Malcolm Gladwell – About Human Mind’s Engine Power

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – summary of book and nuggets from Malcolm Gladwell

After breaking the ice with The Tipping Point (2000), Malcolm Gladwell cemented his status with Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, published in 2005.

This is neither a theoretical book, nor a collection of essays. It is a mélange of true stories and research findings, brilliantly woven together by Malcolm Gladwell.

He relies on these real life examples to show both the bright and the dark side of our decision-making. As the author himself stated, Blink is divided between incredible success stories and tragic failures that have one significant thing in common: our process of thinking.


UNCONSCIOUS’ RULES BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING 

Our interactions with the world are ruled by the unconscious. @Gladwell Click To Tweet

Malcolm Gladwelll’s main task is to convince us that “decisions made very quickly can be as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately”.

The second task: to identify when the conscious decision-making works better and when the unconscious one does.

The third task: to convince us that “snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled”.

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We consider ourselves rational beings at least ever since the Greeks introduced the concept. We rely on logic – the scientific approach and we seek the answers that make rational sense. What about the emotions? What about the gut feeling? As it turns out, in many situations we are better off trusting our intuition.

The unconscious mechanism behind our quick and quiet processing capability works in mysterious ways, but its power is enormous. As Malcolm Gladwell put it:

'The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger,… Click To Tweet

Malcolm Gladwell also argues that often we don’t know how we know something. “Our unconscious reactions come out of a locked room, and we can’t look inside that room. But with experience we become expert”. However, this is not merely a problem, but “a central part of what it means to be a human”. In the end, the job of our conscious mind is to pick on signals coming from the hidden, unconscious part and check their validity. We would gain a lot more if we’d paid more attention to those signals.

Our interactions with the world, especially the first impressions, are ruled by the unconscious. When confronted with little time we need to make snap judgments. In these situations our prejudices and deep beliefs come to light. We must train our unconscious mind to make better snap judgments and Malcolm Gladwell argues that this is in fact possible. It is, as he puts it, “the gift of training and expertise”.

These are just a few short ideas out of a book packed full of insights into how our mind works. But what makes Blink truly beautiful is still the storytelling.

When diving into the myriad of short stories, the reader discovers, for example, how J.Gottman can predict the future of a marriage with 90% accuracy by simply watching a couple talk. How many years does he need to reach a conclusion? Just 15 minutes and no magic. He’s got a system and he learned precisely what to look for.

Psychologists Tomkins and Ekman proved that mindreading is not a myth, but an ability that can be taught. They even created a taxonomy of facial expressions and proved that emotions always come to the surface. It also works the other way around. How could our facial expressions determinate our emotions? The baffling answer is in Blink.

Truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking.

I could go on and on with the examples, but you should to read the book in order to understand these stories in context.

Blink is a book concerned with the smallest of the details. It creates a movie out of the first few second of our thinking process. And believe me, the movie is a masterpiece!


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