Monday, May 22, 2006

BLINK – The Power of Thinking without Thinking

Have you ever had one of those moments, when you know something without really knowing why? Sometimes the 1st instance we meet someone we realize this person is honest or dishonest, but later we tell ourselves “Hey that’s not right, how did we say that, maybe our 1st impression was wrong”. The power of that unconscious mind is what Blink is all about.

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell considers how effective decisions are made. A snap judgment made in the ‘blink of an eye’ says can actually be far more effective than one made deliberately and cautiously. By blocking what is irrelevant and focusing only on the narrow slices of experience, or ‘thin slicing’ we can read a seemingly complex situation in an instant and discover radically new way of understanding the world.

We all do ‘Thin Slicing’ specifically in emergency situations, when we have no time to think. For example if we suddenly see a truck rushing at us, we don’t consciously think about moving away, we just run.

There are many interesting cases that Gladwell describes which show how sometimes that unconscious mind can be manipulated into performing in a particular way. Such an instance is when two Dutch researchers did a study where they had two groups of equally intelligent students answer 42 questions from Trivial Pursuit. Half were asked to take five mins and think about being a professor and the half to think about being soccer hooligans before taking the test.

The ‘Professors’ got an average of 55.6% while the ‘Hooligans’ got an average of 42.6%. The professors were simply in a ‘smart’ frame of mind. So maybe the next time I go into an exam I should go in with a ‘Professor’ frame of mind!

The bad side of this ‘thin slicing is when buried among the things we say we don’t like is a class of products that are in that category only because they are weird. They make us nervous. They are so different that it takes some time to understand that we like them. I guess sometimes we need some extra time to get used to different things, it’s like intertia, you need that extra force to push you out of the “Comfort Zone”.

Though I really enjoyed the book, I was hoping that it would have tips on how we can make that ‘snap judgment’ more accurate. This had many examples of how useful this snap judgment can be, but not much information on how we can use this for everyday life. Ofcourse now when I think of first impressions, I think about them in whole new way.


Blogger megz_mum said...

Thank you for the review, I might look out for this book and give it a whirl. Interesting ideas!

11:34 am, May 22, 2006  
Blogger amit said...

Just wondering isnt it possible that the "hooligan" group was just totally distracted by this exercise as they were not able to get their minds off football,beer, shouting and just being liberated. The trivia quiz after it was just too boring and had to was just like mundane "work". Whereas he professors were thinking boring things so the trivia was a much needed excitement. In other words they were highly motivated. So the difference wasnt in the subconcious mind but in the levels of motivation.


4:52 pm, May 22, 2006  
Blogger ipodmomma said...

interesting... had not heard of this book...

football hooligans, however, is something I hear about often! especially with the world cup approaching... :)))

6:37 pm, May 22, 2006  
Blogger smiley said...

Hmmm... interesting perspective Amit about the experiment. I guess since I don't find Football particularly 'fun' I never really thought about it that way.

4:23 am, May 23, 2006  

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