Kenny's Reviews > Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
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's review
Apr 15, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: current-events, non-fiction
Read in April, 2011

Gladwell is a good writer and creates and maintains interest in his subject, but much of his conclusions are self-evident. He says complex questions require deep, probing analysis to arrive at the correct conclusion and that simple questions can usually be answered correctly using our almost instantaneous "gut" feelings.

Of course the book is full of examples of both, but I found myself strangely resistant to many of his claims. The one that most leaps out is the unfortunate situation in which plainsclothes policemen saw a black man standing at a building entrance in a bad section of town. Their experience (long-term experience, by the way), led them to believe he was a look-out for something illegal going on inside the building. They got out and spoke to him. And here's the key: instead of submitting to the cops' authority (I'm sure badges were raised), he ran inside and was shot when he pulled a black object from his jacket (a VHS tape, it turns out). The man was dead, the cops devastated, and the neighborhood (that probably hates cops anyway) became a powderkeg.

Gladwell give short shrift to the police's reality. They had mountains of experience by which to judge the unfolding situation, and acted reasonably, in my opinion. The person who acted impulsively (who blinked, so to speak) was the man who never answered the police's questions and instead of submitting to their authority, fled and put them in harm's way by his actions.

Yet Gladwell seems to think that everyone in this scenario was equally at fault. I don't buy it.

So the result of this book, while fascinating, is a sense that Gladwell is reaching a bit too far to make his point. The dead man acted foolishly, perhaps misunderstanding American culture (he was an immigrant), but whose fault is that? If he is not properly acclimated to American customs and mores, is that the fault of the police? In short, when immigrants gather together in miniature recreations of the country they couldn't stand to live in any longer, and then fail to assimilate here, who, really, is to blame?

This never comes up in Gladwell's book; his thesis is one thing, facts and logical conclusions another.

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