Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Book Chapter Analysis
Gladwell attempts to aid the readers in understanding how exactly people tend to think without thinking. He supports his claims with evidence taken from various situations and events, making the case regarding pros and cons of the “blink”, being successful in this task. He wants to show that people’s initial reactions, or “blink” can be a lot more accurate than people tend to think, but they still may fail. Gladwell’s journalistic background allows him to deal with observations and research of the issues that trouble the modern society. One cannot say that he wrote his thoughts from the point of view of a genius, but his work can still be beneficial for psychologists.
Gladwell’s work is very easy to read, and that is great strength of the book. People of different age, background, or education will find this book interesting as it appeals to everyone. His writing is the example of how to deliver information to the reader, and this is something that psychologists could study and retool for their use if they want to have easy communication with their listeners. The title of each chapter in the book is catchy making the reader eagerly anticipate what will be next.
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Concepts that are quite difficult to understand are wrapped in the understandable package in the chapters titled as “The Warren Harding Error” and “The Theory of Thin Slices”. Gladwell creatively presents such complex concepts like the Trinity, the doctrine of election, justification, redemption, propitiation, redemption, etc. in very understandable, familiar to anyone pictures.
Each claim made by Gladwell is supported by numerous illustrations that aid the author’s writing style. The Introduction has an opening illustration showing that some art gallery is about to buy falsified kouros and this illustration gives such a hook for the readers that few authors can give. Illustrations in the book can cater to different tastes. Gladwerll has done a tremendous work when he found examples that would provide support for his “blink” theory and how he understands the pros and cons rapid cognition has.
For instance, he uses politics and history
For instance, he uses politics and history as the illustration material (“The Warren Harding Error”) (72). He uses culture of the 1980’s (Coca Cola’s response to the Pepsi® Challenge taste tests) (155). Scientists and those who prefer hard data will find fascinating such scientific studies as Gottman’s “Love Lab” (14) or the test with a deck of -blue and red cards used in the University of Iowa (8). Gladwell does not forget about sports either (48-48), prejudice (245), classical music, and war strategy (99). The author takes everything that could be of interest to any member of the society in regards to culture or history thus appealing to the audience of wide range.
Gladwell’s book can teach people to avoid being prejudiced towards people they come across. For instance, in “The Warren Harding Error” which is chapter 3 of the book, he tells about some car salesperson possessing the rapid cognition ability who found truthful the old saying, “Never judge a book by its cover” (91). The author uses different examples to illustrate his ides – like the previously mentioned car salesperson, or some police officer that found someone’s looks suspicious (191), or a female trombonist whose strength seemed not enough for the conductor of the Munich Philharmonic orchestra (245). Another example is a violinist from Japan who considered himself not emotional enough for the European classical music (246-247).
Gladwell points out that preachers simply must remind all people that they are children of God and were made in his image with all backgrounds and pack of issues. The author also provides the readers with understanding that even preachers have rapid cognition related to their backgrounds in particular. It emphasizes the importance of clear understanding the situation before making any judgments by preachers.
Some chapters are more exciting than others are. The chapter with “Paul Van Riper's Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity,” provides the reader with an excellent story. The core of the story is about a military game used by the Pentagon in order to simulate the Middle East situated conflict. The results of the game were frustrating for the U.S. government team – the opposing team was led by a general in retirement who managed to incapacitate the entire American fleet with one simple but smart decision. It was the example of “thinking outside the box”. The game was restarted due to the unconditional victory of the opposing side. Thus, the American side got the new chance. Gladwell managed to mix the story of this game and analysis of treatment in medical sphere. The focus was on the heart attacks. The author explained how it became possible to implement the new methods in order to make the treatment more effective and useful. Gladwell told the stories and mixed them to show how chaotic issues in troubling situation can be solved via not using deep and thorough thinking. It is an excellent chapter, probably the best in the entire book.
It is the approach that fits into the paradigm presented by the author. Gladwell’s main and first goal in the book was to make the reader convinced of a fact that when someone makes quick decisions, these decisions are no worse than those that take much time, consideration, and caution to make. In order to illustrate this statement the author started his narration by telling an interesting anecdote that he had taken from the art history. This anecdote is about a situation that the officials of the Getty Museum in Los Angeles got into when in 1983 they were about to purchase something very rare and extraordinary. It was an artifact, a marble statue dating to as far as 6th century BC. Lawyers and researchers had joined their efforts in re-tracing the statue’s legal ownership that counted many ages. Complex and sophisticated microscopes were used to examine the surface of the statue. Researchers even extracted core samples from the statue, studying them with the state-of-the-art gadgets. In other words, the statue was examined from the top to the bottom.
Essentially, having received all hard evidence, done all examinations and studies, the researchers concluded that the statue was really old and rare, just like it appeared to be. Nevertheless, the surprise was incredible when an art critic who had doubts of the authenticity of the statue said that to him the statue did not look right. He based his words on his gut feeling. As it turned out, his gut feeling had put to shame all the scientists and lawyers as it proved to be correct. The rare statue cost the museum $10 million and turned out to be a brilliantly made fake. The international reputation of the museum was damaged to great extent. This weird yet natural impulse that Gladwell calls “thin slicing” has the cognitive theory backing it and is the core concept of Blink. This chapter does not provide any lessons and is rather weak. It states obvious things in a form of an anecdote so this one is not good for such an interesting book as the rest of it appeared to be.
Gladwell managed to create and present a very interesting theory supporting it by numerous illustrations and examples. The book has excellent windfalls as well as ordinary obvious statements not interesting to the most intelligent people to read. Therefore, such convergence of obvious and unusual provides certain charm to the book and makes Gladwell the author worthy of attention.
- Gladwell, M. (2007). Blink: The power of thinking without thinking. New York, NY: Back Bay Books.