Sunday, March 27, 2011

Blink I

After reading Outlier by Malcolm Gladwell, I was sufficiently interested in his other books. Afterall, he has proved himself to be such a compelling writer and presented his arguments in a concise and interesting way. More importantly, I have gained new insights from Outlier.

So the recent 20% discount by Popular Bookshop for the purchase of 3 or more English books sealed the deal and I bought his other book Blink written in 2005. I made that snap judgement after laying my eyes on the back cover of the book for mere minutes. I was intrigued to know why I was drawn to the book.

Now that I am almost halfway reading the book, I have made an attempt to trawl the net for more information about the book. This blogpost is to share what I manage to find.

About Blink

Blink is a book about the power of thinking without thinking. It considers both the strengths of the adaptive unconscious, for example in expert judgment, and its pitfalls such as stereotypes.

Thin-slicing - Making Snap Judgement

The main subject the book is defined as "thin-slicing". It refers to our ability to gauge what is really important from a very narrow period of experience. In many instances, "thin-slicing" will serve us well or even better as ploughing through loads of information.

Analysis Paralysis - When Having More is Detrimental

Gladwell mentions that sometimes having too much information can interfere with the accuracy of a judgment, or a doctor's diagnosis. This is commonly called "Analysis paralysis."

The challenge is to sift through and focus on only the most critical information to make a decision. The other information may be irrelevant and confusing to the decision maker. Collecting more and more information, in most cases, just reinforces our judgment but does not help to make it more accurate. The collection of information is commonly interpreted as confirming a person's initial belief or bias.

When Less is More

Gladwell explains that better judgments can be executed from simplicity and frugality of information, rather than the more common belief that greater information about a patient is proportional to an improved diagnosis. If the big picture is clear enough to decide, then decide from the big picture without using a magnifying glass.

Beware though Thin-slicing is Not Perfect

The book argues that intuitive judgment is developed by experience, training, and knowledge. However, prejudice can operate at an intuitive unconscious level, even in individuals whose conscious attitudes are not prejudiced. An example is in the halo effect, where a person having a salient positive quality is thought to be superior in other, unrelated respects. Gladwell uses the 1999 killing of Amadou Diallo, where four New York policemen shot an innocent man on his doorstep 41 times, as another example of how rapid, intuitive judgment can have disastrous effects.


Thus far, my reading of the book has covered up to the part about our uncanny ability to thin-slice. I have also read about examples of our intuitive judgement failing us. Going forward, I have my eyes open on how to capitalise such judgement and when to avoid the pitfalls. If I am able to identify this trait, the initial investment of 20 bucks on this book will reap me great dividends worth over a few hundred times.

Stay tuned for my next blog posting.

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