Blink is a non-fiction book written by Malcolm Gladwell that deals entirely with the subject of “snap decisions”. Have you ever looked at someone and instantly decided they were a good person or a bad person? Even though you coudln’t put your finger on why?
Have you ever been somewhere where something didn’t seem right, but you weren’t sure what?
This is the realm of Blink. Gladwell goes into extensive detail talking about various research that has been done on this area of snap decisions. The book is full of anecdotes and stories that have happened. Some of the more fascinating stories were:
- How research has shown that when a person shows up at a hospital with chest pains, doctors can make a better decision about what to do (in other words, whether this is a serious heart attack) by doing less tests. Apparently, the more information they are presented with, the harder it is to make a snap decision.
- If you try food in a blind taste test, where you don’t know which brand is which, you’ll make certain decisions about which type you like. However, if you see those same foods in their packages, you could well favour something else because the packaging changes your perceptions of what the food tastes like.
- The fascinating story of a war game that was set up in the U.S. between one team, playing the United States and another team, headed by an ex-Vietnam officer, playing a Middle Eastern country with a tyrannical dictator. The Americans were loaded with all sorts of information, modelling computers, surveillance, etc. The team playing the Middle Eastern country had much less. But the enemy team won because of their ability to make snap decisions. The most amusing part of this story was that the team playing the U.S. called a halt to the game and started again when they were losing and told the team playing the Middle East what they could and couldn’t do – so they could report to the Pentagon that they successfully won and that it was a whitewash. Need I say more?
- Why orchestras suddenly started employing female musicians when they started auditioning people behind a screen without being able to see them. (Previously, their perception that women just couldn’t play as well as men meant that they would make snap decisions about their music without really hearing them.)
So, all in all, Blink is a very easy-to-read and enjoyable book. However, I have to mark it a bit low, because at the beginning of the book, Gladwell hinted that he was going to teach us how we could make better snap decisions and learn new things. But all he did was tell a bunch of stories in his (to be honest) rather long-winded style. So while I know a lot about snap decisions and how the subconscious works, I’m still very much in the dark as to how to harness this power of quick thinking in my own life.
2 1/2 out of 5.