Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

4 Jul

Bibliographic Information

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, Little, Brown and Co., 2005, ISBN: 0316172324

Plot Summary

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is subtitled “the power of thinking without thinking”.  Gladwell is interested in how the brain makes snap decisions and how often those snap decisions serve us better than rational thought.  Throughout the book, he offers case studies that illustrate various ways our brain takes in information, processes it, and reacts before we’re even conscious of making a decision. He profiles a variety of people to illustrate the latest discoveries in neuroscience research, including a man who can predict with 90% accuracy if a marriage will last after spending only a few minutes with a couple. He also takes us into the world of marketing and advertising to show much of our purchasing decisions are often based on the product’s package or label. Not only do we make snap judgments about the things we buy but also the people we meet. Whether it’s finding a mate or forming assumptions of different races, Gladwell explains how much of our thinking is beyond our conscious control.  This can have a positive effect, as in the case of an army general who defeats a better-equipped opponent in an army game by relying on his instincts.  It can also have negative effects, as when a group of police officers opened fire on Amadou Diallo because they thought he was ready to pull a gun.

Critical Evaluation

As he has demonstrated in his other books The Tipping Point and Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell is a master at making complex topics easy to understand and enjoy.  He organizes his chapters mixing narrative and expository writing styles, which keeps them from being dry summaries on the latest research in neuroscience and psychology.  Each chapter is focused on either an intriguing case study or fascinating story.  Gladwell uses these people and events to illustrate the concepts he wants to explain to his reader.  To discuss the concept of “thin slicing” (using limited information to reach a conclusion), for example, he tells the story of a museum curator who knew a statue was a fake before she could prove it. In discussing why experts thin slice better than novices, he tells the story of Kenna, an exceptional musician, loved by musicians and critics, but not by the public.

For readers interested in exploring how they think, Gladwell offers some interesting insights into how the brain makes decisions.  Readers will learn when it’s better to rely on deliberate thinking and when it’s better to allow one’s instincts to take over.  There are some troubling chapters that reveal how little control we have over how we react to people of different races and how much we may be manipulated by forces outside our control.  Some may think that Gladwell oversimplifies things at times, but overall his prose style is clear and engaging.

Reader’s Annotation

When are you better off allowing your instincts to guide your decision-making?  Learn how to harness “the power of thinking without thinking” by reading Malcolm Gladwell’s exploration into how we make snap judgments and when those judgments help us and hurt us.

Information about the author

From the author’s page on Amazon.com, we learn that “Malcolm Gladwell has been a staff writer with The New Yorker magazine since 1996. His 1999 profile of Ron Popeil won a National Magazine Award, and in 2005 he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People. He is the author of “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference,” (2000) and “Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking” (2005), both of which were number one New York Times bestsellers.”

Genre

Non-Fiction

Curriculum Ties

Psychology, Science, English

Booktalking Ideas

Discuss your reaction after taking the IAT test

How much control do you have over your decisions?

Reading Level / Interest Age

Grade 10 and up

Challenge Issues

N/A

Why did I include this title?

I am interested in exploring how we think and how much control we have over our decisions.  I think Gladwell does a great job making complex topics engaging for readers with his combination of storytelling and clear explanations.

 

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