Tuesday, April 27, 2010


“The power of thinking without thinking” – the subtitle says it all. Blink is a book about the kind of thinking that occurs in the blink of an eye – within our unconscious. Through a series of short stories and real-life examples, Malcolm Gladwell shows us how we can all become better decision makers by using less information. From meeting someone for the first time to reading the first few sentences of a book, Gladwell explains the difference between good decision making and bad, and how to use this in our lives. After reading Blink, it is clear that Gladwell’s message is that it is not enough simply to know how and why our mind works; it is our responsibility to use this knowledge to better our lives.

The book begins with a short narrative about an art dealer that acquired an ancient Greek sculpture. Gladwell delves into the how and why of the scientists that believed it was real after lengthy research, while viewers believed it was a fake at mere glance. He introduces us to the process of “thin-slicing,” which is “the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience." Gladwell gives us more examples of how thin-slicing works in the next few chapters, such as World War II code breaking, successful car dealers, why directors knew Tom Hanks was a good actor, why speed-dating works, medical malpractice, and what you can learn about someone by looking around their bedroom.

Malcolm Gladwell is quite good at explaining such a complex topic in an easy-to-understand manner. Most of the book is based on actual research in the fields of neuroscience and psychology, which sounds rather confusing and off-putting for the average reader. Yet Blink offers a different perspective, a “layman’s terms” approach. After reading the book, I can actually say that I genuinely understood what he was talking about. There were so many little life lessons that we can put to use in our daily lives, and actually change the way we act and make decisions.

One quote that really stuck out is “when making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves." This message was spread throughout a number of fascinating accounts of real-life situations in which better decisions were made from the unconscious.

As a matter of fact, I was talking to my aunt recently about why she knew – in an instant – which color paint she wanted for her kitchen. She was saying that she saw the paint splotch and knew right then and there that that was the color she wanted, and she didn’t want to waste time comparing other colors. I was able to explain to her why her decision was probably the right choice, because better decisions usually come from the unconscious. Now although her decision in a new paint color was not a vital matter such as a career, it was something that she would have to live with and look at each day.

When it comes to reading a book, I do tend to judge a book by its cover, though it’s always said you’re not supposed to. But Malcolm Gladwell explains that I might not be in the wrong, for my mind took about two seconds to jump to a series of conclusions when I saw this book, and these conclusions were based on prior knowledge and experiences. And in the end, I did thoroughly enjoy reading this book. I tend to like watching documentaries and how-to videos, and this book is quite like a documentary or how-to video. It’s funny, it’s thought provoking, and it makes sense.

I believe this type of thinking can be used to change many things in the world, like the way wars are fought, the way police officers are trained, the way couples are counseled, or the way job interviews are held. All of these seemingly small changes can really add up to a different – but better – world. And that, I believe, was the author’s intent in writing Blink. The power of thinking without thinking is a powerful tool and it is our responsibility to make use of it for the better.


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