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

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
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Jan 15, 2009

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Read in January, 2009

This book perplexed me.

While I enjoyed the anecdotes about how most people are naturally intuitive about most situations, I did not really understand the way Gladwell discussed the inverse of his theory. He takes great pains to illustrate that "decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately." But then he throws in a chapter about how dangerous it can be to act on an impulse for people in sales or law enforcement. In the case of the policemen who shot an innocent man in the Bronx, his point is that they acted too quickly and instinctually. So is thin-slicing a situation good or bad?

It is not until the Afterword, published after the first edition of Blink, that Gladwell really articulates his call to action: "The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter."

This reminds me of a quote by T.S. Eliot: "Where is all the knowledge we lost with information?" We live in a world where we can have the answers to any question without serious research or discussion. A simple Google search will produce a perfunctory knowledge of almost anything, but not necessarily understanding. I think what Gladwell means to say is that there are things in life that we learn to understand based on our life experience, and when it comes to those things, we should trust our gut. On the flipside, there are things in life that we rush to judge based on outside influences such as race, class, and gender, and those judgments are neither valid nor reliable. I'm not sure I would have been able to understand that message from Blink had I not been familiar with Gladwell's theories, having just read Outliers. Nevertheless, it was a meaningful message and I am glad that he took the time to disseminate it, however incompletely.

Oh, and the part about taste testing mayonnaise made me nearly gag on an airplane.
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