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Book Review: Blink : The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

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Blink is about thin-slicing as Gladwell calls it. Thin-slicing is taking a small thin slice of behavior and conducting a conclusion about future behavior all within an instant. Blink is also about snap judgment and how conditioning, both the type imposed on us and the ones we chose to adopt, can influence how we react in instances of panic or hurry. How training of the mind can lead to perfect snap judgment so that we don’t screw up as much.

It starts out with the Kouros incident at the Getty Museum. The museum sets out to make a name for itself, purchasing a Kouros statue. “A Kouros is a statue of a standing nude youth that did not represent any one individual youth but the idea of youth. Used in Archaic Greece as both a dedication to the gods in sanctuaries and as a grave monument.” So the museum heads jump at the chance to get such a piece in their collection. Their hurry for glory fogs up their thin-slicing capabilities. But when observed by multiple experts, most of them call it a knock-off without really knowing why. They, without the haze of glory obstructing their vision, simply go with their gut feelings and are right. They come to their conclusions all within seconds of seeing the Kouros. But not one of them, in the immediacy, could conjure an explanation as to why it was a fake. Their observational expertise was forged by years of studying and experience in their fields.

But Gladwell tells us that we all do thin-slicing and we don’t know it. It’s how we tell when someone is lying to us. Sure we are not experts like specialists that study the mechanism of lying, who can spot micro-reactions. Such as when Kato Kaelin made a snarling dogface when asked a question that offended him and then before most could spot this face, he recomposed himself. That’s the little instance that gave him away.

Blink also teaches us that panic or alerted arousal can trigger mind-blindness, that is to lose our ability to “mind-read” what others are experiencing. We end up making the dumb decisions that can lead to awkward moments or can lead to disaster.

I’ll go the side of fromage and say that I read this book in the blink of an eye. I consumed it is more like it. The book has the feel of a documentary script without the fade-to-black or cut scenes written in. Gladwell writes so accessibly that the reader can see this “documentary” playing out in his or her mind. Or maybe I just read too much.

But there’s a problem. The book doesn’t register on the Richter scale. Barely has a pulse of interest. I can easily read books I’m not fond of because I’ve rarely not finished once I’ve started. But this book was blazé from the beginning to the end, feeling like intellectual drivel at points, pedantic blather at others and always dispassionate.

Or maybe I couldn’t get into Gladwell’s groove, but it lacked soul. It lacked the geek factor that a guy with a freaky fro like Malcolm should have. Even Evan Solomon, host of Hot Type seems to think the same, that the impact of Blink isn’t as profound as Malcolm Gladwell’s prior book, The Tipping Point. And when I picked up the book following Solomon’s exposé on Blink, it dawned on me that perhaps Gladwell’s editors agreed also, since the back cover of the book is riddled with acclaim for The Tipping Point and no mention of Blink.

I found his interview on Hot Type to be so much more engaging. He talks better than he writes in my opinion. But it’s an easy read so I don’t feel cheated in anyway by the promise it showed on Hot Type.

Is it worth your time? Well if you are a behavior junky like myself then go for it, it’ll be time well wasted. Otherwise perhaps pick something else from the bookstore.

I give it a middle of the road 3 outta 5.

Info on the Kouros
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About David Desjardins

  • The back cover is probably lacks praise for the current book because it’s in hardback, and not many had read it before it was first printed. Later editions, I suspect, will have a bt more praise for this book.

    Though probably, it sounds like, not as much as Tipping Point. 🙂

  • JCB

    Listening to it makes more readable. I downloaded the audiobook Malcolm Gladwell downloaded himself.

  • Phillip, perhaps you are right. But often insiders have read the manuscript before it’s published. We should have some form of opinion, if not a short resumé of the inside of the book. Instead, only praise for The Tipping Point. I found that weird.

  • Listening to it makes more readable. I downloaded the audiobook Malcolm Gladwell downloaded himself.

    Yeah, he’s more engaging verbally than with the printed word.

  • Did we lose favor with Google again? I and my ego, went to look up my article to see if it showed up on Google News. BC usualy tops the list and this article being fresh, it was nowhere to be seen. Any info?

  • Google News has been having trouble since our redesign, for weeks now. See the Yahoo Group for more details. 🙂

  • Thx for the intel Phillip.