“BLINK” - - - - tells about thinking -

                                without doing just that.

                                The Power of Thinking without Thinking.

  By: Malcom Gladwell (Little Brown)

Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker, is one of those rare reporters whose work has won him an identity outside the world of journalism. His first book, “The Tipping Point” mapped the web of relationships and influence that inflate isolated phenomena into full-blown trends. The book turned him into something of a cultural shaman, especially to marketers on a quest to harness the consumer dynamic. Loads of other people read the book, too — enough that the term “tipping point’ slipped neatly into the lexicon. But the concept always had been there. It was just waiting for someone to reveal it. And this is part of Gladwell’s gift.

He explores aspects of life that seem intuitively true and yet tend to elude our attention. Gladwell’s new book can be read as a manual for learning that skill. It decodes the fleeting textures of human observation and expend ice that typically zip past us undetected. “Thin-slicing” is one of the dominant concepts at work in “Blink,” and Gladwell defines it early in the hook as “the ability of our unconsc-ious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”

His examples illustrate thin-slicing as both instinctive (a group of art experts instantly and intuitively recognize a statue as a fake without knowing that a scientific study had validated it) and methodical (a marriage counselor analyzes every word and facial expression in short video-taped conversations between people in a couple, concluding with 95 % accuracy whether the marriage will survive).

These snap judgments and decisions quite often remain mysterious even to the people who make them. Ever on the lookout for new lingo, Gladwell calls this the ‘locked door” behind which such rapid cognition takes place. Gladwell dissects the fad of speed dating, in which a group of men and women meet for rapid bursts of courtship. Two Columbia University professors have studied the process in detail. Before the sessions began, their subjects listed the characteristics they were looking for in a mate. But much to the researchers’ bewilderment, their subjects often chose people that contradicted their stated criteria.  The locked-door concept introduces the most interesting aspect of Gladwell’s book, the ways in which our hair-trigger unconscious can betray us.

On the lighter side of this trap, there’s Gladwell’s analysis of the “Warren Harding error,” the historical glitch in which the nation elected one of its worst leaders mainly because he was tall, hand some and presidential-looking. But the book’s climax (and the passage that makes it more than just another arrow in the marketing industry’s quiver) comes with Gladwell’s deconstruction of the 1999 shooting of Amadou Dia]lo, the immigrant from Guinea mistakenly gunned down by four white police officers in the Bronx. Here Gladwell brings to bear far-reaching lessons about cognition - from our instinctive reactions to facial expressions to the skewed calibration of the autistic mind - to argue that the Diallo shooting wasn’t simply a black-and-white case of brutality by racist cops or self-defense gone awry it involved an intuitive response to perceived danger.

Some readers might accuse him of over-reaching. But the individual slices that Gladwell serves up to make his point are so revealing that it’s time well spent consuming the whole stack.


                                                                                            by: John Jurgensen

                                                                                            The Hartford Courant

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