The Logical Philosopher

Friday, November 11, 2005

Blink: Book review

As I noted 2 weeks ago I was reading reading Blink: The power of thinking without thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. Overall it was worth the read and it gave some interesting concepts to consider in the area of "rapid cognition".

Intelligence - Did I learn anything?9/10
Content - Well Researched? Well Written?8/10
Context - Can I apply this after reading it?5/10
Overall Rating7.5/10

I would recommend it to anyone that is interested in understanding perceptual biases, how you make decisions and how rapid cognition can work (or not work) to your advantage. Be forewarned that it is a little shallow beyond the stories so it will take some leaps of intellect for the *blink* application of rapid cognition to be used to your benefit.

Overall I thought the book was fairly well done and an easy read. I found his concepts of 'thin slicing' and 'rapid cognition' interesting, mostly due to his story-telling and example based presentation of his research. They made me think (and understand) about some of the decisions I've made or may make based on certain perceptions I may have. It is a definite concept to use when problem solving or digesting complex issues in short periods of time.

The content was well researched and Gladwell tied it together at the end of each chapter (and between some chapters). However, I was fairly disappointed by the lack of context - I was left with the feeling that now aware of my potential to 'thin slice', where *do* I actually apply it? This point comes up because he does note that thin slicing must be done in context, but he doesn't give much depth on how to determine the context. On that point my biggest take-away is you have to be an expert in something to be able to 'thin slice' efficiently and effectively, or you'll probably screw it up or do it out of context (A few of the examples he gave of errors in rapid cognition related to immaturity in the field).

Gladwell inferred that if we want we can control the environment that we 'thin slice' in, thereby we can control the rapid cognition. A step towards application, but it still fell short of the *how*.

Maybe he's just setting himself up for his next


A few random notes that I considered (with page numbers). These jumped out as the "should ponder this for awhile" when I read them.

p 124 - there are patters in chaos and thin slicing will help us see that. I inferred that this will work if you are an expert in that particular chaotic environment.

p 122 - explains that becoming reflective of insight type problems undermines the ability to solve them. Why? You lose the 'cognitive flow' that you need to solve them in the first place. So next time you have to stop & think about the problem, you're probably not going to solve it.

p 136 - less is more. Information age gives us sensory overload and as a result we don't make any better decisions.

p 166 - thin slicing must be done in context (but he didn't really expand on that!)

p 250 - 'listen with your eyes' - perception bias is very strong. Next time you make a decision based on having to look at something, your preconceived notions will probably make the decision for you, not the content of the presented decision.

p 252 - if we are aware of the 'blink' and if we are not resigned to taking the first impression we can control rapid cognition's environment and thus control rapid cognition.