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

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
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's review
Sep 12, 2009

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bookshelves: audiobook, sociology, science
Read in September, 2009

With his study of how ideas spread in The Tipping Point and then with his explanation of how humans rely on intuition here in Blink, Malcolm Gladwell has carved a comfortable niche for himself among the pop-science authors of today. With his eye for patterns and a knack for putting into words many of the quirks of humankind that we take for granted, Gladwell has made a science out of common sense.

In this, his second book, Gladwell looks at our ability to subconsciously process information in a far faster and more detailed way than our conscious minds are typically capable of. This is hardly new ground- the Beats intoned “First thought, best thought.” Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke to “trust your instincts” and Luke managed to blow up the Death Star without aid from his targeting computer. Examples abound. Gladwell, as all social scientists must, puts his own stamp on it by renaming it "thin slicing" (the knack we have for deriving often correct solutions/ideas from a small sampling of information).

There's not much that is new or ground-breaking within these pages. Gladwell builds his case for thin slicing with many vastly different examples, from studies performed to read the micro-expressions in people's faces which betray their mood and thoughts (I think someone at Fox must have read this book before developing "Lie To Me") to the way in which people may be "primed" to be more cooperative or smart simply by being exposed to a series of terms or thinking about the traits of a good professor (the most disturbing example of this is when Gladwell cites a study in which a group of African-American students attending an Ivy League school take a test in which they are asked their racial information at either the beginning of the test or at the end. Those who fill in the racial info before taking the test performed far worse due to being primed to think of all the stories about black students' inability to perform well on standardized testing.)

The latter half of the book is spent analyzing those events in which our intuition leads us astray, the most glaring example of which is the 1999 shooting of the unarmed Amadou Diallo by a group of four police officers. While interesting and definitely a good check on those who read the first half of the book and want to go out and only trust their instincts, I felt that Gladwell never really made clear the instances in which we should rely on our gut or when we should proceed in a thorough and detailed manner. Still, this was an incredibly interesting read that provided much fodder for both thought and discussion around the supper table. I'd recommend it for those in search of a quick non-fiction read or who enjoy the slow accumulation of trivia.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Ben (new) - rated it 3 stars

Ben I look forward to hearing what you think about this. I read Outliers and thought it fine; I liked it okay. But was surprised to see how strong a favorable reaction to it came from others. I own this one, so I'll probably give it a shot soon... unless of course you hate it or something. : )

message 2: by Stephen (new)

Stephen I read Blink and it was good. I too look forward to your review. I am not a Gladwell fan, at all. After blink it just got ... I am at a loss for words.

message 3: by Stephen (new)

Stephen Blink upholds and warns how intuition is good and bad. How is that for a wildly general statement? lol

Good review, Logan. I even voted.

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