REACH & CLP Technology & patents ABC Play Talk ABOUT
EcoMole Blog
29 April 2015
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Miloslav NicView Miloslav Nic's profile on LinkedIn

A month ago I have arrived to a resolution to write three posts a week. But I am already lagging behind such a target. A lot of programming, some local activities, and my enthusiasm for writing suddenly diminished. I have tried to press myself to write some quick post but it did not work right. I wrote some lines but they were bad.

So I have decided to opt for a strike against myself. The strike ended with an inner agreement to write only when it brings some enjoyment. This decision removed a burden from my shoulders and my joy from writing returned.

I usually read an hour or two every day (and tweeting interesting bits) so my store of books I would like to recommend is rather full and it is time to make room for other ones.

A bit haphazardly I chose "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" written by Malcom Gladwell as the topic of my next book review.

The topic of the book is fascinating. It describes amazing acts of our brains which can sometimes perform complex tasks in virtually no time, in a second or two. Thinking in a blink can subconsciously recognize art fakes, discover hidden regularities in games, or predict future development of marriages.

But it is not all blessing when dealing with quick judgments. Thinking in a blink may be also dangerous. Our capabilities to deal with fascinating speed with complex phenomena evolved in different times, in different environments, and it may lead us astray.

I cannot summarize many examples and ideas contained in the book in a short post but I have selected a few quotations from the book which I found particularly interesting as a taster for the full course of the whole book.

Marriage is the defining experience for many people and it is useful to know that at the end most about future can be derived from just a single characteristic:

  • "Contempt is special. If you can measure contempt, then all of a sudden you don't need to know every detail of the couple's relationship."

But marriage is not everything in life and many people do not enjoy (or suffer) under it but we all should remember:

  • "what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act - and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment - are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize."
  • "people are ignorant of the things that affect their actions, yet they rarely feel ignorant. We need to accept our ignorance and say I don't know more often."
  • "our unconscious attitudes may be utterly incompatible with our stated conscious values."

For a classical example of snap judgments going wrong may serve:

  • "In the U.S. population, about 14.5 percent of all men are six feet or taller. Among CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, that number is 58 percent. Even more striking, in the general American population, 3.9 percent of adult men are six foot two or taller. Among my CEO sample, almost a third were six foot two or taller."
  • "Have you ever wondered why so many mediocre people find their way into positions of authority in companies and organizations? It's because when it comes to even the most important positions, our selection decisions are a good deal less rational than we think. We see a tall person and we swoon."

The book provides a lot of material for thinking, not only in a blink, you will have to read the whole book to really appreciate:

  • "truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking."
  • "If you get too caught up in the production of information, you drown in the data."
  • "it is really only experts who are able to reliably account for their reactions."