Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Blog, Leadership, Management, Psychology, Review | 2 comments

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell is a well-known book. Most people interested in relationships or in psychology have read this book. While I enjoyed this book, I found it to beat around the bush at times or be somewhat repetitive with certain points. However, this is definitely a good read.

Here are some of the points that I liked:

Gottman, however, doesn’t have this problem. He’s gotten so good at thin-slicing marriages that he says he can be in a restaurant and eavesdrop on the couple one table over and get a pretty good sense of whether they need to start thinking about hiring lawyers and dividing up custody of the children. How does he do it? He has figured out that he doesn’t need to pay attention to everything that happens. … He has found that he can find out much by focusing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. … If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble.

Speed-dating has become enormously popular around the world over the last few years, and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s the distillation of dating to a simple snap judgement. Everyone who sat down at one of those tables was trying to answer a very simple question: Do I want to see this person again? And to answer that we don’t need an entire evening. We really only need a few minutes. … When it comes to thin-slicing potential dates, pretty much everyone is smart.

Mary says that she wants a certain kind of person. But then she is given a roomful of choices and she meets someone whom she really likes, and in that instant she completely changes her mind about what kind of person she wants. But then a month passes, and she goes back to what she originally said she wanted. So what does Mary really want in a man?
“I don’t know,” Iyengar said when I asked her that question. “Is the real me the one that I described before-hand?”
She paused, and Fisman spoke up: “No, the real me is the me revealed by my actions. That’s what an economist would say.”
Iyegar looked puzzled. “I don’t know that’s what a psychologist would say.”

He (Golomb) assumes that everyone who walks in the door (to the car dealership) has the exact same chance of buying a car.
“You cannot prejudge people in this business,” he said over and over when we met, and each time he used that phrase, his face took on a look of utter conviction. “Prejudging is the kiss of death. You have to give everyone your best shot. A green salesperson looks at a customer and says, ‘This person looks like he can’t afford a car,’ which is the worst thing you can do, but sometimes the most unlikely person is flush,” Golumb says.

In the early 1990s, when Van Riper was head of the Marine Corps University at Quantico, Virginia, he became friendly with a man named Gary Klein. Klein ran a consulting firm in Ohio and wrote a book called Sources of Power, which is one of the classic works on decision making. Klein studied nurses, intensive care units, firefighters, and other people who make decisions under pressure, and one of his conclusions is that when experts make decisions, the don’t logically and systematically compare all available options. That is the way people are taught to make decisions, but in real life it is much too slow. Klein’s nurses and firefighters would size up a situation almost immediately and act, drawing on experience and intuition and a kind of rough mental simulation. To Van Riper, that seemed to describe much more accurately how people make decisions on the battlefield.

What Goldman’s algorithm indicates, though, is that the role of those other factors is so small in determining what is happening to the man right now that an accurate diagnosis can be made without them. In fact, … that extra information is more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issues. What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks is that they take too much information into account.


2 Responses to “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking”

  1. This is one of the best books I have read in a long long time. It addresses so many aspects of our lives, helping us view things differently while educating. I keep referring to this book.

  2. Thanks Dan – you’ve reminded me of this book I read many years ago but have since forgotted about. Thankfully, you’ve refreshed my memory in the blink of an eye!!

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