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On the merits of judging a book by its cover

  • Jun 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 the right ones. It shows real-world situations in which having all the information at one's fingertips was actually less useful than working from limited information.

From examples of military trials to art forgeries, from police procedures to music performance, Gladwell brings example after example about how our reaction in the first two seconds of encountering something new can tell us as much as our reaction after knowing everything there is to know...and sometimes more.

There are times in Blink when the point is overstated and the generalization doesn't work - but Gladwell tells his stories so well that it doesn't matter. And what matters in Blink isn't really the conclusions Gladwell makes...what matter is the stories of the people he talked to and the things they experienced. In Gladwell's hands these experiences feel real and tangible, and for the most part they work.

Exaggerated claims or not, the stories in Blink made me think about experiences in my own life. Among other things, I remembered a time when I was a teenager, spending time on my uncle's farm, and I ran out of books to read. We went to the bookstore and I didn't see anything new from my favorite standbys - but there was this book I'd never seen before, by an author I'd never heard of. I had no idea what story was in store between its pages, but I loved the cover. LOVED it. I bought it and discovered a new favorite author, one who I still read today, after more than twenty years and through a dozen books.

We're told that judging a book by its cover is a bad idea. But if that's the case, would I ever have discovered one of my favorite writers? If that's the case, how are we meant to judge a book we've never read at all?

Blink reinforces for us something we already knew - sometimes it's OK to judge a book by its cover.

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June 12, 2011
Great review, Rich! I still have to check this one out...thanks for sharing :)
More Blink: The Power of Thinking W... reviews
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, …
review by . October 14, 2008
There are almost one thousand reviews for this book, most are positive, do I need to submit one? Yes.    The author discusses split-second thinking, or "in the blink of an eye" speed of thought. He postulates that those rapid decisions are usually better. He backs it up with many examples of decisions made with more time, more information, and more discussion that turned out wrong, when the initial decision was actually the correct one. How does this happen?    The …
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Rich Stoehr ()
Ranked #80
I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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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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