When I was traveling to and from Asia, I had a lot of time on planes and trains and I used most of that time to read. I’ve already posted reviews of some of the other books that I read and I decided to give Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell, the same treatment. My notes for Blink are less detailed than my notes for some of the other books that I have read, notably Diffusion of Innovations. This is partially because I waited longer between finishing the book and organizing my notes, but mostly because Blink is a lighter read than Diffusion of Innovations.
In Blink, Gladwell described some of the processes involved in rapid cognition and proposed that much of our thinking is a result of such rapid cognition. Whether we want to admit it or not, in a blink of an eye, we make quick judgments about people and situations. Gladwell begins the book by describing situations where the “gut feelings” of experts proved to be more accurate than seemingly thorough investigations by skilled individuals. In later chapters he delves deeper into mechanisms by which rapid cognition functions. One such mechanism is thin-slicing. Thin slicing involves recognition of only the key bits of information that matter when making a judgement. Gladwell uses the example of a researcher who can predict the likelihood of divorce after viewing a married couple’s interactions for five minutes. The researcher is able to thin-slice by looking for signs of contempt, stonewalling, defensiveness, etc. in the couple’s interaction. Gladwell himself attempted to make predictions based on the same data and failed, which leads to one of the key points in Blink. While people make many rapid judgments, only experts are consistently capabable of coming up with accurate judgments. The dark side of rapid cognition is predjudice. We can be fooled more easily than we like to admit.
I’ve heard of the book Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael LeGault and have not yet read it. However, from the product description on Amazon, it seems clear that it was written in response to Blink. From what I can gather, LeGault is offering a counter argument to an argument that Gladwell never makes in Blink. Think seems to claim that Gladwell encourages people not to think when making decisions. Instead, Gladwell encourages people to be aware of the power rapid cognition or gut reactions in their decision-making process. This awareness requires people to acknowledge that rapid cognition can interfere with good decision making at least as often as it can aid.