{5/5} “When we leap to a decision or have a hunch, our unconscious is… sifting through the situation in front of us, throwing out all that is irrelevant while we zero in on what really matters. And the truth is that our unconscious is really good at this, to the point where thin-slicing often delivers a better answer than more deliberate and exhaustive ways of thinking.”

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, published in 2005

As with Gladwell’s other books, this one is brilliant. He’s writing about what happens when we make unconscious split-second decisions.

You’ll want to read the afterword as well, which was added in a revised edition.

Here are some insights:

  • A researcher looking at emotional nuances can watch a husband and wife talking for an hour and predict with 95% accuracy whether or not they’ll get divorced.
  • If you try to articulate why you made a decision that you made unconsciously, you’ll likely fail.
  • You don’t always want to trust your unconscious mind. For example, people voted for Warren Harding largely because of his appearance and manners and he was a bad president.
  • Great improv actors make split-second decisions but they’ve done lots of preparation beforehand and they always follow the rule: accept what happens to their character.
  • There can be such a thing as too much information, like when a doctor is deciding whether a patient is having a heart attack or will have one soon. They only need 4 pieces of information, and extra information only clouds the issue.
  • “Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room. But with experience we become expert at using our behavior and our training to to interpret — and decode — what lies behind our snap judgments and first impressions.”
  • “Our unconscious thinking is, in one respect, no different from our conscious thinking: in both, we are able to develop our rapid decision making with training and experience.”
  • “We don’t know where our first impressions come from, or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility. Taking our powers of rapid cognition seriously means we have to acknowledge the subtle influences that can alter or undermine or bias the products of our unconsciousness.”
  • “Understanding the true nature of instinctive decision making requires us to be forgiving of those people trapped in circumstances where good judgment is imperiled.”
  • “The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.”
  • “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated — when we have to juggle many different variables — then our unconscious thought processes may be superior.”

As examples the book uses speed dating, a statue that was a forgery, women becoming orchestra members, 4 white police officers killing a young unarmed black man, and the battle of Chancelorsville from the American Civil War.

Gladwell has a suggestion for criminal court cases that should be taken very seriously. Anyone who wants to try criminals more fairly should read this book.

And anyone who wants to know when and how to make decisions quickly or slowly should read this book.

I’ve read all 5 of Gladwell’s books. I previously reviewed David and Goliath.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, June 28th, 2017 at 7:42 pm and is filed under Reviews of books. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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