Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

So far, this book has proved to be engaging and fascinating. I am already reminded of Man’s Search for Meaning because it is non-fiction. In both books, I have found it much easier to connect to reality. However, I did think it was ironic that the whole book was about how we should trust our instincts and first impressions to make decisions…meanwhile the entire book consists of evidence and studies that contribute to that very idea. Still, there were several arguments the author made that were convincing to me.

One thing in the first part of this book that I thought was the intro. In the intro, the author mentions how everyone is taught that it is best to use as much information as possible, especially when making decisions. That was something that made me think because it is true. That was effective because it helps the reader to be aware of their current perspective. I know that this book is definitely promoting an idea that most people are basically conditioned against since birth. So the detailed introduction was helpful.

The other thing that stood out to me in this section was the analysis of the couples. It was amazing of how accurate the “thin-slicing” turned out to be in those situations. The author used that section to make connections with people in general as well. He stated how people generally are not good at talking about themselves, and do not have an accurate perception of what they are like. I think that’s a universal thing, I know I could certainly relate to it. Furthermore, I think it would be very interesting to participate in one of the “thin-slicing” experiments!

Overall, this book is interesting and I have enjoyed reading it. I hope it continues to be interesting and offer up more points and evidence for the unique ideas it contains.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

  1. rachelmichtom

    I am very intrigued by this book already. I love learning about how the mind works, and learning about these split-second decisions fascinates me. I was not reminded of Man’s Search for Meaning. Yes, both books were non-fiction, but Man’s Search for Meaning was much harder to read and to connect to for me. I also found MSM rather pretentious, and it didn’t really explain it’s ideas, while Gladwell does a very good job with that. I’m not sure what you mean when you talk about the irony, but I am really finding this book interesting.
    The introduction was extremely compelling (This might turn into ‘how many synonyms can I find for interesting’). Gladwell did a very good job of specifying what he was talking about and going into detail about studies and terms that most people probably don’t know. He also first mentions the idea that it is against society’s standards to make impulsive decision, and how we’re always taught that we should use all the information we have and to take our time. I remember in elementary school, we would occasionally have these ‘lessons’ where a parent volunteer or the counselor (I can’t remember) would come in and teach us about behaviors. I especially remember one lesson in second grade where they told us to control your impulses, and don’t follow them without thinking through it first. I am a very methodical person, and I tend to doubt my instincts. I take forever to make decisions, mostly because I can see both sides, and I can’t trust my instincts. So I found this idea of following your gut captivating.
    I also found thin-slicing enthralling. I’ve always wondered if a stranger came into my room, or even someone who didn’t know me that well, how much would they be able to tell about me? After reading this section, it kind of scares me that they’d be able to tell so much. It also makes me wonder how often I judge people or make a decision about them in the first few seconds of knowing them. I guess first impressions really are important.
    All in all, I’m really enjoying this book, and I can’t wait to finish it.

  2. rachelmichtom

    Half-way through the book, and I still find the ideas fascinating. This past chapter on the Millennium Challenge intrigued me. It continues with the theme of following your instincts, and talks about how sometimes having more information is actually a handicap when making a decision. Sitting down and rationalizing a decision might actually lead to disaster. For instance, in battle or as a firefighter, stopping the action to think about what you’re going to do could end in catastrophe. You have to go with instincts and do what your gut says to. Less is more in these cases.
    One section also talked about improv, and how similar it is to being in those situations where you have to make a split second decision. In improv, there’s a rule called “Yes, And.” Basically, if someone brings up an idea, no matter how crazy, you have to go with it, and add on to it. If someone says, “We’re on the moon!” you have to say, “Yes we are, and we’re not wearing space suits,” or something along those lines. You don’t have to use the format, but you can’t deny something. Gladwell connected that element of improv to the war games, which drew me in. Improv, although I love it, always seems kind of chaotic and unplanned, which to me seems kind of the opposite of what war should be. I mean, it’ll be chaotic, but there’s strategies and war plans and other things.

    • whitleyyp

      I agree, I also think these ideas are interesting. Your mention of a firefighter is what intrigued me in this section. The part about the fire in the basement. In that section, he explained how the firefighter chief told all of the firefighters to get out of a building that was engulfed in heat yet the location of the fire was unknown. I think it must have helped that firefighter to have had abundant experience. Despite the abnormality of the situation, it still had a lot of danger. I think by adding this, the author is saying both that having a lot of experience actually adds to your initial instinct and that even with experience, it’s ultimately your instinct that will help you.

      I was also very fascinated by the doctor’s heart attack formula used in the Cook County hospital. I could really imagine the horrible circumstances in this hospital when reading about the details. Then, when the doctor’s algorithm was introduced, I thought it was amazing. I think that this example proves why the “blink” way of solving things really is good. The Cook County hospital did a great job of using this way when help was needed. Just like the first example, these people were able to combine their overall experience and their instinct to create a solution that saved lives.

      • rachelmichtom

        This next section was the most interesting to me so far. It was about how people in advertising and marketing use ineffective tests to find out if people will enjoy their product, among other things. It started with a musician, Kenna. He was (is) a great musician, and yet no one outside of the professionals liked him. All of the “focus” groups hated him. Gladwell went on to provide many other examples of that happening. One of the ones that I can (sort of) relate to was the Coke/Pepsi one. Gladwell talked about how Pepsi was doing these commercials where they did a blind taste test between Coke and Pepsi and Pepsi always won. It wasn’t fake, just not a fair sample. Pepsi was sweeter, but it was too sweet to actually enjoy a full drink. PLUS, there is branding issues. Everyone knows what Coke’s logo is, and it recognizable as one of the best drinks in the country. So now, you have the subconscious mind working to promote Coke in your head, and the added too-sweetness of the Pepsi, so a blind taste test is really not a fair shot. I found this interesting for a couple reasons; one, my dad remembers this time very well, when Coke tried to make a New Coke to match Pepsi’s sweetness, and it was actually what converted him to Coke from Pepsi, because he tried the New Coke and hated it, but then tried the Old Coke and loved it. Two, it makes you realize just how much brand recognition gets in your head. I mean, I know I prefer Lays chips, but how much of that is brand preference and how much is actually the taste. When my parents give me chips in my lunch and I don’t know what they are, I can’t tell you what they are, usually. I can tell you which ones I like better, but do I know that the ones I like are the traditional Lays Potato chips? No. Well, actually, with Lays, they have a pretty distinctive texture, so I can sometimes, but I can’t distinguish between similar brands that easily.
        He also mentioned something about experts, and how they have a different opinion than us normal people do, because they have been training in this for years, and they know how to describe the difference between small, subtle things. For instance, I can vaguely tell a difference between Sprite, Sierra Mist, and 7-Up, but I can’t tell you what that difference is, other than that one is “lighter” than the other. Whatever that means. And I have a lot of taste buds, and I can taste subtle differences in things. I just can’t tell you what they are.
        It was just an interesting section, all in all.

  3. whitleyyp

    This section was fascinating to me as well. I thought that the introduction with “Kenna’s Dilemma” was effective in making me want to learn more. I liked how the author used this situation and many other examples to show the variation between professional analysis and the first impressions of the public. The parts about how “new coke” and other foods were a bit unsettling. As Gladwell said, it was sort of alarming to think that companies can almost, in a way, manipulate consumer’s minds to make them buy products. I had really never thought of it this way. One thing that stood out to me were the two examples of having to make a product more “elegant” – the wine and the margarine. That section made a lot of sense to me. When eating something, it would seem obvious that you would want something with the more “sophisticated” packaging. They mentioned a specific situation where a wine was actually better tasting but was lacking in bottle design. Once the company put the wine in a fancier bottle, it was a complete success with the taste tests. That was very interesting to me, and I think that example really proved Gladwell’s point for me.

    Another thought-provoking story featured in this section was an example about the public’s reaction to a “ergonomically perfect” chair. A designer set out to create a chair that would be completely ergonomic. He created one, but completely ignored the aesthetic element. As a result, the chair was comfortable, but got terrible reviews when tested on people. Gladwell used this story to convey how even if something is “good”, it may be initailly seen as ugly if it is different from what people are used to. I suppose that this could be somewhat obvious, people see new, unfamiliar things as ugly, no surprise. However, I don’t think that people realize how powerful of a phenomenon it actually is, as seen in this story. Even though the seat was “perfect”, many people said that it was ugly after they sat in it for the first time.

    Overall, the author kept going back to the story of the singer Kenna. This story was about an artist who was seen as the next big thing by music industry professionals but got a bad response from radio tests. The section ends with saying how Kenna was frustrated with the situation but was given hope by his fans who enjoyed his music. Honestly, at this point I was a little confused as to what the author was trying to say about the comparison between professional and public impressions.

    Yet, I think that this section was meaningful. I know that in my life, people have had bad first impressions of me, and that can be very detrimental. I know that this is true pretty much universally. This story can provide people in this situation with hope. Even as we have people who dislike us, there is a big chance that the people who decide that they initially dislike someone may just see them as different, and these first impressions are somewhat unreliable. Meanwhile, those who look deeper will see that people who others at first see as different aren’t all that bad.

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