Book Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell


Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
Published by: Little, Brown and Company on January 11, 2005.
Genres: Self-Help
Pages: 320
Format: E-Book
Buy on Amazon

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink is about snap judgements that occur within the first two seconds of cognition, without us even realizing it. Gladwell uses many case studies throughout the book to investigate how rapid cognition occurs in the “locked door of our unconscious.” The way he presents the case studies as a story made the flow between studies smooth and easy to read. By relating the case studies back to one another, he reminds the reader that the power of the unconscious is applicable in many different situations ranging from diagnosing the strength of a marriage to executing military strategies.

In particular, I was drawn into the book after the first chapter, “The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way.” In this chapter, Gladwell explores a concept in psychology known as thin-slicing. Thin-slicing is what happens when our unconscious quickly finds patterns in events using small slivers of experience. He goes as far to say that every person has the innate ability to thin-slice situations. This is extremely powerful since he is implying that the conclusion we come to in a matter of seconds is sometimes far more reliable than a long drawn out analysis of a situation. The message of this chapter seemed to be a recurring theme throughout the book to demonstrate that our minds can often come to decisions much better and much faster if we only focus on a few relevant facts rather than being overloaded with a large analysis of the situation. In one example, Gladwell discusses how doctors of Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Illinois switched to the “less is more” ideology in order to better diagnose whether someone was having a heart attack. Previously, the doctors had conventionally used their own judgment and gathered as much patient data to assess chest pain. The alternative was a new algorithm that used just four inputs to evaluate whether or not a patient was having a heart attack. The results? The new method was 70% more accurate than the doctors using their own judgement. The algorithm got rid of all the noise, leaving the doctors with only information that was absolutely necessary to make the proper judgment call.

Gladwell argues, however, that there is a time and place for both. Just as there are instances where we should give into rapid cognition, there are also situations in which a long analysis is more appropriate. Gladwell concludes the book with an a counterintuitive statement: “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.” He is saying that when we are overloaded with information, our unconscious does an extraordinary job at sifting through data to find key facts to come to a conclusion. However, when it comes to minor decisions it is advantageous to do an analysis.

I initially started reading this book after I listened to Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Revisionist Podcast”. The podcast sparked in me an interest in Gladwell’s view of the world. However, I was quickly consumed by this book after I realized our unconscious is operating nonstop in our daily lives. I recommend that anyone interested in exploring what happens in your unconscious start reading Blink. You won’t be able to put it down.

Edited By Paloma Renteria 

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