Summary and book reviews of Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

By Malcolm Gladwell

Blink
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2005,
    288 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2007,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant - in the blink of an eye - that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work - in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?

In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; "New Coke"; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of "thin-slicing" - filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology and displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Blink changes the way you understand every decision you make. Never again will you think about thinking the same way.

ONE
The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way

Some years ago, a young couple came to the University of Washington to visit the laboratory of a psychologist named John Gottman. They were in their twenties, blond and blue-eyed with stylishly tousled haircuts and funky glasses. Later, some of the people who worked in the lab would say they were the kind of couple that is easy to like—intelligent and attractive and funny in a droll, ironic kind of way—and that much is immediately obvious from the videotape Gottman made of their visit. The husband, whom I'll call Bill, had an endearingly playful manner. His wife, Susan, had a sharp, deadpan wit.

They were led into a small room on the second floor of the nondescript two-story building that housed Gottman's operations, and they sat down about five feet apart on two office chairs mounted on raised platforms. They both had electrodes and sensors clipped to their fingers and ears, which ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
THE THEORY OF THIN SLICES
 
  1. Have you ever had a feeling that a couple's future is successful or doomed just by witnessing a brief exchange between them? What do you think you're picking up on?
  2. Many couples seek marriage counseling from a therapist, a priest, rabbi etc. But do you think a couple about to get married should go and see John Gottman, the psychologist who can predict with a 95% accuracy whether a couple will be together in 15 years just by watching an hour of their interaction? If you were about to be married or could go back to before you were, would you want to see Gottman and find out his prediction?
  3. The ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Blink combines one part popular science, one part market research and one part self-help in a book that, if it were a meal, would be heavy on the canap├ęs but light on the main course.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (739 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study....But if one sets aside Gladwell's dazzle, some questions and apparent inconsistencies emerge....Still, each case study is satisfying, and Gladwell imparts his own evident pleasure in delving into a wide range of fields and seeking an underlying truth.

Kirkus Reviews

All these stories are nicely written and most inform and entertain at the same time, but they don't add up to anything terribly profound, despite the author's sometimes Skywalkerish enthusiasm. Brisk, impressively done narratives that should sell very well indeed, particularly to Gladwell's already well-established fan base.

Booklist - Donna Seaman

Gladwell writes about subtle yet crucial behavioral phenomena with lucidity and contagious enthusiasm. Unconscious knowledge is not the proverbial light bulb, he observes, but rather a flickering candle. Gladwell's groundbreaking explication of a key aspect of human nature is enlightening, provocative, and great fun to read.

Library Journal - Mary Ann Hughes

Journalist Gladwell (The Tipping Point) examines the process of snap decision making. [He] gets the science facts right and has the journalistic skills to make them utterly engrossing...for once a best seller will be more than worthy. Essential for all libraries.

San Francisco Chronicle - David Kipen

[E]ven this lapse might be forgivable, if only Gladwell's central thesis hung together better. Unfortunately, this thesis more or less boils down to: Lickety-split thinking is trustworthy, except when it's not. It works for spotting forgeries, but not for picking out comfortable chairs. It works for surprising enemy generals in battle but, for electing presidents less handsome and stupid than Warren G. Harding, not so much.

Pittsburg Post-Gazette - Bob Hoover

Gladwell's examples are fun, interesting and provocative and could lead some of his readers to trust their initial impressions with more conviction. It's going to take more than snap judgments to understand the overall meaning of Blink, however.

While he's a wide-ranging researcher and an engaging writer, he's not skilled enough to link his "experiments" into a unified whole. His conclusion, "trust yourself," needs more than intuition to accept it.

The New York Times - Janet Maslin

The author can be simultaneously lively and serious, with particularly good instincts for finding quirky, varied examples to prove his points. But he delivers what is essentially a hybrid of marketing wisdom and self-help -- stronger on broad, catchy constructs than on innovative thinking.

Time Magazine

Gladwell's real genius is as a storyteller. He's like an omniscient, many-armed Hindu god of anecdotes he plucks them from every imaginable field of human endeavor.

The Seattle Times - William Dietrich

Blink is not a glib handbook of how to think, or a guide of what to think. But it will make you think about how you think, when you think in a blink.

New York Times - David Brooks

If you want to trust my snap judgment, buy this book: you'll be delighted. If you want to trust my more reflective second judgment, buy it: you'll be delighted but frustrated, troubled and left wanting more.

USA Today - Bob Minzesheimer

Gladwell loves analogies. Here's one for his book: If Blink were a college course, it wouldn't be a graduate seminar on the cutting edge. It would be a popular introductory survey course, and for most readers, that's good enough to start us thinking in new ways about how we think.

Reader Reviews
Sarah

Overall a great read!
This is really a great read. I would have given it a 5, but unfortunately it started to loose steam about half way through. I hate to say it, but it seems like Gladwell runs out of material. While the first half seems jammed packed with ...   Read More

Sara

Gladwell, even if his anecdotes aren't equal in weight to scientific fact, knows how present a theory ( we all make decisions with the help of our "active unconsious) and use convincing examples to prove that his theory has merit. Whether you ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. He is the author of two books, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference, (2000) and Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (2005).

From 1987 to 1996, he was a reporter with the Washington Post, where he covered business, science, and then served as the newspaper's New York City bureau chief. He graduated from the University of Toronto, Trinity College, with a degree in history. He was born in England, grew up in rural Ontario, and ...

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