TBR: Blink

Today’s book is Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcom Gladwell, which has been hanging out on the bestseller lists for a while.  Like Gladwell’s last book, The Tipping Point, Blink is an accessible look at an interesting psychological phenomenon, in this case, why people are (sometimes) able to make highly accurate snap judgments.

Gladwell’s a good writer, and his essays for the New Yorker are always worth reading.  He can take the unlikeliest of topics and make it interesting for 20 pages or so; his examination of the history and science of disposible diapers remains one of my favorites.

Unfortunately, Blink is over 200 pages, and while it covers topics from modern warfare to detecting art forgeries, from emergency room protocols to the Diallo shooting, it only has slightly more substance than the article that it started out as.  That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the book.  I did (and read it in a matter of days).  But I found the core argument of the book somewhat lacking.

Gladwell argues that humans have a great ability to make accurate judgments in a flash, based on limited information.  Except, of course, when we fail.  Gladwell argues that quick judgments fail when they’re based on the wrong kinds of information (race, gender, height) or when we try to incorporate too much information and get overwhelmed.  Fair enough, but in the real world it’s almost impossible to know whether we’re in a situation where it’s good to trust our instincts or one where we’re reacting out of bias.

One Response to “TBR: Blink”

  1. Megan Says:

    The New Yorker article was very interesting, but I was struck by how all the major interviewees were men, and presumably white. Does the book reflect the same bias? I’m curious because I’ve both read and observed that people from oppressed classes (women and ethnic minorities) tend to have better skills at reading faces than white men do — flexing those skills for survival more than white men need to.

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