Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant--in the blink of an eye--that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some peopl...

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Title:Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Author:Malcolm Gladwell
Rating:
ISBN:0316010669
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:296 pages

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Reviews

  • Doc Opp
    Apr 29, 2007

    As an empirical psychologist by training, I get very annoyed at journalists who simplify things to the point that its no longer even remotely accurate. Such is the case for Blink. This is especially annoying to me, because the book describes my area of research specialization. If you're interested in a fun read, Gladwell is certainly an engaging author. If you're looking for something that accurately describes the research, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

    For example, Scott Plous's "the psychol

    As an empirical psychologist by training, I get very annoyed at journalists who simplify things to the point that its no longer even remotely accurate. Such is the case for Blink. This is especially annoying to me, because the book describes my area of research specialization. If you're interested in a fun read, Gladwell is certainly an engaging author. If you're looking for something that accurately describes the research, I'd recommend looking elsewhere.

    For example, Scott Plous's "the psychology of judgment and decision making" (which, despite the title, is not textbook like), or the Heath brothers' "Made to stick".

  • Nina
    May 13, 2007

    For anyone who is thinking about reading this book, I highly recommend it. However, I also recommend reading it as a series of fascinating, well-told stories. It is really nothing more and nothing less.

    One of the criticisms I heard about this book before I read it is that Gladwell lays out his theory in the first chapter, and the rest of the book is just example after example supporting his theory. I agree, however it would be a serious mistake to only read the first chapter. The pleasure of rea

    For anyone who is thinking about reading this book, I highly recommend it. However, I also recommend reading it as a series of fascinating, well-told stories. It is really nothing more and nothing less.

    One of the criticisms I heard about this book before I read it is that Gladwell lays out his theory in the first chapter, and the rest of the book is just example after example supporting his theory. I agree, however it would be a serious mistake to only read the first chapter. The pleasure of reading this book is in those stories- he talks about interesting psychological experiments and unbelievable examples of where snap judgement trumped long and careful research and analysis, and where snap judgement failed because of unconscious prejudices. The problem with this book is that his argument is not cohesive.

    I kept reading on and on expecting his argument to become clear, but that never happens. Instead, one story after another contradicts his original theory, and he keeps changing his mind about what that theory is. For example, a point he makes is that someone's intuition can lead to the right conclusion, while deliberate analysis by experts considering all information available can be completely off. However, in all his stories where someone made a good snap judgement, that person was an expert and was able to use his judgement under a high-stress situation precisely because of his long career of careful study or of many experiences in that situation. Another problem is that he seems to think that one can know ahead of time when to use their snap judgement or when to carefully research something and consider all information available. The problem with that part of his argument is that, in all the examples where the person's snap judgement failed, that person was not aware of his subconscious prejudices because they were, obviously, subconscious. In the afterward he wrote after the book was published, he tried to reconcile these contraditions, but it was still not convincing.

    Regardless, his examples really are fascinating, and he really is a great story-teller. I think if you read this book without the expections that I had, and without trying to mentally place each example in a larger framework of what you think his argument is, you would very much enjoy it.

  • Margaret Ross
    Aug 13, 2007

    I think this book wins my prize for Most Easily Misinterpreted to Serve Personal Agendas. Gladwell gets so into the interesting details of the case he's building, he really doesn't emphasize the final conclusions of the book at all, leaving people to think that the interesting details are the whole point, which is unfortunate. But then again, I'm not 100% sure I got the whole point.

    Most of the folks I know think that this book is about how a person's gut instincts can be a better read of a situa

    I think this book wins my prize for Most Easily Misinterpreted to Serve Personal Agendas. Gladwell gets so into the interesting details of the case he's building, he really doesn't emphasize the final conclusions of the book at all, leaving people to think that the interesting details are the whole point, which is unfortunate. But then again, I'm not 100% sure I got the whole point.

    Most of the folks I know think that this book is about how a person's gut instincts can be a better read of a situation than a read based on thorough study. Which is an idea that most people love, since they don't want to have to do all that boring study anyhow. What's missing from that analysis is that Gladwell later insists (but only at the very end of the book, and almost in passing) that it's the thorough active training and study of a subject that allow a person to have "true" or "correct" gut reads. The guy who can tell who's getting divorced after 60 seconds of hearing them talk spent years coding verbal and physical cues in couples, studying them intensely for years before he was able to give his 60 second analysis. The art historians were drawing on a vast body of knowledge when they made their judgment about the statue. The cop who read fear instead of aggression and didn't shoot couldn't name what he was seeing, but he'd seen it before. Then he also says that our gut reactions can be easily colored by training we don't even know is there- our prejudices, whether unknown or unacknowledged- influence or reads of a situation as well.

    Ultimately, I saw this book as a reaction to and analysis of the Amadou Diallo killing in 1999, with some tips for how to avoid such future tragedies. In that light, I thought it was interesting and even constructive, but only if you pay close attention to the last chapter.

  • Ashley
    Oct 15, 2007

    I would put this book in the category of "Freakonomics" and "The Tipping Point." By the same author as the latter title, Malcolm Gladwell, the purpose of this book is to weigh the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the power of the mind's ability to unconsciously leap to conclusions based on what is seen in the proverbial blink of an eye.

    While I have read some negative reviews of Gladwell's book, mostly citing that he fails to inform the reader how to know when to go with your gut and w

    I would put this book in the category of "Freakonomics" and "The Tipping Point." By the same author as the latter title, Malcolm Gladwell, the purpose of this book is to weigh the advantages as well as the disadvantages of the power of the mind's ability to unconsciously leap to conclusions based on what is seen in the proverbial blink of an eye.

    While I have read some negative reviews of Gladwell's book, mostly citing that he fails to inform the reader how to know when to go with your gut and when not to, as well as arguments that he urges readers not to follow their gut when the gut instincts are politically incorrect, I have to disagree with many of them. I think that Gladwell's objective in "Blink" is to make the reader simply aware of their gut instincts and to urge them to consider trusting it more frequently than we do. People tend to make decisions that are supported by a litany of rationalizations and explanations, but do we always really have reasons for why we do or think what we do? Gladwell is arguing that we don’t, and that sometimes it takes the unconscious mind to make those decisions for us. On the flip side, he also argues that sometimes we unconsciously make negative decisions based on that same quick judgment and our predetermined stereotypes, such as with people of other sexes or other races than ourselves.

    “Blink” was a very complicated book with many facets and it’s hard to explain all of them or review them all without writing an essay. In the end, I think the main goal isn’t perfect knowledge of the subject of thinking without thinking, but rather consideration of it and how it can benefit us or hinder us both individually and as a society.

  • Matt Kosinski
    Oct 18, 2007

    Here's Blink in a nutshell:

    Split decisions can be good; better than decisions where we take a lot of time to carefully weigh our options and use scientific evidence.

    Except when they're not.

    Rapid cognition is an exciting and powerful way to use your brain's quick, intuitive capabilities to make stunningly accurate decisions, and can even lead you to have better success in sports, business and politics.

    Except when it won't.

    We should learn to trust our snap judgments, even in seemingly complex si

    Here's Blink in a nutshell:

    Split decisions can be good; better than decisions where we take a lot of time to carefully weigh our options and use scientific evidence.

    Except when they're not.

    Rapid cognition is an exciting and powerful way to use your brain's quick, intuitive capabilities to make stunningly accurate decisions, and can even lead you to have better success in sports, business and politics.

    Except when it won't.

    We should learn to trust our snap judgments, even in seemingly complex situations where we don't have a lot of information.

    Except not really.

    Basically the book gives scientific and anecdotal evidence on why rapid cognition can be both a good and bad thing, without offering us much advise on how to tell the difference between situations where we should or shouldn't trust our instincts.

    There are many times when I felt that Gladwell contradicted himself. To support his "rapid cognition is good" section of the book, he uses an example of a psychological test where students were able to tell whether or not a professor was good at their job by simply watching a 5 second clip of them lecturing with the sound turned off. The results basically corresponded with impressions given by other students who spent an entire class with those professors - thus proving that there is some mysterious and powerful part of our subconscious that can make accurate snap judgments.

    But then later on in the book, in the "rapid cognition is bad" section, Gladwell warns us that, in general, people instantly like tall, attractive white people better than short, unattractive minorities.

    WELL DUH! OBVIOUSLY THE STUDENTS RATING THE PROFESSORS WERE BIASED BY WHETHER OR NOT THEY WERE TALL, WHITE, OR ATTRACTIVE!

    Mystery solved!

    While Gladwell brings up some interesting concepts, his book never gels into a coherent whole. I read most of it in under a day and already my rapid cognition is telling me it's not worth finishing.

  • Diane
    Dec 17, 2007

    O, to have the writing career of Malcolm Gladwell. The man pulls interesting case studies from academic research and news headlines, spins it into a book under a general theme, and blammo! He has a bestseller. This formula worked for him with

    and then

    is a compelling read, despite its weak overall theme, which is that sometimes split-second decisions are good and sometimes they're bad, and we need to learn when to trust our first impressions and when to discount th

    O, to have the writing career of Malcolm Gladwell. The man pulls interesting case studies from academic research and news headlines, spins it into a book under a general theme, and blammo! He has a bestseller. This formula worked for him with

    and then

    is a compelling read, despite its weak overall theme, which is that sometimes split-second decisions are good and sometimes they're bad, and we need to learn when to trust our first impressions and when to discount them (except there's no real way to make that distinction).

    The book is a pleasure to read simply because of its case studies. Gladwell throws in so many topics — art, politics, marriage, consumer testing, athletes, war, police shootings, music — that there is bound to be something engaging for everyone. (After reading another one of Gladwell's peppy articles in The New Yorker, my husband joked, "Gladwell thinks he can make ANYTHING seem interesting.")

    After finishing

    I feel like I've learned something important, but I'm not sure exactly what, other than that Gladwell has a very charmed career.

    My rating: 3.5 stars rounded up to 4

  • Will Byrnes
    Oct 05, 2008

    This was a big best-seller for Gladwell. He posits that much of the time we make decisions, reach conclusions in a sort of pre-conscious manner that he calls “thin-slicing.” That means taking a very small sample, a thin slice, and making a decision immediately based on that information. However, it is the case that the ability to evaluate that slice is fed by a lifetime of experience. It is not simply, as some, including President Bush the second, might believe, that using one’s gut, in the abse

    This was a big best-seller for Gladwell. He posits that much of the time we make decisions, reach conclusions in a sort of pre-conscious manner that he calls “thin-slicing.” That means taking a very small sample, a thin slice, and making a decision immediately based on that information. However, it is the case that the ability to evaluate that slice is fed by a lifetime of experience. It is not simply, as some, including President Bush the second, might believe, that using one’s gut, in the absence of years and years of preparation, is as valid a way of reaching decisions as taking the longer route of careful analysis of available data. No, no, no.

  • Kemper
    Nov 09, 2009

    I generally distrust anyone who says that they ‘go-with-their-gut’. But when the company I work for announced a major decision a few years back, I instantly said, “This is going to be a huge mistake.” Smart people had examined the deal backwards and forwards for months and thought it was a great idea. I had a bad feeling about it that I could only later explain, and I was far from the only one. And we were right. The entire thing turned out to be a huge disaster.

    I kept thinking about that incid

    I generally distrust anyone who says that they ‘go-with-their-gut’. But when the company I work for announced a major decision a few years back, I instantly said, “This is going to be a huge mistake.” Smart people had examined the deal backwards and forwards for months and thought it was a great idea. I had a bad feeling about it that I could only later explain, and I was far from the only one. And we were right. The entire thing turned out to be a huge disaster.

    I kept thinking about that incident when I read Blink. The book has a pretty obvious point. People make snap decisions that they can’t consciously explain. Sometimes these decisions are correct and amazing based on the limited amount of information available. Art experts who instantly know a statue is fake despite scientific tests indicating otherwise. A fireman who appears to be fighting a routine small fire suddenly orders his men out without really knowing why and the floor collapses a second later. And sometimes these decisions can be wrong and have tragic consequences. Four cops think a guy has a gun when he’s pulling his wallet out and shoot him multiple times.

    We’ve all made quick decisions and later been amazed at how good or bad they turned out, but what makes Blink interesting is that Gladwell does some examination of the science behind how we arrive at these conclusions, and his thoughts on how the data we’re processing can either give us incredible insight or lead us horribly wrong.

    Thankfully, Gladwell is not making an argument against logical thinking or analyzing a problem. What he is doing is pointing out that instinct or intuition can be a powerful tool IF the people involved have trained themselves to make good decisions, and if we know when to trust it. He’s got a lot of great examples of doctors, military officers and police officers who often have to make life-or-death decisions in a matter of seconds with limited information. They have to trust their instincts, and Gladwell makes some common sense points that the right kind of training and education can make a huge difference. He contrasts the story of the four New York cops who killed the guy with a wallet versus a patrolman who did not fire on someone who actually had a gun but was attempting to surrender it.

    What made this book fun to read was the variety of examples that Gladwell uses and the scientific research done with them. Art dealers, doctors, marriage counselors, cops, military officers, car salesmen, a tennis coach, and classical musicians are all used as examples of the strengths and weaknesses of snap decisions. There’s also some simple experiments included that let you play along at home. This is a book that will make you think about the way you think.

  • seak
    Jul 22, 2013

    Much like the reason behind my majoring in Economics, I like Gladwell because he opens my mind to new ideas and new ways to think. Much like Economics, I believe he's far from perfect, but I really enjoy viewing the world through his lens.

    In just about anything, when people start acting as if there is only one way to do something, I stop listening to them. This goes for many things, but especially politics. If you DO, however, find someone who is omniscient and knows exactly how every policy wi

    Much like the reason behind my majoring in Economics, I like Gladwell because he opens my mind to new ideas and new ways to think. Much like Economics, I believe he's far from perfect, but I really enjoy viewing the world through his lens.

    In just about anything, when people start acting as if there is only one way to do something, I stop listening to them. This goes for many things, but especially politics. If you DO, however, find someone who is omniscient and knows exactly how every policy will turn out in the end, please let me know. I may listen to their one way of seeing the world. Otherwise ...

    What I got from Blink is that there is a lot to our instant thoughts and feelings and many times much more than we give them credit. The traditional wisdom is to plan and make huge weighty decisions based on every single bit of information that we have at our fingertips (which is just about everything, google!). This is actually a big reason my wife and I get into ... disagreements (we'll go with that). She likes to plan everything down to the last detail and I like to be a bit more relaxed.

    So it would seem that this book is a big proponent of my way of doing things, but it turns out it's not so much.

    We should trust our gut-instinct, says Blink, if we have many hours of experience in said realm of understanding because we have developed the skills to make sense of those small details and because we have the ability to "thin slice."

    Gladwell also makes the point that not always can we trust our gut-intinct, however, because our gut-instinct tends to be racist, even when we are not in fact consciously racist. Also, our instincts can get overwhelmed by heightened arousal, such as when people can't even dial 911 in an emergency because their senses are overloaded.

    But then again, you can practice and have these types of unconscious reactions mitigated.

    The interesting story-telling style of introducing these topics is, of course, what really gets me. It's the stories that are often unbelievable that have me clamoring for more, just like in

    (although I think Outliers was a little better written) and I would assume his other books.

    He goes into why The Getty art museum spent millions on a fake kouros (Greek statue) and why cops probably aren't racial profiling when they beat people like Rodney King, but because of a few key mistakes such as allowing their unconscious to get overwhelmed and also because they were a group of officers instead of just one.

    He talks about people who can listen to a couple and tell when they should start talking to their lawyers and people who have developed the actual abilities that are shown in the TV show "Lie to Me." How looking at a person's room for 5 minutes may give a complete stranger a better picture of a person than a good friend.

    I've always loved these types of explanations for things. There's the old wisdom we have and the wisdom we assume when we don't have any other way to describe a particular event and which is completely wrong. I love thinking new ideas, even when it's old news and that's why I'll keep coming back to Gladwell.

  • Sanjay Gautam
    Jun 05, 2014

    is- what all the stories, case studies, and arguments add up to- an attempt to understand the magical and mysterious thing called Judgement. Its basic premise is: split second decisions (snap judgements); how they can be good and bad.

    Gladwell suggests split-seconds decisions are better than the decisions where we take considerable time to weigh our choices and options. He points out that our mind figure things, people, et al. in a blink of an eye. And it is often that these snap judgeme

    is- what all the stories, case studies, and arguments add up to- an attempt to understand the magical and mysterious thing called Judgement. Its basic premise is: split second decisions (snap judgements); how they can be good and bad.

    Gladwell suggests split-seconds decisions are better than the decisions where we take considerable time to weigh our choices and options. He points out that our mind figure things, people, et al. in a blink of an eye. And it is often that these snap judgements are much more trustworthy than judgements arrived at rationally. But he does not stop here and goes on further: snap judgements can be misleading, too; he termed it Warren Harding error. He suggested that there are some instinctive processes that prevent us to see clearly; and hence cloud our judgements.

    Blink is an interesting read. It is very well written, and at the same time engages your attention from the start. And writing is reader friendly, perfectly suitable for a layman.

    .................................................

    I bought this book because I was intrigued by the subtitle of the book: The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking. This subtitle was something Zen like, I felt. And when I read it initially, three years ago, I found it resembling with Zen teachings (and koans). Following are two quotes that mainly convey the spirit: