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Blink 194

Posted by timothy
from the you-lose dept.
ThinkMagnet (James Mitchell) writes " Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is Malcolm Gladwell's foray into the study of intuitive decision-making. The author, a former Washington Post science and technology writer, reveals his journalistic background in his narrative style. His assertions are based on recent scientific findings, but are always presented as a story. This makes good conversation fodder, but can frustrate readers who prefer direct presentation of scientific arguments." Read on for the rest of Mitchell's review.
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
author Malcolm Gladwell
pages 288 pages
publisher Little, Brown (January 11, 2005)
rating 8
reviewer James Mitchell
ISBN 0316172324
summary This book discusses in narrative style the mechanics of subconscious snap decisions.

First, Gladwell introduces a concept called "thin-slicing." This involves the human brain's critical reduction of information to make predictions about complicated systems. For example, a system developed at the University of Washington can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will be divorced within fifteen years, based entirely upon one hour of observed interaction.

Next, Gladwell discusses analogous ways the human brain uses thin-slicing to make subconscious snap decisions. Interestingly, this rapid decision-making process can easily be primed by external influences. External influences affect more decisions than many people care to admit; these factors form the basis for snap judgments and first impressions.

Gladwell relates a study of how well a subject's personality was evaluated either by strangers who visited the subject's dorm room for fifteen minutes or by friends that knew the subject well. Friends were more accurate about extraversion and agreeableness, but the strangers were better at gauging conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to new experiences. Thin-slicing isn't always correct; it depends on having the right information.

Superficial traits can be used to the advantage of an actor trying to project a particular characterization. Similarly, an authority figure can dress and behave in a particular fashion to influence subordinates. Warren G. Harding made overwhelmingly positive first impressions throughout his political career, although he is considered by historians to be one of the worst American presidents. Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings.

On the other hand, by understanding the fallibilities of intuition, one can influence others' unconscious decision-making processes and be more aware of influences on one's own intuition. People can control and develop their intuitive decision-making skills. For instance, a successful car salesman would never be distracted by the appearance of a customer to the detriment of a sale. A portion of the book discusses physiological tests that reveal the strength of stereotypes in subconscious decision making by measuring reaction times.

Having defined the capabilities and limitations of intuitive decision-making, Gladwell spends a chapter focusing on spontaneity through the story of General Paul Van Riper and Millennium Challenge '02. A technologically advanced military with a vast array of information collection and "common operational picture" was pitted against a less technologically capable adversary led by General Van Riper. Much as David defeated Goliath, Van Riper's force inflicted staggering losses on his information-gorged enemy. His victory illustrates the utility of pre-arranged structure (such as "commander's intent" or "desired endstate") to empower subordinates to make spontaneous decisions. The fog of war couldn't really be defied, but decision makers could be trained to cope well with uncertainty.

The latter parts of the book discuss how intuitive decision-making can fall short. Humans' senses and subconscious minds can be negatively affected in stressful environments where stimuli are distorted and thin-slicing can easily go awry. Gladwell takes examples from recent developments in police procedures designed to avoid situations that adversely affect law enforcement personnel. For instance, many departments make their officers patrol individually. Without partners, they are more likely to wait for backup before entering dangerous situations. The author also performs a detailed deconstruction of the Amadou Diallo shooting in New York City. He concludes that the tragedy was not a product of conscious injustice, but simply a chain reaction of impaired snap decisions made within seven seconds of violence.

Overall, Blink makes for a quick read and is sure to stimulate conversation. Its premise is simple, and it contains ample food for thought. Its discussion of priming the intuition with particular stimuli and impaired "thin-slicing" provides a useful tool in deconstructing human behavior. The strengths and weaknesses of intuition-priming and thin-slicing are useful knowledge for any professional decision-maker.


You can purchase Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking from bn.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Blink

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Steve Sailor reviewed [vdare.com] this book recently too.
  • bad book (Score:5, Funny)

    by peter303 (12292) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:27PM (#11567246)
    It only took me two seconds to decide this was a bad book. Sounds kind of new-ageish.
    • I thought it was about the use of proprietary html to jazz things up when animated gifs just aren't working out.
    • Re:bad book (Score:5, Funny)

      by dfn_deux (535506) * <datsun510@noSPaM.gmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:00PM (#11567566) Homepage
      my first instinct is that you are correct.
    • Actually, this book has been getting a lot of press in the ad industry. The guy has written another book about marketing that is very well known and respected.

      I'm sure that doesn't help the credibility of the book since its coming from the ad industry, and we all know the prejudices slashdot holds for that, but the book is supposed to be fairly decent if anybody was seriously considering it.

    • Eh, well, I used fast judgement to tell me to avoid this book, because it smells not so much of new-age (which I often like), but of content-free anecdotes. The kind where you enliven a perfectly good one-page paper with 499 pages of illustrative example. If you've read the slashdot blurb, you've pretty much read everything the book has to say.

      Now, what I wouldn't mind in the least is some steps towards developing a "Bene Gesserit" style technology of the quick mind. But I doubt this book advances the stat
  • Really? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ajaf (672235) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:27PM (#11567252) Homepage
    For example, a system developed at the University of Washington can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will be divorced within fifteen years, based entirely upon one hour of observed interaction.

    Where is that system, i want it.
    • Re:Really? (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      And that sound you hear is divorce lawyers quickly buying up the rights to such a system before it can go public.
    • Re:Really? (Score:3, Funny)

      by noidentity (188756)
      Apparently a fifteen-year-old system, too.
    • It's the first chapter... If you go to Amazon.com, look up the book, then click the link "look inside this book" you can actually read about it ;)

      - shadowmatter
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Junior J. Junior III (192702) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:50PM (#11567477) Homepage
      For example, a system developed at the University of Washington

      Where is that system, i want it.


      Uh, the University of Washington?
    • How do they know how accurate are the predictions? Won't it take 15 years just to get the results?
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Informative)

      by quandrum (652868) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:30PM (#11567826)
      Without having read the book, this sounds like they are talking about the work of Dr. Gottman.

      Although, the sumation seems disingenious. It was never a system, it was a study of interaction in married couples. He never offered to predict someones chances of success, but rather studied their interaction, and then kept track of their marriage. He then analyzed the data and published novel ideas on the importance of how the way we communicate affects our relationships. Third parties then plumbed the data to get media bytes like the one quoted.

      Although, now he has written 2 or 3 books. *shrug*
      • Re:Really? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Without having read the book, this sounds like they are talking about the work of Dr. Gottman.

        I think the "instant" is because the method relies on the study of a 15 minute conversation.

        Actually fascinating math (from a lecture here at UW). They modeled the couple's happiness during the conversation on an X-Y axis (one axis for each person's happiness), then modeled each other's conversational tendencies on each other as a two state-variable dynamic system. If the system had a stable solution in mutual

    • Now there's a money making dating site. Randomly put a couple together and run them through the one hour test. Go through enough people eventually you will find someone that will stick with you. Can't believe eharmony isn't on this bandwagon yet.
  • Sounds like (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:29PM (#11567273)
    Sounds like most slashdot postings... thinking without thinking..
    • You mean posting without thinking, reading the article, spelling correctly, forming meaningful sentences, using punctuation, or reading the parent posts?

      Welcome to the Information Age - where having readily-available information means not using it.

    • ...

      Sorry, I hit "Reply to This" on instinct. I didn't actually have any reply in mind.
  • I can name that book in three letters:

    Gut

    as in, trust yours, it provides the best results... yes i know this is an over simplification of what he writes in the book but its closer to than farther from the truth...

    i bought and read "The Tipping Point" His first book...and stopped after the first couple of chapters...

    I think he should have named it:

    Obvious...
  • "It's the art of fighting without fighting." Now thats deep.
  • by geekpuppySEA (724733) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:35PM (#11567321) Journal
    Just a few words into the review I could tell that Gladwell had already peaked with his earlier work. Great, so our neurology makes split-second decisions... Wow, well, cool.

    Doesn't compare to the star-nosed mole [newscientist.com], who strikes me as two notes cooler by the fact it overclocks its own brain:

    "The pace of the star-nosed mole's feeding is so fast that it is approaching the maximum speed at which its nervous system can process information."

    More revelations worthy of a New Yorker article just make me yawn. And, more evidence of my, um, correct opinion is corroborated here, in Black Table's "believe the hype?" review. [blacktable.com]

    • I agree with you that the Tipping Point was better.

      But I think he has a gift for finding interesting anecdotes and a general ability to spin them together.

      So I'm hoping it's just a "sophomore slump" and later books will improve. In many ways, I just thought Blink lacked focus and tighter editing.
  • hmmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by new death barbie (240326) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:35PM (#11567323)
    Researcher: Thank you for participating in our study. According to our model, you and your spouse are likely to be divorced within fifteen years. Have a nice day!

    Isn't that kind of news likely to be self-fulfilling?
    • i think it would save you a good amount of money in the long run. therefore, it would be sure as hell worth it.
    • Not necessarily... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by rewt66 (738525) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:22PM (#11567763)
      You don't have to react by saying, "OK, well, I guess we're screwed. No point really trying, then" and watching as your marriage does, in fact, fall apart.

      Instead, you could react by saying, "Well, these guys see some problem signs. Let's figure out what they are, and start fixing things." If you follow through (consistently), you may well save the marriage.

      I haven't looked at the study, but it wouldn't shock me if what they look for is whether the couple expects to have to continually work to make the marriage work, or if they just assume that it'll all work out fine on it's own.

      I've been married almost 15 years, and we've had to kind of rebuild our relationship about ten or twelve times in those years. You can't just sit around and let entropy do a number on you...

      • I've been married almost 15 years, and we've had to kind of rebuild our relationship about ten or twelve times in those years

        Only a dozen times? I have to do it every time I stay up all night playing computer games.

      • by ivrcti (535150)
        Having been married 18 years, I can tell you that preventative maintenance is much more cost effective than a marital engine rebuild.
    • What makes you think they told the couples their predictions?

      I don't know for certain, but I would expect they didn't. Otherwise, it wouldn't really be proper science.
  • This makes good conversation fodder, but can frustrate readers who prefer direct presentation of scientific arguments. Plato's Republic is presented as narrative and imagined dialogue. It's been providing good conversation fodder for, oh, a little while now. Perhaps the limitation isn't the form ...
  • by xanderwilson (662093) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:36PM (#11567336) Homepage
    His previous book "The Tipping Point" has gotten some buzz in recent years around nonprofits I know. Haven't read either, but by the descriptions it sounds like The Tipping Point is about crowd/mass decision-making in the sociological realm and this one's about individual decision-making in the psychological realm. Interesting if he stuck to one topic, but not one field.
    • by Drakonian (518722) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:09PM (#11567651) Homepage
      I own the Tipping Point and I'm a big fan of it. I find myself classifying a lot of people that I meet as Connectors, Mavens, or Salespeople.

      Some other comment described the book as obvious. I'd strongly disagree. The conclusions were very surprising and interesting. I'd highly recommend The Tipping Point. Blink is now on my list.

      • by ghutchis (7810) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:39PM (#11567884) Homepage
        You might be disappointed by Blink.

        I think Gladwell had a ton of great stories like he did in Tipping Point. But I think Blink is a bit more diffuse -- no equivalent to the classification system in TP that you mention.

        I like the concept of "thin-slicing" and very much enjoyed the stories in Blink. But I didn't think there was a core argument that stuck together, just a brief concept and some surrounding stories. I'm still not sure I know how to apply the idea of thin slicing myself or how to improve my abilities, other than to assume that with increasing expertise, it'll improve.

        In another post, I suggested that people wait for the paperback or borrow it from the library. Blink is a solid book, but IMHO not worth the $$ right now.
    • Sounds like the old business plan thing again. Take some relatively obvious ideas, dress them up with nice sound-bitey names, books, speaking engagements, profit.
  • by mrsbrisby (60242) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:38PM (#11567355) Homepage
    I understand this behavior because I see it; Our very own Fearless Leader exhibits this "thin slicing" with a remarkable success rate.

    I do a significant amount of research in an effort to predict certain kinds of market trends and behaviors but what bothers me is that he [often] gets the same results without that work.

    Nevertheless, I wonder mostly, why he is dismissive of a technical method that produces his results. Sometimes, it produces different results, and for those times he is extremely grateful, but when it doesn't- that is, when a technical and exhaustive method yields the same result as his snap decisions, he is very frustrated that the technical method was performed at all.

    Like it's "obvious" to those of us without the manager hair and posture...
    • A catastrophic success rate?
    • I understand this behavior because I see it; Our very own Fearless Leader exhibits this "thin slicing" with a remarkable success rate.

      I do a significant amount of research in an effort to predict certain kinds of market trends and behaviors but what bothers me is that he [often] gets the same results without that work.


      I suspect that this is somewhat like playing chess, which has alot to do with pattern recognition. You're working out the brute-force method (more tactical, but you can't see really deep t
  • Van Riper (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dunsurfin (570404) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:39PM (#11567358)
    The more interesting part of the Van Riper story (according to Gladwell's book) was that this war game was used as a test of concept to see if the US could invade Iraq successfully utilizing technology to remove the fog of war.

    Van Riper (playing for Iraq) utilized (what seemed to the military brass to be) unorthodox methods and won. The military brass found this to be unacceptable and changed the rules of the war game midway, so that Van Riper lost. Then the US invaded Iraq.

    Basically a case of "if the results of the test do not coincide with what we are looking for, change the test."
    • Re:Van Riper (Score:4, Informative)

      by rcamans (252182) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:58PM (#11567549)
      Actually, they did not change rules midgame.
      Van Riper won.
      Then the brass called a do-over, replaced Van Riper with their own kind of brass, and they won.
      Of course, in real life, you do not get do-overs.
      • Re:Van Riper (Score:3, Interesting)

        Of course, in real life, you do not get do-overs.

        Sure you do! Just look at Iran! (in two years).

      • Re:Van Riper (Score:3, Interesting)

        by ivrcti (535150)
        Actually, I played Van Riper's role in an earlier wargame (different scenario) at Fort Bragg. Like him, I was a playing the opponent. I looked at the situation and realized that my countries normal tactics (think red) wouldn't stand a prayer, so I was young enough and brash enough to toss out the playbook and happened upon a different, very effective strategy. Like Van Riper, they let the scenario play until it was clear that I had a significant tactical advantage. We halted the simulation, discussed wha
    • So he should have been let finish, for glory points? Not what the game's about. War games are about gathering info. What if we change this or that parameter? Add this or that constraint? And so forth. If the game's been played out to a successful conclusion - guaranteed victory by one side or the other - then it's over. In other words, it wasn't one war game where they rigged the result, it became two war games, one in which David won, another in which Goliath won. Both chock full of useful info to be analy
  • by danielrm26 (567852) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:39PM (#11567363) Homepage
    Blink
    The Tipping Point
    The Wisdom Of Crowds
  • by mjh (57755) <mark@hor[ ]an.com ['ncl' in gap]> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:40PM (#11567365) Homepage Journal
    Gladwell and James Surowiecki, the author of "The Wisdom of Crowds" got into an interesting co-review of each other's work on slate. [msn.com] I would think that the slashdot crowd would associate more with Crowds since it could be used to laud the value of the FLOSS development models.

    Personally, I'm interested in reading both.

    • An interesting idea I've been researching lately is "folksonomies" [wikipedia.org], emergent non-hiearachical taxonomies built bottom-up by the "wisdom of crowds". Flickr tags/keywords are a good example. Humans are good at the messy, ambigious parts of life. Harnessing that power programatically is very interesting.
  • This book has been on my wishlist for a while, saw it recommended on some blog. Apparently Amazon sells an audio version on CD, I will be getting that today.
  • by nazzdeq (654790)
    ...it's amazing that people think "thin-slicing" is something amazing. This is called first impressions whether it's a person, product, service or whatever. The fact you can write a book about the obvious and make lots of money doing so is what the book is really about. -Nazz
  • What we need to learn about is reason, science and logic; the very things that are NOT intuitive.

    Intuition - we already got.

    Funny also how he mentions that he got into the topic because cops jumped to the conclusion he was a bad guy 'cause he was a longhair.

  • I have to believe this is not the author's intent but the impression I came away with from reading his own words was this books makes it OK to follow our first instincts.

    Should I play the lottery? I got a hunch that tonight is the night I am going to win so yes I should play.

    Should I buy a new car? Yes, I can figure out how to pay for it later.

    Reminds me of the scence from the "Matrix" when Neo asked his girl if she knew how to fly a heliocopter. She replies "not yet" and ten seconds later, after a qu
    • If you'd read a little more before hastily posting to /. you'd discover that this is one of the core themes and purposes of the book. Here's more of the authors "own words":

      "... I think that's an example of bad rapid cognition: there is something going on in the first few seconds of meeting a tall person which makes us predisposed toward thinking of that person as an effective leader, the same way that the police looked at my hair and decided I resembled a criminal. I call this the "Warren Harding Error"

      • The quote you gave is a perfect illustration of my point. This book will give validation to instant gratification because people can figure out good from bad instant desicions. The whole idea of an instant desicion is as classic as "judging a book by its cover". We don't like it but if we wrap it in technical terms and provide "studies" to support it and, of course, always use PC responses (at least publically) than we no longer have to give it a second thought.

        For you next arguement please share some
    • That may be true, but regardless of how a decision is made, they have consequences. Get the answers right, and you get promoted, paid, laid, etc.

      I can make the snappy, thinly-sliced decision that I have the right of way at the crosswalk because I'm a pedestrian, but the bus will still surely kill me.
  • First Impressions (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @06:56PM (#11567533) Homepage Journal
    This is the kind of book review I want to read on Slashdot. Unlike many magazine book reviews, this one is not an excuse to hijack the book's potential audience for the reviewer's own take on the same subject. Even the summary on the Slashdot homepage helped me learn whether I want to read the book or not. The review was also focused, balancing some "plot" coverage with style and subject explanations. So after about 90 seconds, I felt familiar enough with both subject and book to decide, if I have to, whether to read the book, and maybe track developments in the subject. It's inuitive when you know how! Give ThinkMagnet (James Mitchell) more books to review.
    • Insightful. Most Slashdot book reviews are awful but this one was very good. (The flamebait-ish last line of the blurb was a little grating but excusable)
    • There isn't a "meta-funny" moderation, so I'm just going to post this instead. Very clever.
      • Thank you. Ever since a college English prof straightened me out on the unresolved "this" adjective, I've had some fun using its ambiguity to parade in front of semantic halls of mirrors.
  • I'm on the road mangling the network at one of our satellite locations, and went out seeking coffee Tuesday night. I went to a local book store, grabbed a book that looked interesting and sat down to read while I slurped. Sitting on the table was a copy of Blink that another customer had left there. I picked that up and was immediately engrossed. I've already decided (no two second jokes here, it took a few dozen pages) to start handing it to various friends and coworkers.

    I highly recommend this one, and a
  • bah (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jidar (83795) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:02PM (#11567585)
    I've got a real problem with this entire concept. It encourages actions based on an evaluation of past patterns, which in turn discourages uniques and inovation. Also, people trusting their intuition and gut is a lot of what is wrong about people in the first place.
    • two sides (Score:2, Interesting)

      by abiessu (74684)
      The "people trusting their intuition" part is pretty much right-on, but throwing out intuition is a bad idea too.

      I started playing with an open question in mathematics a while back (the "twin prime conjecture"). Within the first month of working on it, I had arrived at quite a few interesting conclusions related to the problem and come up with some new and unique (to me) ways of looking at it.

      I've spent the past four years proving that several of those initial observations were correct. Repeatedly.

      The

    • If you know the subject matter, know the people you're dealing with and have a broad, deep enough knowledge base in the specific field (and are not financially motivated for get-rich-quick gain), it can work. Or are you saying that innovation only happens via blind luck, pure ignorant brilliance or religious belief?

      Maybe the real problem is people who think they know more than they actually do and are too arrogant to admit what they don't know. Known knowns, known unknowns, unknown knowns [effectiveeng.com], etc.. Yup, "unk
  • The whole premise of this book should not be surprising at all. Human beings evolved under conditions where they needed to make snap judgments and make them quickly. Those that guessed wrong were weeded from the gene pool as a large predator made lunch of them. The ability to quickly analyze a situation and make a judgement within a few seconds was certainly selected for as we evolved.
  • Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowiecki (author of The Wisdom of Crowds) discussed the relative merits of snap decision-making and collective decision-making in a recent Slate "Book Club [slate.com]."
  • I saw that book the other day in recieving.. It intrigued me. Oh well. I am happy for the bn link at the bottom of the story! Buy books from bn! Make my company stock go up!
  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:28PM (#11567805) Homepage Journal
    Richard A. Posner provides a few counterpoints in his review of the book [tnr.com] in the New Republic. The gist of Posner's criticism is that the book provides a great deal of anecdotal evidence, but little real analysis. In particular he hones in on what he considers to be mistaken interpretations of causality.

    I haven't read the book myself, but Posner's somewhat scathing review doesn't keep me from wanting to read the book. It does, however, make me want to read it with a critical eye.

  • I really like Gladwell's writing style and how he manages to pull together a wide variety of interesting anecdotes.

    I wanted to strongly recommend Blink, but I can't.

    His first book, The Tipping Point, is much much better -- it has a tighter thesis and keeps a much better argument. By the end of Blink, I was increasingly annoyed that Gladwell kept mentioning previous points and restating his thesis. Enough already, I remember your concept and I'd rather not be beaten over the head with it.

    When I finished B
  • by reverseengineer (580922) on Thursday February 03, 2005 @07:34PM (#11567851)
    There's actually a fascinating interview [go.com] with Malcolm Gladwell at ESPN's Page 2 site wherein the interview asks Gladwell to apply some of the ideas of "Blink" to the world of sports. His responses illustrate some of the insights of the book, but also some of the things that make Gladwell's logic rather frustrating. For example, Michael Lewis's book "Moneyball" comes up in conversation (for those unfamiliar, it suggests using comprehensive statistical analysis and a focus on particular stats to evaluate a baseball player, rather than the subjective eye of a scout or "conventional wisdom"). Going by Gladwell's thesis, though, you would think he would insist that an expert scout could make a snap judgement about a player and be more correct than some egghead analyzing statistics. Just as in one of the examples in "Blink" where an art expert can just glance at a statue and "know" it to be a fake, you would think a scout could briefly watch a player play and "know" whether he is the real deal or a bust.

    Gladwell responds, though:

    "I always thought that the critics of "Moneyball" misinterpreted what Lewis was saying. He wasn't saying that all instinctive scouting judgments are flawed. He was saying that there are some questions -- like predicting hitting ability -- that are better answered statistically, and that the task of a successful GM is to understand the difference between what can and can't be answered that way. That's my argument in Blink as well."

    So the question becomes, then, how do we know when we can make an appropriate snap judgement about something? Why is "this statue looks like a fake" reasonable but "this guy looks like an athlete" not?

    Gladwell makes the point that too much data can hinder, rather than help, but you end up needing to make a judgement on how much data is too much then. One of the examples Gladwell gives in "Blink" is of doctors making better diagnoses of heart trouble when they have less data- they jump to the heart, rather than investigating everything else chest pain could be. But do you really want your doctor operating on less than complete information- and if so, where do you set the line at? "Sorry, Doc, I'm afraid if I tell you how long I've had this pain, you might misdiagnose me."

    I agree largely with Gladwell's ideas that snap judgements can be better than waffling, but he definitely should have done more to point out differences between good snap decisions and bad ones- he points out the "Warren Harding Effect" where someone "appears qualified" for something, but doesn't say enough in my opinion about knowing when your prejudices are boldly leading your gut astray.

  • I have been waiting for months for this book to come out, based on the strength of the author's discussion on C-SPAN about it. And no, I don't normally watch Book TV, but I got sucked in because it was so fascinating (it was on the radio and even Book TV is better than ClearChannel crap).

    The idea that autistic people can be used to model normal people in situations where there is not enough time to make a complex, socially-based decision. That police stopping a vehicle are safer if only one cop is at the
  • I'm afraid I missed it.
  • One of my favorite books of all time is Sources of Power [amazon.com] by Gary Klein. Gary Klein studied how people made decisions in high pressure situations, like fire commanders and military personnel, and pioneered a lot of the concepts in intuitive decision making. This is one of the best written, most informative books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to everyone. The follow up The Power of Intuition [amazon.com] is great in that it teaches you how to become a better decision maker, but isn't as well

  • by Baldrson (78598) * on Thursday February 03, 2005 @08:06PM (#11568063) Homepage Journal
    From Steve Sailer's review of Blink [vdare.com]:

    Now, it would be tremendously useful if Gladwell had figured out some general rules of thumb for when to rely on your instantaneous hunches and when not to.

    But as far as I can tell, his book reduces to two messages:

    1. Go with your gut reactions, but only when they are right
    2. And even when your gut reactions are factually correct, ignore them when they are politically incorrect. [vdare.com]

    Gladwell does make a genuinely useful point about how when people try to put their ideas into words, they often distort them into meaninglessness or falsehood.

    Ironically, this happens to Gladwell every time he writes about race.

    Because there were already plenty of books on the market advising corporate workers [vdare.com] in tiresome detail how to look before they leap, the sales potential of a book telling them, "Wotthehell, just go ahead and leap," was clear.

    Unfortunately for Gladwell, the best-known examples of thinking without thinking [olimu.com] are racial and gender prejudices. But, then, you've forgotten Rule #2--Readers despise logic and consistency. So Gladwell just assumes that his otherwise beloved "rapid cognition" is 100% wrong whenever it's based on race or gender stereotypes. [amazon.com]

    (And that's why he makes a $1 million annually and I don't.)

    The most intriguing aspect of Gladwell's book is that its hopeless confusion and mind-melting political correctness stem from the author's own racial background. Although mostly white, Gladwell is partly of African descent (his mother [washingtonpost.com] was black, Scottish, and Jewish). But he doesn't look noticeably black in most [google.com] of his pictures [google.com].

    The origin of Blink, he writes on his website [gladwell.com], came when, "on a whim," he let his hair grow long into a loose but large Afro.

    As you can see in this picture of Gladwell with his Afro [isteve.com], he wound up with more of a Napoleon Dynamite Mormon 'fro [imdb.com] than the genuine kinky kind that ABA basketball players [remembertheaba.com] espoused back in the 1970s. Still, it does finally make him look marginally black.

    As soon as Gladwell grew his Afro, he claims, he started getting hassled by The Man: highway patrolmen wrote him speeding tickets, [slashdot.org] airport security gave him the evil eye, and the NYPD [vdare.com] questioned him for 20 minutes because they were looking for a rapist [uexpress.com] with an Afro.

    "That episode on the street got me th

  • Oh Yeah... (Score:2, Informative)

    by Stormy Dragon (800799)
    Because what we really need is more encouragement for people to stop thinking about things before doing whatever fool thing pops into their head.
  • by bigberk (547360) <bigberk@users.pc9.org> on Thursday February 03, 2005 @08:44PM (#11568372)
    It was either him or one of his colleagues on CBC radio some time recently (past month or so) and the way the theory was pitched, it just sounded like nonsense. On top of it they spoke like marketing people, which made me think it's all really B.S.
  • ...Superficial traits can be used to the advantage of an actor trying to project a particular characterization. Similarly, an authority figure can dress and behave in a particular fashion to influence subordinates. Warren G. Harding made overwhelmingly positive first impressions throughout his political career, although he is considered by historians to be one of the worst American presidents. Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings
  • When I saw it in the bookshop, I almost bought "Blink" on a whim, but then I realised I should really spend some thought on that before shelling out the money.

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