Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Blink Book Review

You are definitely missing out if you have not yet read a book by Malcolm Gladwell. His writing style is easy to follow along and he takes you on a journey that masterfully explains his thesis. Have you ever wondered about your unconscious ability to make 'snap' judgments? Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is a book that explores the concept of 'thin-slicing' and understanding how much information affects our ability to make good decisions.

Malcolm Gladwell has also written The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference and Outliers: The Story of Success. I read Outliers first, but apparently didn't post my review of it yet. Both Blink and Outliers are investigative stories. Gladwell presents his thesis through the exploration of several different examples.

For example, in Blink, you will read about how months of careful research was worth less than a first impression when trying to validate the authenticity of an ancient Greek sculpture. The psychology behind 'thin-slicing' is that often times, when faced with a decision and available information to aid us make that decision, less is more. Less information may be better. In today's digital age, "we have come to confuse information with understanding". Heaping on the information is not always the best course of action. We need to understand our unconscious mind and what parameters are needed to make it work efficiently.

Blink uncovers how Dr. Gottman can reliably predict marital success based on only 10 minutes or less of conversation, why speed dating works, how a severely hindered Paul Van Riper could defeat an otherwise impressive and omnipotent US military during war games, how doctors can avoid malpractice suits and predict and care for heart attack patients better. For example, there are plenty of factors at play in our lives that might be related to our risk of heart disease.
"All those extra factors certainly matter in the long term...What Goldman's algorithm indicates, though, is that the role of those other factors is so small in determining what is happening to the man right now that an accurate diagnosis can be made without them. In fact - and this is a key point in explaining the breakdown of Blue Team that day in the Gulf - that extra information is more than useless. It's harmful. It confuses the issues. What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks is that they take too much information into account."

Blink also explains how tragedies related to police work occur, and more importantly how they can be remedied. Interestingly, as a method to explore the tragic shooting of an innocent person in a rough neighborhood, Gladwell first takes his readers on a field trip to educate them about autism. Autistic people, apparently, miss the emotional cues, and focus on objects. In high stress situations, we need to be able to slow down so that we can still unconsciously thin-slice the faces of people to understand their intentions.

The best example for correcting our snap judgments was revealed when discussing musical auditions. By removing information from the audition, in this case, placing a visual barrier or screen between the judges and performer, better judgements of ability could be made. This simple act alone is credited with the rapid rise of women performers in large symphonies around the world.

If I decide to keep on book on my bookshelf, it tends to be the hardcover version. However, the paperback that I checked out from my local library has a very nice bonus in the form of a very nice afterword by the author. In his afterword, Gladwell explores the book's theme and answer's your questions.
"And what Blink is - what all the storeis and studies and arguments add up to  - is an attempt to understand this magical and mysterisous thing called judgement."
"From experience, we gain powerful gift, the ability to act instinctively, in the moment. But - and this is one of the lessons I tried very hard to impart in Blink - it is easy to disrupt this gift."

Trade Books for Free - PaperBack Swap. "When should we trust our instincts, and when should we consciously think things through?"  Read the book. I think it is good enough to go on my wall right next to my copy of Outliers. However, I will specifically be requesting the paperback version from www.paperbackswap.com.

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