Thursday, January 24, 2008

blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Subtitle: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

Overall Recommendation: Yes, if you know what you're getting into. Not a fast read but it's a very interesting read. Blink is so different than anything I've read for awhile. Non-fiction, lots of case studies, I had to actually think a bit to make sense of all the information. It was good for me. It was a bit laborious, but I'm glad I finished.

Case Studies or Examples I liked: The Pepsi Challenge--so cool to find out the reason behind New Coke! I'm not much of a cola drinker, but many near and dear to me are. I think the difference between good for a sip and good for a whole case was very interesting.

Rule of Improv--Facinating! This will change the way I watch comedy!

Watching a movie with the autistic man--again, so cool! It was one of the clearest explanations of the social disconnect people with autism have. I thought the research here was very accessible and clear.

The screened auditions for the orchestras--we've heard examples like this before, but I thought it was cool to hear the one judge talk about how she prefers them because she gets distracted by little things. At first this was distracting because I thought it was opposite of the first impression idea, but it fits with the concept of too much information blurs the truth.

Case Studies or Examples I struggled with: The whole Millenium Challenge--it was interesting, but a little drawn out. All of the computer simulated quick responses--I just found these too contrived. Maybe I don't have enough experience with them, but they were too off the wall for me to really get into.

What I liked: I was initially concerned the author was going to suggest that we should trust our first impression wholly, which is kind of radical. Never judge a book buy its cover, right? I do think we all agree that our gut instinct or mother's intuition is right on a lot of the time. I just wondered how a book would prove this, and how would you justify the stereotyping and profiling that embracing this theory would lead too. BUT, I think the value in the book is the idea that we educate ourselves, gather all the facts, do the research, then let our subconscious make quick decisions.

I think Gladwell is right on when he explains that we often have to made choices without the luxury of time to weigh all the options. This reminds me of what we learn in our youth and try to teach our kids; we need to weigh the evidence and prepare for meaningful decision making before the heat of the moment. I'm thinking of saying no to drugs and staying morally clean. We can't necessarily trust our instincts if we haven't gone through the logical and reasonable facts before we are faced with a split-second decision.

I completely agree with his phrase, "paralysis through analysis." When we overload ourselves with choices or information, it becomes more difficult to know what the right choice is. We don't always make a better decision just because we have more information. I guess the trick is finding out what is essential, what is distracting, and what is just irrelevant.

What bugged me: Where this got confusing, and a little inconsistant for me was when the opposite seemed to be true. To understand facial expression, it suggests gathering tons of information. The research in the beginning with the couples also confused me in that way. Like I mentioned above, the simulated or computer studies (race with car salesmen, old age word references, gun or wrench) just seemed a little forced. I know that studies like this are done in all fields, and are considered valid, I'm just not convinced that it transfers directly to life. I got bogged down with all the technical details in some of the studies. Gladwell's style isn't my favorite. I think he was trying too hard to make a complex idea readily available to his readers, because the repetitive loops were pretty annoying. Each chapter rolled back to his previous example, which kind of gave me the feeling, "see I told you so, and now I told you again and again and again."

Also I think the information he presented was being manipulated to make his point. I wrote enough papers in college to know how this is done. Some of the studies I felt like you could use to prove the contrary. He would say things like "just under 50%, then just over 50 %" and I'm just not convinced there was a difference. I'm not convinced the numbers really proved what he insinuated they did.


Julie E. said...

Erik really liked this book as well as "The Tipping Point" by the same author. I'm about 1/2 way through (Tipping Point) and would love to read Blink when I'm done. He's a great writer. Have you read Tipping Point? If so, which did you like better?

Kammy said...

I haven't read Tipping Point. I think I will sometime, but I need a little break! I'm going to read some fun fiction next!

Emmie-Lew said...

I read both books, enjoyed them both- but preferred Tipping Point. Lewis actually has it on CD and it was very interesting to listen to. It was MUCH easier than reading it- Malcolm Gladwell is the reader on the CD- so he is passionate about what he's reading. It's been awhile since I read "Blink", but we're doing doint in my book group this year- it'll be good to re-read it.

kim said...

hi kam!!
hope you don't mind, but saw your blog on kim's blog and had to stop in. oh my gosh, i loved this book too. so interesting, but defnitely not one i could read half-asleep. hope you're doing good! i'll send along my blog address once i get mine up and going.

kim :)

Kammy said...

Yeay Kim!! I'm always asking Kim E. about you! I'm so happy you stopped by and I can't wait to read your blog!!

It's funny, I usually like to read right before bed, but I had to read this during daylight so I could understand it. It was a good distraction on the EFX machine!

Betsy said...

Klint bought me both Blink and Tipping Point for my birthday a few years ago and I have yet to read either. I am so slow to pick up a book sometime. We both enjoyed Freakonomics and this was suggested to go along with it. I love your thorough review. Now when I read it I'll know which parts to skim over and not try and worry about. Thanks for the awesome blog!!