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Looking for a coherent thesis? Blink, and you'll miss it

  • Oct 29, 2007
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Rating:
+3
As with his breakthrough surprise best-seller The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Malcolm Gladwell's follow up offering is stuffed stem to stern with fascinating anecdote, and presented in the same breezy manner. And while, I suppose, there's a consistent argument buried somewhere in there, I'm blowed if I know what it is.

Gladwell apparently can't make up his mind whether snap judgments are good things (as they seem to be for the purpose of spotting art forgeries and waging guerilla warfare) or bad things (as they seem to be when manifesting themselves in a form of temporary cop autism which causes innocent bystanders to get shot). What one is left with is a collection of anecdotes about the subconscious and immediate, each fascinating in its own right, make no mistake, and each of which undoubtedly carries its own situation-specific lesson, but which together sum up to precisely nothing at all. Sometimes Blink-style judgments are good; sometimes they proceed from our innate primordial racism. Great. Kind of.

The story I found most interesting though, on reflection, perhaps the least genuinely on point (assuming the point is "how snap judgments shape the world we live in"), was the importance of a physician's bedside manner in assessing his (or her) likelihood of being the subject of a medical negligence suit. Gladwell would say this has everything to do with "thin-slicing" - but it is difficult to see the similarity between this sort of thin-slicing and the thin-slicing encapsuated in cop shootings or on-the-fly military strategics. But there is definitely a lesson in there for those following the professional services calling: If your clients think you're nice, you are less likely to get sued, no matter how useless you might really be - and vice versa! That's a banker.

That observation might equally apply to this book itself: it doesn't uncover any single great insight about our mental lives, but Gladwell gets away with it because he's such an affable chap, and he writes in such an appealing way, that it seems churlish to hold this against him. We don't begrudge him what really is a fairly poorly knitted cardigan of fireside yarns - since ugly old jumpers are perfect for loafing about in on holiday, and on holiday is certainly where I read this book: as a kind of extended weekend paper feature it seemed just fine.

Olly Buxton

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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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Olly Buxton ()
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Member Since: Sep 26, 2009
Last Login: Dec 22, 2010 09:37 PM UTC
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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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Details

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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