Friday, May 20, 2011

Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell


"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 people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?"

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple: the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; New Coke; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of "thin-slicing" - filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

My Review:

Malcolm Gladwell presents an interesting idea- that the unconscious split decisions that we make are often right and we should listen to them more often. Practical, logical, and well-thought out decisions may lead us astray because we can use too much information which distracts us from what's important. However, Gladwell also admits that sometimes impulse decisions aren't correct and can cause trouble.

To prove his point, Gladwell uses a series of very interesting anecdotes. These stories are fascinating and make the book worth reading. However, the overall point of the book seems to get lost when Gladwell sets out trying to prove that snap decisions are good and then gives examples where they fall apart. He tries to reconcile these failures by saying that we need to train ourselves to know when to listen to our impulses and when to slow down and think it out. Because this compromise of training takes a lot of time and training, it seems that the point of this book means very little to the regular person. We are not going to take the time to train ourselves to be able to accurately make these decisions. So how should we know when to trust ourselves?

Blink is a short, interesting read and I recommend it as that, not as a scientific proof.

My Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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