Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

I consider every book by Malcolm Gladwell to be a must-read, and this may be my favorite. There are three ideas behind Blink: (1) to convince you that decisions made very quickly can be as accurate as decisions made cautiously and deliberately (2) to find out when we should be wary of our quick instincts (3) to convince you that our snap judgements and first impressions can be educated and controlled.

Thin-slicing is a term used in psychology and philosophy to describe the ability to find patterns in events based only on “thin slices,” or narrow windows, of experience. The term means making very quick inferences about the state, characteristics or details of an individual or situation with minimal amounts of information. Brief judgments based on thin-slicing are similar to those judgments based on much more information. Judgments based on thin-slicing can be as accurate, or even more accurate, than judgments based on much more information.

Thin-slicing has to be done in context. It is possible to quickly diagnose the health of a marriage. But you can’t just watch a couple playing ping-pong. You have to observe them while they are discussing something of relevance to their relationship

Split-second decisions can be as valuable as long, calculated ones

A person watching a silent two second clip of a teacher they have never met will reach conclusions about how good they are very similar to those of a student who sat in the teacher’s class for an entire semester. That’s the power of our adaptive unconscious.

More information is not the answer

We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation.

The task of making sense of ourselves and our behavior requires that we acknowledge there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis

A person’s private life is a much more accurate depiction of who they are than their public life

This sounds obvious but we don’t often judge someone by their private life. Be it because we don’t have access or we forget the above heuristic, stopping by a co-workers house and glancing around for five minutes will give you a better idea about how they will act in the long run compared to working with them for a whole year. A 30 minute interview that touches on nothing personal will prove far less than investigating an individual’s house when it relates to long-term actions.

Our world isn’t set up to act on thin-sliced decisions

Our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way.

Gladwell thinks this is a mistake…

If we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments. We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that sometimes we’re better off that way

We make decisions based on how we were primed

There’s much controversy on the ‘Dress for Success’ approach, but Gladwell shares that an individual who is primed for failure (e.g. viewing clips of individuals failing) will make snap judgements that are inaccurate far more than an individual primed for success (e.g. viewing individuals achieve their goals).

We are too quick to come up with explanations, and too quick to deny that which is unexplainable

Some things are better left unexplained; especially if there is no rational, factual, realistic, or narrative explanation for it. It is better to accept and move on, don’t try to decipher a coincidence.

We make connections much more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us.

This is a built in heuristic our mind uses to link similar idea, situations and events to similar ones who have already seen.

Our first impressions are generated by our experiences and our environment.

Which means that we can change our first impressions – we can alter the way we thinslice – by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions

Improvising is…

Making very sophisticated decisions on the spur of the moment, without the benefit of any kind of script or plot

Making decisions under fast moving, high-stress conditions using rapid cognition is a function of training, rules and rehearsal.

Flow is achieved by constantly performing in the moment.

When you start becoming reflective about the process, it undermines your ability. In The Inner Game of Tennis, we learn that flow will be lost when we let Self 1 dictate what Self 2 should be unconsciously controlling.

Decisions should often be made with the littles amount of information.

This is not to say a small amount of information should be analyzed before the decision. Rather, when making a decision, the information should already be processed and making decisions is no longer a what-if analysis. Conventional economic wisdom states the more choices consumers have the more likely they are to buy, because it is easier to find a product that fits the consumer better. We have found this to be a negative correlation, and one detrimental outcome is decision fatigue.

If you get caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data.

It is a complicated process to find what people want.

The New Coke case study shows while consumers may make one decision in a vacuum, that is, without relation to other choices, that decision may be the exact opposite of what they want given other decisions. New Coke tasted great to consumers who forgot the taste of original Coke, and other soft drinks.

When we become an expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex.

An unintended consequence is that only experts become accountable for more complex

Tunnel vision is a byproduct of extreme stress.

Extreme visual clarity, diminished sound, and the sense that time is slowing down, is how the human body reacts to extreme stress. Our mind, faced with a life-threatening situation, drastically limits the range and amount of information that we have to deal with.