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723 of 817 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not an idea - a series of curious New Yorker articles
The mistake was too try and get all of these wild animals onto the same boat. The book a series of semi-socio-scientific articles on insight and intuition. It is not a cohesive theory.

The writing is enjoyable - I read the most of it in a single plane flight. Some of the insights provide building blocks for understanding how certain professionals (people who...
Published on January 29, 2005 by Eric Antonow

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660 of 703 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't make a snap judgement buying this book
Well, as a huge fan of Gladwell's last book, The Tipping Point, I was excited last week to finally get my hands on his new effort: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This time around Gladwell's basic thesis is that often snap judgements (what he calls "thin slicing") can be more accurate than well researched, careful analysis. Gladwell uses many examples (most...
Published on February 24, 2005 by E. Freeman


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660 of 703 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Don't make a snap judgement buying this book, February 24, 2005
By 
E. Freeman (Bainbridge Island, WA) - See all my reviews
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Well, as a huge fan of Gladwell's last book, The Tipping Point, I was excited last week to finally get my hands on his new effort: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. This time around Gladwell's basic thesis is that often snap judgements (what he calls "thin slicing") can be more accurate than well researched, careful analysis. Gladwell uses many examples (most are interesting) to demonstrate this behavior such as determining when art is faked, sizing up car buyers, picking presidential candidates and determining the characteristics of a person by observing their living space. This has always been Gladwell's talent: taking just-under-the-radar topics and bringing them into the public's view through great journalism and storytelling.

Gladwell is also careful to examine the flipside of this phenomenon: the times when "thin slicing" misleads us or gives us the wrong results. For instance, he presents examples where the mind works based on biases that don't necessarily enter the realm of conscious thought, but are nevertheless there (age, race, height, and so on).

It's a great topic and Gladwell sets it up with some wonderful examples, but then the book begins to have problems. First, the book is a little too anecdotal. Anyone who has ever had a 200-level psych class knows that what looks like cause and effect may be accounted for by an independent variable that wasn't considered (e.g., concluding cancer rates are higher in some area of the country because of pollution, when in fact the area has higher smoking rates as well). Given this, I found that too often conclusions are made on basic handwaving, or that important aspects of studies are not mentioned. For instance, Gladwell describes a study were observers are asked to determine certain characteristics (such as truthfulness, consciensciousness, etc.) of students by observing their dorm rooms; but, never does he mention how exactly one would determine these characteristics of individuals in a scientific manner for comparison. Such omissions leave the reader a little less than convinced.

Nevertheless, even with this flaw the first third of the book supports the thesis and makes for the usual entertaining reading; but things derail from there. The examples start to seem more peripheral: a rogue commander beating the conventional forces in a war game exercise, an artist known as Kenna who apparently should have made it big but didn't (why this example is interesting I've yet to figure out), and some rehash about coke vs pepsi from one of his older articles.

By the end of the book the whole thing derails into examples that just don't seem appropriate for the topic. Sure a study of why Pepsi always does better than Coke in blind tastes tests is interesting (and you can read his article on this without buying the book on Gladwell's web site), but does a study of "sips" vs "whole-can drinking" - people prefer sweet for sips (Pepsi) - really say something about unconscious rapid cognition?

One of Gladwell's greatest strengths is in recognizing interesting things, and then bringing them into conscious awareness so we actually realize these things are happening (whether it be tipping points or rapid cognition). I think he's partly achieved that in this book, but it doesn't come together the way the Tipping Point does. One gets the idea that this topic may have been better handled in an article rather than a full blown book.
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723 of 817 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not an idea - a series of curious New Yorker articles, January 29, 2005
By 
Eric Antonow (Palo Alto, CA United States) - See all my reviews
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The mistake was too try and get all of these wild animals onto the same boat. The book a series of semi-socio-scientific articles on insight and intuition. It is not a cohesive theory.

The writing is enjoyable - I read the most of it in a single plane flight. Some of the insights provide building blocks for understanding how certain professionals (people who practice a subject or skill for many years) are able to develop an additional sense about things -- gamblers, art curators, policemen. They are essentially seeing something that doesn't register at the conscious-level but provides them a gut-feel about the thing. Actually, I should say that these articles are how this MIGHT be happening - it's more speculation based on the diverse theories of a number of different researchers. Individually the stories and ideas are believable. Unfortuately, Gladwell fumbles in trying take them into some unified theory that is comprehensible let alone cohesive -- at times you wonder "where is he going with this?". Without that thread the indivudal beads get lost and fade into memory as clever ideas...and not much more. Without confidence in the grand idea, the individual pieces begin to feel simply exploratory. It's a shame because there are some remarkable ideas. He's a good documenter of curiousities of research (sort of like a Ken Burns is to historical things) so the storytelling is good enough for entertainment. Another reviewer likened it the addage about Chinese food, tasty but hungry an hour later. I agree. Flawed but still some interesting ideas to puzzle over.
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224 of 261 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointment, January 14, 2005
By 
I am a great admirer of Malcolm Gladwell's writing, having read him for years in "The New Yorker" and loving "The Tipping Point," his earlier book. But "Blink" is no "Tipping Point."

The idea here is that people often have intuitive first impressions that are more valid and valuable than carefully considered, well-thought-out, researched conclusions. Except when they aren't, because first impressions of individuals, for example, can be clouded by (and Gladwell even discusses this) such matters as attractiveness, gender, race -- and even height (what Gladwell calls the "Warren Harding" error). And how are we to know when our quick-as-a-blink reaction is valid and when it isn't? Well, that's the problem with the book. Ever experienced love-at-first-sight and then realized the person wasn't really everything you thought s/he was...?

This entire book flies in the face of an excellent article Gladwell wrote in 2000 called "The New-Boy Network" [...] about how worthless the typical job interview is (because it relies too much on gut impressions) and how "structured interviews" are the only worthwhile ones (an excerpt from the article: "This interviewing technique is known as "structured interviewing," and in studies by industrial psychologists it has been shown to be the only kind of interviewing that has any success at all in predicting performance in the workplace. In the structured interviews, the format is fairly rigid. Each applicant is treated in precisely the same manner. The questions are scripted. The interviewers are carefully trained, and each applicant is rated on a series of predetermined scales.")

Even examples he uses in this book are not very on-target, such as the Red/Blue military exercise he spends a considerable amount of time discussing. He implies repeatedly that the victory of the Reds was due to thin-slicing and their quick judgments, but by his own description a lot of well-thought-out strategic decisions about communications, etc., really were at the heart of the victory, not intuitive decisions made in the blink of an eye.

On the other site of the intuition vs. analysis coin, a very good read is Michael Lewis's "Moneyball." Central to that book, with applications well beyond its baseball setting, is the realization that the gut reactions of seasoned baseball scouts are often unreliable, being clouded by how a player looks rather than his actual on-field accomplishments. A more analytical approach has helped Oakland make the playoffs repeatedly with a salary a third (now a quarter) that of the Yankees -- and also was at the heart of general manager Theo Epstein's player moves that helped the Red Sox win the World Series.

Gladwell certainly loves the social sciences, and runs all over the landscape discussing various experiments, theories, etc., but it doesn't really come together here like it did in "The Tipping Point," or in many of his articles. My "thin slice" (as Gladwell would say): a disappointment.
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60 of 69 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully crafted nonsense, February 2, 2005
By 
There are a number of writers and reporters out there who never fail to impress me with their skill in gathering and presenting information and at the same time never fail to stun me with foolish conclusions. Malcom Gladwell, whose writing graces the pages of the New Yorker, is one such writer. He is such an excellent reporter and writes such beautiful prose that his readers seem to swallow even his most dubious and unjustified conclusions.

Perhaps it's simply a consequence of his narrow education, but Gladwell manages to present the grossly obvious as if it were a brilliant insight while at the same time making inferences that are just this side of nonsensical. In this he reminds me of William Greider, whose "Secrets of the Temple", although the best history and description of the US Federal Reserve system ever written, in full of nonsensical conclusions, i.e., that inflation helps fuel economic recoveries. Tell that to Jimmy Carter.

Gladwell's earlier book, "The Tipping Point", postulated that various phenomena take off once a critical point has been reached. Now put that way, it sounds profoundly obvious, and it is. Ice freezes at a critical temperature. Water boils at 100C. And so on. But Gladwell also accepts, at face value, a number of sociological theories that are without theoretical base, or even data, other than some casual observations. He doesn't, for example, touch on graph theory, which <em>does</em> have some bearing on the spread of phenomena.

In this book, his insight is that sometimes snap judgements are better than well-thought out ones. Again I'm reminded of Samuael Johnson's comment to a writer that "Your manuscript is both good and original. But the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good." There is a good deal of recent research that looks at the processing between pereception and cognitive awareness, but when Gladwell touches on this he gets both his anatomy and his function wrong. Much of his discussion- like the fact that voters often choose attractive political candidates regardless of their qualifications- has more to do with factors other than the immediate perceptions he's trying to make a case for.

I still often enjoy reading Gladwell in the New Yorker- his recent piece on drug prices was a fine bit of reporting, even if his conclusions were not of the same caliber. But his books don't seem to be in the same category.
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46 of 53 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Finished before it really told me anything, May 1, 2006
By 
Simon Glass "rare reader" (Christchurch New Zealand) - See all my reviews
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I bought the book before a flight after reading the adulatory comments on the front and back.

It started well, with the premise that the subconsious forms a conclusion long before the consious mind is aware of it. I suppose it is obvious, but he makes the point well.

From there things get a bit lost. Reading along I soon realised that I was nearing the end and the number of pages left for a profound and all-encompassing conclusion was rapidly diminishing.

Unfortunately it never came.

This is a very short book which promises much but delivers little. I hope that the author will follow up with something more worthy of the title. It is really just a collection of true stories, mostly about racial or sexual prejudice, which leave a bad taste in the mouth. Each story is drawn out as well, a little like the History Channel.

I'm sure that there is a good book somewhere in this subject matter, but I can't for the life of me reconcile the reviews that this book has received (Compelling, Astonishing, Brilliant) with my experience. Maybe they only read the first chapter. Maybe I missing something.

Since reading this book I have been looking around and found this one:

The Genie Within: Your Subconcious Mind, how It Works And How To Use It (Paperback)

Maybe this would be a better choice for this subject matter.
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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Highly engaging read that needs a bit more focus, January 25, 2005
By 
M. Strong (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
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Like Gladwell's first effort, "The Tipping Point," this book is fun and easy to read. Gladwell uses well-chosen stories to illustrate each of the points he makes and has a gift for telling the stories in a way that flows and keeps you interested. That is the great news about this book.

Unlike "The Tipping Point," however, "Blink" doesn't arrive at a coherent and usable conclusion. It starts with the promising premise about the power of first impressions and gets you interested to learn how you might be able to make first impressions - both your own and others' - work better for you. It seems a very reasonable expectation if you've read "Tipping Point." Unfortunately, "Blink" breaks down into an ambiguous "sometimes first imprssions help, sometimes they hurt" conclusion that leaves you underwhelmed.

If you haven't read "Tipping Point," go there first. If you have and you really liked it, you will get more of the great writing and story-telling from this book, but not the useful conclusion.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, April 13, 2005
By 
Glenn Miller (Minneapolis, MN USA) - See all my reviews
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Gladwell, who is one of my favorite nonfiction authors and New Yorker writers, walks over a dangerous line with his latest book. As always, his book is full of interesting anecdotes which support his primary premise. But in Blink, unlike his terrific earlier book, The Tipping Point, Gladwell moves from reporting journalist to corporate keynote speaker wannabe. He's got a central idea and he's going to prove it. In Tipping Point, he moved from the other direction... he gathered a series of seemingly unrelated incidents and events and brought fascinating clarity to the reader. It was excellent writing, research, and journalism. But in Blink, I couldn't help but feel I was simply being sold a clever idea, something that seems terrifically obvious with a catchy name given to it. I suppose it's somewhat like when Dylan went electric. Some will like it. Some will think he sold out. But I have no doubt, he'll be extremely successful on his dinner circuit.
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269 of 330 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely enthralling and fascinating throughout., March 20, 2005
This is one of the most fascinating books I have read in some time. The book centers on the concept of how fast we really do make judgments, called "thin slicing", and how deeper analysis can sometimes provide less information than more. It is all about cognitive speed.

The concept of "thin slicing" is dissected and explained. What I found fascinating, and also common sense, is that we process information on a subconscious level, "behind the door", and process so holistically that to over analyze can actually hinder our ability to make decisions.

Several key points are applicable in business. One of the in depth studies looked at a military leader who was particularly successful. One of his more poignant observations was that a great leader needs to let the people do their work. When deciding how often to follow up "you are diverting them, now they are looking upward instead of downward. You are preventing them from resolving the situation". (Page 118) Further "allowing people to operate without having to explain themselves constantly ... enables rapid cognition" (Page 119). It seems that most micro-management actually prevents people from successful decision making.

Another strange phenomenon occurs when we try and explain how we come to some conclusions. It seems that the more we try to analyze how we come to some conclusions the less reliable they become.

The ability to absorb and detect minute changes in facial expressions allows us to essentially "read minds" if we pay attention. There are several chapters on how reliable we can be in predicting behavior with very little information.

Overall, this book is so well written that I had a hard time putting it down. My only compliant, and it is a minor one, is that the book just ends. No summary or wrap up, just "boom", it's over. However, that is more a testament to how engaging the book is I suppose. Highly recommended!
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31 of 35 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Our Hidden Programming, June 20, 2008
This review is from: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (Paperback)
Malcolm Gladwell is a "gatekeeper." In his book, Blink, he opens the gate to a room of self-discovery - a room that allows the reader, perhaps for the first time, to realize that our actions and judgments often are not as "objective" as we might think. Mr. Gladwell, through a series of examples and stories, explains that we each have our own "programming" - dare I say "prejudices" - about how we (and the cultures we grow up in) judge and respond to things we "see" and "know to be true".

He also says there are other more benign, untainted impressions that come to us in the "blink" of an eye. About these untainted impressions he says: "We don't know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don't always appreciate their fragility." Implicitly he suggests that we also don't realize how powerful our "programming" is to potentially override and taint those benign and fragile first impressions.

Mr. Gladwell provides examples of what some people have done to preserve their "blink" experiences and offset their "pre-programming" - a fun read - I recommend it.

As I was reading through the book, I was reminded of two other books (both of which I highly recommend) by Ariel and Shya Kane. In Working on Yourself Doesn't Work: A Book About Instantaneous Transformation and Being Here: Modern Day Tales of Enlightenment, the authors include discussions of human mechanical behaviors - behaviors we absorb from our families and cultures at an early age. They point out that we are mostly unaware of these mechanics and until we become aware of them, they can influence and even "control" our behavior and life choices - very eye-opening and easy to read as well!

All three of these books are well worth reading - enjoy!
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Book's tone changes in a "Blink" of an eye, March 26, 2005
By 
D. Hilton (Gilbert, AZ USA) - See all my reviews
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I was first caught by the title and cover of this book. It was fairly plain with "Blink" written boldly across the front. I read the blurb on the inside cover about what it was about and thought I would take a chance at reading it.

The book starts out great with a few stories about people making snap decisions without knowing they were doing it. That drew my attention and I kept reading. The theories that the author was giving seemed to make sense and were interesting to think about.

However, towards the middle of the book the tone of the writing changed. I am still not able to put my finger on how it changed but it almost seems that the author was hurried to get the book done and to the editor and so he became less thoughtful and more erratic in his theories and explanations.

The worst part of the book is that it just ends abruptly. There isn't really a review of what was talked about and how it all fits together. The last theory is given and the book ends.

If you have time on a plane to read the book, it might be worth it. But I'm not sure I would sit down and read this book for fun knowing what I know now about it.
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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell (Paperback - April 3, 2007)
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