Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Synopsis:

Intuition is not some magical property that arises unbidden from the depths of our mind. It is a product of long hours and intelligent design, of meaningful work environments and particular rules and principles. This book shows us how we can hone our instinctive ability to know in an instant, helping us to bring out the best in our thinking and become better decision-makers in our homes, offices and in everyday life. Just as he did with his revolutionary theory of the tipping point, Gladwell reveals how the power of blink’ could fundamentally transform our relationships, the way we consume, create and communicate, how we run our businesses and even our societies.You’ll never think about thinking in the same way again.

  1. Sarah Says:
    August 21, 2009 at 10:23 pm | Reply edit
    My understanding was that this work of non-fiction sets out to examine what happens in the first intuitive and sub-conscious assessment of any given situation, a period of roughly two seconds, before the first blink.

    There are several problems with this book:

    -It does not set out clearly what it intends to prove and, in consequence, proves very little. Initially, it seems as though the author is urging a complete rejection of rational thought and analysis, in favour of gut instinct. But then we learn that sometimes our gut instincts lead us into egregious error. So the premise of the book must be that rapid cogitation is sometimes good, and sometimes bad. The secret is in being able to make the distinction. Whether one should either analyse or rapid cogitate on the usefulness of intuition on any given occasion is not clear.

    -The arguments given are woolly and occasionally circular.

    -The author seems uncertain concerning the composition and expectations of his target audience.

    -This is a slim premise to be expounded upon at this length. Highlighted by the presence of repetition.

    Gladwell’s use of case study may make for easy reading, but I was looking for rewarding reading. (Although I admit that I did enjoy the story about an American military war game gone hideously wrong.) The stories are largely incompatible with a spirit of scientific enquiry. The following titles for instance: “The Love Lab,” “The Secrets of the Bedroom,” reek more of the tabloid than the scientific journal. The introduction of jargon such as “thin-slicing” does not lend his work any kind of authority, and his political correctness regarding race and gender does not, unfortunately, extend into the area of neuro-conditions.

    I do not read a great deal of non-fiction, but my benchmark for a work of this sort would be Desmond Morris’ The Naked Ape, or the less well known Einstein’s Universe. This is science for the lay person, and it gets it right.

  2. moirabbc Says:
    August 23, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Reply edit
    Sarah has nobly and generously given Blink the attention it does not deserve. It is muddled – is ‘thin-slicing’ good or bad? I have not read his other books but I suspect he coins a term such as ‘tipping point’ or ‘thin-slicing’, borrows some pointless research from pop psychology and manufactures a book around it. Why do psychologists waste their time on such trivia? Why don’t they concentrate on understanding and alleviating the suffering of mental ill-health?

    Malcolm Gladwell is trying to cash-in on the success of ‘Freakonomics’ which our group read a couple of years ago. Whereas this book discussed some interesting and counter-intuitive correlations, ‘Blink’ is going nowhere.

    The publisher’s blurb on the cover says Gladwell is an original thinker and that Blink is potentially life-changing. I find this insulting.

  3. Sarah Says:
    August 24, 2009 at 9:06 am | Reply edit
    Noble? No, just too comfortably esconced on my fence. I agree completely with Moira’s analysis, which cuts straight to the heart of the matter.
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1 Comment

  1. malcolmbbc

     /  September 15, 2009

    I think that you’re both being unduly harsh!

    Personally, I enjoyed reading Blink. Its an easy read which recounts some interesting stories and experiments relating to how people think, and how sometimes we can “know” things very quickly yet without necessarily knowing how. And yes, it also gives some words of warning about how we are sometimes misled by the same processes, with factors bearing on us that incline us to make bad choices.

    If you want complex and detailed science, this isn’t it. It is unapologetically populist in its approach. Similarly, if you want something along the lines of self improvement, this won’t offer it either – it isn’t a “life changer”. But if you accept the book for what it is – some easy to digest “food for thought”, then this may be worth a read. I was fascinated by some of the examples, like the war simulation gone wrong, and the experiment that showed how “planting” certain words in a list to be read would subconsciously affect the behaviour of people as they walked away afterwards.

    Reply

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