybe don't read this at all.
Quick Tip by . June 10, 2010
Good Book, Great Story, Interesting, catchy, gets you involved every chapter
Quick Tip by . May 19, 2010
Interesting view on how we see things in modern culture.
review by . December 09, 2008
This is one of those really informative books.. and I'd have to say.. I'm not usually keen on reading those as I'd be bored by about the 3rd page.  Gladwell, however, really writes as if he's talking to you and trying to explain what he believes as if he was sitting in front of you.      This book really breaks down decision making and what happens within the first few seconds of being introduced to a new product/person.  It's really intriguing to read a book like …
review by . February 06, 2009
A fascinating study of how the mind works and the effects our gut reactions can have on our decisions, "Blink" hammered Gladwell's point into me in an engaging and entertaining read. The writing is easy but intelligent, and I loved the specific examples and stories, particularly one about the war games. Not only do they help support Gladwell's notion but they're enough to create enjoyable stories by themselves.      The main idea I took away? First impressions aren't everything, …
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Zinta Aistars ()
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I am a bilingual writer and editor; founder and editor-in-chief of the literary ezine, The Smoking Poet. Learn more about me on my Web site--I welcome visitors!
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About this book


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell which takes a look at why the mind makes decisions in split seconds.

Gladwell focuses on the idea of thin slicing - which is in essence using previous experiences, stereotypes and likes/dislikes to make a snap judgment about a new product or person.

Gladwell offers multiple examples of making quick decisions in a world where we are overwhelmed with information and stereotypes.  He also touches on the fact that these stereotypes are very embedded in our mind, which in turns plays a role in the decisions we make when we thin slice and blink.  Even with the intention to put these stereotypes aside, they've become such a huge part of society that they make a huge impact on any judgment we make.
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ISBN-10: 0316172324
ISBN-13: 9780316172325
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: Decision-Making & Problem Solving, Cognitive, Social Psychology & Interactions, Personal Transformation, Cognitive Psychology, Motivational, Business & Finance
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
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