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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Paperback – April 3, 2007
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Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant. Gladwell, the best-selling author of The Tipping Point, campaigns for snap judgments and mind reading with a gift for translating research into splendid storytelling. Building his case with scenes from a marriage, heart attack triage, speed dating, choking on the golf course, selling cars, and military maneuvers, he persuades readers to think small and focus on the meaning of "thin slices" of behavior. The key is to rely on our "adaptive unconscious"--a 24/7 mental valet--that provides us with instant and sophisticated information to warn of danger, read a stranger, or react to a new idea.
Gladwell includes caveats about leaping to conclusions: marketers can manipulate our first impressions, high arousal moments make us "mind blind," focusing on the wrong cue leaves us vulnerable to "the Warren Harding Effect" (i.e., voting for a handsome but hapless president). In a provocative chapter that exposes the "dark side of blink," he illuminates the failure of rapid cognition in the tragic stakeout and murder of Amadou Diallo in the Bronx. He underlines studies about autism, facial reading and cardio uptick to urge training that enhances high-stakes decision-making. In this brilliant, cage-rattling book, one can only wish for a thicker slice of Gladwell's ideas about what Blink Camp might look like. --Barbara Mackoff --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study. As he displays again in this entertaining and illuminating look at how we make snap judgments—about people's intentions, the authenticity of a work of art, even military strategy—he can parse for general readers the intricacies of fascinating but little-known fields like professional food tasting (why does Coke taste different from Pepsi?). Gladwell's conclusion, after studying how people make instant decisions in a wide range of fields from psychology to police work, is that we can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts—and that less input (as long as it's the right input) is better than more. Perhaps the most stunning example he gives of this counterintuitive truth is the most expensive war game ever conducted by the Pentagon, in which a wily marine officer, playing "a rogue military commander" in the Persian Gulf and unencumbered by hierarchy, bureaucracy and too much technology, humiliated American forces whose chiefs were bogged down in matrixes, systems for decision making and information overload. But if one sets aside Gladwell's dazzle, some questions and apparent inconsistencies emerge. If doctors are given an algorithm, or formula, in which only four facts are needed to determine if a patient is having a heart attack, is that really educating the doctor's decision-making ability—or is it taking the decision out of the doctor's hands altogether and handing it over to the algorithm? Still, each case study is satisfying, and Gladwell imparts his own evident pleasure in delving into a wide range of fields and seeking an underlying truth.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
Frankly I must admit that I had to quit after the few sentences of the beginning of the fifth chapter.
Nice, inspiringly seeming stories which any tabloid newsletter could publish or a grandparent would tell; nothing more.
Considering what Gladwell have achieved with Outliers, this is a real disappointment.
Training, rules and rehearsal allows spontaneous, split-second decisions: Spontaneity is not random! Wisdom, experience and good judgment. Rule of Improv: always accept an offer; no suggestion can be denied. Goldman Chest pain algorithm (funded by the USN for IDCs – ECG, unstable angina, fluid in the lungs, SBP<100): Less is more (at times). Kenna’s music-music that the experts like, but no one else can be exposed because the un-expert focus groups don’t like it; the fallacy of the Pepsi challenge and failure of “New Coke”, the Herman Miller chair. First impressions: a way to structure them, a vocabulary to capture them and the experience to understand them. Seven seconds in the Bronx; the death of Amadou Diallo-a mind blind moment (momentary autism-the inability to mind-read). Tomkins inspired Ekman and Friesen to prove that facial expressions show exactly what a person is thinking, Facial Action Coding System (FACS). Mind-reading and the example of autism. Ability of some people to stay calm under stress (pulse rate-to high and some people “lose” ability to make good decisions. Listening with our eyes (or not); the example of Abbie Conant, the Trombone virtuoso. The lesson of Chancellorsville, the magical and mysterious thing called judgment, wisdom acquired from a lifetime of learning and watching and doing. Lee had it, Hooker didn’t. How having information does not equal understanding.
The book begins with a vignette, focusing on the Getty Museum being offered the chance to purchase a particular work. The Museum used scientific methods to try to determine if the object was legit--or a phony. They decided that it was good and purchased it. However, a handful of experts, after just a quick glance at the object, concluded that it was a fraud. Later research agreed with those snap decisions.
This illustrates a key point made by Gladwell: Sometimes quick and dirty decision making is actually better in terms of outcomes than agonizing efforts at rational analysis. He points out that this is what evolutionary cognitive expert Gerd Gigerenzer calls "fast and frugal" decision making.
A number of examples are used to illustrate how well "thin slice" decision-making can work. In a war game, one side (the Red Team) used "out of the box" thinking against the other side (The Blue Team), which represented the United States. The latter team used rational decision making efforts, did after action analysis at each step, and tried, in short, to use "best practices." The leader of the Red Team worked more by "feel," allowing his subordinates to take initiative on their own. End result? The United States was defeated! Gladwell's conclusion is that thin slice, fast and frugal decision making was more effective.
He adduces any number of examples as to why quick decision making works better than rational analysis. This is firmly in the tradition of Gigerenzer and his collaborators, extolling the virtues of fast and frugal heuristics (decision making shortcuts).
However, Gladwell understands that there is also a darker side to this thin slice decision making. Stereotypes can end up guiding decision making. He wonders if this explains the disproportionate number of African-Americans who are imprisoned, if this explains why some people get better deals in negotiation with auto dealers than others, if this is why Amadou Diallo dies in a hail of gunfire from police in the Bronx. And this is the side of decision making shortcuts that Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, and their colleagues address (see the volume earlier mentioned edited by Gilovich et al).
The final chapter is Gladwell's effort to somehow encourage the positive payoffs of the use of these quick and dirty decision making processes while minimizing the negative consequences. Convincing? I'm not so sure, but the author surely makes us think about these issues. A very well done book.