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timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the you-lose dept.

Science 194

ThinkMagnet (James Mitchell) writes " Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is Malcolm Gladwell's foray into the study of intuitive decision-making. The author, a former Washington Post science and technology writer, reveals his journalistic background in his narrative style. His assertions are based on recent scientific findings, but are always presented as a story. This makes good conversation fodder, but can frustrate readers who prefer direct presentation of scientific arguments." Read on for the rest of Mitchell's review.

First, Gladwell introduces a concept called "thin-slicing." This involves the human brain's critical reduction of information to make predictions about complicated systems. For example, a system developed at the University of Washington can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will be divorced within fifteen years, based entirely upon one hour of observed interaction.

Next, Gladwell discusses analogous ways the human brain uses thin-slicing to make subconscious snap decisions. Interestingly, this rapid decision-making process can easily be primed by external influences. External influences affect more decisions than many people care to admit; these factors form the basis for snap judgments and first impressions.

Gladwell relates a study of how well a subject's personality was evaluated either by strangers who visited the subject's dorm room for fifteen minutes or by friends that knew the subject well. Friends were more accurate about extraversion and agreeableness, but the strangers were better at gauging conscientiousness, emotional stability, and openness to new experiences. Thin-slicing isn't always correct; it depends on having the right information.

Superficial traits can be used to the advantage of an actor trying to project a particular characterization. Similarly, an authority figure can dress and behave in a particular fashion to influence subordinates. Warren G. Harding made overwhelmingly positive first impressions throughout his political career, although he is considered by historians to be one of the worst American presidents. Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings.

On the other hand, by understanding the fallibilities of intuition, one can influence others' unconscious decision-making processes and be more aware of influences on one's own intuition. People can control and develop their intuitive decision-making skills. For instance, a successful car salesman would never be distracted by the appearance of a customer to the detriment of a sale. A portion of the book discusses physiological tests that reveal the strength of stereotypes in subconscious decision making by measuring reaction times.

Having defined the capabilities and limitations of intuitive decision-making, Gladwell spends a chapter focusing on spontaneity through the story of General Paul Van Riper and Millennium Challenge '02. A technologically advanced military with a vast array of information collection and "common operational picture" was pitted against a less technologically capable adversary led by General Van Riper. Much as David defeated Goliath, Van Riper's force inflicted staggering losses on his information-gorged enemy. His victory illustrates the utility of pre-arranged structure (such as "commander's intent" or "desired endstate") to empower subordinates to make spontaneous decisions. The fog of war couldn't really be defied, but decision makers could be trained to cope well with uncertainty.

The latter parts of the book discuss how intuitive decision-making can fall short. Humans' senses and subconscious minds can be negatively affected in stressful environments where stimuli are distorted and thin-slicing can easily go awry. Gladwell takes examples from recent developments in police procedures designed to avoid situations that adversely affect law enforcement personnel. For instance, many departments make their officers patrol individually. Without partners, they are more likely to wait for backup before entering dangerous situations. The author also performs a detailed deconstruction of the Amadou Diallo shooting in New York City. He concludes that the tragedy was not a product of conscious injustice, but simply a chain reaction of impaired snap decisions made within seven seconds of violence.

Overall, Blink makes for a quick read and is sure to stimulate conversation. Its premise is simple, and it contains ample food for thought. Its discussion of priming the intuition with particular stimuli and impaired "thin-slicing" provides a useful tool in deconstructing human behavior. The strengths and weaknesses of intuition-priming and thin-slicing are useful knowledge for any professional decision-maker.

You can purchase Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking from Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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lol (0, Offtopic)

professor seagull (677508) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567242)

omg books! lololol

Steve Sailor review on (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567243)

Steve Sailor reviewed [] this book recently too.

Re:Steve Sailor review on (4, Funny)

shimmerkid (661737) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567559)

Wow. That review seemed more like a bitter rant against a more-successful competitor that degenerated into a bunch of unfocused racist bile. Thanks for the link!

Re:Steve Sailor review on (3, Informative)

Web-o-matic (246295) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567847)

There's another critical review by Thomas Homer-Dixon (the guy who wrote the book 'The Ingenuity Gap" a few years back) at .pdf []
Nicely written review -- and he really does not like the book....

bad book (5, Funny)

peter303 (12292) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567246)

It only took me two seconds to decide this was a bad book. Sounds kind of new-ageish.

Re:bad book (1)

.tardo. (790129) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567357)

That 2 second rule seems to deal mostly with things we are moderately familiar with. This book does not fall into that category. I think if you read a little further you might understand what he is talking about.

I have been, for years, trying to understand why I sometimes 'Instantly Know' the outcome of a complex series of events; and then am amazed at the accuracy of my 'prediction'. This is not always the case, and I would like to increase the frequency of it, but it sure would be a cool trick to master.

FYI. I am extremely sensitive to new age propaganda techniques (particularly in literature). This book did not raise any red flags with me!

Cool exercise (1)

UpnAtom (551727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567984)

First write down five good decisions you made: where you were sure it was a good decision, it turned well and you're glad you made it.
Then write down five bad decisions you made.
Then notice how you originally felt about making the good decisions - what feelings they had in common. Lastly notice how you felt about making the bad decisions - what they had in common.

Re:bad book (3, Funny)

Inkieminstrel (812132) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567444)

I thought it was about the use of proprietary html to jazz things up when animated gifs just aren't working out.

Re:bad book (1)

Jazu (215175) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568234)

I thought it was about the use of proprietary html to make your site painful to look at when animated gifs just aren't working out.

Re:bad book (4, Funny)

dfn_deux (535506) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567566)

my first instinct is that you are correct.

Really? (3, Interesting)

ajaf (672235) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567252)

For example, a system developed at the University of Washington can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will be divorced within fifteen years, based entirely upon one hour of observed interaction.

Where is that system, i want it.

Re:Really? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567280)

And that sound you hear is divorce lawyers quickly buying up the rights to such a system before it can go public.

Re:Really? (3, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567359)

Apparently a fifteen-year-old system, too.

Re:Really? (1)

shadowmatter (734276) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567405)

It's the first chapter... If you go to, look up the book, then click the link "look inside this book" you can actually read about it ;)

- shadowmatter

Re:Really? (4, Funny)

Junior J. Junior III (192702) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567477)

For example, a system developed at the University of Washington

Where is that system, i want it.

Uh, the University of Washington?

proof (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567569)

How do they know how accurate are the predictions? Won't it take 15 years just to get the results?

Re:proof (1)

wisdom_brewing (557753) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567767)

uhm... maybe, just maybe, the study began over 15 years ago?

Re:proof (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567835)

Well, since I RTFA, I know that the study started about 14 years ago. So I suppose this expert system started off making 95% accurate snap judgements, and this story is about an old system that has finally been proven to have been brilliant from the beginning, without upgrades. Somehow that seems unlikely.

Re:Really? (4, Informative)

quandrum (652868) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567826)

Without having read the book, this sounds like they are talking about the work of Dr. Gottman.

Although, the sumation seems disingenious. It was never a system, it was a study of interaction in married couples. He never offered to predict someones chances of success, but rather studied their interaction, and then kept track of their marriage. He then analyzed the data and published novel ideas on the importance of how the way we communicate affects our relationships. Third parties then plumbed the data to get media bytes like the one quoted.

Although, now he has written 2 or 3 books. *shrug*

First Post Psychology (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567258)

So what does gut instinct tell you about the first post trolls?

Re:First Post Psychology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567458)

My gut instinct tells me that this one has... FAILED IT!

Sounds like (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567273)

Sounds like most slashdot postings... thinking without thinking..

Re:Sounds like (1)

lukewarmfusion (726141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567430)

You mean posting without thinking, reading the article, spelling correctly, forming meaningful sentences, using punctuation, or reading the parent posts?

Welcome to the Information Age - where having readily-available information means not using it.

Re:Sounds like (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567742)

You mean like AC postings? I agree.

Local Libraries (1)

doombob (717921) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567287)

Local Libraries and Slashdot, what a team. Every time I hear of a book mentioned on /. I go to my local library's web page and place a hold. I am number 70 on the list today for this book now. I'm still waiting for a couple O'Reilly books to come to me from a while ago. Please someone tell me if it is worth reading so I can decide if I want to cancel my hold.

I can name that book in three letters (1)

computerme (655703) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567289)

I can name that book in three letters:


as in, trust yours, it provides the best results... yes i know this is an over simplification of what he writes in the book but its closer to than farther from the truth...

i bought and read "The Tipping Point" His first book...and stopped after the first couple of chapters...

I think he should have named it:


Like Bruce Lee said.... (3, Interesting)

NerdBuster (831349) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567303)

"It's the art of fighting without fighting." Now thats deep.

I could tell in 2 secs Gladwell had already peaked (3, Insightful)

geekpuppySEA (724733) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567321)

Just a few words into the review I could tell that Gladwell had already peaked with his earlier work. Great, so our neurology makes split-second decisions... Wow, well, cool.

Doesn't compare to the star-nosed mole [] , who strikes me as two notes cooler by the fact it overclocks its own brain:

"The pace of the star-nosed mole's feeding is so fast that it is approaching the maximum speed at which its nervous system can process information."

More revelations worthy of a New Yorker article just make me yawn. And, more evidence of my, um, correct opinion is corroborated here, in Black Table's "believe the hype?" review. []

I prefer to hope it's a sophomore slump (1)

ghutchis (7810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567898)

I agree with you that the Tipping Point was better.

But I think he has a gift for finding interesting anecdotes and a general ability to spin them together.

So I'm hoping it's just a "sophomore slump" and later books will improve. In many ways, I just thought Blink lacked focus and tighter editing.

hmmm... (2, Funny)

new death barbie (240326) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567323)

Researcher: Thank you for participating in our study. According to our model, you and your spouse are likely to be divorced within fifteen years. Have a nice day!

Isn't that kind of news likely to be self-fulfilling?

Re:hmmm... (1)

hsmith (818216) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567345)

i think it would save you a good amount of money in the long run. therefore, it would be sure as hell worth it.

Re:hmmm... (1)

mrbuttboy (460308) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567497)

So, it IS a bit funny and I havent read the book but...

as it was posted, the system had a 95% correct rate,for both staying together and for splitting up. It seems more then a bit of a stretch to suggest that couples, on both sides, are going to be great influenced solely by what one random researcher tells them. I am sure it changes the outcome slightly,but my guess is not so much.

Or to put it differently: if your marriage cant handle one person telling you it is going to fail, guess what: it is going fail anyways.

Not necessarily... (3, Insightful)

rewt66 (738525) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567763)

You don't have to react by saying, "OK, well, I guess we're screwed. No point really trying, then" and watching as your marriage does, in fact, fall apart.

Instead, you could react by saying, "Well, these guys see some problem signs. Let's figure out what they are, and start fixing things." If you follow through (consistently), you may well save the marriage.

I haven't looked at the study, but it wouldn't shock me if what they look for is whether the couple expects to have to continually work to make the marriage work, or if they just assume that it'll all work out fine on it's own.

I've been married almost 15 years, and we've had to kind of rebuild our relationship about ten or twelve times in those years. You can't just sit around and let entropy do a number on you...

I doubt this would work very well (1, Insightful)

10000000000000000000 (809085) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567332)

if you had to decide if 4,294,967,297 was prime or not.

It would seem this "resoning" is only applicable to certain kinds of decisions. Likely those more influenced by emotion than logic.

Re:I doubt this would work very well (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567418)


Not true, also accounts for probablities (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567456)

Few things in life are really as simple as the question "is this number prime"?

When deciding to do just about anything, there are a large number of variables - most of which could never be fully determined. Not the least of these variables is how capabile are you, the desicion maker, of being successful with the choice you have made?

Thus the act of trusting your gut feeling is also one of understanding how you really feel about a project internally, and thus how likely you are to be able to bend unresolved probabilities that are at all alterable in your favor rather than letting the dice fall where they may. Plenty of things in life have succeded just because of extra effort on the part of those promoting them.

Furthermore I do think the brain is great at correlating all sorts of things for you automatically and thus you can get an accurate "feel" for if something is going to go right or wrong based only on a lot of loose data and seeming anecdote.

Re:Not true, also accounts for probablities (3, Interesting)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567673)

Furthermore I do think the brain is great at correlating all sorts of things for you automatically and thus you can get an accurate "feel" for if something is going to go right or wrong based only on a lot of loose data and seeming anecdote.

In application of this, let's say we didn't have time to actually figure out whether the number is prime. I might say, "4,294,967,297 is a big number, which means it's generally unlikely to be prime." I look at the last digit, and there's no real clue there (an even number or 5, for example, would be a giveaway).

The question then becomes whether the OP is the sort of guy who would pull a big number out of nowhere, or whether he would go through the trouble of finding an actual prime number that was big enough that people wouldn't know immediately. With some loose data about the sort of people on /. and the amount of time generally spent composing /. posts, as well as the general tone of the message itself, I'd guess "no". I'm guessing he didn't bother to come up with a real prime number.

I could be right or I could be wrong, and I'm not really sure of exactly what went into that guess. I haven't even done the math to figure out if I'm right, but if I had to make an immediate guess whether 4,294,967,297 was prime, I'd have to make quick generalizations off of incomplete data and "go with my gut". Mathematical proof wouldn't be an option.

Guess is right... (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567777)

See [] ? The Blink works!

I think it's quite insightful to use gut feeling to determine where the number came from.

Re:Guess is right... (1)

cliffjumper222 (229876) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567958)

Yes, your guess is right - 641 x 6700417=4294967297

Re:I doubt this would work very well (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567466)

...and how long did it take you to come to that decision?

Re:I doubt this would work very well (1)

new death barbie (240326) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567583)

Works fine -- it's not prime.

I have no idea if I'm right or not... but I decided pretty quickly.

Re:I doubt this would work very well (1)

syukton (256348) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567732)

You may be right. However, if you had to determine if 4,294,967,298 was prime or not, you could do that instantaneously, because you would know that the only even prime is 2, so the number is therefore not prime.

Reasoning only applies to decisions for which there are not standard rules governing the decision. If there's a rule that says "if greater than 2 and even, not prime" then any number that is encounter that fits the rule can be easily snap-judged, while anything that doesn't fit a rule needs to be reasoned/evaluated. A rule is a direct link from point A (in this case, a number) to point B (to determine the primeness of the number), while reasoning is the indirect path we take between point A and B when we don't have an appropriate and simple rule.

The more simple rules you're able to develop and understand, the more rapidly and capably you're able to interact with the world around you. Here's a couple fundamental rules that you don't even think about any more: red means stop, green means go. You don't really think about it though, you just act upon it because you know the rule. There isn't a reasoning process between "see green light" and "make car go" because it's a direct an unquestionable link. Green = go. It's a rule inside your head, and it makes you more efficient as a person.

Re:I doubt this would work very well (1)

null etc. (524767) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567896)

4,294,967,297 is 2^32 + 1, which is divisible by 641. Any programmer knows that.

Uh ... Plato? (1)

Chromodromic (668389) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567334)

This makes good conversation fodder, but can frustrate readers who prefer direct presentation of scientific arguments. Plato's Republic is presented as narrative and imagined dialogue. It's been providing good conversation fodder for, oh, a little while now. Perhaps the limitation isn't the form ...

Re:Uh ... Plato? (1)

nine-times (778537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567412)

er... yeah, because Plato's Republic has never confused or frustrated anyone...

Re:Uh ... Plato? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11568212)

er... yeah, because Plato's Republic has never confused or frustrated anyone...

Confusion is often a good place to start and frustration is rarely a useful place to stop.

Author of The Tipping Point (2, Interesting)

xanderwilson (662093) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567336)

His previous book "The Tipping Point" has gotten some buzz in recent years around nonprofits I know. Haven't read either, but by the descriptions it sounds like The Tipping Point is about crowd/mass decision-making in the sociological realm and this one's about individual decision-making in the psychological realm. Interesting if he stuck to one topic, but not one field.

Re:Author of The Tipping Point (3, Interesting)

Drakonian (518722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567651)

I own the Tipping Point and I'm a big fan of it. I find myself classifying a lot of people that I meet as Connectors, Mavens, or Salespeople.

Some other comment described the book as obvious. I'd strongly disagree. The conclusions were very surprising and interesting. I'd highly recommend The Tipping Point. Blink is now on my list.

Tipping Point vs. Blink (3, Informative)

ghutchis (7810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567884)

You might be disappointed by Blink.

I think Gladwell had a ton of great stories like he did in Tipping Point. But I think Blink is a bit more diffuse -- no equivalent to the classification system in TP that you mention.

I like the concept of "thin-slicing" and very much enjoyed the stories in Blink. But I didn't think there was a core argument that stuck together, just a brief concept and some surrounding stories. I'm still not sure I know how to apply the idea of thin slicing myself or how to improve my abilities, other than to assume that with increasing expertise, it'll improve.

In another post, I suggested that people wait for the paperback or borrow it from the library. Blink is a solid book, but IMHO not worth the $$ right now.

Buzzword business (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568184)

Sounds like the old business plan thing again. Take some relatively obvious ideas, dress them up with nice sound-bitey names, books, speaking engagements, profit.

A question [possibly addressed by the book] (5, Interesting)

mrsbrisby (60242) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567355)

I understand this behavior because I see it; Our very own Fearless Leader exhibits this "thin slicing" with a remarkable success rate.

I do a significant amount of research in an effort to predict certain kinds of market trends and behaviors but what bothers me is that he [often] gets the same results without that work.

Nevertheless, I wonder mostly, why he is dismissive of a technical method that produces his results. Sometimes, it produces different results, and for those times he is extremely grateful, but when it doesn't- that is, when a technical and exhaustive method yields the same result as his snap decisions, he is very frustrated that the technical method was performed at all.

Like it's "obvious" to those of us without the manager hair and posture...

Van Riper (5, Interesting)

dunsurfin (570404) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567358)

The more interesting part of the Van Riper story (according to Gladwell's book) was that this war game was used as a test of concept to see if the US could invade Iraq successfully utilizing technology to remove the fog of war.

Van Riper (playing for Iraq) utilized (what seemed to the military brass to be) unorthodox methods and won. The military brass found this to be unacceptable and changed the rules of the war game midway, so that Van Riper lost. Then the US invaded Iraq.

Basically a case of "if the results of the test do not coincide with what we are looking for, change the test."

Re:Van Riper (4, Informative)

rcamans (252182) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567549)

Actually, they did not change rules midgame.
Van Riper won.
Then the brass called a do-over, replaced Van Riper with their own kind of brass, and they won.
Of course, in real life, you do not get do-overs.

Re:Van Riper (1)

mzwaterski (802371) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567819)

Of course, in real life, you do not get do-overs.

Which explains why they are doing this testing on a simulation rather than testing in a real a simulation you can do over as many times as you a) want, b) have time for, and c) have funds for...

Re:Van Riper (1)

tristan55 (530827) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567703)

Actually, according to this Washinton Post article, 02Aug16, he neither won nor lost. He quit halfway through due to the constraints he was being put under. This was apparently after he had sunk most of the fleet in the Persian Gulf, which had to be "refloated" in order to continue the exercise.

Cleaned up a bit (1)

khasim (1285) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567888) 02Aug16 []

"I want to disabuse anybody of any notion that somehow the books were cooked," Mayer told the Times. But he said "certain things are scripted" in any large war game. "You have to execute in a certain way or you'll never be able to bring it all together," he said.

Mayer said that in some parts of the exercise Van Riper was constrained "in order to facilitate the conduct of the experiment."
So, Van Riper was "constrained" but that doesn't mean "the books were cooked".

Bullshit. When you limit the options, you tilt the results.

3 Books You Should Put On Your List (3, Interesting)

danielrm26 (567852) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567363)

The Tipping Point
The Wisdom Of Crowds

Re:3 Books You Should Put On Your List (1)

Kruser (856194) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567659)

I'm currently reading the Wisdom of Crowds. I do collaboration research and I have found he puts a fresh spin on things and fleshes out some concepts that I have had tacit understanding of.

Contrast with "The Wisdom of Crowds" (4, Insightful)

mjh (57755) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567365)

Gladwell and James Surowiecki, the author of "The Wisdom of Crowds" got into an interesting co-review of each other's work on slate. [] I would think that the slashdot crowd would associate more with Crowds since it could be used to laud the value of the FLOSS development models.

Personally, I'm interested in reading both.

Most people are idiots. (1)

Thud457 (234763) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567522)

Anyone who reads slashdot at -1 can tell you about "The Wisdom of Crowds".

Missing the point? (1)

ZipR (584654) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567380)

"This makes good conversation fodder, but can frustrate readers who prefer direct presentation of scientific arguments."

One of the things that makes Gladwell such a popular writer and thinker is the way in which he presents things -- in a way that makes these topics interesting to non-scientific people.

I got a galley copy of this last fall, and thought it was an excellent book.

Re:Missing the point? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567968)

Gladwell provides a pretty thorough and organized set of endnotes at the end of the book. So the hard data is available.

Gladwell just makes the scientific data very readable in the body of the book.

Thanks for the review (1)

prostoalex (308614) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567383)

This book has been on my wishlist for a while, saw it recommended on some blog. Apparently Amazon sells an audio version on CD, I will be getting that today.

Great speaker, check out his book tour dates (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567492)

on his website you can find dates where he is making guest appearances/ book signing type get an idea of what a great speaker he is you could hit up IT conversations where theres a podcast/mp3 whatever you want to call it of his under the poptech conference section...

First impressions... (2, Insightful)

nazzdeq (654790) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567495)'s amazing that people think "thin-slicing" is something amazing. This is called first impressions whether it's a person, product, service or whatever. The fact you can write a book about the obvious and make lots of money doing so is what the book is really about. -Nazz

why do we need to learn about intuition? (2, Insightful)

kencurry (471519) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567499)

What we need to learn about is reason, science and logic; the very things that are NOT intuitive.

Intuition - we already got.

Funny also how he mentions that he got into the topic because cops jumped to the conclusion he was a bad guy 'cause he was a longhair.

Re:why do we need to learn about intuition? (1)

Zukix (641813) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568214)

What we need to learn about is reason, science and logic; the very things that are NOT intuitive.

Interesting point but what was to imagine the implications of riding a light beam at light-speed? It is not intuitive in the sense of obvious but that it involves intuition in the sense of searing insight would be fair to argue. It isn't arrived at by crunching axioms and filtering data. Consider the whole mathematical intuitionists after all.

How about intuition as in mentally performing non-classical computations i.e. the sort of thing that Penrose fallaciously argues for as the mechanism for how we can 'see' the truth of Godel sentences involving unconscious quantum effects?

Instant gratification (1)

JSmooth (325583) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567506)

I have to believe this is not the author's intent but the impression I came away with from reading his own words was this books makes it OK to follow our first instincts.

Should I play the lottery? I got a hunch that tonight is the night I am going to win so yes I should play.

Should I buy a new car? Yes, I can figure out how to pay for it later.

Reminds me of the scence from the "Matrix" when Neo asked his girl if she knew how to fly a heliocopter. She replies "not yet" and ten seconds later, after a quick upload, she does.

Instant gratification needs validation and now here is a book to validate not having to give anything more than a quick thought. Another step forward for our instant, microwave society.

Guess you should've spent more than 2 secs reading (1)

dustmite (667870) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568114)

If you'd read a little more before hastily posting to /. you'd discover that this is one of the core themes and purposes of the book. Here's more of the authors "own words":

"... I think that's an example of bad rapid cognition: there is something going on in the first few seconds of meeting a tall person which makes us predisposed toward thinking of that person as an effective leader, the same way that the police looked at my hair and decided I resembled a criminal. I call this the "Warren Harding Error" (you'll have to read "Blink" to figure out why), and I think we make Warren Harding Errors in all kind of situations-- particularly when it comes to hiring. With "Blink," I'm trying to help people distinguish their good rapid cognition from their bad rapid cognition."

Re:Guess you should've spent more than 2 secs read (1)

JSmooth (325583) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568295)

The quote you gave is a perfect illustration of my point. This book will give validation to instant gratification because people can figure out good from bad instant desicions. The whole idea of an instant desicion is as classic as "judging a book by its cover". We don't like it but if we wrap it in technical terms and provide "studies" to support it and, of course, always use PC responses (at least publically) than we no longer have to give it a second thought.

For you next arguement please share some of your own words. I already read his.

Re:Instant gratification (1)

Darth Hubris (26923) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568333)

That may be true, but regardless of how a decision is made, they have consequences. Get the answers right, and you get promoted, paid, laid, etc.

I can make the snappy, thinly-sliced decision that I have the right of way at the crosswalk because I'm a pedestrian, but the bus will still surely kill me.

Blink - A great book (1)

rcamans (252182) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567519)

I just read it, and it is an excellent book. A must read.
I could not put it down.
But then, like all /. readers, I have no life.

De ja vu (sp?) (1)

M3rk1n_Muffl3y (833866) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567532)

Warren G. Harding made overwhelmingly positive first impressions throughout his political career, although he is considered by historians to be one of the worst American presidents. Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings. Remind you of somebody?

Re:De ja vu (sp?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567710)

No. If this is some reference to the president, he has NO POSITIVE TRAITS. He'll get those when he's out of office and in a retirement home.

Re:De ja vu (sp?) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567944)

"'Despite his consistently lackluster performance, his attractive bearing and appearance camouflaged his shortcomings.' Remind you of somebody?"

Yes. Bill Clinton!

-Anonymous Phil

First Impressions (4, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567533)

This is the kind of book review I want to read on Slashdot. Unlike many magazine book reviews, this one is not an excuse to hijack the book's potential audience for the reviewer's own take on the same subject. Even the summary on the Slashdot homepage helped me learn whether I want to read the book or not. The review was also focused, balancing some "plot" coverage with style and subject explanations. So after about 90 seconds, I felt familiar enough with both subject and book to decide, if I have to, whether to read the book, and maybe track developments in the subject. It's inuitive when you know how! Give ThinkMagnet (James Mitchell) more books to review.

Mod That Up (1)

Drakonian (518722) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567768)

Insightful. Most Slashdot book reviews are awful but this one was very good. (The flamebait-ish last line of the blurb was a little grating but excusable)

I'm almost done with it (2, Informative)

BandwidthHog (257320) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567555)

I'm on the road mangling the network at one of our satellite locations, and went out seeking coffee Tuesday night. I went to a local book store, grabbed a book that looked interesting and sat down to read while I slurped. Sitting on the table was a copy of Blink that another customer had left there. I picked that up and was immediately engrossed. I've already decided (no two second jokes here, it took a few dozen pages) to start handing it to various friends and coworkers.

I highly recommend this one, and am glad I stumbled across it. As soon as I get home I'm gonna find a copy of Tipping Point.

An admission (1, Funny)

rscrawford (311046) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567570)

When I first saw the title The Power of Thinking without thinking , my first reaction was to reword the title in my head to The Power of Voting Republican.

bah (4, Insightful)

jidar (83795) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567585)

I've got a real problem with this entire concept. It encourages actions based on an evaluation of past patterns, which in turn discourages uniques and inovation. Also, people trusting their intuition and gut is a lot of what is wrong about people in the first place.

Also Fantastic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11567593)

I haven't read Blink, although I've been meaning to pick it up. I'm waiting for the purchase to be a "snap decision". ;)

However, I wanted to recommend another book. While it's highly technical, I would describe it as one of the most impressive books I've read. It's kind of like "Essential Cryptography" in that it's sort of the "Bible" for what it is. It's called "Judgement Under Uncertainty: Heuristics and Biases". It is one of the few books in a while that actually changed the way I made decisions.

Relationships (1)

FoXDie (853291) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567625)

For example, a system developed at the University of Washington can predict with 95% accuracy whether a couple will be divorced within fifteen years, based entirely upon one hour of observed interaction. So what I want to know is can they take two people and predict if a relationship would work? If so, they'd make a lot of money at

A better book. (1)

Kruser (856194) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567632)

If you are really interested in this, you should check out Sources of Power: How People Make Decisions by Gary Klein. Klein has been a name in judgment and decision- making circles for some time. His book is well written and is theoretically pretty sound. He addresses the use of heuristics in decision-making.

Why is this surprising? (1)

Thanatopsis (29786) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567644)

The whole premise of this book should not be surprising at all. Human beings evolved under conditions where they needed to make snap judgments and make them quickly. Those that guessed wrong were weeded from the gene pool as a large predator made lunch of them. The ability to quickly analyze a situation and make a judgement within a few seconds was certainly selected for as we evolved.

Fantastic book (1)

th3space (531154) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567704)

'Blink' is a very eye-opening read, to say the least. It has most certainly changed the way that I approach certain situations, especially those where I find myself dealing with new people...because no one, NO ONE wants to make a Warren G. Harding error.

I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in furthering their understanding of why people sometimes do the things they do.

Gladwell + Surowiecki Discuss (1)

TPIRman (142895) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567722)

Malcolm Gladwell and James Surowiecki (author of The Wisdom of Crowds) discussed the relative merits of snap decision-making and collective decision-making in a recent Slate "Book Club [] ."

Go Barnes and Noble (1)

SteakandcheeseUm (191173) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567760)

I saw that book the other day in recieving.. It intrigued me. Oh well. I am happy for the bn link at the bottom of the story! Buy books from bn! Make my company stock go up!

There are problems w/Gladwell's argument (2, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567805)

Richard A. Posner provides a few counterpoints in his review of the book [] in the New Republic. The gist of Posner's criticism is that the book provides a great deal of anecdotal evidence, but little real analysis. In particular he hones in on what he considers to be mistaken interpretations of causality.

I haven't read the book myself, but Posner's somewhat scathing review doesn't keep me from wanting to read the book. It does, however, make me want to read it with a critical eye.

Tipping Point is better (1)

ghutchis (7810) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567848)

I really like Gladwell's writing style and how he manages to pull together a wide variety of interesting anecdotes.

I wanted to strongly recommend Blink, but I can't.

His first book, The Tipping Point, is much much better -- it has a tighter thesis and keeps a much better argument. By the end of Blink, I was increasingly annoyed that Gladwell kept mentioning previous points and restating his thesis. Enough already, I remember your concept and I'd rather not be beaten over the head with it.

When I finished Blink, I was also left unsatisfied. I love the concept of "thin slicing" and I loved the anecdotes. But unlike The Tipping Point, where he brought it all together successfully, when I finished Blink, I had little sense of where to go next.

Here's the problem -- Gladwell basically credits the intuition of experts. From art historians to Van Riper, the success stories are those who have honed an incredible expertise in an area. But Gladwell doesn't successfully explain how the rest of us can begin to hone our "thin slicing" abilities. (Honestly, I don't think he knows himself.)

In the end, I think it's a book people should read -- but borrow it from a friend or get it from the library. It's not worth the money in hardcover. (This from a family-owned bookstore person!) Better yet, wait for the paperback.

In the meantime, read The Tipping Point!

Gladwell Interview at (2, Interesting)

reverseengineer (580922) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567851)

There's actually a fascinating interview [] with Malcolm Gladwell at ESPN's Page 2 site wherein the interview asks Gladwell to apply some of the ideas of "Blink" to the world of sports. His responses illustrate some of the insights of the book, but also some of the things that make Gladwell's logic rather frustrating. For example, Michael Lewis's book "Moneyball" comes up in conversation (for those unfamiliar, it suggests using comprehensive statistical analysis and a focus on particular stats to evaluate a baseball player, rather than the subjective eye of a scout or "conventional wisdom"). Going by Gladwell's thesis, though, you would think he would insist that an expert scout could make a snap judgement about a player and be more correct than some egghead analyzing statistics. Just as in one of the examples in "Blink" where an art expert can just glance at a statue and "know" it to be a fake, you would think a scout could briefly watch a player play and "know" whether he is the real deal or a bust.

Gladwell responds, though:

"I always thought that the critics of "Moneyball" misinterpreted what Lewis was saying. He wasn't saying that all instinctive scouting judgments are flawed. He was saying that there are some questions -- like predicting hitting ability -- that are better answered statistically, and that the task of a successful GM is to understand the difference between what can and can't be answered that way. That's my argument in Blink as well."

So the question becomes, then, how do we know when we can make an appropriate snap judgement about something? Why is "this statue looks like a fake" reasonable but "this guy looks like an athlete" not?

Gladwell makes the point that too much data can hinder, rather than help, but you end up needing to make a judgement on how much data is too much then. One of the examples Gladwell gives in "Blink" is of doctors making better diagnoses of heart trouble when they have less data- they jump to the heart, rather than investigating everything else chest pain could be. But do you really want your doctor operating on less than complete information- and if so, where do you set the line at? "Sorry, Doc, I'm afraid if I tell you how long I've had this pain, you might misdiagnose me."

I agree largely with Gladwell's ideas that snap judgements can be better than waffling, but he definitely should have done more to point out differences between good snap decisions and bad ones- he points out the "Warren Harding Effect" where someone "appears qualified" for something, but doesn't say enough in my opinion about knowing when your prejudices are boldly leading your gut astray.

Waiting for months (1)

cryptoluddite (658517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567937)

I have been waiting for months for this book to come out, based on the strength of the author's discussion on C-SPAN about it. And no, I don't normally watch Book TV, but I got sucked in because it was so fascinating (it was on the radio and even Book TV is better than ClearChannel crap).

The idea that autistic people can be used to model normal people in situations where there is not enough time to make a complex, socially-based decision. That police stopping a vehicle are safer if only one cop is at the scene than if there are two, because the presence of the other makes them proceed too quickly. The author even admits out that race and other prejudices are a factor in split-second decisions whether we like it or not, even when we don't consciously support it (ie raised in a blue state) -- regardless of how much as we might like that to be different.

Gladwell has clearly has done his research and has some really good ideas.

Where was the review again? (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567938)

I'm afraid I missed it.

correct according to whom? (1)

joepa (199570) | more than 9 years ago | (#11567994)

Thin-slicing isn't always correct; it depends on having the right information.

Correct according to whom? Some panel of experts?

Implicit Association Test (1)

halepark (578694) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568009)

One of the studies mentioned in the book was done by Harvard. They created an online version of these tests that show whether or not you subconsciously associate certain things together. You can take the tests [] yourself and find out things you may not even be aware of.

The tests are all based on the same idea but are targeted for different prejudices. The black/white test is interesting because many Americans (and less so, other Westerners) will exhibit some form of bias against African-Americans on it. The test said that Malcolm Gladwell, the author of the book, also shows this bias even though his mother is black.

I don't know how accurate these things can be, but it's kind of disturbing to take these and realize how your mind may subconsciously influence your decisions/interactions with other people in such a way.

Sources of Power (1) (816752) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568019)

One of my favorite books of all time is Sources of Power [] by Gary Klein. Gary Klein studied how people made decisions in high pressure situations, like fire commanders and military personnel, and pioneered a lot of the concepts in intuitive decision making. This is one of the best written, most informative books I've ever read. I highly recommend it to everyone. The follow up The Power of Intuition [] is great in that it teaches you how to become a better decision maker, but isn't as well written as Sources of Power.

When I heard of Malcolm Gladwell's book, I immediately thought "Awesome, the great popularizer is going to be bringing these concepts to the rest of the world and people will finally know what I'm talking about."

Seeing the subtitle Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, I knew that this was a reference to Klein's book.

If you like Blink, or even like the idea of Blink, definately check out Sources of Power []

Blondes don't need this one... (1)

TOWebstress (855727) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568025)

The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

This sounds like a book outlining an art blondes mastered centuries ago...

just kidding!!!...says the blonde

Malcolm Gladwell Blinks At Racial Realities (4, Interesting)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568063)

From Steve Sailer's review of Blink [] :

Now, it would be tremendously useful if Gladwell had figured out some general rules of thumb for when to rely on your instantaneous hunches and when not to.

But as far as I can tell, his book reduces to two messages:

  1. Go with your gut reactions, but only when they are right
  2. And even when your gut reactions are factually correct, ignore them when they are politically incorrect. []

Gladwell does make a genuinely useful point about how when people try to put their ideas into words, they often distort them into meaninglessness or falsehood.

Ironically, this happens to Gladwell every time he writes about race.

Because there were already plenty of books on the market advising corporate workers [] in tiresome detail how to look before they leap, the sales potential of a book telling them, "Wotthehell, just go ahead and leap," was clear.

Unfortunately for Gladwell, the best-known examples of thinking without thinking [] are racial and gender prejudices. But, then, you've forgotten Rule #2--Readers despise logic and consistency. So Gladwell just assumes that his otherwise beloved "rapid cognition" is 100% wrong whenever it's based on race or gender stereotypes. []

(And that's why he makes a $1 million annually and I don't.)

The most intriguing aspect of Gladwell's book is that its hopeless confusion and mind-melting political correctness stem from the author's own racial background. Although mostly white, Gladwell is partly of African descent (his mother [] was black, Scottish, and Jewish). But he doesn't look noticeably black in most [] of his pictures [] .

The origin of Blink, he writes on his website [] , came when, "on a whim," he let his hair grow long into a loose but large Afro.

As you can see in this picture of Gladwell with his Afro [] , he wound up with more of a Napoleon Dynamite Mormon 'fro [] than the genuine kinky kind that ABA basketball players [] espoused back in the 1970s. Still, it does finally make him look marginally black.

As soon as Gladwell grew his Afro, he claims, he started getting hassled by The Man: highway patrolmen wrote him speeding tickets, [] airport security gave him the evil eye, and the NYPD [] questioned him for 20 minutes because they were looking for a rapist [] with an Afro.

"That episode on the street got me thinking about the weird power of first impressions," he says. "And that thinking led to Blink."

Obviously, Gladwell is not being wholly honest about why he chose to grow an Afro, which is an extremely high-maintenance hairstyle.

(I know, because I looked just like Napoleon Dynamite myself [] back in 1978. If you are thinking about growing an Afro yourself, trust me when I tell you that anytime you lean your head against a wall or the back of your chair, you will dent your 'fro.)

People pick a hairstyle to project an image, and Gladwell presumably wanted to shed his nerdy son-of-a-math-professor look and start making first impressions that reeked of that dangerous, sexy, black rebel glamour associated with famous Afro-wearers like Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver [] and blaxploitation movie hero Shaft [] :

"Who's the cat that won't cop out
When there's danger all about?
SHAFT [] !
Right On!"

Now the inevitable downside of trying to look dangerous to impress girls and interviewers is that you look dangerous to cops.

But you aren't going to hear about tradeoffs from Gladwell, nor about racial differences. He makes a huge amount of money lecturing corporations, and he prudently toes the EEOC-enforced party line about how there's no contradiction whatsoever between "diversity" and profit maximization. []

For example, Gladwell wields Occam's Butterknife [] in his discussion of a well-known 1995 study by law professor Ian Ayres [] of racial discrimination by Chicago car dealers.

Ayres sent matched testers into auto show rooms where they found that car dealers gave the lowest initial offers to white men, followed by white women, black women, and finally black men. Even after 40 minutes of negotiating, the black guy shoppers were still being offered prices nearly $800 higher than the initial offer made to the white guys.

(Although Gladwell doesn't mention this, the race or sex of the salesperson didn't matter--e.g., on average, black saleswomen quote higher prices to black women than to white men.)

Ever the loyal lackey of multiculti capitalism, Gladwell theorizes that the car salespeople just didn't realize "how egregiously they were cheating women and minorities." He seems to hold the novel opinion that auto dealers are well-meaning but uninformed about profit-maximization.

See, the salesmen would have offered their female and black shoppers lower prices if only they had known (perhaps from reading Blink) that they suffered from irrational prejudices that were keeping them from making more money!

In a scathing review [] of Blink in the The New Republic, the celebrated Judge Richard A. Posner [] explains:

"It would not occur to Gladwell, a good liberal, that an auto salesman's discriminating on the basis of race or sex might be a rational form of the "rapid cognition" that he admires... [I]t may be sensible to ascribe the group's average characteristics to each member of the group, even though one knows that many members deviate from the average. An individual's characteristics may be difficult to determine in a brief encounter, and a salesman cannot afford to waste his time in a protracted one, and so he may quote a high price to every black shopper even though he knows that some blacks are just as shrewd and experienced car shoppers as the average white, or more so. Economists use the term 'statistical discrimination' to describe this behavior."

What's actually going on in showrooms is this:

Women [] dislike hurting other people's feelings more than men do, and car salesmen [] are very good at acting emotionally hurt when you try to lowball them. [] When I've gone car shopping with my wife, I've seen her flinch in empathetic pain when I scoff at a dealer's highball offer. But, after I've bought our new car for a $1,000 less [] than she would have settled for, she forgives me
Black men, for whatever complicated reasons, enjoy being seen as big spenders. [] And car salesmen are all too willing to help them spend big.

These ethnic differences in how hard groups will bargain extend far beyond basic black and white. For example, a friend of mine who is a small businessman in Los Angeles can rattle off a ranked list of how difficult it is to bargain with the myriad ethnic groups he deals with.

The most ferocious negotiators he runs into are the Armenians, Koreans, and Israelis. The most aristocratically insouciant about prices and terms are the white South Americans. []

Statistical discrimination is a troubling phenomenon, because it chips away at the libertarian assumption that competitive markets eliminate racial discrimination, as they do away with most things that are irrationally costly. (See my 1996 article " How Jackie Robinson Desegregated America [] " for a classic statement of this optimistic view of the free market.)

But, despite Gladwell's multicultural liberalism, he isn't going to tell us anything interesting like that.

Amusingly, Gladwell is creeped out by an online psychological experiment [] called the Implicit Association Test [] (IAT), because it tells him that he is unconsciously prejudiced against blacks.

The IAT is a test of how quickly you associate positive and negative words with black and white faces. (You can take it [] for yourself here [] .)

Gladwell has taken the IAT's race test repeatedly and it keeps reporting that he has a "moderate automatic preference for whites."

He's one of those "millions of Americans that link the words 'Evil' and 'Criminal' with 'African-American' on the Race IAT."

He's not alone:

"It turns out that more than 80 percent of all those who have ever taken the test end up having pro-white associations, meaning that it takes them measurably longer to complete answers when they are required to put good words in the 'Black' category than when they are required to link bad things with black people."

Interestingly, 48 percent of the 50,000 blacks who have taken the IAT also register as associating black faces more automatically than white faces with words like "hurt."

For whatever it's worth, when I took the IAT, it concluded, "Your data suggest a moderate automatic preference for Black relative to White."

This finding would allow me to get on my moral high horse and condescend to scientifically-proven racist bigots like Gladwell. But I'll instead defend his prejudice.

Occam's Razor suggests a simple, sensible reason why Gladwell tends to unconsciously link black faces with negative words like "criminal"--because blacks are indeed vastly more likely than whites to be criminals.

Here's the official word from the federal government's Bureau of Justice Statistics [] : "Blacks were 7 times more likely than whites to commit homicide [] in 2002."

And that seven-to-one ratio is a bit of an understatement because, although the government normally strives to break ethnic Hispanics out from non-Hispanic whites in most of its measures, its crime statistics notoriously [] lump many Hispanics in with non-Hispanic whites. Since Hispanics have a higher crime rate [] on average, this artificially lowers the black-white crime ratio.

The most strenuous effort to count Hispanics accurately came in a 2001 report by the liberal advocacy group National Center on Institutions and Alternatives [] . I crunched their data on incarcerations in 1997 and found that the black imprisonment rate [] was 9.1 times the white rate. (The Hispanic rate was 3.7 times the white rate. The Asian rate was not broken out, but I would guess it was considerably lower than the white rate.)

So Gladwell's association of blackness with criminality on the IAT is a perfectly rational and fact-based example of the "thin-slicing" that he otherwise endorses.

Not that you'll ever hear that from him. Too many $40,000 corporate speaking gigs at stake!

grokkage (1)

xiggelee (460670) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568308)

I see a lot of these postings disparaging the book's concept because it is supposedly unlikely to apply consistently to things that require logical analysis.

In radiology we're routinely looking at images that contain more information than can be systematically evaluated; you can't look at every thing on every scan. Certainly there are lists of things to check for in particular situations, but I find that when there is an abnormality, I nearly always first mentally register it as somehow 'wrong' - only afterward do I figure out why it seemed wrong to me.

In evaluation of things with more variables than we can keep track of - that is, when it's more pattern recognition than systematic analysis - I think the book's concept is useful. At least for me, it resonates with some of the things I do during the day. I thus feel compelled to give the guy his share of mad props.

Oh Yeah... (2, Informative)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 9 years ago | (#11568311)

Because what we really need is more encouragement for people to stop thinking about things before doing whatever fool thing pops into their head.
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