Monday, October 18, 2010

Book Review: Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell

This is Chris again writing another review.  If you have some free time definitely pick-up Blink or The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, they are worth your while.  Feel free to leave your comments!

Malcolm Gladwell in Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking helps his audience explore the subconscious level of our minds and how we respond in the situations we encounter.  As Gladwell states, “Blink is concerned with the very smallest components of our everyday lives – the content and origin of those instantaneous impressions and conclusions that spontaneously arise whenever we meet a new person or confront a complex situation or have to make a decision under conditions of stress” (16).

Throughout the book, Gladwell has three basic tasks.  The first is to argue that our instantaneous impressions and conclusions are as good as, if not better, than our reasoned conclusions. When making decision people tend to reason their way out of their original and oftentimes the better decision.  He states research where people evaluated the personality traits of their friends and strangers evaluated the same traits simply by looking at someone’s room. The strangers oftentimes had more accurate results of a person’s personality than friends did.   

 The second task is trying to discover when and where rapid cognition leads us astray.  Gladwell uses President Harding as an exemplary case on how our senses led to the election of arguably one of the worst presidents in American history.  He wasn’t intelligent, he was vague on political policies and, as a senator, he was absent at important political debates.  Yet, American’s elected President Harding because he “looked the part” and was a people pleaser.   

The third task Gladwell discusses how rapid cognition results can be improved.  In the book he talks about police officers who have to make split second life and death decisions every day.  Gladwell discusses a case where police officers in the Bronx mistakenly shot a man to death, thinking he was pulling out a gun when it was really just his wallet.  Now police officers undergo training to help prevent cases like this.  They learn little things such as approaching cars with flash lights and the angles at which to stand to protect themselves.  They also found that police officers traveling alone tend to make better decisions.    
In conclusion, I think this was another good book written by Malcolm Gladwell.  The real-life stories were not as interesting as the ones found in  The Tipping Point, but it really causes you to think about your meta-cognitive processes (our own thinking about our thinking processes).  It helps show how you can improve your cognitive processes through practice and where our thinking falls short causing us to make bad decisions.  We’re all faced with “blink” of the eye decisions and Gladwell sheds light on the processes behind these seemingly insignificant experiences and the importance of those thoughts.

1 comment:

  1. This was an interesting book. What I found most interesting was the research about the 5 signs that a couple will end up divorced. I think if couples know about these warning signs (defensiveness, stone walling, contempt, etc) they could prevent arguments and perhaps even divorce.