Book Review: Blink

Today I finished reading Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. In the last few months I've noticed this book referenced in blog posts (recently, Dr. Greg Low and Get Rich Slowly), often with praise, and so I was looking forward to reading it.

Blink is an entertaining book and broad look at how our unconscious mind works. The book never gets overly technical and Malcolm Gladwell has a great writing style and way of telling stories that made me keep turning page after page.

I was most interested in the accounts of decision making by army commanders and police officers, and a kind of thought-association game called the IAT that shows unconscious preferences (spooky).

Some other interesting insights from the book:

  • often problems can be reduced down to simple elements, and good decision makers edit out information that's just "clutter" (chapter 4)
  • according to one researcher, a major predictor of whether marriages will fail is "contempt", and other factors like defensiveness and criticism come into play as well (chapter 1)
  • when we examine our thoughts and try to come up with logical reasons for them, our insight can be impaired (chapters 4 & 5)
  • Food testers have very specific scales for analysing color, color intensity, slipperiness, crispiness, shine, firmness, denseness, and so on. An Orea cookie can be analysed on 90 different attributes! (chapter 5)
  • Emotion can start on the face, and our expression of emotion is so closely tied to our feeling the emotion that merely pulling an angry face can make our heart rate rise, as if we were angry (chapter 6)
The book doesn't give much advice on how we would go about improving our "at first glance" assessments or intuition, which is understandable, as situations where we might have to use these powers vary so much. I enjoyed reading it more for the explanation of other's situations, than for an insight into my own thinking.

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