September 11, 2012 Posted by Victor in Facts and figures, General, Ideas, marketing

Book review: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell is a highly acclaimed staff writer for the New Yorker, who decided to change our perspective on snap judgments and first impressions.

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking offers numerous lessons to people interested in psychology and in the way our mind works in different situations. This fun and fascinating study aims to convince the public that split-second decisions can be just as good and relevant as the ones made cautiously and consciously.
However, I feel that it is important to pay special attention to another lesson offered by this book, that reveals the fact that our snap judgments can often trick us because our “unconscious is fallible”.

     First of all, Gladwell compares our mind to an internal computer that stored data and reactions that help us make the best decisions in various situations. In spite of the fact that this computer can be disabled and even distracted by different factors like stereotypes, interests and emotions, it can be also trained and improved. The most important idea promoted by this book is the fact that, everyone can learn how to make the best split-second judgments. The author illustrates the differences between using a conscious strategy to make decisions and the concept of fast and frugal thinking or better known as the adaptive unconscious. According to experts the adaptive unconscious is one of the most important new fields in psychology analyzed by hundreds of specialists.

    Blink is a detailed study packed with amazing stories that illustrate the point of this new perspective on first impressions. Readers have the opportunity to find out more about the opinions and stories of doctors, coaches, musicians, actors, furniture designers and generals as well as other people who succeeded in learning how to educate and control their unconscious reactions. By presenting everyday situations, Gladwell thinks that it is easier to illustrate the importance of our decision making rituals. Moreover, the small changes we'll make in our behavior and problem-solving methods can lead to a greater change that has the power to make our world a better place.

    One of the most fascinating techniques used to make snap judgments is called thin-slicing. Thin-slicing is the ability to the unconscious to find well-defined patterns in different situations and behavior based on “very narrow slices of experience”. Similarly to Morse codes, relationships and personalities also have a “DNA” or a pattern. People use this common method identified by psychologist to judge different persons based and little information.

    Furthermore, Gladwell clarifies the concept of locked doors. According to experts, our split-second judgments are hidden behind these locked doors and if we try to find out the reason behind these first impressions, situations can get really confusing and complicated. Storytelling proves to be a complex technique and people have difficulties in finding and explanation for their emotions.

   According to the author stereotypes can influence our quick decisions made in stressful situations. One of the most well-known stereotypes is called the Warren Harding Error. Gladwell presents the story of an extremely handsome young man who runs for the presidency of the U.S. and people simply adore him only for his unique and masculine features, voice and posture. The best way to avoid this error is to train our unconscious and change our experiences that help us use the thin-slicing technique. Creating structure in spontaneity is the hardest thing to do for humans. However, experts proved that it is not an impossible mission.

    The stories of Bob Golomb ( a sales director) that of Paul Van Riper (a man who served in the Marine Corps), the one that presents how the Cook County Hospital in Chicago revolutionized the way patients struggling with chest pain were treated, all offer examples on how to change our life and see first impressions in a new light. Gladwell doesn't stop at a few stories, he is willing to demonstrate the lessons of Blink through the success stories of numerous companies like: Coca Cola and Pepsi or the Herman Miller Inc. Those who are fascinated by intriguing events from modern history and the show-business will find this study the best food for thought.

    Another important aspect presented in the study is the importance of market research. However, the author claims that in the majority of cases these experiments don't reflect the emotions and first impressions of customers. The greatest companies want to see the success of various products in numbers. The examples reveal that there's a difference in the results of researches done with experts in different fields of activity and common people. Those who have a well-defined vocabulary as the expert food tasters have no difficulties in defining their impressions when it comes to food and beverages. As a consequence, it becomes obvious that experience can shape our snap judgments. Moreover, after gathering information in different fields of activities, people will be able to decode and interpret split-second impressions.

   Gladwell helps us build a “database in our unconscious” using different scientifically tested methods. The story of Amadou Diallo, the man accidentally killed by police officers, demonstrates that law enforcement officers must train their snap judgments in order to avoid similar situations. Nowadays, mind-reading is not a superpower, but a technique everyone can learn using a few complex methods.

      Blink reveals the story of Silvan Tomkins and Paul Ekman, two influential scientists who decided to analyze the facial expression of two tribes in order to catalog “the essential repertoire of human facial displays of emotions”, known as the FACS (Facial Action Coding System). These experts claim that our face reveals information not only about our emotions but also about the way our mind works. While some learned how to control their expressions there are still micro expressions that can't be controlled and signal our deepest emotions.

    This illuminating chapter about facial expressions presents numerous situations when people simply lose their ability to mind-read.  Gladwell presents the case of people suffering from autism who have no ability of mind-reading. It is also important to consider that, lack of time and stereotypes are the most important factors that can disable our mind-reading ability.

    In the Conclusion part, the author illustrates the revolution in classical music when musicians organizing auditions for orchestras decided to rely on their first impressions instead of making decisions based on stereotypes. No wonder, the lessons presented by Blink changed the world and encouraged people to pay special attention to their snap judgments and decisions.






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