book review blink malcolm gladwell

Book Review: Blink — The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Genre: Non-fiction.

So this book in the nutshell is about the moments when we make instant judgments or decisions based on feelings or instincts that we get about them.

You know those decisions that we can’t explain if we try to, but we just think that we know and that they turns out right quite a lot of times and sometimes not.  

I don’t think it’s any different than instincts — when we just know something. But the author seems to not want to call this information that, not directly at least.

Before I begin to dissect my views on this book, I thought I should psychoanalyze my decision to get this book.

A question, the author asks, in one of the chapters:

“How long did you first hold it in your hands? Two seconds?”

That got me thinking, so I spent a few minutes going back in time and trying to figure out what was going through my head when I decided to get ‘Blink’ along with ‘Outlier’. A few thoughts running through my head when I saw the books are….

1: I knew I wanted to read Outlier because I have read about this book on many ‘recommended book’ lists. The premise always sounded interesting.

Then I saw Blink (had no idea about this one) and after looking at the name of the author, grabbed this book too.

The cover (a suggestion by the author) of non-fiction doesn’t matter in my case as they are never as good looking as fictional (read: Romance) ones. There’s no question of falling for something that you’d miss in a blink of an eye.

2: A thought usually plagues my head whenever I see more than one title by an author I want to read:

‘Get them all (if they are no more than 2/3) or else you’ll be waiting for a couple of months’. Unfortunately, this ‘prediction’ comes true more often than I like.

Which one of these is a ‘Blink’ decision, I can’t say (& don’t care) but at least I psychoanalyzed my motives. 😉

Now let’s begin the dissection of the book content…

Lessons from ‘Blink by Malcolm Gladwell’:

Lesson 1: Your snap judgments/decisions are as good as the ones you think about carefully:

In the first half of the book, the author does his best trying to convince you that your snap-judgments or decisions are as good as the ones you carefully think about.

They are not thoughtless decisions that we arrive at as our brain is like a super-computer.

At all times, our brain is busy collecting data and when the need arises, it connect dots instantly to make snap-decisions that are good but we cannot explain them.

“We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We’re a bit too quick to come up, with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for.” ~~ Malcolm Gladwell (Book: Blink)

 

Lesson 2: Your snap judgments/decisions are not as good as the ones that you think about carefully.

Snap-decisions/judgments also have the tendency to backfire in the highly stressful situations when ‘fight or flight’ instinct takes over.

Sometimes snap-decisions are wrong and causes more harm than any good if we don’t stop to think before executing them.

It’s the time when one needs to question the validity of snap-decisions. With experience and practice, it’s possible to learn to slow down and edit what snap-decisions are good or bad.

This back and forth is confusing, but researches in my opinion are contradictory at best of times, if possible not providing any answers at all.

“Every moment– every blink — is composed of a series of discreet moving parts and everyone of those parts offer an opportunity for intervention, for reform and for correction.” ~~ Malcolm Gladwell (Book: Blink)

 

Lesson 3: Your facial expressions are not 100% under your control.

Even when you think you are presenting a blank face to the people around you, some emotion might be flickering through your face without your knowledge.

Our subconscious could pick those nuances to come to certain conclusions without having too much data about the other person.

All it takes is looking at the person’s face. Even if you don’t know that person well enough, you’d end up with liking or disliking the person just by looking.

“We can all mind-read effortlessly and automatically because the clues we need to make sense of someone or some social situation are right there on the faces of those in front of us.” ~~ Malcolm Gladwell (Book: Blink)

 

Lesson 4: We are not as objective as we like to believe we are.

Most of us would agree that we don’t discriminate people based on their gender, nation, appearance, demeanor, ethnicity, stereotypes attached etc. Consciously quite a lot of us probably don’t or try not to. But it’s a difference story subconsciously. 

To prove this theory, the author presents the case of classical musicians in Europe and how females were barred for a long time all because auditions were held by looking at the performer.

When the auditions were started being held behind a screen and the judges couldn’t tell whether a male or female was playing the instrument, all of a sudden women begin to enter the area where only males prevailed before.

Apparently, judges subconsciously believed that some instruments were better played by men than women.

This bias hindered their so-called unbiased judgment when they’d see the performer perform.

When they couldn’t tell whether it’s a male/female was playing, that’s when they started to chose more female musicians.

As per this example, we are biased and we might not be aware of the biases our unconscious is holding on to. We can correct biases, but first we need to acknowledge it and then apply the solution.  

“We know that what we see — particularly when it is the color of someone’s skin, or gender or age — does not always aid understanding. Sometimes we can make better judgments with less information.” ~~ Malcolm Gladwell (Book: Blink)

 

Lesson 5: Our brain requires experience to put two and two together:

So the theme from the ‘Outlier’ continues, as I see it.

Lastly, the author explains that there’s nothing magical about instant decisions (intuition).

Those decisions are based on data and experience our brain has collected over the years. The brain needs to learn before it engages in making good snap decisions.

Review:

Some fascinating researches and case studies are provided in this book. All of it combined makes you keep turning page after page.

But…

Sometimes it seems the author is jumping from one story to another in a blink, leaving the reader rather curious.

Some of the researches caught my attention and I get it that a book isn’t a place to explore all of them in-depth in probably all their boring glory.

Alas…

There are no concrete conclusions, doesn’t seem like that’s what the author intended to do. So in a way, it’s fine. (You’re on your own when it comes to deciding if snap-decisions are good or not. This book isn’t providing any answers.)

Also, I’m wary of this or that researches, especially when they are ‘cherry picked’ and are not provided in their entirety along with the other side.

Most researches are almost always at the risk of being ‘debunked’ sometime in the future with some other research.

That doesn’t mean ‘Blink’ isn’t an entertaining, engaging and in some ways informative book. It is!

It makes you think about your snap decisions or judgments or the instinctive reactions to people/things/situations.

It’s good to spend some time wondering, how accurate your snap-judgments are and see if you could figure out the reason.

Hit or Miss: Hit

Ratings: 3stars/5

Buy:  Amazon  |  iTunes

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About the author

Priyanka Sharma

Writer, Blogger | Book Reviewer | Artist |

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