Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell
Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, explores the power of snap judgments and how they shape our lives. The book looks at the science behind how we make quick decisions and how they affect our lives.
Gladwell examines how these judgments are made, the role of intuition and unconscious thought in decision-making, and how we can use this knowledge to our advantage.
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Blink looks at the science of decision-making, the power of first impressions, and the importance of gut instinct in decision-making. The book is an exploration of the power of snap judgments and how they shape our lives.
Thinking from the gut
- Your unconscious mind quickly and effectively filters important information from unimportant information. Using the 40-70 rule, it’s best to make decisions with enough information to act quickly but not so much information that decision-making becomes moot. Over-analyzing irrelevant details can lead to poor decision-making.
- In stressful situations, our ability to interpret nonverbal cues and judge a situation accurately is impaired, leading to poor decision-making. To prevent this, reduce stress quickly by taking a walk or breathing to prevent tunnel vision.
- Our brains can form deep associations that can affect decision-making. To avoid this, create your own screens and filters to prevent irrelevant information from being processed.
How doctors get sued
There’s little correlation between doctors’ mistakes and the incidence of legal proceedings.
Instead, the correlation was very strong with the way doctors treat patients.
Doctors who didn’t get sued did the following:
- Spend on average 3 minutes longer for a patient
- Orienting comments such as “first I examine you, then we’ll talk it over”
- Active listening such as “go on”, “tell me more about it”
- More likely to laugh
Difference was not in the information or amount of information, but how they behaved.
Many decisions we make we can’t even explain consciously, not even after we reflect on them.
Tennis Coach Vic Braden can guess when a player would hit poorly but he couldn’t’ explain why. The locked door also works the other way around: we can decide what we like and want consciously, but our conscious choice is a poor indicator of what we like.
That’s why it’s common speed daters end up picking partners who look and behave like nothing in their pre-drawn criteria.
Reminding blacks they’re black lowers their scores. Reminding Asians they’re Asian raises their scores.
Having people do a test with many age-related words had them walk slower (hallway study). Students also interrupted other people’s conversations right away or waited indefinitely based on how they were primed, with politeness or rudeness.
Of course, people had no idea of the outside influence that changed them.
When asked how they solved the puzzle, almost nobody mentioned external help and all focused on their mental processes to reach the solution. It’s not that people were self-absorbed, but the hint was so subtle that their rational selves never realized it.
Our rational brain doesn’t tell the truth but comes up with what seems the most plausible solution. But even this is seldom the real explanation.
We really should be saying “I don’t know” more often.
When Less is More
In emergency rooms, there’s no time for doctors to gather all the information they can. Doing so, the doctors will face a data deluge that clouds their brains instead of helping.
When finally a new algorithm with only 3 data points was tested, it proved not only to make for faster decision making, but also to be more accurate than the old “take all data” system.
The more information the psychologists receive, the more confident they feel.
But the rate of correct diagnosis didn’t improve with more information.
We can learn more from people by observing BL, facial expression, or looking at their rooms than by asking them directly.
While people are very good at explaining their actions, those explanation aren’t necessarily correct. Especially when the behavior arises from the unconscious.
Brand and the product go together
In the 1970s, Pepsi had introduced the “Pepsi challenge,” in which ordinary people were blindfolded and asked to choose between small cups of Coke and Pepsi. More people said they preferred Pepsi to Coke.
In response to Pepsi, Coca-Cola released a new product: New Coke. New Coke “tested” very well—people were asked if they preferred New Coke or regular Coca-Cola, and they overwhelmingly claimed to prefer the former.
But when New Coke was released, it sold horribly. Coca-Cola was forced to reintroduce its original product, which it called “Classic Coke.”
Coca-Cola is popular not only because of its literal taste but also because of the shape of the bottle, the color of the logo, the personal associations of the consumers, and the celebrities who endorse the soda. In short, Coke focused too much on the literal taste of the product and not enough on the overall Coke “brand.”
Feeling Misinterpretation – Failed Thin Slicing
The first market research shows people don’t like the new, groundbreaking chair. But the company launched anyway, and it turned out that the chair became a hit.
People mis-interpreted their feelings. They said they hated the chair, but what they really meant was that it was so new and unfamiliar that they were not used to it. People get caught off-guard but given enough time to warm up, they start liking it (of course it’s also possible they won’t!)
We love market research because it provides scores, numbers, and a feeling of certainty.
But there can be no certainty with new, groundbreaking products.
High Pressure Situations
Stress can help us focus. It’s how some top players feel the game is slowing down. It’s because their brains drop all unnecessary stimuli and focus exclusively on what matters. It’s so-called “Tunnel Vision.” This is between 115-145 heart rate.
Above 145, our body functions start to shut down. That’s why for some, it’s difficult to even dial the police number.
Our snap judgments can be impaired by extreme stress or life and death scenarios. Even being under strong time pressure, without life or death scenarios makes us unable to see clues in our BL and facial expressions. Extreme time pressure makes us autistic.
Under extreme stress, disengage and resume later.