Blink by Malcolm Gladwell: pgs. 1-71

Hi everyone!  I hope you’re all enjoying the book and are having a good week!  If you’re not, then I hope it gets better.  🙂

First of all, Blink has been an extremely fascinating and engaging read for me.  Given the subject matter, I expected it to be interesting at least, but it also keeps my attention and goes by quickly.  I believe this is a result of the various anecdotes which Malcolm Gladwell employs to drive home his point, such as the stories about speed-dating, the gamblers and the card decks, and the bedroom experiment.  This technique, aside from retaining the reader’s interest, also allows the reader to apply Gladwell’s advice to real life.  At the same time, he connects each anecdote back to his original points, which is simply good essay-writing strategy.  (I wonder why our textbooks can’t be this interesting…must be against the law or something.)  Additionally, the tone of Gladwell’s writing is playful and sprinkled with sarcasm and humor, which helps lighten the weighty amounts of information and statistics.  All in all, I truly have not read another nonfiction book as impossible to put down as this one (well, I could put it down, but I didn’t want to).  True, the ideas are the focus rather than symbolism or character development, but I find that a refreshing change.

Aside from the style of Gladwell’s writing, his ideas are also incredibly eye-opening.  In all honesty, I had no idea that our unconscious minds played such a large role in our decision-making and in our actions.  For example, the concept of thin-slicing particularly appeals to me.  It does make sense; just as you learn a complicated mathematical concept by breaking it down, your brain also, without your knowledge, processes the important information in small bits and leads you to an answer.  It is impossible to look at the entire picture at once.  I remember Mr. Dennis telling us in ACS that it’s impossible to concentrate on all the information your senses are giving you at one moment of time, like the feeling of the socks on your feet and your hair against your face and the speck of dust on your binder.  This, he said, is your unconscious filtering through the information and letting you “zero in on what really matters” (34).  However, the truly amazing thing to me is people’s ability to know so much based on that meager bit of knowledge.  Gottman can “zero in” on the contempt in a marriage and determine its probability of success (kind of disturbing, if you’re a married couple).  Art experts can tell at a glance whether a statue is fake or not.  It all comes down to Gladwell’s “locked door,” which finds expression for Bernard Berenson upon viewing a fake art piece as “a curious ringing in his ears…a momentary depression” (51).  We humans pride ourselves on our rationality, yet we are so often irrational when we listen to these vague feelings.  Our minds are asking us to trust them blindly-do we listen?  It is so incredibly frustrating to me that we don’t know how we do this, yet analyzing the reason destroys the very ability we are trying to puzzle out.  Essentially, we must have faith in ourselves.  Is this ability what sets us apart from other animals, or is it a remnant of our animal instincts?  If it is the latter, then humans are peculiarly blessed (or cursed) with a conscious mind as well as an unconscious one.  For better or worse, we can think on our instincts.  Perhaps we really are “better off if the mind behind the locked door makes our decisions for us” (61).  I hope mine has my best interests at heart.

Finally (yes I’m almost done), it is odd how incredibly sneaky our unconscious can be.  The priming experiments, for example, that could make you walk more slowly or be more patient or cooperative – those were stunning.  Perhaps this is where our values and preconceptions come from:  if you think about it, we are being “primed” our entire lives with ideas.  I have heard about babies being prepared for speaking a certain language from hearing the tones of voices outside the womb; is it so amazing that other influences in our worlds could prepare us for certain actions, no matter our ages?  We have a wealth of opinions and knowledge hidden in our unconscious, which is part of you even if you don’t know it. I wish I had known about my extra brain sooner.

Anyway, have fun reading everyone and enjoy the rest of the book!  I can’t wait to read the other blog posts!

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40 responses to “Blink by Malcolm Gladwell: pgs. 1-71

  1. Helia

    Um, hi. I have to admit, when I first started Blink I wasn’t too thrilled. I already knew Malcolm Gladwell was a good writer, but I just envisioned the book as a series of scientific projects put together in one place. And, in a way, that’s exactly what it is. This made getting started a little hard for me, and it definitely isn’t as gripping as a novel I would usually read, but as I got farther into the book I found I couldn’t really put it down. Gladwell makes funny anecdotes out of the experiments, and with each one I read I think if it relates to something I do. When I think about it, I actually do lots of the same things that the test subjects do, so by reading Blink it almost feels like I’m reading about myself, in a strange way.

    I especially liked the test he gave on page 77. I did it, and found I was totally guilty of what most people are. It gave you a list of words and told you to put them either in the male/career category or in the female/family category. This part was pretty easy. Then, Gladwell switched the career and family, putting career with female and family with male. This time, even though the words were the same, it took me a lot longer. Honestly, when I read why he expected this to happen – “Most of us have much stronger mental associations between maleness and career-oriented concepts” (80) – I was a little dismayed, because I am not a person who sees women as housekeepers, housewives and mothers. But apparently my subconscious can’t help itself, and the second test was harder than the first. I don’t think the difficulty depends on what you specifically believe, but what has been drilled into you from the beginning (i.e. opinions/actual version vs. stereotypes).

    Do you guys write in your books? Normally I wouldn’t, but my dad told me to so that when he read it he could compare our ideas, and I think it helps me to see my thoughts out on paper next to the writing. Good night.

  2. ericachiang

    Hey guys!! This group is going to be great! I finished this section of the book a while ago but wasn’t sure what to write about, as this book is really just an analysis of many scientific studies. Don’t get me wrong — it is an incredibly interesting and thought-provoking compilation of studies, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to talk about, as Gladwell seems to say it all. It is most interesting to analyze what he has wrote in the context of our own lives and experiences, especially the fact that we have so many biases that we are not aware of. We think we are partial to certain things and neutral about some topics, but Gladwell proves that we really know nothing about ourselves. He explains, “if Mary said at the start of the evening that she wanted someone intelligent and sincere, that in no way means she’ll be attracted only to intelligent and sincere men…if all the men Mary ends up liking during the speed dating are more attractive and funny than they are smart and sincere, on the next day, Mary will say she likes attractive and funny men” (66). I would agree with the economist Raymond Fishman and say that Mary’s true judgments and biases are “revealed through [her] actions” (66). However, if Mary were to meet a logical and insightful man the next day whom she liked for some reason, she would then say she liked logical and insightful men. I say “for some reason” because I don’t think being intelligent and sincere or logical and insightful is enough of a reason for someone to like you. There are plenty of people that are intelligent and sincere, but they are all different; it is the less-superficial differences that likely factor into a subconscious decision such as the one Mary makes. People often place meaning on superficial traits like attractiveness, as they think that is easy to judge without knowing someone. However, Gladwell’s studies show that we can likely read into someone’s personality more easily and quickly than we expect.

    Like Helia, I find it striking that real biases influence us without our knowledge. However, I believe that if we are aware of them, we CAN change them. After all, we weren’t BORN with prejudices against certain genders or races. (Oh, by the way you guys should take the Race IAT online — I was so happy to learn that I have “little to no automatic preference between African American children and European American children.” 🙂 I wonder if this has to do with the fact that before I moved to LO, I was very close friends with my African-American neighbor. My neighborhood’s population was approximately 40% African-American, and I grew up unaware that people may view them differently from other races. To be honest, before reading Blink, I never even thought that this might influence my biases. What I have learned from Blink is that most factors which affect our automatic associations may be incredibly obvious, yet we cannot pinpoint exactly what they are.) The example that “this one day, [a student] got a positive association with blacks…he’s a track-and-field guy, and what he realized is that he’d spent the morning watching the Olympics” (97) shows that our experiences STRONGLY contribute to our implicit associations. For instance, even without knowing what happened in the races this student watched, we automatically understand that someone of African descent must have won or at least had an inspiring race, which is especially easy to picture because most of the fastest people are African. Implicit association, as shown with Africans and strength, is not always bad, but it is depicted as negative in Blink because we cannot control it. It is true that we cannot affect the way implicit associations control our lives; however, we can make decisions that affect what we experience, like choosing to read about inspirational women rather than surrounding ourselves with weak ones that will enforce negative stereotypes.

    I look forward to hearing from you all!

  3. michaelzhao00

    Whadup Whadup
    First off, I’d like to bring up an occurence that demonstrated the principles Gladwell talked about in the first quarter.
    It was a standard day at school. Second period of the day was kicking off, and I was preparing myself for the lesson, when I was handed a phone. It doesn’t matter who’s phone it was, or whose hands it had been in, how many plots had been schemed up on it, what mattered was what was on it. Luminocity. The brain game. The ultimate test of character. The specific game was the chalkboard challenge, a formidable challenge of arithmetic prowess. I knew I was ready…
    Long story short, vrtodt@yahoo.com ended up beating me by about seven hundred(or thousand) points. When I questioned him about it, he looked me in the eye, long silky hair billowing; thin slicing, he said.
    The game gave two mathematical expressions, such as (12+4), and (19-1), and asked you to tap the larger one, or say equal if they were. the operations were simple, but the challenge was getting them accurately as fast as possible. Since adding and subtracting is something we have been doing for while now, It is fully possible that A.T. was able to take one glance at both expressions and go off his “gut instinct”, AKA thin slicing.
    In response to what has been said, I find it disturbing how there can be such a difference between what we think we think, and what we really think, demonstrated in the IAT. Gladwell stated however, that our attitude towards different races or genders operates on two different levels, the first being conscious, and the second being unconscious, which is shaped basically by society. This was reassuring and disturbing, the former because it seems like no individual is to blame for being subconsciously discriminatory, the blame is on “society”, and the latter because the subconscious is what springs up and takes control in spontaneous situations, and determines how we act around certain people, sometimes to a great degree. After reading this part, I started noticing TV shows/movies that enforced stereotypical attitudes, and also ones that didn’t. I think its empowering to be aware, because it essentially makes us immune to the stereotypes, so Erica, I don’t think it is essential that we try to reverse our subconscious biases. As a result of being aware, how we act reflects more of ourselves and what we consciously believe rather than what we’re exposed to and consume. I don’t think we Like Gladwell mentioned, the “priming” experiments don’t work if the subjects figure it out.
    Question for the seventeen of you who have yet to post, can subconscious biases we are unaware of ever be a good thing, or does the fact that there is something in our minds that has control over us overpower any potential upsides?

    • caeligriffin

      Hello hello everyone! Like Erica, I read the section, and despite feeling extremely satisfied with the first few chapters, could not come up with a thing to write about. In her words, Malcolm Gladwell “seems to say it all.” And he truly does seem to. He presents a short experiment, and in the space of a few pages cuts each and every one of my questions short. Ironically enough, it’s like he is in my head. Now though, after a couple weeks of what Mr. Parris likes to refer to as “marinating,” and after reading a few of your guys’ amazing blog posts (thank you!) I feel optimistically prepared to tackle a brief commentary of this stunning novel.
      Gladwell’s impressive insight, which many of you have already touched upon, was most obviously illustrated to me in the first fifteen pages, as Gladwell introduces his very un-Freudian theory of the unconscious: “…the design of the cover, whatever associations you may have with my name, and the first few sentences about the kouros all generated an impression- a flurry of thoughts and images and preconceptions- that has fundamentally shaped the way you have read this introduction so far” (13). I admit to having paused for a moment, leaned back, and laughed after reading this sentence. I felt like a child caught red-handed stealing the cookies from the jar, as I had started the book with the exact preconceptions Gladwell was nonchalantly discussing. And although the memory had been nearly drowned in Gladwell’s remarkable tidal wave of an introduction, it took little effort to remember how I had glanced at the clean-cut cover of Blink, noticed the author, and rolled my eyes a bit. The reaction was drawn, naturally, from experience. Gladwell had written the sharp, cynical, finicky critique of To Kill a Mockingbird we read as a class in first semester, and silly as it was, I was yet to forgive him for it. This sudden awareness of the root of my skepticism immediately caused any residual uncertainty to vanish, just as Michael had noted in regard to television stereotypes, and just as Gladwell demonstrated in his section on priming.
      This was the single, most striking realization of mine, but certainly not the only one I have had since picking up this novel. As Elena briefly mentioned, the light, honest tone of the novel, as well has the “good essay-writing strategy” coax the reader to a basic understanding of the complex topics which Gladwell covers. The variety of empirical evidence supporting his points, ranging from the statue that didn’t look right, to speed dating, to priming, elucidate the involved subject matters, just as anecdotes did in Man’s Search for Meaning. The difference between the two books however, is apparent within the first paragraph. While Man’s Search for Meaning required plenty of reading, and re-reading, and re-re-reading, Blink is written in our language, for lack of a better phrase. It is most definitely not meant to be skimmed, but carries an appeal akin to that of a 200 page science fiction novel, or a Shel Silverstein poem, rather than a book of Shakespeare sonnets. No hesitation necessary, and read just as easily for fun as for intellectual edification.
      Blink is inviting, even hospitable, so that I could sit and read the book for hours on end. Though this is something many of us seem to share, I find little of it to be disturbing, as you guys had mentioned. Even Gladwell concedes that the interworking of our minds behind our locked doors are upsetting, saying, “The results from these experiments are, obviously, quite disturbing. They suggest that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act-and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize” (58), but I still find myself laughing more often than frowning. Although the negative effects of priming seem omnipresent in today’s world (or rather, in our social media and newspapers), as Gladwell puts it, “…there is also, I think, a significant advantage to how secretly the unconscious does its work. In the example of the sentence-completion task I gave you with all the words about old age, how long did it take you to make sentences out of those words? My guess is that it took you no more than a few seconds per sentence. That’s fast, and you were able to perform that experiment quickly because you were able to concentrate on the task and block out distractions” (58). The example Gladwell cites is a rather mundane one, although I feel sure that these same processes are what allow us to survive to date with our blessing/curse of a brain. So in response to Michael’s question, subconscious biases can be positive, and are a vast majority of the time. Perhaps the idea of an unconscious mind is a bit disturbing, but our unconscious proves itself invaluable daily. Not to discredit anybody’s reserve in consciously trusting his or her unconscious mind, but the round earth, a heliocentric solar system, and evolution were all “disturbing” at one point in history as well. Perhaps I am viewing the mind too objectively, but it seems like science, just the same as anything else we study. Thus, I think in time it is something we could puzzle out, and make better sense of, so that it is not so disturbing. Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink puts us well on our way.
      Hope you all had a lovely spring break, and a painless transition back to school! Good luck, and happy reading :).

  4. matthewseeley29

    I would like to begin with the fact that I did take the Race IAT, but also the Asian IAT, just to see what the result would be (because as many of you know, I have a lot of Asian friends). Not surprisingly, I showed little to no preference for Asian Americans vs. European Americans, but I showed a strong preference for European Americans over African Americans. This shocked me at first, as I do not see myself as a racist sort of person, but made a sort of grim sense after I thought over it for a while. I am pretty much the whitest a person can get: My family is Irish, I’ve lived in Lake Oswego for most of my life (a very white community), and I strongly identify with my whiteness. Due to my upbringing and current place of residence, it would make sense that I have a preference for white people. However, it was still rather surprising to me initially.

    This, of course, is just what Gladwell tells us. Our unconscious prejudices, both positive and negative, are hiding beneath the surface, and it may be unclear why we hold such views.

    In fact, I found many similarities between Gladwell’s many experiments and my own personal life, as I am sure many of you guys did as well. Even in the introduction, as Caeli referenced, I was reading the book from the perspective of someone who had heard his mother state multiple times, “All of Gladwell’s books are the same… There aren’t any original concepts. He just makes the same arguments over and over again.” I only somewhat realized this bias until it was pointed out to me by who other than Gladwell himself. In some of the other experiments, such as the priming ones or the card one, I found myself wanting to participate in them myself, as I wondered if I would fall victim to my unconscious or “beat the system,” as it were. That feeling, though, stems from a very conscious bias of mine 🙂 . I was exceptionally intrigued as to how long it would take me to solve the two-rope puzzle. Gladwell’s descriptions of the experiments themselves are very well-written, in my opinion, as I was easily able to assess what I think I would have done. But maybe not so easily. Who knows. (I have a feeling that by the end of this book none of us are going to trust ourselves anymore…)

    To your question, Michael, I believe that subconscious biases can be both positive and negative. I think that in regards to the topic of police brutality, epidemic in our modern world, there are definitely negative subconscious biases at stake. Our police officers are more inclined to arrest or even kill a young black man than they are a young white man, due to these prejudices. One may argue that this is the fault of society, and that the officers are simply pawns in the great game we call civilization, but no matter where the fault lies, the facts are irrevocable. The bias exists, and is causing a very real problem. On the other hand, “the fact that there is something in our minds that has control over us” (Zhao 1) has its place: Imagine you are on a bike ride through downtown Portland. It is a beautiful summer day, and you breathe in the fresh air, and feel at peace with the world. After a refreshing ice cream cone from Ben and Jerry’s, you decide to go to Powells. You love the smell of that place, all of the books lined up on the shelves, and you know that you can lose an entire LOOK OUT TRUCK COMING WHAT DO YOU DO. Our unconscious immediately takes control, and while our conscious mind freezes in shock, our unconscious compels our legs to push us out of harm’s way. This response is not a conscious decision, yet has distinct positive effects on us. Different situation: I often find myself, when playing soccer, unconsciously running in one direction or another to get back in position. After enough repetition, this skill becomes inherent, and must be considered in the same category as unconscious biases, and yet again, a positive result.

    I’m sorry, I used literally no quotes from the book. I swear I’ll do better next time.

  5. andrewtodt

    Hello people

    I have also found Blink both enrapturing and enlightening. When I was reading it Blink was both metaphorically and literally hard for me to put down since I was in a cramped car on a ten hour drive to Oakland. During the ride I actually read the first part of Blink out loud to my mom and my sister so we discussed it as we went. One of the more significant things that struck me while reading Blink was when I was reading about priming and how as Michael has mentioned, just by reading this book I have become at least slightly immune to such a thing. Something else also occurred to me and that is that by knowing that someone may try to manipulate us using something like priming, we instinctively avoid it. How do we avoid this though? With unconscious biases.

    So in response to Michael’s question, I think that the unconscious biases we all have are there for a reason. We wouldn’t have evolved to always have these biases if they didn’t help us in some way. These biases help us do things like avoid awkward situations or doing anything socially unacceptable. This isn’t to say however that I don’t find it disturbing that I am quite possibly on some level of my unconsciousness. My personal idea about many of these biases that form in our unconscious minds are not permanent, rather basically all of them are temporary unless they are constantly reinforced. Because of this I think that instead of having to be surrounding yourselves with only positive things like Erica suggested, you just need to be skeptical and analytical of everything you hear as well as take a wider viewpoint on things like news stories which might have negative connotations for certain groups of people.

    • Second Quarter: Chapters 3ish to 5ish (about pgs. 72-146, but don’t feel restricted by this)

      Hello everyone, it’s me again. I hope that you are still enjoying the book! I wasn’t exactly sure where to cut off the reading this time, so the quarters are a little lopsided (sorry about that).

      After reading Erica’s post, I went and took the IAT race test myself. Like Malcolm Gladwell, I believed that I considered both African Americans and European Americans equal. I also suspected that the IAT might reveal opposite, unconscious views. However, to my surprise, my results were, “Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for African American children compared to European American children.” I was pleased, but also a little confused. I have not spent much time with any African Americans and none of my friends are African Americans. Of course, I do appreciate African American culture and the great things the people have accomplished, but from reading Gladwell’s book I thought that this would not be enough. Maybe my subconscious hopes that I would not have pro-European prejudices influenced the results? I’m not sure. Anyway, I saw the whole IAT/Warren Harding issue as a bit distressing. As Michael was saying, how do you know when to trust your instincts and when to resist them as prejudices? The interesting thing about what Gladwell is saying is that you can govern those instincts; if you are an expert in a field, you can distinguish between gut feelings and prejudices, just like the car salesman. Basically, is he saying that you must first know yourself in order to be successful? Reading this book, I feel like I don’t really know my own mind. It’s all too easy to assume that I wouldn’t make the mistake of voting for a president just because he’s handsome, or of hiring a CEO because he’s tall. Still, the facts are there-one inch of height is equal to $789 more in wages per year! As Gladwell points out, “when it comes to even the most important positions, our selection decisions are a good deal less rational than we think” (88). I find this just a little bit amusing; even the rationality which we consider as separating us from “lowlier” creatures is never truly complete. The only way to structure our irrationality and first impressions (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron) is “by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions” (97). The only way to alter the room behind the “locked door” is, according to Gladwell, extremely indirect. This relates back to what you guys have been talking about with how best to deal with unconscious prejudices. Personally, I agree with what Andrew said about how “you just need to be skeptical and analytical of everything you hear as well as take a wider viewpoint on things” in order to resist such prejudices, but I also think it is important to actively surround yourself with positive ideas as Erica said so as to make it easier for yourself to have an optimistic view of all humanity. Honestly, I knew I kept secrets from myself before reading Blink, but I never knew my unconscious was quite so elusive. This is what I find extremely interesting about the nonfiction genre of this book-I cannot analyze it as I would a fictional novel, but I am nevertheless much more amazed at everything because it is all true, and what is more, it is all happening in my own head.

      By far the most relatable part of the book was, for me, the chapter entitled “Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory.” The notion of “TMI,” whether it is found in war games or a hospital, seems to be everywhere in my life. I believe we all feel at some point that there is simply too much information to sift through, especially since it is the middle of the school year. However, I feel this sensation most acutely when I am taking a test. Have you ever come across a question where you are unsure of the answer and keep second-guessing yourself based on everything you remember from studying? Once, a teacher I had told me, “Always go with your first instinct if you are unsure.” If you start to doubt yourself, then all the extra information in your brain simply muddies the water. This is exactly what Gladwell describes in “Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory.” Sometimes, it seems, you need to be very picky about the information you want. Of course, Blue Team took it to the extreme with all their acronyms and fancy technology, but in the end they failed to see the most obvious insight – “The rogue commander did what rogue commanders do. He fought back” (111). (I thought that was kind of hilarious.) It seems to me that one’s unconscious and conscious brain are like two people trying to complete a group project: theoretically, it’s easier with two people, but in reality, they both get in each other’s way. The question is how to make sure they each have their own established territories. Then, the most successful people are those who can use both simultaneously and combine their forces rather than canceling them out. As shown at Cook County Hospital, this ability can be the difference between life and death. It’s incredible that so much can depend upon one’s ability to listen to or block one’s unconscious.
      I hope everyone is having a good time reading the book and all of its astonishing ideas! Have fun reading and I can’t wait to read everyone’s posts! Also have fun at MUN if you’re going!

  6. caeligriffin

    Hello everyone! Again, I was deeply impressed with Gladwell’s ability to find experiments and realistic anecdotes to support his insightful conclusions, a talent I felt was best summed-up in one of the many (many, many, many) reviews included in the beginning of the novel. Lev Grossman, of Time wrote, “Royally entertaining….Gladwell’s real genius is as a story-teller. He’s like an omniscient, many armed Hindu god of anecdotes: he plucks them from every imaginable field of human endeavor.” Perhaps it’s not the most conventional simile, but it does the job:).
    Like many of you guys, I took the race IAT test, and found that I had no automatic preference for either African American or white people. I was pleasantly surprised, maybe because of the foreboding phrase “It indicates that most Americans have an automatic preference for white over black” typed at the beginning of the test, or maybe because of my environment. Like Elena, I have no African American friends and have grown up in a mainly white community. Remembering the short section on the student who took the IAT every day, I thought back to what I had done that morning. The realization that I had been reading Blink seemed to support the idea we had discussed in our last blog posts, that being aware of our prejudices helps us to confront, and refute them (subconsciously, of course). I had never taken the test before, and my experience could hardly be cited as empirical evidence. This instance could easily be said to have little connection with my test results, but Gladwell has shown us time and time again that there is no such thing unconnected. Everything in our minds, from the T.V. we watched to words we have read, is linked throughout our subconscious and conscious minds.
    Besides the results of the test themselves, I found the idea of implicit associations fascinating. The idea fits perfectly into a mess of ideas I already have, pulling them together, and explaining them clearly. But how did these natural associations evolve? It is clear, from Gladwell’s bazillions of examples, that we are not born with our prejudices. We are instead born with an affinity for creating biases, and allow them to seep into our minds from infancy through the rest of our lives. When though, did it become obvious that the ability to “blink” and make a decision would influence us so positively? Although I am understandably not equipped to answer any of these questions, I would guess that this skill was already present in the creature from which we evolved, and was passed on to humans. After all, the talent is just as prevalent in animals as in humans, if not more so. Beyond that basic idea though, the science would be much too complicated for me to decipher. Intriguing and profound I’m sure, but way over my head (no pun intended).
    Although a better understanding of the history of these split-second mechanisms would likely help us to better guard against prejudice, Gladwell does offer two proven ways. In the earlier sections on priming, and later while covering IAT, Gladwell shows that surrounding ourselves with people or things which defy our stereotypes helps us combat them. He tells us directly that we must, “change [our] life so that [we] are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when [we] want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, [we] aren’t betrayed by [our] hesitation and discomfort” (97). Secondly, Gladwell demonstrates that we must balance and time the input we give our mind, so that the output is less biased. For example, in the section titled “The Perils of Introspection” (117), Van Riper and the Blue Team make thoughtful, strategic decisions, but only when appropriate. In combat, Blue Team relies on its instincts. Similarly, in “A Crisis in the ER” (125), the heart failure tree relieves doctors of the pressure of making a fast decision, when a well-reasoned one is warranted. Although the tree requires very little information from the doctors, the decision making diagram itself is the product of years of research. This illustrates that when there is time, a lengthy decision is more fitting, but in the midst of a chaotic atmosphere, a subconscious decision is more reliable.
    Gladwell ultimately shows us that although our subconscious and conscious minds may conflict, by balancing the two and restricting input to them, action based upon negative stereotypes can be limited. It can be channeled towards more productive means.
    I hope everybody has had a great, sunny weekend! Happy reading:)

  7. Helia

    It happens to me every time! I realize I have start reading the next quarter of Blink, feel all sad and wish I could read a good mystery novel or something, and then once I’ve picked up Blink I can’t put it down! I finish the quarter and tell myself “there’s no way I finished ¼ of the book that fast.” I’ve got to admit, it’s really growing on me.

    Gladwell introduces Bob Golomb in the beginning of this section. Apparently he is a car selling “virtuoso.” However, his strategy is simple: treat every customer the same. It seems like it would be easy to be as good at selling cars as he is, if this is his secret to success. However, according to Gladwell, we don’t even realize when we are being unjust. This made me a little nervous – the thought that I don’t know when I’m treating someone poorly is strange, since we all think we are in complete control of our actions. Gladwell also offers a solution to this: “We can change our first impressions – we can alter the way we thinslice – by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions. And although some of us are ready to make this commitment, others are not, and this is why our subconscious is still calling the shots.

    Gladwell also focuses on the Millennium Challenge, a huge army game that the government used as a “full dress rehearsal for war” (104). I learned something totally new by reading about this – I had never even realized that the government practiced strategies like this. Honestly, I imagined that some military official simply thought up a plan of action whenever a new one was needed. I had no idea that there is a full team whose job it is to stage war games and think up brand new strategies. The technology that they come up with is impressive, but Gladwell uses this situation as yet another way to prove that making decisions in the blink of an eye is often more effective. The “rogue commander” didn’t have nearly as much information or resources, yet this made it easier for him to be spontaneous – something he used to his advantage. He won the first huge victory despite the fact that he was at a large disadvantage. However, what happened after this victory made me angry. Once the Blue Team had been defeated in the first battle, they simply refloated their ships and then told the Red Team what to do. Does this even seem reasonable? In a real war, the US would not have the power to take away all of the enemy’s control. I felt that the Blue Team should have learned from its mistakes and continued on, not reverse everything and make it easier on themselves.

    My last topic is the hospital – I loved reading about this! I was fascinated when I read that Brendan Reilly was coming to fix Cook County Hospital. I love organizing and methodizing myself, and I couldn’t wait to see what Reilly did first. His method for telling who needed cardiac attention made perfect sense to me, because personally, I prefer having a formula tell me what to do (I’m very indecisive)… Looking forward to the next chapter of Blink!

  8. andrewtodt

    Hello all!

    I’ve been enjoying Blink so far and as I have been reading the book I’ve been stopping to think about Gladwell’s ideas and what he writes a lot more than any other book I have read. I’ve also been thinking about my own ideas on certain subjects and whether I wholeheartedly agree with Gladwell or have a slightly different take on it (I have yet to become even close to outright disagreement). Because of this I will most like be talking about my own ideas and not directly referencing the book much if at all (I know, blasphemy!). Another reason I will be doing this is because while Gladwell’s examples are astounding on there own, when all of the examples are equally surprising and often make overlapping points they become slightly mundane to read. Gladwell keeps saying things like, “Because we take it, as a given, that the more information decision makers have, the better off they are” but in my head I keep responding, ‘well, not anymore’.

    My first point is that I don’t think everyone’s thought processes are the same. Some people are have minds that are far more open to new ideas than others and thus those people have the best chance and being able to change their biases, much like how some people can become addicted to drugs much more easily than others. More specifically, some people have stronger confirmation biases, a bias that almost everyone has and causes people to reflexively object facts or ideas that contradict with their currently held mindset. In fact this is why I think that not all care salesmen are like Golomb. I think that the car salesmen in Chicago did not give the same prices to women and racial minorities who had equally prestigious pasts and jobs. They simply had a hard time viewing them as equals because they blotted out information which contradicted with their racial biases that were unknown to them, thereby making their biases effect all people in that minority universally. When it comes to what kind of decision making is better I think that it is totally circumstantial, I think the subconscious is often effective in more basic or familiar situations like ‘what should I have for dinner’ or ‘should I fight this _________ or just run’ (like what happened in the war game). Meanwhile our conscious mind is better for more complex situations that are relatively new things that someone could face, like when you are in a hospital and there is a possible heart failure.

    One of the more interesting parts of this quarter of the book was the part titled “When Less is More”. The main reason I found this so interesting is because I can make so many connections to my life about having to much information and then either coming close to or actually second guess myself. One example of this was when I had to pick between going to a soccer game or a robotics meeting and at first I thought robotics meeting because the upcoming state tournament was more important than a regular game, but then I started to think seriously and factor in more information which, as Gladwell showed, didn’t help me make the decision but rather it hindered me and made me indecisive. Im the end decided that they both were equally good/bad decisions depending on how you looked at it. So I flipped a coin. The coin said to go with the soccer game but I just couldn’t bring myself to go through with it because (I assume) I preferred the robotics meeting on a subconscious level. I definitely agree with Elena’s teacher when s/he said to “always go with your first instinct if you are unsure”.

    Quick side note: I also really liked how Gladwell used the war games as an example but I was very annoyed by how blue team refloated the ships. Not only because it was unfair and it could never happen in the real world but also they didn’t really learn anything from it and spent a quarter of a billion dollars on it, money that could’ve been far more productive.

    One last thing, I was on the bus two days ago and a person who was seemingly African-American (I don’t want to make assumptions) got on the bus. I looked up when he got on (like with most people) and briefly made eye contact with him before he walked past me. That was it but then (most likely since I had been reading Blink) I wondered to myself whether he thought I was biased for a brief moment. I don’t know why he would think that, but what could this say about me?

    Au Revoir!

  9. michaelzhao00

    What’s cracking guys,
    Blink has honestly been a book where absolutely everything being claimed by Gladwell is something I can connect to my life, and I will share an example of unconscious decisions in my life.
    There is this one game that I’m sure almost all of us know, just not by name. I would classify it as a “post test havagood day”, aka PTHD, because it is a simple game that can be played with little movement and no verbal communication. The game itself, if where two people sit across from each other, and simultaneously tap their upper thighs two times, with intent and aggression. They then proceed to put their hand in one of three positions; Load, shoot or shield. A shoot beats a load, a shield blocks a shoot, and one must lead before shooting. Each round that both people survive, they must pat their upper thighs twice more, before making another move. So on and so forth. While it can be summarized as a game of pure chance, once you play the game, you will surely feel moments where you know your opponent will shoot, and when they will load, giving you the chance to shoot. In the heat of the moment, meaning the touching of thighs separating moves, one cannot analyze the situation to figure out the best move; the unconscious takes over. In this game, There ends up being situations, where funny things happen, improbable things… the result of two unconscious minds being pitted against each other. It’s a great way to experience the unconscious decision making process, without going into a burning building. Gladwell noted that the Wall Street Traders did well at war games, so I have a strong feeling that being good at this game has a good amount of carryover into things involving split-second decisions.
    Now onto the second quarter of the book. What Caeli was talking about, how surrounding ourselves with examples of stereotypes being defied can cancel out those stereotypes in our subconscious, is interesting to me. I’d like to go to a hypothetical situation involving a customer and a restaurant. two customers go to a good restaurant, but customer A has already been to the restaurant several times, and loves it, but it is customer B’s first time. That day, the waiting staff is short a couple people, and service is terrible. Both customers get the same bad service. Will both customers return to the restaurant? Customer B probably won’t, because his first impression of the place was a poor one. Thinking logically, B would have looked at the good food, and the restaurant full of people and deduced that they were just having a bad day. On the other hand, customer A would probably return, due to their previous good experiences with the place. Had B gone back on a good day, they also probably would have changed their view of the restaurant greatly. The problem lies in the fact that in the real world, customer B often does not go back. Once negative biases towards something are established in peoples’ minds through first impressions, they usually will not actively try to experience the good side of that things, for they want nothing to to with it. Because of this, it is crucial that young people, whose experiences are all novel, do not get sucked into adopting the stereotypes portrayed in the media/entertainment industry; YOU CAN’T TRUST THE SYSTEM…… MAAANN. On the other hand, parents/teachers should guard against instilling a false sense of exaggerated optimism about the world and the people in it.
    Just my thoughts.

  10. ericachiang

    Hello!!

    I would first like to mention that I have been thoroughly enjoying all of your blog posts!! Many of you that already posted twice talked about the heart attack chart, so I guess I’ll start by addressing that. Obviously, the decisions for what steps the put on the flow chart were made with conscious, logical thought. However, Gladwell’s claim that the chart and its effects on the Cook County hospital led to the conclusion that “Deliberate thinking is a wonderful tool when we have the luxury of time, the help of a computer, and a clearly defined task, and the fruits of that type of analysis can set the stage for rapid cognition” (141) is one I would have to disagree with. Although Goldman’s research helps doctors FIGURE OUT whether or not a patient is having a heart attack, this does not by any means foster INSTINCTIVE DECISION-MAKING. Just like plugging numbers into a memorized formula is not math unless you actually understand what you are doing, following a flow chart, although it generally brings doctors to the right decision, is not decision making. There are many variations of heart attack symptoms, so rapid cognition is probably not the right way to go about diagnosing these patients. It makes perfect sense that this chart helps doctors ignore unimportant information, but this procedure cannot be called instinctive decision making, as this is not what the doctors are doing.

    In fact, as Gladwell displayed, allowing doctors to make actual decisions on their own was disastrous. Much of the medical world has evolved to rely heavily on patterns, such as the ones used in Goldman’s chart, that conscious thought does not recognize; nowadays, these patterns are used to program computer algorithms that could diagnose patients. There is the argument that the computers would not see the patients as people, and this might lead to significant error from ignoring the individuality of each case. But, as Gladwell has shown with this specific example, sometimes trying to use excess information that SEEMS useful just biases a decision that does not need the information at all. I am curious to see how computers will continue to develop our society, because it seems that not all people trust these algorithms, especially when their lives are at risk.

    On the other hand, I think that the “important lesson” (141) that “truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking” (141) IS true, although it is a point that was set aside when Gladwell explained the importance of rapid cognition. Throughout MOST of the book so far, Gladwell only addresses the benefits of unconscious decision making. He does make his point well, but, as Elena and Gladwell have stated, the unconscious and conscious thought need to work TOGETHER. They cannot simply be compared to each other and used in isolation.

    I know that most of my thoughts have been sort of critical of the way this book explains different ways of decision making, but overall I am really enjoying this book! Some of these thoughts were just minor confusions or concerns that popped into my mind as I was reading. I hope you guys are all enjoying your reading as well! Also, I hope you enjoyed your weekend! No essay to worry about 😉

  11. ericachiang

    Also, Michael, you said “What Caeli was talking about, how surrounding ourselves with examples of stereotypes being defied can cancel out those stereotypes in our subconscious, is interesting to me.” I just wanted to point out that really, surrounding ourselves with positive or negative stereotypes does not “cancel out” our subconscious stereotypes; our experiences can redefine or greatly affect our stereotypes. After all, stereotypes are formed as a result of what we experience in society.

  12. matthewseeley29

    Sorry this is so late of a post… I kept telling myself that I would get around to doing it and then never did.

    First of all, to Andrew’s statement – “Because of this I will most like be talking about my own ideas and not directly referencing the book much if at all” – See, I was warranted in not addressing the book at all in my first post. But it is true that the topics Gladwell addresses are not really tangible things. Yes, his anecdotes are amusing ways of addressing his arguments, but at its root, this book is very conceptual, and I think that we should treat it as such (and I don’t feel like finding lots of quotes, most of which say the exact same thing).

    I totally agree with Elena and Andrew in that you should “always go with your first instinct,” and have had firsthand experience with this. Sixth grade. Oregon State National Geographic Bee. There are 5 competitors remaining. A question is posed to me, “Something something something possibly a reference to banana production yada yada yada in which country, which the US has placed an embargo upon?” My first instinct: CUBA. But then I began to second guess myself. “Are there really bananas in Cuba? Might they be grown somewhere more tropical? What’s an embargo (I was only in sixth grade, remember)?” My eventual answer: Trinidad and Tobago. The actual answer? That’s right, Cuba. Over and over and over again at various academic competitions, my gut is usually right – but if I second guess my gut, I get the question wrong. Thus, I throw my support behind the concept of going with your gut. Clearly, Gladwell has a point about our unconscious’ effect on our thought process – the answer it throws into your mind is usually the correct one.

    I also was intrigued, but not surprised, at the results of the Millennium Challenge. First of all, of course the Americans refloated their boats after they were destroyed, because hey, we are America, after all. Going off of that, when I read this section, I actually thought of Eminem, specifically his song, “Lose Yourself.” In this song, he asks, “If you had one shot, or one opportunity, to seize everything you ever wanted, in one moment, would you capture it or just let it slip?” Coupled with humans’ inherent “flight or fight response,” I think that this explains why the Red Team was able to so handily beat the Blue Team. They didn’t hesitate, they didn’t stop and think. They acted. I see this all the time in soccer: If you spend half a second figuring out what the forward is going to do, and what you should do to best defend it, he’s already by you and you’re down 1-0. You don’t think, you act, tackle the guy, and deal with it if you get a yellow card. I think that this is one of Gladwell’s most important lessons from this book, even if he doesn’t actually state it anywhere – One of the biggest problems we face in our world today is a lack of impetus, an inability to just DO something (no matter what Nike says). We stop and think about what to do in an attempt to make the best decision possible, and in doing so, we lose the chance to make the decision in the first place. As Eminem would say, we “just let it slip.” What is needed is a trust of our unconscious, coupled with the will to take action. What should be done about ISIS? Well, we could spend the next ten years holding conferences about what to do while the Middle East further degrades into chaos, or we could take action. What should we do about the Supreme Court vacancy? Well, we could refuse to do anything about it until the next president is elected, or we could at least hold a vote on Obama’s nominee, and deal with the consequences. I feel like there is a lack of risk-taking in our modern world, as the need to take risks seemingly becomes less and less. This is truly the lesson of the Millennium Challenge: Taking risks, while inherently risky, can turn out much more positively than playing it safe.

    Sorry, I got a little carried away there. Do not feel the need to turn this into a political discussion.

  13. matthewseeley29

    Example one: pressing the “Post Comment” button without proofreading my blog post. I apologize in advance for any grammatical errors.

    • Quarter 3 pgs. 147-244ish (although “Seven Seconds in the Bronx can probably spill over to the fourth quarter too…Ugh this book’s chapters do NOT want to be divided into fourths).

      Hi everyone! Like Erica, I have been truly enjoying everyone’s blog posts. It seems we all have funny or relatable anecdotes to tell which apply to Gladwell’s ideas. Reading the examples you guys come up with, I am reminded of how much Gladwell’s concepts can relate to real life and I am able to look at his ideas with a fresh eye. Anyway, thanks everybody!

      First off, I agree with Matthew that this book is largely about concepts, not specific words or arguments. After all, most of Gladwell’s points are simple anecdotes, and we readers don’t seem to have any shortage of those to support his ideas. That is the purpose of the anecdotes, I suppose: aside from proving Gladwell’s ideas, they also help us understand how to apply them in our lives. Anyway, the chapter “Kenna’s Dilemma” appears to address how when we form opinions and make split-second decisions, we need to form them with the right context and understanding. As Gladwell puts it, “This does not mean that when we are outside our areas of passion or experience, our reactions are invariably wrong. It just means that they are shallow. They are hard to explain and easily disrupted” (184). I find it amazing that, although we can form unconscious decisions easily, being asked to relate them to logic (i.e. rating a song or explaining a jam’s quality) can destroy them. Only when we can connect our opinions to logic from the beginning, like the expert food-tasters or the music critics, will we form one constant, concrete opinion. (Does this mean that if you ask Trump supporters to explain themselves they will change their minds? 🙂 .) As it is, something as simple as the packaging of the product – such as more yellow than green on a 7-up container or a sprig of parsley – can change one’s entire fragile perception. Can I really trust my opinions that little, I wonder? Are some more easily disrupted than others? I wonder if, the more easily our opinions can be put into words, the more stable they are. After all, the taste of mayonnaise is well nigh impossible for a normal foodie such as myself to describe (can you believe that it has “six dimensions of appearance,” “ten dimensions of texture,” and “fourteen dimensions of flavor” (182)?), but I can easily say why I don’t like Donald Trump (sorry, turning political again, but he’s such a good example. I won’t list the reasons right now). Then, of course, there is the entire dilemma with the Aeron chair and how “people reporting their first impressions misinterpreted their own feelings. They said they hated it. But what they really meant was that the chair was so new and unusual that they weren’t used to it” (173). This reminds me of myself when I was a little kid and my parents would try to convince me to eat from this bizarre food group called vegetables. It wasn’t only vegetables; any strange thing on my plate took a lot of persuasion for me to put into my mouth. Invariably, before I even tried the food, I would tell them, “I don’t like it.” Even after I tried it, I would nearly always tell them, “I still don’t like it” with the obstinacy of a toddler. I wonder how many foods I missed out on if I had been able to cross that barrier of “different.” At the same time….I still don’t like asparagus.

      Finally, I’ll just touch briefly on the ideas of “Seven Seconds in the Bronx”: mainly, that “mind-reading” is so essential to our interactions with the world around us and that that process can break down in periods of intense stress. During those periods, all we are left with is our stereotypes and our most primal instincts. Personally, I have never been good at reading expressions. I didn’t even dream that there could be a “catalogue of expressions” such as the one Ekman compiled which breaks down all of human emotion into groups of muscles. Therefore, the thought of what I might be capable of doing without the protective barrier of my “mind-reading” skills terrifies me. What would I have done in the Bronx situation? Would I, like the rest of the police officers, have become “temporarily autistic” (232) and committed such a horrible crime? It is very easy for all of us to say, “I would never do that. Of course I would stop and think.” However, none of us has been in that situation. In this way, our unconscious is not only a decision-maker and a survival tool, but also a barrier between the darkest parts of us and the world.

      On that happy note, I hope everyone’s enjoying the book! I look forward to reading all the posts! Also, just to point out: only 34 more school days until summer!

      • Oh sorry – I just realized Reiley hadn’t posted yet….sorry Reiley. Everyone ignore my latest post until it’s time. Pretend it’s not there for the moment. 🙂

  14. Helia

    I devoured this section of Blink in under an hour. That just goes to show how little I have to do after ballet on a Sunday. It was really interesting, and in more than any other section so far I feel like I learned something new about myself and others. I also now know what to pay attention to when I’m trying to uncover someone’s true feelings about me (those emotions flashing across someone’s face are so honest!).

    To start off, when Gladwell talks about the preferences of the consumer and the sip test. And to be honest, I didn’t agree with him. He claims that people don’t really know what they like, and at first, that seemed a bit rude. If somebody likes Pepsi better than Cola when they taste it, then that’s the way it is, right? However, as I kept reading and got to the parts about packaging and taking products home, my view started to change. Packaging has a major influence on how we think a product tastes. For example, my dad and I were just grocery shopping at Trader Joes, trying to pick peanut butter (why are there so many options?). I went for the one with the nicest font and white label, only to be stopped by my dad, who said, “I think that one just looks organic.” We proceeded to get the expensive one from Whole Foods that we always get. Oh, the lengths I go to for good peanut butter. Anyway, it’s obvious that packaging influences what we like and how we taste things. We are encouraged to buy organic, and even though often times genetically modified foods taste better and actually have more nutrients, we still swear by the organically grown. We have been conditioned to think that it tastes better, even when it doesn’t. As for the home use tests, I thought of this example: people see a parakeet, are enchanted by its bright plumage and funny noises, and bring it home for their spouse as an early birthday gift. Unfortunately for the bird, after a few days its incessant screeching becomes so impossible to endure that the owners get rid of it much sooner than they had planned to. Although it withstood the sip test in the pet store, it epically failed the home use test.

    The section about Amadou Diallo is heartbreakingly relevant to our society today. We’re seeing more and more police violence, and there is a huge debate over whether this can be categorized as murder or as bad judgment. Obviously, some of the cops feel terrible about their actions: “Carroll sat down on the steps, next to Diallo’s bullet ridden body, and started to cry” (194). I don’t think it is the same for all cops, however. If we could look at Gladwells “Three Fatal Mistakes” (194) and correct them, then we might be able to amend the cop-civilian relationship. In my opinion, I think the situation could be improved simply by cops coming at a situation calmly and treating suspicious people with patience. Of course, when the person is dangerous, moving slowly could be the cop’s downfall. However, in most cases, I think police need to use their words, not their guns.

    Lastly, I found the section with Ekman and Friesen and their faces to be very interesting. Much like Gottman thin-slicing marriages, they can discover a person’s real feelings in just split seconds, almost like a superpower!

    Quick question: Does the way Gladwell randomly, without warning, just brings up past anecdotes bother anyone? Is that just him synthesizing his ideas? Is that what we’re supposed to do in our motif papers? Or is he simply mixing metaphors? I can’t decide.

  15. ericachiang

    Hi everyone,

    I personally found this quarter of Blink more interesting than the last quarter. I especially think that the Diallo police story is one that has a lot of relevance to the problems that exist in our world today. As Helia mentioned, there is much debate on whether the police should be punished for murder or bad judgment. Obviously, the police were not maliciously going after Diallo simply because he was black, shown when “Carroll sat down on the steps, next to Diallo’s bullet-ridden body, and started to cry” (194). Helia, you used this quote to show that “some of the cops feel terrible about their actions,” and it seems that you feel like cops are going out wanting to kill people, and Carroll is unique because he felt bad. My interpretation was a little different: of course, I can’t be sure what goes through a police officer’s minds as he chases down potential criminals, but I don’t think Carroll WANTED to kill an innocent black man and later felt bad about his actions. It was a true misunderstanding that was generated by the cops’ misconceptions about African Americans. These sorts of instances give the American police force very bad reputations of being racist, but the truth is that their subconscious biases are not any different from most other Americans’. I think that, given the high-pressure situations they face, they must make many on-the-spot decisions which are significantly influenced by their subconscious biases. In the heat of the moment, their biases are screaming, “He’s a criminal! He’s going to kill you!!!” Most other American citizens would experience the same suspicion, except they are never in these types of situations, so it doesn’t matter; their biases either never present themselves or do not carry such significant consequences. Obviously, the fact that many people have similar biases and would potentially act in a similar fashion does not make the police officers’ actions acceptable; the accident never would have occurred if the cops had been thinking clearly and thought about Diallo as a human being. However, I believe that the guilt for these tragic instances must be attributed to our society as a WHOLE, because this is where such unjust biases and suspicions originate.

    Something else I found interesting was the story about Kato Kaelin when “his face was utterly transformed. His nose wrinkled, as he flexed his levator labii superioris alaeque nasi. His teeth were bared, his brows lowered” (211). These statements about people’s faces showing exact emotions have been bothering me ever since I read this section. How is it possible that one’s face could change from a smile to a growl and back into a smile so quickly that the average, untrained person wouldn’t notice, including the individual who is supposedly MAKING these expressions? It seems there is a limit to how fast our face muscles can move, especially between 2 opposite expressions. I do find it revealing that our faces and feelings work together, as I have often found that when I force a smile and try to look happy, I soon feel happier too. Also, usually when I am amused, I cannot stop laughing; when I’ve calmed down, the topic will seem less funny than it did while I was laughing, showing that my face is very cued into what my brain is thinking. Hahaha. Hope you all had a great weekend! I didn’t have such a great one because I found out I have 2 stress fractures in my left foot… Now I’m stuck in a boot for the district and state track meets AND club soccer tryouts!!!!!! 😦

  16. caeligriffin

    Hello everyone! Like Helia, I sped through this section in the space of under an hour and found it to be as profound as the beginning two. I loved how Gladwell continued to pull relatable anecdotes into his novels, so that his hypotheses were supported with a myriad of intriguing (and sometimes disturbing) examples. Despite this though, I found myself admittedly a bit confused. Within each chapter, Gladwell’s points were crystal clear, but as his stories began to stack up, I struggled to connect them all under a single theme. The first section we read seemed most obvious to me, the resounding message was: trust your instincts, they’re often correct. But the second section felt like a mess of highly interesting, and highly contradictory anecdotes. For example, in the sub-chapter on Van Riper we are told that hyper analysis can be extremely detrimental, as it was to Blue Team. Later though, in “A Crisis in the ER” we are told that the doctors were too instinctive, too subconscious, and needed a chart like Goldman’s decision tree to come to accurate conclusions about patients. Later, in “Kenna’s Dilemma: The Rightand WrongWay to Ask People What They Want” Kenna’s music fails to perform well in an in home, three day test. We are told that the people who rated Kenna so poorly lacked the experience of seeing him in concert, or the expertise of music producers. Then, during “Pepsi’s Challenge,” in a blind taste teste Pepsi is rated higher than Coke, and the error is reconciled with the explanation that an in home test would have been more effective. I did not understand how all this evidence fit together. I felt strongly that Gladwell was trying to convey that all of this data pointed to something, I just could not find that “something.”
    It wasn’t until finishing the third section that I realized how the structure of “Blink” was not meant to explicitly push the reader in the direction of a conclusion. It was simply a shallow exploration of a deep topic. After reading “Man’s Search for Meaning” (and nearly every other book we’ve read this year) I was accustomed to hearing a problem, then hearing the solution, like a fable. All of these other novels had a point to make, something to prove. But “Blink” isn’t intended to do anything but make us more aware of our subconscious mind. There is no hard and fast rule for interpreting when and how to employ the input of our subconscious minds, but a disarray of evidence yet to be woven into a grand unified theory.
    Finally, I’d like to touch upon a few of the ideas you all brought up in your blog posts. To expand slightly on Elena’s theory, perhaps things which we can consciously describe belong in our conscious mind. Things which we cannot consciously describe, like a person’s face, the sound of a song, or the taste of a food, belong in our subconscious minds. And in response to Helia’s question, no, Gladwell bringing ideas from past sections into new ones doesn’t bother me in the least. On the contrary, I think it has helped me to understand his ideas as a whole much better.
    I hope everybody had a great weekend, and Erica, I hope you have a quick recovery! So sorry to hear about the fractures, but I’m glad it isn’t worse. Happy reading.

  17. matthewseeley29

    Okay, I’m sorry guys, but this book is starting to really bore me.

    Caeli, you said that “It was simply a shallow exploration of a deep topic,” and I agree; I also agree that this book has no real message to it. I believe, however, that the “mess of confusing anecdotes” consists of the entire book, but also believe that the anecdotes really serve no purpose in supporting his conclusion (whatever that may be).

    Let me review the “lessons” of each chapter so far:

    “The Statue That Didn’t Look Right”: Trust your unconscious. + Whoa, cool face movement stuff.
    “The Locked Door”: Your unconscious can make you act in unusual ways.
    “The Warren Harding Error”: Watch out, your unconscious can deceive you.
    “Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory”: Trust your unconscious.
    “Kenna’s Dilemna”: Watch out, your unconscious can deceive you. + Whoa, cool face movement stuff.
    “Seven Seconds in the Bronx”: Watch out, your unconscious can make you KILL A MAN. + Whoa, cool face movement stuff.

    Seeing a pattern? While Gladwell’s anecdotes are interesting, he’s just repeating himself over and over and over again. One may argue that he’s presenting evidence to support his claim, but all of the evidence simply backs up his “conclusion” of: “Trust your unconscious, except when you shouldn’t. Oh, and by the way, you have little to no control over your face!” As Mrs. Huss would say, “This claim doesn’t have an analytical focus. Or any focus, really.” I think that Gladwell is trying to teach us something, but not doing a very good job of it. Or, he is simply spouting cool stories and hoping that we can find some deeper meaning inside of them. Either way, I’m bored. While Caeli, you seem to have accepted this inconsistency, it is ruining the book for me.

    However, I am not saying that the stories themselves do not bring up interesting points of discussion. Erica, you mentioned that “the truth is that their subconscious biases are not any different from most other Americans’,” and that the reason Amadou Diallo died was the fact that the police officer’s biases were simply prompted by the stress of their scenario. However, I believe that most Americans would have reacted very differently if placed in this scenario. For many, a situation such as this would have triggered the inherent “fight-or-flight” aspect of human nature, and many would have just ran away. In a situation when one is faced with a potential threat to their life, usually they will run away. While I am sure that some would not hesitate to pull a gun on Mr. Diallo, I do not think that this reaction would be shared by a majority of Americans, or even humans in general. One is more likely to die if they begin a firefight than if they run away (assuming, of course, that Diallo did have a gun). However, police officers are trained to defend the public against potential threats, and as such are MORE likely to trigger the fight response instead of the flight one. Police officers are not paid to run away from a conflict, they are supposed to stop the conflict. Thus, I believe that in this scenario, while unconscious biases may have sped up the decision-making process, making it even more likely for the police to shoot, I think that another unconscious process, the fight-or-flight response, would take over in this situation.

    Maybe in Gladwell’s conclusion will a final, summarizing argument be found. One may only hope. If not, I fear sauciness will overcome me, and the review post may be a very interesting read…

    Oh, and sorry about your foot, Erica… Hope it gets better soon! 🙂

  18. andrewtodt

    Blink is starting to have a kind of Deja-vu feeling to it. For one many of the “new” ideas that are being brought up by Gladwell in each section were never specifically stated but many seemed to be implied or get extrapolated from previous examples. The second reason is because it has gotten more and more boring, just like my previous IR book, Assassin’s Creed. Honestly it is somewhat of a disappointment since I expected more from Blink than Assassin’s Creed. So far in Blink there have been numerous stories and detailed studies that have held the spotlight in different sections of the book but the only thing that seems to tie them together is that they all involve decision making. In fact, they aren’t only mostly separate but some even contradict another on some level like the heart flow-chart and Van Riper, or the inspection of student dormitories and the sip tests. In the first pair one says that charts of statistics are better and the other says focusing on statistics is bad. In the second pair Gladwell says we can make equally good judgements in a small amount of time while with the sodas he said you should base it off of a longer trial period.

    One thing that I have been somewhat interested in in Blink is the idea that we don’t know what we like or what we want. This was brought up with the sip tastes for soda and with the speed dating section. Like Helia, when I first came to the sip tastes I was somewhat skeptical. Since we don’t know what we all want ourselves then we can’t simply inquire about many things in each other’s lives and expect to get the correct answer. In fact, Gladwell showed with the jams that the simple act of asking someone about an opinion can cause that opinion to change. It’s like a photon. When it is directly observed it seems to be a particle but when it is indirectly observed it has the effect of a wave. Just the act of observing it makes a difference in how it acts. In the end I became more open when I remembered how I came to like tonic water. This is particularly interesting to me because in modernized countries our needs are usually taken care of so our wants are the driving force of our lives. However if we don’t understand our own preferences, how can we make sure we make good decisions to benefit ourselves (when we do, I’m not saying you should be selfish).

    When it comes to the Aeron chair, IR serves as a great model of how a lot of people see change in our world, AKA, we don’t normally like it. The reason for this is not just because we don’t know how to explain it like Gladwell seems to say but rather I think that it is for the same reason that many parents in the US don’t want to give their kids vaccines (unfortunately). The reasoning behind it is that people often see doing nothing and getting negative results is not as bad as doing something and having the possibility of getting negative results because if you do something then the blame seems to be on you while if you do nothing you can pull a Romeo and blame something else (and for vaccines the self-selecting process of many anti-vaccine forums online is also a large factor, but that’s a discussion for a different day). Basically the people seeing the Aeron chair said they didn’t like it because they had no gaurantee that it wouldn’t have a negative effect and didn’t want to risk trying something new.

    In Elena’s post she wondered if explainable opinions are more concrete than other opinions. I would say that they sometimes are but aren’t always (much like Gladwell has been saying about numerous topics). Firstly, there have been studies that say the act of writing something down can help you remember it better so being able to talk about your opinions probably forms a stronger connection in your brain between your feelings and the topic. At the same time however if you can explain your opinion then it is probably in your conscious mind and that can be transformed through the input of only a small amount of new information when your subconscious is often more stubborn.

    Of the last quarter of the book the most interesting thing that was written was about the actual killing of Amadou Diallo. This is because while the police officers could have prevented it by being calmer, Amadou could also have prevented it if he had been calm and not run away from them, which illustrates Matthew’s idea that most Americans would run in high stress, possibly violent, situations. It also means however that perhaps neither running nor fighting are god options but instead you should let your conscious rule and stay calm.

    Au Revoir

  19. andrewtodt

    Just a question which came to me:
    Is memory a coscious or subconscious part of the brain? On one side we can’t instantly recall everything at will (subconscious?) but we can force our selves to remember things (conscious?).

    • ericachiang

      I wouldn’t classify a memory as part of the brain, but the way it affects you depends on the memory. Any memory that you can remember is conscious, obviously. But some memories are ones that you’ve forgotten, and they affect your actions and biases subconsciously (you don’t have to actively think about the memory, but maybe you act on something you learned from the memory).

      >

    • ericachiang

      Sorry, this may not have been very clear, but when I said you might act on something you learned, I meant the memory changed you somehow; you don’t have to think about what you learned or how you changed, and you might not even be aware of these subconscious lessons.

      >

  20. michaelzhao00

    Hey guys, I definitely agree with Caeli’s new view of this book, in that Gladwell seems to now be spewing anecdotes about the subconscious. I would enjoy very much to see the essay form of this book being DESTROYED, but at the same time, I appreciate all these examples. It’s not like G Weezy simply typed “examples of subconscious” into Google, so we need to give him props for digging up the stories that he did. The good part about Gladwell’s writing can also be viewed as a bad. He hits us with so many examples of his points, it is starting to seem rather redundant, but I’m enjoying his anecdotes as little short stories that all still serve a purpose, if nothing more. At this point, I won’t try to derive a cumulative message from all the stories, so here are my thoughts for each.

    Sip Test- It will be interesting to start noticing all the sneaky marketing strategies for food companies from now on, because I never have in the past. I wonder if brand logo’s that are not on a product, but are firmly planted in a subconscious can have similar effects of reported food taste.

    Aeron Chair/Kenna- Although I never took the time to look up Kenna, I googled the Aeron chair immediately after reading about how much of an aesthetic monstrosity it was, and found myself wishing he had them in our class, instead of those rock hard breaking-prone chairs that we have. In other words, I think they’re absolutely fine visually. It’d be interesting to see other products that were considered ugly back in the day, just to get a grasp on how much society has changed. With Kenna, he is certainly not in his boat alone, however what sets him apart from other aspiring artists is that the guys high up in the industry already knew for sure that he would be a hit, but yet he barely made a splash with his debut. There is a reason that Gladwell is seemingly unable to make meaningful conclusions. It isn’t that easy to figure out how to unlock your subconscious, to figure out what we truly like of don’t like. However, if it hypothetically were, and all entrepreneurs were able to figure out what people would go for, would all products be mega-successful, or would people’s standards for what they would buy raise, canceling out the improvement in products?

    Bronx- In my opinion, this tragic event was due to an absolute worst case scenario combination of many factors, which are all obvious. With this example, I really don’t think Gladwell brought anything new or useful to the table, and he couldn’t really have done the latter. If we find ourselves in a similar situation, we either make the right split second decision or we don’t, and there is virtually nothing that can prepare us to do so. The subconscious bias that causes us to save a life in one case can cause us to do opposite in another. That is why I’ve decided to read this book for some well-researched and and thought out stories, I’m not expecting anything more.

  21. Fourth Quarter pg. 245-276
    Hello again! Time for that final blog post! I hope you all got through those 31 pages unscathed.

    Reading over everyone’s blog posts, I am noticing a gradual shift from “This book is so interesting” to “can Malcolm Gladwell just stop talking.” I must say, I partially agree; Gladwell does seem to be repeating himself rather more than is entirely necessary. Matthew’s summation of the chapter lessons in particular drove that point home. However, I agree with Caeli in that the book’s lack of a specific point to prove about the unconscious is not disastrous. On the contrary, Blink seems to be focused more on increasing one’s awareness of the abilities and disabilities of the unconscious, thereby enabling one to interact with the world more effectively. As Gladwell states in the conclusion, “we are often careless with our powers of rapid cognition. We don’t know where our first impressions come from or precisely what they mean, so we don’t always appreciate their fragility” (252). We have to understand that our unconscious can be extremely helpful or extraordinarily detrimental and we must regard it as such. Admittedly, Gladwell takes a very roundabout and sometimes repetitive way of explaining this…luckily, his anecdotes are pretty interesting, as Michael was saying. Also as Michael was saying, perhaps we should enjoy the book just for the itneresting points it raises, not for the life-altering conclusion it draws.
    A prime example of the good/bad unconscious is Abbie Conant’s audition with the Munich Philharmonic. Before the conductor knew who she was, he declared her the winner in one of Gladwell’s so-called “Blink” moments. However, after discovering that she was a woman, he allowed the other part of his unconscious to take over and gave in to his prejudice against female brass musicians. It seems like the unconscious is a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde; it should be helpful, but when you poison it with a bit of prejudice and the wrong context, it can turn nasty. It is incredibly picky and only works well if you give it the right type of environment. It is easy to understand why Malcolm Gladwell calls the problem of interpreting it “one of the great challenges of our time” (269).
    What I find most irksome in the afterword is that after almost the entire novel, Gladwell renames the unconscious “judgment.” He declares, “And what Blink is-what all the stories and studies and arguments add up to-is an attempt to understand this magical and marvelous thing called judgment” (260). What is the difference between the unconscious and judgment? Is the unconscious simply the brain’s way of processing information while judgment is how one chooses to use that information? As Gladwell goes on to talk about Chancellorsville and how General Hooker’s judgment was clouded by too much information, I am inclined to think that judgment and the unconscious are one and the same. Why didn’t Gladwell introduce the term of “judgment” earlier? Maybe I’m just nitpicking, but it just seems odd to call the unconscious “judgment” all of a sudden. Anyway, same difference -we have to understand it and how to use it, no matter what it’s called. Also, the Chancellorsville case study seemed identical to the Millenium Challenge story to me…I’m not sure of it was entirely necessary.
    Finally, Gladwell talks about when we should trust our unconscious and when we should be it wary of it. He is a bit wishy-washy in this respect; apparently, as shown by the household item-purchaser study, we should generally go with our guts for complex decisions and deliberate for straightforward matters. However, he also says that one has to take things on a case-by-case basis and that no one really knows the right combination of logic and instinct. It seems that all we can do is identify problems with snap decisions (as in the case of orchestra auditions) and in general be aware of our unconscious. That’s 276 pages in a nutshell. I’m not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, it’s disappointing that there’s no hard-and-fast rule for interpreting my mind. On the other hand, at least I can try to make gradual improvements in my own life so as to be more in tune with myself and my decisions. If all Blink has given me is an awareness of my unconscious, then hopefully I can put that awareness to good use. If not, then I’ll cross my fingers that I’ll never be in a situation that requires a more crucial unconscious decision than judging jam.
    Have a good weekend everyone! Only four weeks of school left and thanks for all the great blog posts!

    • elenalee

      Also, I know we talked about this before, but is it even possible to consciously change the way your unconscious works? Can we even do anything with the information that Blink tells us, or are we doomed to remain ignorant about the innermost parts of ourselves?

  22. Well, the last quarter of the book was at least more interesting than the third quarter of the book. However that was probably mainly due to the length and not the quality. Also, I was a little too happy when I finished Blink. Anyway, I was a little puzzled on why Gladwell decided to place the Chancellorsville story was placed in the afterword and not with the Van Riper section because he first learned about it through Van Riper.

    When it comes to the unspecificity of Blink, I think that there could be a surprisingly simple reason for why Blink is not very specific on how our unconscious works or how we should use it. This reason is simply that everyone’s brain works in a different way. You can definitely generalize about many things, like saying that when we are faced with a hungry tiger, most of us panic. However, everyone acts and thinks in at least slightly different ways in every situation. This is specifically said by Gladwell in a parenthetical note “(because I think the world is much too mysterious for formulas)”.

    In the afterword of the book Gladwell mentions his idea to create a blind criminal justice system like the classical music world did and I personally think it is a great idea, that (unfortunately) won’t be implemented anytime soon. The first reason I think this is because it would take a lot of restructuring the trial process and that would require changes in every courtroom nationwide, which is not any easy think to accomplish. Secondly, no one likes to be told that they are inadequate, not doing something correctly, or being racist. And that’s what a change like this would probably imply if anyone ever was or wants to be on a jury or is a judge or lawyer. But hopefully I’m wrong.

    Elena pointed out that Gladwell ends up referring to your unconscious as judgement at the end of the book. She goes on to say that perhaps judgement and your unconscious are one and the same. I agree with this, but only to a certain degree. Personally I believe that judgement is a subset of your unconscious. Judgement is essentially your gut feeling towards primarily conscious decisions while your unconscious also includes other things like instinctive reactions to situations and habits. An example of judgement would be musical tastes. No one consciously listens to a song and thinks to themselves “I like the bass tone of G sharps and A flats (yes, I know they are the same thing), I like this song”. However an example of unconscious that isn’t really judgement would be sighing when you see an essay question on a test.

    When it comes to controlling our unconscious consciously, I realized while reading the last quarter of Blink that there may be a way to control it in specific situations, and that is just via experience. It’s like practicing something over and over until you don’t have to think about it. However this only ever helps in situations that are specific and replicable.

  23. Helia

    Ah, the final section of Blink. I read it in one morning. Actually, I find it quite amazing that a book so dense and full of analysis didn’t take me years to read. In other words, I’m surprised this book wasn’t more like Man’s Search For Meaning. I definitely enjoyed reading it, and Malcolm Gladwell is obviously an excellent writer. By reading Blink I felt as though I learned something that I could apply to my own, real life and that is very satisfying. However, purely because this is a nonfiction piece, it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as a fun novel would be… but more on that in the review.

    For me, it was really interesting to read about the autistic person, “Peter”. My mind kept straying to Sherlock, who acts just that way (but finds a way to use it to his advantage and be incredibly charming at the same time, oh my god I love him, ahhhh Benedict. Sorry I’ll stop fangirling now). The fact that an autistic person regards human faces and lives things the same way they regard inanimate objects shocked me. I mean, the difference is so obvious! However, this also made it clear how challenging it must be for an autistic person to function in normal society, where people, in my opinion, place way too much emphasis on feelings, traditions, and superiority. As important as the ability to connect is, isn’t it sometimes better to just let that go and focus on the facts?

    Gladwell presents a case for both. As he writes in his conclusion, “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” (267). A bit ironic, I think, that he had to do so much “deliberate analysis” in order to write a book that’s ultimate message is “deliberate analysis is good, but just going with your gut is best for big, life changing decisions.” However, I do agree with that and I really liked it when Gladwell quoted Sigmund Freud on page 268: “When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.” This is perfectly supported by Dijksterhuis’s experiment with the department store, IKEA, and impulse buys. I also connect it to my own life: I made countless pros and cons lists when trying to pick a school to go to this summer, which school to invest thousands of dollars into, but in the end they really didn’t help me. They were all saying the same thing. I had to look inside and decide which one was the dream, and which one I felt obligated to go to. A fair warning: if you talk to me about my summer plans, I will get so excited that I may never shut up about it, even after you walk away.

    P.S. Thank god they unbiased the orchestras and symphonies. That is so sexist and unfair!
    P.P.S. Did anybody else catch Inundated on page 270? That was a vocab word, right?

  24. ericachiang

    Hi guys, like Elena said, it seems the overall feeling about this book is that it is not as interesting as it has potential to be. The unconscious is a very deep, complicated entity that could be explored further, and I also feel that Gladwell could have come to some more significant conclusions. However, I definitely think that what Gladwell has provided us in this book has been thought-provoking, and even if his points are not clear or connected, I can see, like Caeli, that the individual ideas are interesting and worth thinking about. I do think it is sort of odd that when I go over in my head everything that I learned in Blink, I feel like it was an enlightening and impressive book. However, while reading the book, I found myself rather bored. I guess in certain situations, the conscious and subconscious contradict each other. So, is my unconscious or conscious right? Oh goodness, this is like Blink all over again!

    I also think the section about autistic individuals like Peter is very interesting. The “fusiform gyrus, which is an incredibly sophisticated piece of brain software that allows us to distinguish among literally thousands of faces that we know” (219), stores more specific information than the inferior temporal gyrus, but for autistic people, they only use the inferior temporal gyrus. Is this because their fusiform gyrus is broken, or could there be a way to reattach nerves and stimulate the intended part of the brain for autistic people? I find it confusing, if the fusiform gyrus is so much better than the inferior temporal gyrus, why the brain isn’t programmed to use the fusiform gyrus for everything. Life would be so much easier if we didn’t “have trouble picking out [our] bag on the airport luggage carousel” (219). Maybe the fusiform gyrus only has a certain amount of “storage,” and objects would crowd up the space, as there are too many different objects everywhere. It seems that the brain is always trying to save space in the fusiform gyrus, now that I think about it, since sometimes “normal” people don’t even use their fusiform gyrus when necessary. For instance, at least from my observation, sometimes people put individuals from a certain “group” (in my experience, these groups have mostly been different races, but there may also be other groups) into the inferior temporal gyrus with a label like “Asian girl” the same way you might use labels like “chair” or “pencil.” My speculation is that people who are less familiar with minorities might subconsciously not recognize the minorities as people and thus categorize them as objects belonging to a group rather than as individuals. In the past, a lot of people have confused me with other Asian girls that I look NOTHING like me. In school, teachers could never tell Elena and me apart. I always found it rather odd that they didn’t notice that my skin was brown and hers was very light or that I talked too much and she was quiet; it was as if they mashed us into an “Asian girl” category and couldn’t see us as actual, individual people. The thing is, I have never met another STUDENT that couldn’t tell us apart. Right now, I can think of two reasons for this. Either (1) as people’s fusiform gyri get more and more full with time, they get more desperate to use the inferior temporal gyri, or (2) the U.S. is more diverse now, so people are much more used to seeing and living with minorities. What do you guys think?

    Hope you’re all having a great weekend. Two weeks until finals!! Can you believe it!?

    • Haha I know exactly what you mean Erica…and that’s an interesting idea: that maybe by categorizing people we unconsciously make them inanimate objects instead of individuals. Maybe that’s why we can read about so much horrible stuff in the news without breaking down all the time: we see people as categories instead of individuals. I don’t know if that’s a defense mechanism or a detrimental trait…but it definitely reduces our empathy with each other.

  25. ReileyHyun

    Hi guys, sorry I’m posting #3 so late, but I hope it is insightful for you guys in some way regardless of the fact it is very late.

    Anyway, moving into the second half of the book, my opinions about the ideas within it have changed a lot from what they once were. Originally, a lot of the things in the first half of the book made sense to me and explained a lot, but as it progressed, some of the ways that Gladwell expands on his ideas to form conclusions lost me. Although Gladwell does a good job explaining what priming is and how priming works, he makes claims about priming that don’t entirely make sense. The claim that bothers me the most, is that learning more or excess information about someone can cloud your judgement about them. Gladwell goes on to explain how priming and the initial feelings towards someone or something are most often, more accurate than an opinion cultivated after learning a decent amount about that someone or something. The judgement of a person or thing due to priming is said to have developed from experience in life, and although that may be true, this does not mean the judgement is at all right. I don’t believe that the all the qualities of a person can be picked up by anyone in the fifteen minutes that Gladwell claims are necessary, only because the world has become a place where people are almost always hiding their true self. Whether or not a person is trustworthy comes down to the person, but the majority of people in the world would want to give off a feeling to others that they are in fact trustworthy, even if they know they aren’t. The most accurate way to judge something like this is to be exposed to their actions for a long period of time and then assume whether or not one can trust them. This is not something that can be easily recognized by priming only because everyone is trying to show the same thing in the world. Although priming can give a person an initial opinion of someone based on previous experience, I don’t think they should be assumed to be more accurate than an opinion formed after a long period of exposure to whatever the person might be making assumptions about.

    I also wanted to address Erica’s thoughts about the fusiform gyrus. Although I agree that some things would be a lot easier if we only used this part of the brain, I think we live in a time where it isn’t completely necessary to do so, and because of this, we have developed so that the things we make out to be less important to a specific individual (for example race) are not processed with this part of the brain. For example, although many of the students from LOHS know Erica and Elena and see the obvious differences between them, a senior who only knows Elena as the “super smart freshmen asian girl” might meet elena once and then meet Erica months after and confuse the two. This is not because they don’t recognize a difference between them, but they are both labeled the same thing and have little to no impact on that particular person’s life. Essentially, we as people are lazy and self centered. If it doesn’t apply to us in a very impactful way, we do not have a reason to remember it, and little to no exposure to either Elena or Erica doesn’t help that senior remember the differences between the two. I think it has less to do with the groups of people and more to do with the spoken similarities without association with feature differences like the skin tone between Elena and Erica. Both are labeled, but the irrelevance of Elena and Erica to that particular senior make it unimportant to remember those features that should be associated with people instead of groups or particular physical features that separate us as people from one another.

  26. matthewseeley29

    *reads Afterword of Blink*

    *begins repeatedly banging head on table*

    Well, it’s a good thing that this book ended. I was worried for a while there that Gladwell would never stop.

    Elena, you wondered why Gladwell suddenly began referring to this new “judgment,” rather than the unconscious he had been referencing in the rest of the book. I am proud to announce that I have the answer to that question: If Malcolm Gladwell tried to write an essay, he would begin with a body paragraph, omit a thesis, add 15 more body paragraphs, and then conclude with a body paragraph. Oh, and by the way, paragraphs 3, 7 and 14 would all say the exact same thing.

    I mean, let’s be honest here. His afterword introduced not one, not two, but three entirely new anecdotes, and restated his opinions from the stories of the kouros and Paul Van Riper. Of course, he felt the need to restate much of his analysis too, just in case we had forgotten (hint: we didn’t). I think that Gladwell suffered in writing this novel due to the fact that he didn’t really have a specific thesis to argue. He brings up all these new things in the AFTERWORD in a valiant attempt to keep the reader interested, writing 21 pages of either new stuff or added repetition of his prior points (and I agree, Chancellorsville is pretty much the same story as Riper’s). Gladwell has a similar problem to myself: We don’t know when to stop including detail. I mean, if I was presented with a laundry list of interesting anecdotes and was told to write a book using them, I would probably try my best to use them all. In Gladwell’s case, he simply kept researching, finding as many anecdotes as he could acceptably fit in a book, and tossed them together, even when many of them served similar purposes. At the beginning, this was interesting, sparking thoughts about priming and the spooky role of our unconscious. By the Afterword, I was falling asleep. Literally. I was reading this in bed and it almost put me to sleep. That’s how repetitive the book became.

    Probably should have saved that for the review, but whatever.

    Now, I must admit as badly as this book was written (sorry Helia, but I must completely disagree with your “Malcolm Gladwell is obviously an excellent writer”), the anecdotes were interesting. However, I disagreed with much of what he said (maybe this is why I didn’t like the book). Gladwell specifically states on page 267, “On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is always best.” But I chafe at his use of the word “always,” and would argue that in fact, many times our gut instinct is integral in the minutia of our daily life. For example: As I wrote that sentence, I had many options of phrasing. I could have said, “I don’t like the word ‘always,’ and think that our gut is often paramount in the tiny decisions that riddle the daily rat race.” I could have said “I don’t like the word ‘always.’ Nothing is ever certain.” or “In my opinion, I would have used the word ‘sometimes’ here, because I think that our instincts are very important in making minor decisions.” Why did I write the first sentence the way I did? How did the words “integral” and “minutia” come to my mind? I surely didn’t consult my mental thesaurus, consciously listing synonyms of “important” and “small things” until I found ones that sounded correct. My unconscious bubbled these words to the surface, causing my conscious to cause my fingers to type them. Unconscious decisions litter our everyday life, so I would argue that really almost every straightforward choice is usually best suited by an unconscious decision. At science bowl earlier today, I ran out of time to answer a question, so quickly glanced at the numbers I was scribbling and blurted out “3!” Guess what. My unconscious was right. A small decision? Undoubtedly. But one best served with a gut answer.

    I used a quote. Shower me with praise. Please. I need some positivity after that book.

  27. michaelzhao00

    In response to Erica’s observation about mashing minorities into groups so that individuality is lost and they basically become objects, I can definitely testify that it happens, and is unintentional pretty much in all cases. Fortunately, we’ve found a way to use it to our advantage, S.O. to all the subs of the past. In all seriousness however, substitute teachers are a perfect example of how people can be seen as objects, as subs know that they will only be teaching the class for this one time, or until duty calls again, so there is no need to be accommodate to or even be aware of individual differences.

    An interesting segment of the fourth chapter was the part about emotions/memories and facial expressions being not just connected, but being like a two way street, with both being able to cause physiological effects. I’ve heard about how this applies with body language as well, and is useful to keep in mind. Looking back, I had a teacher in the not so distant past that would seem to have a smile on her face regardless of circumstance, although I somewhat dismissed it as simply trying to stay positive, or trying to set a good example, it seems that smiling alone can make you genuinely happy.

    Gladwell’s re-evaluation of the accident in the Bronx gave me a sense of hopelessness. Putting myself in the Shoes of the victim, I would have been scared out of my mind, and although running is always rather suspicious, he can’t be blamed for his actions. On the other hand, the police officers were newbies, and with the adrenaline in the heat of the moment, combined with seeing Diallo pull out a black object, they can’t be blamed for their overly hasty actions. Since nobody was undoubtedly responsible for the tragic incident, we must peel it back a layer. It is pretty clear that the officers were either racist on an subconscious level, or that the sketchy neighborhood was putting them on edge. Either way, who is to blame? If we are to go with the latter option, there is really nothing that can be done. The officers had the right to be wary. If the former was true, we can say “society”, as in media and the conditions and experiences we are exposed to, was to blame, but how do we fix that? Delete every news report/tv show/movie etc. that ever promoted unconscious racism? What this tells me however, is that all we can do is prepare ourselves to be as unbiased as possible, or if we are biased, have a good reason for it, like having it fit into our environment or life.

    Finally, to address G-weezy’s ultimate take-home message, which was
    “It doesn’t seem like we have much control over whatever bubbles to the surface from our unconscious. But we do, and if we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place, then we can control rapid cognition”, I have to say that I am satisfied with it. Gladwell provides us with a plethora of examples of the unconscious either failing or succeeding, but that is really all that he can do. It is then up to the reader to make sense of this confusing and relatively unexplored topic, and apply it to our lives/career. As for me,

  28. caeligriffin

    Hello everybody! I hope you all had a great three day weekend, and are having a lovely (sunny!) week.
    The format of the afterword was certainly interesting, and a bit unorthodox as Matthew pointed out. As a whole though, I felt that the conclusion was in keeping with the rest of the novel’s structure. Furthermore, I do not think that Gladwell needed, or should have had, a thesis statement, as the point of the book “Blink” was never to persuade the reader of a single idea. Instead, “Blink” introduced a rather unique perspective on the way in which we process our surroundings. As we all noticed, his book went off in maaaannnnnyyy directions throughout the chapters, with anecdotes that sometimes seemed to contradict each other. Because of this, I feel that Gladwell could not safely posit a thesis statement without fear of the thesis being incorrect. There is plenty of evidence, but I don’t think that the scientific community is prepared to introduce one Grand Universal Theory yet to explain our subconscious. It’s simply too complicated.
    In response to Erica’s question about why we do not use the fusiform gyrus for all of our thought, I believe that it is because of the way humans evolved. I agree with Reiley entirely in saying that our brain tends to disregard what it deems unimportant, like the differences between two girls of the same race, and thus may later confuse the two girls. I also think that this happens because in our past there was heavy environmental pressure for people to be able to quickly process vast amounts of information, or risk being eaten by whatever saber tooth bear creature was posing an imminent threat. Gladwell briefly addresses this idea towards the beginning of the novel: “This new notion of the adaptive unconscious is thought of, instead, as a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings. When you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a truck is bearing down on you, do you have time to think through all your options? Of course not. The only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed another kind of decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information” (11). Additionally, I think that the inferior temporal gyrus still aids us in our daily function, hence why we do not solely depend on the function of our fusiform gyrus.
    Lastly, I would like to address Michael’s assertion that it is difficult to assign blame in the case of the accident in the Bronx. I could not agree more with him that “Since nobody was undoubtedly responsible for the tragic incident, we must peel it back a layer.” This is indisputably true. But we also must keep in mind the outcome of the tragic error. Perhaps the officers were new on the job, and yes they, like all other humans, are subject to adrenaline rushes and clouded judgement in the face of danger. In the end though, “Carroll and McMellon fired sixteen shots each: an entire clip. Boss fired five shots. Murphy fired four shots” (194). The officers murdered an innocent man, and though their reasons may deserve our sympathy, the officers are ultimately to blame in this case.
    I hope you all are having a fun time studying for finals! And I really hope everyone’s summer plans are less boring than you all seemed to think the end of this book was…(:

  29. caeligriffin

    Also, I recently found a video which discussed some of the topics covered in Blink, although the video seemed to come to different conclusions…Anyway, here’s the link if you’re interested http://www.cnn.com/videos/politics/2016/05/24/your-brain-on-politics-pkg-kaye-ac.cnn/video/playlists/race-to-2016/

  30. ericachiang

    Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, 7.5/10

    Overall, Blink was eye-opening and had interesting studies and data. However, for the length of the book, it seems that readers should leave understanding more than, “It was processed behind the locked door, so, when pressed for an explanation, all Maier’s subjects could do was make up what seemed to them the most plausible one … I’m not sure we always respect the mysteries of the locked door” (70-71). I know he said something like that more than once or twice… One of Blink’s major downfalls in my opinion is that it is about an interesting topic–psychology. Since most people find the wonders of the brain fascinating, I think we all went into this Independent Reading book with expectations of this book being life-changing in respect to the way we face decisions. Well, it wasn’t, and the difference between the expectations and reality was probably larger than it would have been, had Blink been about some less interesting topic. Blink was not a terrible book, but instead of drawing deep, meaningful conclusions from experiments that had the potential to foster such ideas, Gladwell left us finishing his book wondering why it was 276 pages long. Essentially, Blink could have been summarized (and only lost repetitive or insignificant content) in about a chapter.

    Blink contains so many experiments and excerpts that it should be interesting, but Gladwell seems to use them they are really just used as proof of his few, repetitive “conclusions.” To me, Blink was the equivalent of a synthesis essay that restates the same point over and over again (using different evidence each time) instead of taking different works and showing how they are connected at a deeper level. This made Blink not as enjoyable as I expected, since every time I picked up the book, I knew I would just be reading about the same ideas Gladwell had been proving from the beginning of the book. Despite the disappointment, I am overall glad I read this book. It gave an introduction to decision factors to be aware of such as subconscious biases and getting overwhelmed with excess information. I do feel like Blink was awfully long given the content, although Gladwell justifies his repetitiveness, explaining, “From experience, we gain a powerful gift, the ability to act instinctively, in the moment. But — and this is one of the lessons I tried very hard to impart in Blink — it is easy to disrupt this gift” (262). Honestly, Gladwell probably explained this concept 100 times in Blink, and I’m sure we were all tired of him for it. But his point that he tried “very hard to impart” certain lessons at least gives some rationale for why he repeated his ideas so many times. Although I was not thrilled with the format of this book in that it had to draw the same conclusion over and over from potentially interesting experiments, I appreciated this book for the ideas it spurred.

    For example, I really enjoyed talking about how sometimes people put faces into the “object” category of the brain. It allowed for a more solid understanding of the concept of the parts of the brain, which Gladwell swept through in a few sentences. We developed a really thoughtful conversation about this concept, and I got more out of reading all of your comments than I did from Gladwell repeating his same points over and over again. (However, I would like to point out that many of you gave examples of people placing others in the inferior temporal gyrus when they knew they were never going to meet the people again; on the other hand, in the real-life situations that I was involved with, the people confusing me were teachers whom I saw EVERY DAY and should have known who I was! ;P ) Anyway, I would have gotten more out of the book if Gladwell had elaborated more on topics like our discussions rather than jumping from topic to topic (where all of the topics are really the same idea) like he did.

    I would recommend this book to teenagers or adults who could to think deeply and independently about the book. Blink is not very interesting if you just read it for Gladwell’s ideas; it seems that the book is best at offering background research and speculation that will spark other, more original ideas and questions that READERS have. Our blog posts about police officers and Asian girls that don’t look alike were great examples of this! They made reading Blink MUCH more interesting. I hope you guys weren’t too disappointed in Blink. I think that with more depth and variation of ideas, it could have been better, but overall, I think it proved a starting point for some substantive conversations! Have a great summer!!!

    • elenalee

      Blink by Malcolm Gladwell – 7/10

      Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is an interesting, illuminating read. Its main subject is the idea of the unconscious mind versus the conscious mind and how that unconscious mind can influence our daily decisions, prejudices, and judgments. Sometimes, the unconscious mind is helpful in allowing us to make quick snap judgments or to escape from danger. In these instances, the concept of “thin-slicing” is used: one tiny slice of experience or information can be the gateway to much wider insights. In other situations, the hidden prejudices and biases in our unconscious can influence us to make a most detrimental decision – one that can even be the difference between death and life. The problem is that everything in the unconscious happens behind a “locked door” (Gladwell 61) in our minds, so we cannot influence it except through experiences in our lives. Using a variety of amusing anecdotes, from the troubles of a pop singer named Kenna to a Greek statue to the battle of Chancellorsville, Gladwell explores the question of when we should listen to our “locked door” and when we should use our rational, conscious mind.

      That said, the content of Blink is not exactly conclusive on the subject. Admittedly, the anecdotes are indeed interesting and the book is a quick read. I am not usually a fan of nonfiction, but Blink captured my interest almost as soon as I started reading. It was also interesting to be analyzing ideas rather than literary elements in my blog posts. However, Gladwell seems to bounce around between two perspectives: “listen to your unconscious/don’t bother with loads of extraneous information” and “think it through before you act blindly on your instincts.” Many of his points are repeated (in case you didn’t understand it the first time, I suppose). Ultimately, he does not seem to come to a decisive conclusion. It is like being led through a maze and wondering where all the twists and turns will lead and suddenly being abandoned by one’s guide. For those who enjoy books that wrap themselves up with tidy little bows, this is not an ideal piece of literature. However, I personally believe that an ultimate conclusion is not the point of Blink; the point of Blink is the journey through the maze, not the exit. It is impossible, perhaps, for anyone to fully understand the unconscious, but Gladwell does the next best thing: he gives us a view of it from every angle so that we may gain awareness of it and judge for ourselves when to use it and when to ignore it. Yes, he could be more concise about it, but the overall premise of his writing is fascinating. As Erica said, it can be interesting but boring at the same time. Discussion about the ideas rather than about Gladwell’s exact anecdotes is quite illuminating and much more rewarding than simply talking about the text itself – that, I felt, was the difference between blogging about fiction and blogging about nonfiction.

      All in all, I would give Blink an 7 out of 10. Despite its repetitiveness, Gladwell’s storytelling, description, and writing style is sufficiently interesting to hold the reader’s attention. Each individual in the wide cast of characters Gladwell uses for his anecdotes is fully fleshed out (as much as one could expect from one chapter or even from a few pages). Blink does not have much crucial insight, but it presents vital information in an amusing way that penetrates one’s brain much more effectively than a typical psychology textbook. I would recommend Blink to other students as both an intriguing read and as a decent book for sparking interest in nonfiction. Truly, anyone can read it – you just need to keep an open mind while reading. Also, don’t accept any of Gladwell’s points as fact because he’s sure to contradict himself in the next paragraph.

      Thanks for all the wonderful blog posts everyone! Have a good summer! (It’s not summer yet but let’s pretend.)

      (P.S. For future readers who are wondering about how you tell Erica and I apart, I have shorter hair and glasses and I’m a bit taller. She’s also more energetic.)

  31. Helia

    I admit it: I judged Blink by its cover. I expected it to be the type of book my dad reads, full of analysis and testing and science. And, in a way, it was. But Malcolm Gladwell’s writing writing saved the day. Any other author would have made this book unbearable, but Gladwell’s writing is engaging, funny, and indisputably interesting. As I read it, I felt myself getting smarter, learning new things. Each time I read a section, I took away new knowledge. And the best part is that I found myself connecting Blink to lots of other things – history homework, Romeo and Juliet, and I even brought it up in normal conversation.

    However, despite its unique perspectives and insights, I still felt that it was a research book and that reading it was a bit of a chore. I think this has more to do with my preferred genre of books (fantasy and realistic fiction) than the book or the writing itself, but that is why I give Blink and 7/10 instead of a perfect 10/10.

    I would recommend Blink to anyone who is looking for a fresh nonfiction book that not only presents information about those around you but also makes you look deeper inside yourself.

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