Max Stone's Reviews > Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
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's review
May 13, 08

Read in February, 2008

The general topic was how powerful our initial impressions are because we can process stuff really quick at a subconscious level in some cases.

Blink was well written and pretty entertaining. I thought the author did a good job of coming up with interesting examples of good or bad information processing and I enjoyed reading those.

However, aside from writing style and some fun examples, I thought the content was quite neatly separable into two parts:
(a) stuff that was interesting and seemed true and which I knew already, and
(b) stuff that seemed untrue or at least incoherant and that I hadn't previously heard before. but maybe that was just my closed mind at work.

Examples of (a) were how you one's initial impression (lke in the first 5 seconds) of a teacher or an interviewee are pretty highly correlated with your opinion after an hour.

There were lots of examples of (b). Like it was weird that one of his first and favorite examples was this guy who had studied videos of couples interacting in intense detail for decades, and had created a list for how someone could score such videos to predict odds that the marriage would last. It was supposed to be an example of "blink" processing because the expert could recognize it quickly, but to me it seemed more like the opposite since (1) non-experts (including the author) all had inaccurate instinctive reactions to watching the videos, and (2) the best way to get the right answer was a mechanical scorecard -- kind of the opposite of blink.

And in general, there were examples of when you should trust your blink instinct and when that was wrong, but all the examples of when it was right or wrong seemed very post hoc (e.g. if your heart rate is over some threshold you shouldn't, but I don't think that would have come up unless he needed some explanation for why accidental police shootings occured), and he didn't really have a consistent framework for when it would be right or wrong, which made it kinda useless. and some seemed random, like the part about some musicians that musical experts liked but that did poorly in the musical equivalent of blind taste tests -- seemed likely that it was a friend of the author or some musician he liked (it was clear in the book that we should take as a given that it was a good musician and that the taste tests were wrong -- I was never quite clear why) and he was just trying to think of some way that might connect to his thesis.

I liked the description of how orchestras started doing blind auditions to avoid discrimination against women. wasn't sure that it supported his thesis, but it was interesting. that was more or less my reaction to the whole book.

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