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Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking

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Overview

In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up ...

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Overview

In his landmark bestseller The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within. Blink is a book about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant-in the blink of an eye-that actually aren't as simple as they seem. Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work-in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others? In Blink we meet the psychologist who has learned to predict whether a marriage will last, based on a few minutes of observing a couple; the tennis coach who knows when a player will double-fault before the racket even makes contact with the ball; the antiquities experts who recognize a fake at a glance. Here, too, are great failures of "blink": the election of Warren Harding; "New Coke"; and the shooting of Amadou Diallo by police. Blink reveals that great decision makers aren't those who process the most information or spend the most time deliberating, but those who have perfected the art of "thin-slicing"-filtering the very few factors that matter from an overwhelming number of variables.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Rash, impetuous, hasty, careless -- snap judgments conjure up a troubling list of negatives. But Tipping Point author Malcolm Gladwell, aware that the flip side of a snap judgment is a brilliant intuitive act, set out to discover what underlies our gut decisions, exploring when we can (and should) trust them…even whether we can learn to make good ones. From recognizing a brilliant French horn soloist to avoiding another Amadou Diallo shooting, he offers surprising insights into the power of the unconscious to get it right.
Howard Gardner
In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, a former science and business reporter at The Washington Post who now writes for the New Yorker, offers his account of this sort of seemingly instantaneous judgment. Readers acquainted with Gladwell's articles and his 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point will have high anticipations for this volume; those expectations will be met. The book features the fascinating case studies, skilled interweavings of psychological experiments and explanations and unexpected connections among disparate phenomenon that are Gladwell's impressive trademark.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
Best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study. As he displays again in this entertaining and illuminating look at how we make snap judgments-about people's intentions, the authenticity of a work of art, even military strategy-he can parse for general readers the intricacies of fascinating but little-known fields like professional food tasting (why does Coke taste different from Pepsi?). Gladwell's conclusion, after studying how people make instant decisions in a wide range of fields from psychology to police work, is that we can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts-and that less input (as long as it's the right input) is better than more. Perhaps the most stunning example he gives of this counterintuitive truth is the most expensive war game ever conducted by the Pentagon, in which a wily marine officer, playing "a rogue military commander" in the Persian Gulf and unencumbered by hierarchy, bureaucracy and too much technology, humiliated American forces whose chiefs were bogged down in matrixes, systems for decision making and information overload. But if one sets aside Gladwell's dazzle, some questions and apparent inconsistencies emerge. If doctors are given an algorithm, or formula, in which only four facts are needed to determine if a patient is having a heart attack, is that really educating the doctor's decision-making ability-or is it taking the decision out of the doctor's hands altogether and handing it over to the algorithm? Still, each case study is satisfying, and Gladwell imparts his own evident pleasure in delving into a wide range of fields and seeking an underlying truth. Agent, Tina Bennett. (Jan. 13) Forecast: A 25-city tour (including several university towns) should introduce Gladwell to new readers and help sell out the 200,000-copy first printing. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Howard Gardner

In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell, a former science and business reporter at The Washington Post who now writes for the New Yorker, offers his account of this sort of seemingly instantaneous judgment. Readers acquainted with Gladwell's articles and his 2000 bestseller The Tipping Point will have high anticipations for this volume; those expectations will be met. The book features the fascinating case studies, skilled interweavings of psychological experiments and explanations and unexpected connections among disparate phenomenon that are Gladwell's impressive trademark.
The Washington Post

Library Journal
Journalist Gladwell (The Tipping Point) examines the process of snap decision making. Contrary to the model of a rational process involving extensive information gathering and rational analysis, most decisions are made instantaneously and unconsciously. This works well for us much of the time because we learn to "thin-slice"-that is, to ignore extraneous input and concentrate on one or two cues. Sometimes, we don't even consciously know what these cues are, as in Gladwell's anecdote about a tennis coach who can predict when a player is going to make a rare sort of error but doesn't know how he knows. The book also explores how this process can go horribly wrong, as in the Amadou Diallo shooting. Gladwell gets the science facts right and has the journalistic skills to make them utterly engrossing. A big promo campaign is planned; for once a best seller will be more than worthy. Essential for all libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/04.]-Mary Ann Hughes, Neill P.L., Pullman, WA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Soundview Executive Book Summaries
Blink is about how we think without thinking, about choices that seem to be made in an instant in the blink of an eye that actually aren't as simple as they seem, and about those instantaneous decisions that are impossible to explain to others.

In his landmark bestseller, The Tipping Point, author Malcolm Gladwell redefined how we understand the world around us. Now, in Blink, he revolutionizes the way we understand the world within by exploring the decisions made by experts in museums, sales, sports, the military and the high-speed world of the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Drawing on cutting-edge neuroscience and psychology, and displaying all of the brilliance that made The Tipping Point a classic, Blink changes the way you understand every decision you make.

Never again will you think about thinking the same way.

The Locked Door
Here is a critical fact about the thoughts and decisions that bubble up from our unconscious. Snap judgments are, first of all, enormously quick: They rely on the thinnest slices of experience. They are also unconscious. Snap judgments and rapid cognition take place behind a locked door. We are not very good at dealing with the fact of that locked door. It's one thing to acknowledge the enormous power of snap judgments and thin slices but quite another to place our trust in something so seemingly mysterious.

If we are to learn to improve the quality of the decisions we make, we need to accept the mysterious nature of our snap judgments.

The Storytelling Problem
On a brisk spring evening not long ago, two dozen men and women gathered in the back room of a Manhattan bar to engage in a peculiar ritual known as speed-dating.

Each man would have six minutes of conversation with each woman. The women would sit for the duration of the evening against the wall on the long, low couches that ringed the room, and the men would rotate from woman to woman, moving to the next woman whenever the coordinator rang a bell signaling that the six minutes were over. The daters were all given a badge, a number and a short form to complete, with the instruction that if they liked someone after six minutes, they should check the box next to his or her number. If the person whose box he or she checked also checked his or her box, both daters would be notified of the other's e-mail address within 24 hours.

Speed-dating has become enormously popular around the world over the last few years, and it's not hard to understand why. It's the distillation of dating to a simple snap judgment. Everyone who sat down at one of those tables was trying to answer a very simple question: Do I want to see this person again? And to answer that, we don't need an entire evening. We really need only a few minutes. When it comes to thin-slicing potential dates, pretty much everyone is smart.

But suppose we were to alter the rules of speed-dating just slightly. What if we tried to look behind the locked door and made everyone explain his or her choices? We know, of course, that that can't be done: The machinery of our unconscious thinking is forever hidden. But what if we forced people to explain their first impressions and snap judgments anyway? That is what two professors from Columbia University have done, and they have discovered that if you make people explain themselves, something very strange and troubling happens. What once seemed like the most transparent and pure of thin-slicing exercises turns into something quite confusing.

Behind the Locked Door
The professors found that when they compare what speed-daters say they want in a preliminary questionnaire with what they are actually attracted to in the moment, those two things don't match. A speed-dater has an idea about what she wants in a man, and that idea isn't wrong. It's just incomplete. The description that she starts with is her conscious ideal: what she believes she wants when she sits down and thinks about it. But what she cannot be as certain about are the criteria she uses to form her preferences in that first instant of meeting someone face to face. That information is behind the locked door.

We have, as human beings, a storytelling problem. We're a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we really don't have an explanation for. Copyright © 2005 Soundview Executive Book Summaries
—Soundview Summary

Kirkus Reviews
We need to place more trust in our "thin-slicer"-our capacity to make instant judgments-but we also need to sharpen its edge more keenly with experience and education. Gladwell's second entry into the aren't-our-brains-amazing genre (The Tipping Point, 2000) has an Obi-Wan Kenobi flavor, a "trust-your-feelings-Luke" antirationalism that attempts, in some ways, to deconstruct the Force. The author's great strength lies in his stories, and here he crafts a number of engaging ones: an account of art experts fooled by a fake; a summary of how a psychologist, looking at an hourlong video of a married couple conversing, can predict with 95% accuracy if they will divorce; an unnerving narrative about the Millennium Challenge, a war game in which a maverick commander deals a devastating blow to the bean-counting rule-followers on the team that was supposed to win. There are stories of a rock star fighting the odds, of cops shooting an innocent man who looked suspicious, of Coca-Cola making a big marketing mistake. We learn about the Aeron chair, All in the Family, Lee at Chancellorsville. (Unconventional people sometimes surprise.) We ponder the odd political rise of Warren G. Harding. We have a power lunch with some professional food-tasters-the author quips that it was like cello-shopping with Yo-Yo Ma. We chat with a car-selling superstar. Gladwell also rediscovers something Poe described in "The Haunted Palace": our eyes and our faces are windows to the soul. He tells us that the autistic are unable to decode or even notice the facial information of others. All these stories are nicely written and most inform and entertain at the same time, but they don't add up to anything terribly profound,despite the author's sometimes Skywalker-ish enthusiasm. Brisk, impressively done narratives that should sell very well indeed, particularly to Gladwell's already well-established fan base. Author tour
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316010665
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 4/3/2007
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 6,752
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker. He was formerly a business and science reporter at the Washington Post.

Biography

At the start of the 21st century, a new form of narrative nonfiction emerged, blending science, sociology, and pop culture into a compulsively readable hybrid genre marked by originality, accessibility, and a breezy, anecdotal style. As much as any single writer, and perhaps more than most, journalist and bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell has helped to forge that genre.

Born in the U.K. and raised in rural Canada, Gladwell stumbled into journalism purely by accident. After college, he wanted to pursue a career in advertising; but when he was unable to find work in that field, he took a job with the conservative U.S. monthly The American Spectator. In 1987, he joined The Washington Post, where he reported on business and science for nearly a decade. Then, in 1996, Tina Brown hired him to work for The New Yorker. (Brown left the magazine in 1998. Gladwell is still on staff.)

Almost from the beginning, Gladwell's work for The New Yorker attracted attention. Of particular interest was a piece he wrote in June 1996 about a mysterious and dramatic drop in the New York City crime rate. Drawing its title -- and its argument -- from the field of epidemiology, "The Tipping Pont" described a single moment in time when the momentum for change becomes virtually unstoppable. The piece generated an enormous reader response, and Gladwell began to explore the applications of the principle to other sorts of changes -- ideas, behaviors, new products, etc. In 2000, he published a full-length book that reached a tipping point of its own and logged a spectacular 28 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.

In subsequent books, Gladwell has delved into other thought-provoking topics, such as the role of snap judgments and intuition in decision making (Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking) and the qualities that set high achievers apart from the rest of us (Outliers: The Story of Success). Readers love these intriguing reads for their clear, accessible language and illustrations drawn from real life; but it is the business community, always anxious to spot the next big thing, that has recognized the relevance of Gladwell's ideas to sales, marketing, and public relations. As a result of his popularity with this group, he has become a much-in-demand public speaker.

Good To Know

  • Gladwell's English father is a civil engineer and his mother is a Jamaican-born psychotherapist.

  • Growing up in Canada at a time when the country was essentially a socialist nation, Gladwell was a self-professed right-wing kid. "Being a conservative was the kind of fun, radical thing to do," he told The New York Times. He notes that his politics have changed over the years.

  • When Gladwell decided to grow his formerly short and conservatively cut hair into an Afro, he began to receive special, unwanted attention (more speeding tickets, additional checks in airport security lines, etc.). These experiences got him thinking about how first impressions lead to snap judgments -- which inspired his bestseller Blink.

  • Starbucks' founder Howard Schultz publicly attributed his company's success to the tipping-point phenomenon.

  • In 2005, Time Magazine named Gladwell one of the 100 Most Influential People.

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      1. Hometown:
        New York, NY
      1. Date of Birth:
        September 3, 1963
      2. Place of Birth:
        England, U.K.
      1. Education:
        University of Toronto, History degree, 1984

    Read an Excerpt

    Blink

    The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
    By Malcolm Gladwell

    Little, Brown

    Copyright © 2005 Malcolm Gladwell
    All right reserved.

    ISBN: 0-316-17232-4


    Chapter One

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

    Some years ago, a young couple came to the University of Washington to visit the laboratory of a psychologist named John Gottman. They were in their twenties, blond and blue-eyed with stylishly tousled haircuts and funky glasses. Later, some of the people who worked in the lab would say they were the kind of couple that is easy to like-intelligent and attractive and funny in a droll, ironic kind of way-and that much is immediately obvious from the videotape Gottman made of their visit. The husband, whom I'll call Bill, had an endearingly playful manner. His wife, Susan, had a sharp, deadpan wit.

    They were led into a small room on the second floor of the nondescript two-story building that housed Gottman's operations, and they sat down about five feet apart on two office chairs mounted on raised platforms. They both had electrodes and sensors clipped to their fingers and ears, which measured things like their heart rate, how much they were sweating, and the temperature of their skin. Under their chairs, a "jiggle-o-meter" on the platform measured how much each of them moved around. Two video cameras, one aimed at each person, recordedeverything they said and did. For fifteen minutes, they were left alone with the cameras rolling, with instructions to discuss any topic from their marriage that had become a point of contention. For Bill and Sue it was their dog. They lived in a small apartment and had just gotten a very large puppy. Bill didn't like the dog; Sue did. For fifteen minutes, they discussed what they ought to do about it.

    The videotape of Bill and Sue's discussion seems, at least at first, to be a random sample of a very ordinary kind of conversation that couples have all the time. No one gets angry. There are no scenes, no breakdowns, no epiphanies. "I'm just not a dog person" is how Bill starts things off, in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice. He complains a little bit-but about the dog, not about Susan. She complains, too, but there are also moments when they simply forget that they are supposed to be arguing. When the subject of whether the dog smells comes up, for example, Bill and Sue banter back and forth happily, both with a half smile on their lips.

    Sue: Sweetie! She's not smelly ...

    Bill: Did you smell her today?

    Sue: I smelled her. She smelled good. I petted her, and my hands didn't stink or feel oily. Your hands have never smelled oily.

    Bill: Yes, sir.

    Sue: I've never let my dog get oily.

    Bill: Yes, sir. She's a dog.

    Sue: My dog has never gotten oily. You'd better be careful.

    Bill: No, you'd better be careful.

    Sue: No, you'd better be careful.... Don't call my dog oily, boy.

    1. The Love Lab

    How much do you think can be learned about Sue and Bill's marriage by watching that fifteen-minute videotape? Can we tell if their relationship is healthy or unhealthy? I suspect that most of us would say that Bill and Sue's dog talk doesn't tell us much. It's much too short. Marriages are buffeted by more important things, like money and sex and children and jobs and in-laws, in constantly changing combinations. Sometimes couples are very happy together. Some days they fight. Sometimes they feel as though they could almost kill each other, but then they go on vacation and come back sounding like newlyweds. In order to "know" a couple, we feel as though we have to observe them over many weeks and months and see them in every state-happy, tired, angry, irritated, delighted, having a nervous breakdown, and so on-and not just in the relaxed and chatty mode that Bill and Sue seemed to be in. To make an accurate prediction about something as serious as the future of a marriage-indeed, to make a prediction of any sort-it seems that we would have to gather a lot of information and in as many different contexts as possible.

    But John Gottman has proven that we don't have to do that at all. Since the 1980s, Gottman has brought more than three thousand married couples-just like Bill and Sue-into that small room in his "love lab" near the University of Washington campus. Each couple has been videotaped, and the results have been analyzed according to something Gottman dubbed SPAFF (for specific affect), a coding system that has twenty separate categories corresponding to every conceivable emotion that a married couple might express during a conversation. Disgust, for example, is 1, contempt is 2, anger is 7, defensiveness is 10, whining is 11, sadness is 12, stonewalling is 13, neutral is 14, and so on. Gottman has taught his staff how to read every emotional nuance in people's facial expressions and how to interpret seemingly ambiguous bits of dialogue. When they watch a marriage videotape, they assign a SPAFF code to every second of the couple's interaction, so that a fifteen-minute conflict discussion ends up being translated into a row of eighteen hundred numbers-nine hundred for the husband and nine hundred for the wife. The notation "7, 7, 14, 10, 11, 11," for instance, means that in one six-second stretch, one member of the couple was briefly angry, then neutral, had a moment of defensiveness, and then began whining. Then the data from the electrodes and sensors is factored in, so that the coders know, for example, when the husband's or the wife's heart was pounding or when his or her temperature was rising or when either of them was jiggling in his or her seat, and all of that information is fed into a complex equation.

    On the basis of those calculations, Gottman has proven something remarkable. If he analyzes an hour of a husband and wife talking, he can predict with 95 percent accuracy whether that couple will still be married fifteen years later. If he watches a couple for fifteen minutes, his success rate is around 90 percent. Recently, a professor who works with Gottman named Sybil Carrère, who was playing around with some of the videotapes, trying to design a new study, discovered that if they looked at only three minutes of a couple talking, they could still predict with fairly impressive accuracy who was going to get divorced and who was going to make it. The truth of a marriage can be understood in a much shorter time than anyone ever imagined.

    John Gottman is a middle-aged man with owl-like eyes, silvery hair, and a neatly trimmed beard. He is short and very charming, and when he talks about something that excites him-which is nearly all the time-his eyes light up and open even wider. During the Vietnam War, he was a conscientious objector, and there is still something of the '60s hippie about him, like the Mao cap he sometimes wears over his braided yarmulke. He is a psychologist by training, but he also studied mathematics at MIT, and the rigor and precision of mathematics clearly moves him as much as anything else. When I met Gottman, he had just published his most ambitious book, a dense five-hundred-page treatise called The Mathematics of Divorce, and he attempted to give me a sense of his argument, scribbling equations and impromptu graphs on a paper napkin until my head began to swim.

    Gottman may seem to be an odd example in a book about the thoughts and decisions that bubble up from our unconscious. There's nothing instinctive about his approach. He's not making snap judgments. He's sitting down with his computer and painstakingly analyzing videotapes, second by second. His work is a classic example of conscious and deliberate thinking. But Gottman, it turns out, can teach us a great deal about a critical part of rapid cognition known as thin-slicing. "Thin-slicing" refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. When Evelyn Harrison looked at the kouros and blurted out, "I'm sorry to hear that," she was thin-slicing; so were the Iowa gamblers when they had a stress reaction to the red decks after just ten cards.

    Thin-slicing is part of what makes the unconscious so dazzling. But it's also what we find most problematic about rapid cognition. How is it possible to gather the necessary information for a sophisticated judgment in such a short time? The answer is that when our unconscious engages in thin-slicing, what we are doing is an automated, accelerated unconscious version of what Gottman does with his videotapes and equations. Can a marriage really be understood in one sitting? Yes it can, and so can lots of other seemingly complex situations. What Gottman has done is to show us how.

    2. Marriage and Morse Code

    I watched the videotape of Bill and Sue with Amber Tabares, a graduate student in Gottman's lab who is a trained SPAFF coder. We sat in the same room that Bill and Sue used, watching their interaction on a monitor. The conversation began with Bill. He liked their old dog, he said. He just didn't like their new dog. He didn't speak angrily or with any hostility. It seemed like he genuinely just wanted to explain his feelings.

    If we listened closely, Tabares pointed out, it was clear that Bill was being very defensive. In the language of SPAFF, he was cross-complaining and engaging in "yes-but" tactics-appearing to agree but then taking it back. Bill was coded as defensive, as it turned out, for forty of the first sixty-six seconds of their conversation. As for Sue, while Bill was talking, on more than one occasion she rolled her eyes very quickly, which is a classic sign of contempt. Bill then began to talk about his objection to the pen where the dog lives. Sue replied by closing her eyes and then assuming a patronizing lecturing voice. Bill went on to say that he didn't want a fence in the living room. Sue said, "I don't want to argue about that," and rolled her eyes-another indication of contempt. "Look at that," Tabares said. "More contempt. We've barely started and we've seen him be defensive for almost the whole time, and she has rolled her eyes several times."

    At no time as the conversation continued did either of them show any overt signs of hostility. Only subtle things popped up for a second or two, prompting Tabares to stop the tape and point them out. Some couples, when they fight, fight. But these two were a lot less obvious. Bill complained that the dog cut into their social life, since they always had to come home early for fear of what the dog might do to their apartment. Sue responded that that wasn't true, arguing, "If she's going to chew anything, she's going to do it in the first fifteen minutes that we're gone." Bill seemed to agree with that. He nodded lightly and said, "Yeah, I know," and then added, "I'm not saying it's rational. I just don't want to have a dog."

    Tabares pointed at the videotape. "He started out with 'Yeah, I know.' But it's a yes-but. Even though he started to validate her, he went on to say that he didn't like the dog. He's really being defensive. I kept thinking, He's so nice. He's doing all this validation. But then I realized he was doing the yes-but. It's easy to be fooled by them."

    Bill went on: "I'm getting way better. You've got to admit it. I'm better this week than last week, and the week before and the week before."

    Tabares jumped in again. "In one study, we were watching newlyweds, and what often happened with the couples who ended up in divorce is that when one partner would ask for credit, the other spouse wouldn't give it. And with the happier couples, the spouse would hear it and say, 'You're right.' That stood out. When you nod and say 'uh-huh' or 'yeah,' you are doing that as a sign of support, and here she never does it, not once in the entire session, which none of us had realized until we did the coding.

    "It's weird," she went on. "You don't get the sense that they are an unhappy couple when they come in. And when they were finished, they were instructed to watch their own discussion, and they thought the whole thing was hilarious. They seem fine, in a way. But I don't know. They haven't been married that long. They're still in the glowy phase. But the fact is that she's completely inflexible. They are arguing about dogs, but it's really about how whenever they have a disagreement, she's completely inflexible. It's one of those things that could cause a lot of long-term harm. I wonder if they'll hit the seven-year wall. Is there enough positive emotion there? Because what seems positive isn't actually positive at all."

    What was Tabares looking for in the couple? On a technical level, she was measuring the amount of positive and negative emotion, because one of Gottman's findings is that for a marriage to survive, the ratio of positive to negative emotion in a given encounter has to be at least five to one. On a simpler level, though, what Tabares was looking for in that short discussion was a pattern in Bill and Sue's marriage, because a central argument in Gottman's work is that all marriages have a distinctive pattern, a kind of marital DNA, that surfaces in any kind of meaningful interaction. This is why Gottman asks couples to tell the story of how they met, because he has found that when a husband and wife recount the most important episode in their relationship, that pattern shows up right away.

    "It's so easy to tell," Gottman says. "I just looked at this tape yesterday. The woman says, 'We met at a ski weekend, and he was there with a bunch of his friends, and I kind of liked him and we made a date to be together. But then he drank too much, and he went home and went to sleep, and I was waiting for him for three hours. I woke him up, and I said I don't appreciate being treated this way. You're really not a nice person. And he said, yeah, hey, I really had a lot to drink.'" There was a troubling pattern in their first interaction, and the sad truth was that that pattern persisted throughout their relationship. "It's not that hard," Gottman went on. "When I first started doing these interviews, I thought maybe we were getting these people on a crappy day. But the prediction levels are just so high, and if you do it again, you get the same pattern over and over again."

    One way to understand what Gottman is saying about marriages is to use the analogy of what people in the world of Morse code call a fist. Morse code is made up of dots and dashes, each of which has its own prescribed length. But no one ever replicates those prescribed lengths perfectly. When operators send a message-particularly using the old manual machines known as the straight key or the bug-they vary the spacing or stretch out the dots and dashes or combine dots and dashes and spaces in a particular rhythm. Morse code is like speech. Everyone has a different voice.

    In the Second World War, the British assembled thousands of so-called interceptors-mostly women-whose job it was to tune in every day and night to the radio broadcasts of the various divisions of the German military.

    Continues...


    Excerpted from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell Copyright © 2005 by Malcolm Gladwell. Excerpted by permission.
    All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
    Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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    Table of Contents

    Introduction : the statue that didn't look right 3
    1 The theory of thin slices : how a little bit of knowledge goes a long way 18
    2 The locked door : the secret life of snap decisions 48
    3 The Warren Harding error : why we fall for tall, dark, and handsome men 72
    4 Paul Van Riper's big victory : creating structure for spontaneity 99
    5 Kenna's dilemma : the right - and wrong - way to ask people what they want 147
    6 Seven seconds in the Bronx : the delicate art of mind reading 189
    Conclusion : listening with your eyes : the lessons of blink 245
    Read More Show Less

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    See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 646 Customer Reviews
    • Anonymous

      Posted September 14, 2007

      Fascinating Insight in to Impressions

      Anyone looking for advanced insight into human nature will love this book. Did you realize that the first six seconds of a personal encounter 'the handshake and greeting' are 80% predictive of the outcome of the encounter? In 'Blink', Malcolm Gladwell will help you understand what happens during that first six seconds. Whether you are socially struggling or a master networker, you should check this out. Absolutely in keeping with his #1 best seller, 'The Tipping Point', now becoming a classic.

      20 out of 20 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted November 11, 2009

      Good not Great

      Entertaining and interesting book but not particularly useful. It talks about thin-slicing, which is how we make decisions/judgements on a small amount of data and in the blink of an eye. These judgements are usually very accurate, however trying to analyze why you made the decision is often a waste of time. Rationalizing these decisions often causes you to erroneously come to a different conclusion.

      9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted May 10, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      A Stretch

      Gladwell is undoubtedly a competent writer: his charisma, seen even in his writing, and his use of seemingly unrelated examples to drive his points (no pun intended) are as consistent as they are effective, not to mention admirable. However, with this work, Gladwell treads into shaky territory, proposing his theories with his usual tone of universality within one of the most fundamentally unstable sciences of cognitive psychology -one may note that he is indeed a psychologist, but a more perceptive reader would realize that his field of study is more socially psychological, if not sociological altogether.

      Even with his charm and talent, extending empirical claims into the realm of the invisible psyche is a stretch for Gladwell. As is expected, he presents numerous samples to support his claim, but much of his research seems to lack an empirical mass that would give his abstract propositions more credible foundations; there is no doubt that Gladwell possesses the capability of formulating an intangible theory with empirical roots, but his principal error was in his attempt to do it with so few pages.....at least with such a large font he uses!

      9 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted December 10, 2008

      more from this reviewer

      Less Is More?

      Gladwell is a terrific writer (one of those rare creatures who can present scientific findings for lay readers) and the thesis of Blink is fascinating. I heartily recommend it to anyone who's ever wondered what it really means when someone says, "I don't know how I know, I just do." The book is filled with intriguing case studies to demonstrate his thesis that ultimately those who can quickly weed out extraneous information make better decisions (on the whole) than those who don't. Ultimately, he's not recommending that we trust our gut exclusively, so much as we learn to be appropriately skeptical of so called "expert data." Blink is great light reading for anyone interested in trying to understand consciousness -- an activity William James once compared to "trying to turn on the lights fast enough to see how the darkness looks."

      7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted October 27, 2008

      Do we really know what we think? Maybe, maybe not.

      This book was mind opening and unsettling. After reading this book the possibilities of influencing my own choices and those of others seem endless. It was unsettling to think about how little control I may actually have over my reactions, judgements, and snap decsions about others in my life. Incredible and interesting reading. Definitely made me stop and "think".

      6 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 5, 2010

      eh

      The book was ok, but tough to read at parts. It just brought awareness to the mind making split second decisions. I thought it was going to be more imformative on how to make decisions quickly, on the spot, and under pressure.

      5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted September 3, 2011

      I wouldn't recommend it.

      I personally didn't like the book Blink. Its meant for more mature readers, and it also jumps from topic to topic making it hard to fallow and understand. To read this book you need to have an more advanced way of thinking, you have to be able to think deeper than what it written on the page. If I had to reccomend this book I would suggest this to someone who likes imformative reading.

      4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted May 24, 2010

      Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

      It is about psychology. At the same time, it is also about the behavioral economic. The main idea of this book is "thin-slicing". It means that the spontaneous decisions are often better than the planned decisions. He did a lot of researches for provement. Gladwell also tells us about our instinctive ability to mind read, which is how we can get to know what emotions a person is feeling just by looking at his or her face. Moreover, he also explains that sometimes many informations interupt to make a decision. "Thin-slicing" makes us to make a decision more easily. I was pretty much enjoyed to read this book. I recommend this book to people who likes psychology

      3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 27, 2010

      Good read, but left me hangin'

      Blink was a very interesting book to read. I was never bored and at times I didn't want to put it down, like when it was time to go back to work. I found myself bringing up the anecdotal examples to family, and co-workers, anybody who would listen. The book points out the innate ability we all have, a kind of intuition, and how it comes into play at different times. The author, however, does not explain how you might harness and control this power. At times I felt that I didn't really know what the subject of the book was. It is not a "How To" manual. But, even with its flaws, I enjoyed this book very much. The Civil War battle strategy story made me interested in something that previously I had not been. Some of the incidents of the past that I had thought were strictly racial discrimination were suddenly more complex than that.
      I recently saw an interview of a police officer on television and was able to understand what happened on a much deeper level after reading Blink.This book opened my eyes but kind of left me looking for more answers at the end of the book, which may be just more food for thought.......

      3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 11, 2010

      When to lead and when to follow

      "Blink" is really an eye-opening book. It's a book about life lessons and how you should/can achieve them. Many tests are made throughout the book showing how all people have the same reactions to many differents tests and problems. "Blink" teaches us how to get through our problems and live as though nothing has happened. Happy and content. You're probably thinking "not possible", but thats only because you haven't read this book yet.

      I would recommend this book to all people. Most people have difficulties figuring out why and how things happen to them. "Blink" has the answer. I really enjoyed reading this book. It made me realize things I never even thought about or questioned. From the way that we walk to the way that we deal with our arguments.

      Similar books are "The Tipping Point" and "Tuesdays With Morrie". Both books also relate to life lessons and tell/help us how to live a more joyful and stress-free life.

      What I really liked about this book was that I was able to relate to most of the problems and obstacles that they listed. This book teaches you good morals and really leaves a mark in your personality. After finishing the book, I have become happier and notice myself doing more work and help for others. It's amazing how mush influence a 296 page book can have on one's life. Why did it take a book for me to come to my senses? I don't have an answer for that, but I do know that I will never regret reading this book. Malcom Gladwell really knows how to reach inside of you and pull out all of your problems, fix them, and move on.

      The only dislike that I have about this book is that at times it tended to be a little slow and not as attenion grabbing as the rest of it.

      READ THIS BOOK!!!

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted May 15, 2009

      One of the best novels out there...

      Blink has been one of the best novels that I have read during my high school years. The way Malcolm Gladwell incorporates past psychological experiments to correlate with his idea of "thin slicing" is easily comprehensible and interesting as well. I had always assumed that people always thought on the conscious level all the time. However, until I read this book, I had no idea at all that people were capable of thinking unconsciously without even realizing. It's simply phenomenal and mind-blowing as well.
      What really caught my interest was the way Gladwell uses the Warren Harding Error. In my history class, we had learned that some political candidates for president were chosen based on their appearances which gave the audience the impression that they best man for the job. This worked with John F. Kennedy, since he was a young, good-looking, energetic, and an upstanding gentleman. But, after reading the story of Warren Harding, I was shocked to see that that doesn't apply too well. So, looks aren't everything according to this novel. Overall, Malcolm Gladwell does an excellent job with this book.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted May 15, 2009

      Amazing Stuff

      I've read very many books over my lifetime and only a handful of them had anything to do with analyzed introspection. Most of what I've read concerning these psychological issues has been relatively technical, yet what I love about Blink is that it makes seemingly complex reactions seem human. He puts everyone on an even playing field, and it's easy for the layman to understand his points. That's the sign of great writer, one who can express such complex concepts at such a rudimentary level. For that, I admire Gladwell. The whole concept behind Blink, the fact that we 'thin-slice' situations and subconsciously make very rapid, accurate decisions, amazes me. Yet personally, this is not an uncommon subject. I've always believed in making decisions with one's gut and I do it quite often, but as Gladwell clearly explains, our Snap Judgments masked by conscious thought, are often times skewed. Nevertheless, Gladwell is unparalleled in coming up with examples to support his main concept and idea. However, this is the main drawback to his book.
      Quite frankly, if I edited this book, I would have only left in the first three chapters and the last chapter, deleted everything else. What Gladwell does is present an idea, in this case 'thin-slicing', and then he spends the next 300 pages giving examples of this concept. OKAY, I GET IT. I really don't need 50 examples in order to believe him; just a couple would be ideal. It's obviously believable, but I just don't see the merit in 500 examples when he could have condensed everything to a few chapters. Alas, I guess this is how he makes money. Cheap isn't it? His was of elongating his books is not a characteristic uncommon to his other books; Outliers is structured in much the same way. In any case, this was definitely a good read and I would highly recommend this to anyone.

      3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted February 23, 2009

      more from this reviewer

      I Also Recommend:

      Don't Blink- you might miss it

      It is fairly short, but it's a great read. Gladwell is by far the best writer for his type of book out there (Morse and Gilbert are excellent too). Blink is not about missing fleeting things, though; it's about intuition and the fact that we can know some things-some very important things without really "knowing" them in a conscious way. In other words, we don't have to dwell on something or overthink it to really understand it. Basically our hunches are as good or better than our thoughts in some instances.

      Gladwell goes through a list of interesting anecdotal cases that prove his point then adds studies and interviews with scientists to back up his findings. This book is on par with the Tipping Point, but better than Outliers- his new one.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted September 25, 2008

      Fascinating book

      In Blink, Malcolm Gladwell (a journalist who also wrote The Tipping Point) examines the process of snap decision making. He suggests that we are wrong in thinking that we make decisions rationally by absorbing extensive information and experience. In the end we make decisions unconsciously and essentially instantly. This works great for most decisions because we learn to 'thin-slice'-that is, to ignore extraneous input and concentrate on one or two cues. Sometimes, we don't even consciously know what these cues are, as in Gladwell's anecdote about a tennis coach who can predict when a player is going to make a rare sort of error but doesn't know how he knows. The book also explores how this process can go horribly wrong, as in the Amadou Diallo shooting. Gladwell gets the science facts right and has the journalistic skills to make them utterly engrossing.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted January 30, 2008

      Thought provoking

      This is one of the best books I have read in a long long time. It addresses so many aspects of our lives, helping us view things differently while educating. I keep referring to this book and even buying this book for friends.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted February 4, 2008

      Fun Read by a Great Writer

      This book is wonderfully written and presents ideas in engaging, practical language. It offers some research-based information in a readable format that appeals to scholarly folks, as well as the general population.

      3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted June 21, 2012

      I Also Recommend:

      Gladwell is the best at what he does. This is another example.

      Gladwell is the best at what he does. This is another example. great book!

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Posted August 27, 2011

      Interesting premise

      But while the author insists that we must learn when to trust our instincts and when we are operating under the influence of unconcious prejudice, he offers no suggestions or tools for doing so. Dissapointed.

      2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted November 21, 2009

      don't bother

      bologna

      2 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

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    • Anonymous

      Posted March 26, 2009

      Blink

      Well another one of Malcolm Gladwell's books, this time it's Blink. It is on of those psychology books you wouldn't expect yourself to get into. This book by Gladwell is simply told by his book cover, "the power of thinking without thinking". He uses some really good examples: how we judge people based on their sex or their gender and so forth. There aren't really any complaints that I found in this book other that I had gotten lost in the Van Riper story and the very good salesman Golomb. Gladwell starts out in the first couple of pages explaining how he thinks certain couples would be able to last marriages. He even has them date different people and rate them on their appearance, how funny or interesting they are.

      Some of his were asked if they would ever go out with the person that they had a date with and some even answered yes. Moving on the IAT Test, it's basically a test for you to categorize whatever word or image appears on the screen and you have to type in the corresponding key to match it with whatever the category it belongs to. There's even a Racial IAT Test available for anyone to take; by simply going to www.implicit.harvard.edu. His book includes a couple of pages that are examples of what to expect in the IAT Test. I don't know what to expect to expect in the Racial IAT Test, but I am guessing categorize the person that appears on your screen.

      Moving on to the story that really confused me is the Van Riper. The stories in this book go from first person point of view to third person point of view, so you should expect to see a lot of "I" and "he reached for it" sentences. It begins by telling how he came about joining the military, and why he wanted to join the military service. It took me a couple of tries before I actually got what Gladwell was trying to say with the story. I really like how Gladwell has good use of examples; he had compared "the Harding Error" to what we think when see people. This is a really good book in my opinion. If you're a Gladwell fan, you should check out his other books, his previously released book The Tipping Point and, his newer book The Outliers.

      2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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