Todd Martin's Reviews > Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
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's review
Nov 30, 2011

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bookshelves: environment-science
Read from November 30 to December 04, 2011

The subject of Blink is nothing new, it’s basically just a popular treatment of heuristics (a topic that has been studied by psychologists and neurologists for quite some time) illustrated through a series of anecdotes. Here’s the definition of “heuristics” from Wiki:
Heuristics are simple, efficient rules, hard-coded by evolutionary processes or learned, which have been proposed to explain how people make decisions, come to judgments, and solve problems, typically when facing complex problems or incomplete information. These rules work well under most circumstances, but in certain cases lead to systematic errors or cognitive biases.

The only thing that Gladwell does in the book (and does quite well) is tells stories that illustrate how heuristics (or “thin slicing” as he dubs it) can work to our advantage, and how they can fail us. Gladwell’s writing is light and lively, and the stories are both interesting, and provide excellent examples of the way in which this subconscious process works.

As a series of true stories centered around a common theme, the book is a complete success. Gladwell has an engaging writing style that arouses your curiosity and draws you into the story. Those looking for a better understanding of heuristics, brain function and an explanation of the evolutionary advantages it confers, however, will find the book woefully lacking.

So … taken it for what it is … the book is an enjoyable read. Just don’t go into it expecting to learn very much.

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