Monday, December 31, 2007


The holiday break gave me a chance to finally read "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell and I loved it.

The book is about our "adaptive unconscious" which is the part of the brain that reacts quickly or "instinctively" for us. You use this, for example, "when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a truck is bearing down on you". Here you clearly don't have time to consciously think about all of your options!

In this mode of thinking the brain will process a vast amount of information and render a decision very quickly. We have difficulty explaining the rational for these decisions though and often can only describe them as hunches or gut feelings.

This kind of thinking can be helpful or hurtful depending on how and when you use it. Malcolm describes, for example, an art expert who is able to quickly and accurately spot a forgery even though he is unable to explain exactly how he knows. He also describes a car salesman who is betrayed by his unconscious because of certain stereotypes based on sex or skin color that cause him to lose sales.

The book describes this type of thinking and makes the case that it is possible to "educate and control" our "snap judgements and first impressions".

In Blink you'll meet doctors and generals and coaches and furniture designers and musicians and actors and car salesmen and countless others, all of whom are very good at what they do and all of whom owe their success, at least in part, to the steps they have taken to shape and manage and educate their unconscious reactions.

My one criticism is that he is not able to explain when you should or should not trust your this "unconscious" thinking. It was very interesting reading though and I highly recommend it.

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