BLINK: THE POWER OF THINKING WITHOUT THINKING SUMMARY

What You’ll Gain from This Book

You will learn that our mind has two modes for making judgments—the slow mode based on reasoning and logic, and the fast mode based on intuition and feelings.  Malcolm Gladwell will show you that two seconds of snap judgment based on thin-slicing or intuition can be more accurate than fourteen months of rigorous analysis and scientific investigation.  This book will teach you how to develop this power of snap judgment, how you can make very accurate judgments without relying too much on your usual method of using your left brained logical and analytical mind because of our usual perception that it is more reliable and accurate than our intuition.  This book will also show you the limitations of thin-slicing, when to use, and when not to rely on your intuition and feelings.

Nugget

The psychologist Nalini Ambady once gave students three ten-second videotapes of a teacher—with the sound turned off—and found they had no difficulty at all coming up with a rating of the teacher’s effectiveness.  Then Ambady cut the clips back to five seconds, and the ratings were the same. They were remarkably consistent even when she showed the students just two seconds of videotape.  Then Ambady compared those snap judgments of teacher effectiveness with evaluations of those same professors made by their students after a full semester of classes, and she found that they were also essentially the same.  A person watching a silent two-second video clip of a teacher he or she has never met will reach conclusions about how good that teacher is that are very similar to those of a student who has sat in the teacher’s class for an entire semester.  That’s the power of our adaptive unconscious.”

                                                                                                         -Malcolm Gladwell

In a Nutshell

  • Introduction: The Statue that Didn’t Look Right
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum in California was offered to buy a kouros.
  • Other experts however, sensed that the statue didn’t feel right.
  • The Theory of Thin-Slicing: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way
  • John Gottman asserts that rapid cognition is reliable.
  • Thin-slicing is not a supernatural power but a fairly common but seldom recognized human capability.
  • The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Judgment
  • The power of words or priming was the subject of John Bargh’s experiments.
  • The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall For Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men
  • The rise to power of Warren Harding was exceptionally fast.
  • His presidency is the dark side of thin-slicing.
  • Appearances alone, is not sufficient for thin-slicing, as Bob Golomb’s success in selling cars aptly shows. 
  • Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity
  • The Millenium Challenge was one of the largest and most expensive war games in US military history.
  • The Blue Team was the most sophisticated force ever assembled by the US military. 
  • They were dealt a resounding defeat by Van Riper.
  • Does more options lead to better decisions?
  • Iyengar’s research concluded in the negative.
  • Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right-And Wrong-Way To Ask People What They Want
  • Kenna is an enigma.
  • Sensation Transference was a theory popularized by Louis Cheskin.
  • The Pepsi challenge and New Coke is on point at how Sensation Transference works.
  • Coke shouldn’t have changed their original formula.
  • Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind-Reading
  • The Amadou Diallo Case is illustrative of failure to do mind-reading. 
  • The failure to mind-read based on facial expressions leads to erratic thin-slicing.
  • Silvan Tomkins, Paul Ekman, and Wallace Friesen contributed much to the growth of our knowledge on mindreading.
  • Ekman and Friesen created a taxonomy of facial expressions based on the anatomy and minute movements of facial muscles which was the general technique employed by Tomkins in reading people. 

Summary

Introduction: The Statue that Didn’t Look Right

  • The J. Paul Getty Museum in California was offered to buy a kouros—a marble sculpture of a nude male youth, in September, 1983.  The museum made a thorough investigation through its panel of experts for fourteen months before deciding to buy based on the recommendation of Stanley Margolis, a respected geologist from the University of California who examined the statue for two days with a high-resolution stereomicroscope and analyzed it using an electron microscope, electron microprobe, mass spectrometry, X-ray diffraction, X-ray fluorescence, or in short, the best tools that science can offer.

  • However, other experts sensed that the statue didn’t feel right within two seconds after watching the kouros for the first time, and they set forth their doubts that the statue was a forgery.  The statue was brought to Greece and a symposium was convened among experts who also concluded that the kouros was a forgery, which was also reaffirmed upon further investigations.  This book is about how we can make use of the power of a two second hunch that knows better than fourteen months of expert and rigorous scientific analysis, how to use and develop this power of rapid cognition, and when not to use it by recognizing its limits.

The Theory of Thin-Slicing: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way

  • John Gottman asserts that rapid cognition is reliable, based on his studies of soon-to-be and married couples on his “love lab” near the University of Washington campus. He videotapes each couple and analyzes them using a coding system corresponding to every emotion that the couples show during their conversation.  His method can predict with 95 and 90 percent accuracy respectively, whether those couples would still be married fifteen years later if he watches them for an hour or for fifteen minutes.  An associate of his who also made a new study can also attain a fairly accurate prediction for only three minutes of interaction.  It is counter-intuitive but entirely possible to determine the outcome of a marriage in a fairly short time.
  • Thin-slicing is not a supernatural power but a fairly common but seldom recognized human capability. “We thin-slice whenever we meet a new person or have to make sense of something quickly or encounter a novel situation. We thin-slice because we have to, and we come to rely on that ability because there are lots of hidden fists out there, lots of situations where careful attention to the details of a very thin slice, even for no more than a second or two, can tell us an awful lot.  It is striking, for instance, how many different professions and disciplines have a word to describe the particular gift of reading deeply into the narrowest slivers of experience. In basketball, the player who can take in and comprehend all that is happening around him or her is said to have “court sense.” In the military, brilliant generals are said to possess “coup d’oeil”—which, translated from the French, means “power of the glance”: the ability to immediately see and make sense of the battlefield. Napoleon had coup d’oeil. So did Patton.”

The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Judgment

  • The power of words or priming was the subject of John Bargh’s experiments wherein he gave his subjects one of two scrambled-sentence tests. The first group was sprinkled with words like “aggressively,” “rude,” “bother,” etc.  The other was written with words like “respect,” “considerate,” “appreciate,” etc.  After the test, the subjects’ behavior were observed when they passed two accomplices in the experiment, who were talking to each other and were blocking the path of the subjects.  It was observed that the behavior of the subjects corresponded to the words that they were exposed to during the test.  Our subconscious responds to our environment and our mental programming is significantly affected whether we are exposing our minds either to empowering or destructive words and beliefs.

The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall For Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men

  • The rise to power of Warren Harding was exceptionally fast.  “Early one morning in 1899, in the back garden of the Globe Hotel in Richwood, Ohio, two men met while having their shoes shined.  One was a lawyer and lobbyist from the state capital of Columbus.  His name was Harry Daugherty.  He was a thick-set, red-faced man with straight black hair, and he was brilliant.  He was the Machiavelli of Ohio politics, the classic behind-the scenes fixer, a shrewd and insightful judge of character or, at least, political opportunity.  The second man was a newspaper editor from the small town of Marion, Ohio, who was at that moment a week away from winning election to the Ohio state senate. His name was Warren Harding.  Daugherty looked over at Harding and was instantly overwhelmed by what he saw…  In that instant, as Daugherty sized up Harding, an idea came to him that would alter American history: Wouldn’t that man make a great President?”  In a few short years, that man indeed became a president—but he was anything but great.
  • His presidency is the dark side of thin-slicing—his ascent to prominence was attributable solely to his good looks and the stage management of Daugherty, not to any merit of competence, statesmanship, or talent.  Gladwell reiterates the conclusions of Robert Cialdini in his book Influence, where the latter elaborated on the observable and easily verifiable fact that attractive people have a decidedly distinct advantage in winning public office, at being hired for the job, in making that sale, etc., because of the halo effect, where people attribute many positive qualities to someone solely on the basis of the latter’s attractiveness.
  • Appearances alone, is not sufficient for thin-slicing, as Bob Golomb’s success in selling cars aptly shows.  “He follows, he says, a very simple rule. He may make a million snap judgments about a customer’s needs and state of mind, but he tries never to judge anyone on the basis of his or her appearance. He assumes that everyone who walks in the door has the exact same chance of buying a car.  “You cannot prejudge people in this business,” he said over and over when we met, and each time he used that phrase, his face took on a look of utter conviction. Prejudging is the kiss of death.”  A grimy farmer may already have a lot of farm vehicles to his name, and adding one more would not hurt, and a grungy and skinny youth may be checking out the cars at the behest of parents who have money to spare.

Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity

  • The Millenium Challenge was one of the largest and most expensive war games in US military history, which was undertaken to test the American forces’ readiness and capability in asymmetrical or unconventional warfare.  Their forces were divided into the Blue Team, or the good guys, and the Red Team skippered by Van Riper, a well-decorated Vietnam veteran, as the bad guys.
  • The Blue Team was the most sophisticated force ever assembled by the US military.  It “was given greater intellectual resources than perhaps any army in history.  JFCOM (Joint Forces Command) devised something called the Operational Net Assessment, which was a formal decision-making tool that broke the enemy down into a series of systems military, economic, social, political—and created a matrix showing how all those systems were interrelated and which of the links among the systems were the most vulnerable. Blue Team’s commanders were also given a tool called Effects-Based Operations, which directed them to think beyond the conventional military method of targeting and destroying an adversary’s military assets. They were given a comprehensive, real-time map of the combat situation called the Common Relevant Operational Picture (CROP). They were given a tool for joint interactive planning. They were given an unprecedented amount of information and intelligence from every corner of the U.S. government and a methodology that was logical and systematic and rational and rigorous. They had every toy in the Pentagon’s arsenal.”
  • They were dealt a resounding defeat by Van Riper, who did not behave according to plan but relied on spontaneity and improvisation, and made decisions on the spot.  Likewise, he also authorized his subordinates to make tactical decisions on their own so long as they prosecute the general strategic goals.  The matrices and databases of Blue Team cannot anticipate the intents and actions of an unpredictable and flexible enemy.  Moreover, sophisticated tools of the Blue Team are like the “impedimenta” or excess baggage that the Roman generals abhor when they pursue an elusive enemy.  The complex technology of the Blue Team encumbered and slowed down its decision-making capability in the face of an unpredictably difficult enemy led by a commander relying on thin-slicing and improvisation.
  • Does more options lead to better decisions?  This was the subject of Sheena Iyengar’s study “in which she sets up a tasting booth with a variety of exotic gourmet jams at the upscale grocery store Draeger’s in Menlo Park, California. Sometimes the booth had six different jams, and sometimes Iyengar had twenty-four different jams on display. She wanted to see whether the number of jam choices made any difference in the number of jams sold.  Conventional economic wisdom, of course, says that the more choices consumers have, the more likely they are to buy, because it is easier for consumers to find the jam that perfectly fits their needs.”
  • Iyengar’s research concluded in the negative; according to the results of her study, too much of a good thing is bad for our snap judgments—too many choices swamp our subconscious mind’s capacity to process information which affects its usual ability to make sound decisions based on thin slicing.  In the said experiment, people bought more jams when they were offered only six choices than when they were offered twenty-four choices—too many choices led to the decision not to make a choice i.e., not to buy.

Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right And Wrong Way To Ask People What They Want

  • Kenna is an enigma.  According to Gladwell, he “is very tall and strikingly handsome, with a shaved head and a goatee.  He looks like a rock star, but he has none of a rock star’s swagger and braggadocio and staginess.  There is something gentle about him.  He is polite and thoughtful and unexpectedly modest, and he talks with the quiet earnestness of a graduate student.  When Kenna got one of his first big breaks and opened at a rock concert for the well-respected band No Doubt, he either forgot to tell the audience his name (which is how his manager tells it) or decided against identifying himself (which is how he tells it.)  “Who are you?” the fans were yelling by the end.   Kenna is the sort of person who is constantly at odds with your expectations, and that is both one of the things that make him so interesting and one of the things that have made his career so problematic.”
  • Sensation Transference was a theory popularized by Louis Cheskin, where he posited the view that people don’t make a distinction at the subconscious level between the product and the packaging i.e., the product is not the product by itself but the product and the packaging combined.  Kenna is a good product, he is extremely talented according to talent scouts and fans who have seen him perform personally on auditions and when he front acts for other artists; but he has a packaging problem, others who have not seen him in person cannot make sound snap judgment about his talent which accounts for the dismal reception of his music in terms of radio play time and records sales.     
  • The Pepsi challenge and New Coke is on point at how Sensation Transference works.  The New Coke was introduced in response to blind tests which showed that consumers preferred the sweeter taste of Pepsi over Coke.  The result was an utter fiasco—their sales did not go up as expected, but dismally plummeted because Coke fanatics hated the new product and demanded the return of original Coke.  On hindsight, Coke did not have a product problem but a packaging that is, a branding or marketing problem according to Sensation Transference.  
  • Coke shouldn’t have changed their product because according to Gladwell, “when we put something in our mouth and in that blink of an eye decide whether it tastes good or not, we are reacting not only to the evidence from our taste buds and salivary glands but also to the evidence of our eyes and memories and imaginations, and it is foolish of a company to service one dimension and ignore the other. In that context, then, Coca-Cola’s error with New Coke becomes all the more egregious. It wasn’t just that they placed too much emphasis on sip tests.  It was that the entire principle of a blind taste test was ridiculous.  They shouldn’t have cared so much that they were losing blind taste tests with old Coke, and we shouldn’t at all be surprised that Pepsi’s dominance in blind taste tests never translated to much in the real world.  Why not?  Because in the real world, no one ever drinks Coca-Cola blind.  We transfer to our sensation of the Coca-Cola taste all of the unconscious associations we have of the brand, the image, the can, and even the unmistakable red of the logo.”

Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind-Reading

  • The Amadou Diallo Case is illustrative of failure to do mind-reading.  Gladwell narrates that Diallo was from Guinea, and in 1999, when the case happened, he was twenty-two and was, “working as a peddler in lower Manhattan, selling videotapes and socks and gloves from the sidewalk along Fourteenth Street.  He was short and unassuming, about five foot six and 150 pounds, and he lived at 1157 Wheeler, on the second floor of one of the street’s narrow apartment houses.   On the night of February 3, 1999, Diallo returned home to his apartment just before midnight, talked to his roommates, and then went downstairs and stood at the top of the steps to his building, taking in the night.   A few minutes later, a group of plainclothes police officers turned slowly onto Wheeler Avenue in an unmarked Ford Taurus.  There were four of them-all white, all wearing jeans and sweatshirts and baseball caps and bulletproof vests, and all carrying police-issue 9-millimeter semiautomatic handguns.   They were part of what is called the Street Crime Unit, a special division of the New York Police Department, dedicated to patrolling crime “hot spots” in the city’s poorest neighborhoods.”
  • The failure to mind-read based on facial expressions leads to erratic thin-slicing.  Diallo’s failure to mind-read the intention of policemen who merely approached him, made him overreact and run right away.  The policemen’s failure to mind-read Dallio led them to fire at him when at the end of the chase, he raised his hand and took out his black wallet (Investigators surmised that he might have thought that they were out to rob or extort money from him because they were not in uniform.).  In the darkness (The event happened a little past midnight.) and adrenaline rush, they failed to mind-read his intentions and mistakenly thought that the black wallet was a gun.
  • Silvan Tomkins, Paul Ekman, and Wallace Friesen contributed much to the growth of our knowledge on mindreading.  Tomkins has an extraordinary ability to know much about the personality and background of people based on their facial expression alone.  When he was shown a film about two primitive tribes (He has no prior knowledge of the people shown on the clip.), he described them in this wise:  “These are a sweet, gentle people, very indulgent, very peaceful,” he said.  Then he pointed to the faces of the Kukukuku. “This other group is violent, and there is lots of evidence to suggest homosexuality.”  This uncannily accurate description of the first tribe applies accurately to the peaceful South Fore Tribe of Papua, New Guinea, and to another hostile tribe who had a social norm of subjecting their adolescent boys to sodomy by the elder male tribe members.

  • Ekman and Friesen created a taxonomy of facial expressions based on the anatomy and minute movements of facial muscles which was the general technique employed by Tomkins in reading people.  They were able to catalogue forty-three such movements which they call action units and developed this into a system and a book called Facial Action Coding System (FACS) which is a tool that can accurately read what a person is thinking, what he or she went through, or is about to do and opened up new avenues for research in diverse fields from schizophrenia to heart disease.  Beyond science, FACS has also seen creative applications in revolutionary movie making done through computer animation at Pixar (Toy Story) and DreamWorks (Shrek).  In a more mundane note, there is now a scientific basis for lovers’ eternal obsession with looking into each other’s eyes, there is a world of learning and truth that we can glean from a person’s face, and a picture—or a video clip, indeed speaks a thousand words.

To Recap

  • Introduction: The Statue that Didn’t Look Right
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum in California was offered to buy a kouros.
  • Other experts however, sensed that the statue didn’t feel right.
  • The Theory of Thin-Slicing: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way
  • John Gottman asserts that rapid cognition is reliable.
  • Thin-slicing is not a supernatural power but a fairly common but seldom recognized human capability.
  • The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Judgment
  • The power of words or priming was the subject of John Bargh’s experiments.
  • The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall For Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men
  • The rise to power of Warren Harding was exceptionally fast.
  • His presidency is the dark side of thin-slicing.
  • Appearances alone, is not sufficient for thin-slicing, as Bob Golomb’s success in selling cars aptly shows. 
  • Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity
  • The Millenium Challenge was one of the largest and most expensive war games in US military history.
  • The Blue Team was the most sophisticated force ever assembled by the US military. 
  • They were dealt a resounding defeat by Van Riper.
  • Does more options lead to better decisions?
  • Iyengar’s research concluded in the negative.
  • Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right-And Wrong-Way To Ask People What They Want
  • Kenna is an enigma.
  • Sensation Transference was a theory popularized by Louis Cheskin.
  • The Pepsi challenge and New Coke is on point at how Sensation Transference works.
  • Coke shouldn’t have changed their original formula.
  • Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind-Reading
  • The Amadou Diallo Case is illustrative of failure to do mind-reading. 
  • The failure to mind-read based on facial expressions leads to erratic thin-slicing.
  • Silvan Tomkins, Paul Ekman, and Wallace Friesen contributed much to the growth of our knowledge on mindreading.
  • Ekman and Friesen created a taxonomy of facial expressions based on the anatomy and minute movements of facial muscles which was the general technique employed by Tomkins in reading people. 

To know more about Malcolm Gladwell or to order his books: https://www.gladwellbooks.com/landing-page/about-malcolm-gladwell/

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For the PDF version of this summary and for more of my titles: https://romelbaja.home.blog/book-summaries/

Published by romelbajarumination

I'm an entrepreneur, blogger, online marketer, and Youtube content creator. I love reading, visual arts, organic farming, mushroom cultivation, basketball, Netflix, among other things. Follow me on Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Reddit.

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