Monday, September 20, 2010

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Blink deals with our innate capability to make snap judgments in the blink of an eye. Malcolm Gladwell strives to address three broad themes in this yet another masterpiece. He lays out that snap judgments could be every bit as good as ones taken after prolonged deliberation. He then states that we need to know when to trust such instincts and when we must be wary of them. Lastly, he states that the the human mind can indeed be trained to control and enable rapid cognition.

What follows is a deep-dive into the way human beings judge situations and come to instant conclusions. It turns out that we are all experts at 'thin slicing' - an ability to find patterns based on choosing specific experiences & filtering out the rest. And as we are thin slicing, our subconscious mind does guide us towards a conclusion. To prove this point, Gladwell takes us through the world of art experts (who, at a moment's observation identify a fake), a marriage analyst (who, upon looking at perceptible facial expressions & hearing conversations determines the strength of a marriage) and medical malpractice lawyers (who can hear snippets of a doctor's conversation with his patient and conclude his risk of being sued). As you go through such examples, you marvel at his ability in marshaling his points and presenting them in such a manner that you can actually relate to them.

But how do we sift the meaningless slices from the important ones? Gladwell states that slicing based on physical attributes, stature and stereotypes are best avoided. In other words, you change the way you thin slice. And, it would help to reasonably limit the options/choices that you use to arrive at a conclusion.

While the first two objectives of the book are well structured, it is the third aspect that the book lacks, viz. how can the human mind be trained. The reader is only advised that he must 'practice'; the examples mentioned thereafter are on how repeated mind reading enabled under less pressure could lead to reduction in accidental police fatalities. While I wholeheartedly agree that practice makes perfect, I definitely would have liked better examples. Or may be, there is no better example than sustained experience?

Regardless, this is yet another brilliant book from one of the world's most original thinkers. The next time you come to a conclusion in the blink of an eye, try to ascertain what you did. You may be surprised by what you find.

1 comment:

Hari said...

Check out one or both of the videos
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GScikOGe-oA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HdLoVjdLxNw

They are very much related to this posting!!