Literary Reviews: Blink vs. Think (Part Two of Three) by Malcolm Gladwell

Title: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Format: Audiobook

So in part one of this series I wrote about how I balance decision making between logic / reasoning and gut instinct / intuition. Also noted was the self-awareness that I was using logic and reasoning far too much in my life and the active shift towards integrating gut instinct / intuition into my conscious thought.

In the last post, I also mentioned two books that I have read that also lead into those trains of thought. I don’t believe in going down just one road or the other, but rather finding a balance of both. So this particular post will be my thoughts / review on the book Blink: The Power of Thinking without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell. While the third post in this series would be about the rebuttal book Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael LeGault.

Blink dives into the hypothesis that “quick judgment” decisions work just as well if not better than decisions based off of extensive analysis. The author also talks about how one’s likes and dislikes, prejudices and stereotypes, and biases can color their gut instinct / intuition. But how can one tell if they have an unconscious bias?

There is a measure in social psychology that is created in an effort to detect unconscious biases that people may not realize that they have: The Implicit Association Test aka IAT. This test was designed to detect how strong one’s association between various mental concepts within their memory. Like all psychology tests/exams, there is some controversy as to the accuracy of such exams, however, like humans there is always room for error. If you are curious as to how strong your unconscious bias is, Harvard has created a series of online exams that simulate the various IAT exams used to measure such associations and stereotypes.

How does one’s gut instinct / intuition apply in reality? Speed dating, happens to be a prime example. You go through a series of people, meet them for a few minutes and move on to the next person if you don’t feel a connection or chemistry. Then you rinse and repeat.

The author provides plenty of examples as to how sometimes one’s intuition could provide a strong basis for decision making, on the other hand the author also provides examples on how one’s intuition can be flawed… particularly when unconscious bias’ are involved. In a lot of ways in order for one to trust one’s quick judgment and intuition, one needs to neutralize their subconscious and unconscious bias as much as possible. Neutralizing one’s bias on an unconscious level requires many years of constant self-awareness of one’s thoughts and movements.

However, the author does point out in a few examples that basing one’s decisions purely on intuition and gut instinct could prove to be false if not outright fatal. Particularly if more information comes in that just enforces your original gut instinct. The author uses the death of Amadou Diallo by the hand of police officers as a more extreme example as to how rapid judgment could have fatal consequences if one is not careful. Another more recent example could be the death of Trayvon Martin, but that would be opening a whole can of worms.

The author also uses the decision-marking process in the medical profession as a reason why a quick decision would be much preferred over thorough analysis. The author claims – rather convincingly – that when giving far too much information then there is a likelier chance of having “analysis paralysis”, with the challenge being how to sift through so much information to focus on what can be considered the most critical. In a lot of ways I could see how too much information would easily confuse a decision maker which invites a higher risk of error.

So how to work around it? As I mentioned in my previous post, I prefer to use intuition more in combination with logic, reasoning and analysis. To me, intuition should be used more towards the intangibles in life: relationships, activities in the long distant future… while analysis would be used as a way to “fill in the spaces” in between as an aid to reach what intuition has decided.

All in all, I enjoyed this book, it is a pleasant read and it does give the reader clues and hints as to how to listen to that “little voice” inside of everyone. On the other hand it is also a cautionary tale where one’s intuition could fail them if they are not careful.

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