March 25, 2016
First of all, am thankful or Tracey, John, Shauna, and the other people who were very quick and incisive in their recommendation of this book.
When asked if this book was ‘worth a read,’ the unanimous vote of all these people was more than enough for me. Am very grateful for them giving me their honest opinion not too long ago, because now after having been able to read it, it was more than worth it.
Blink – The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcom Gladwell, is quite a unique book. In essence, it offers countless examples, much of it backed by experiments or notable circumstances which show what takes place in the first moments when people are rapidly sifting through information.
In that way, the book is a slight misnomer, because although it states partly in its title ‘the power of thinking without thinking,’ just because the conscious mind isn’t ‘thinking’ does not mean that the subconscious mind isn’t processing information at warp speed. The latter part is what many people overlook in their daily lives, and sometimes mistakes get made of monumental proportions when in hindsight, it should have been the most obvious thing to some.
Gladwell hones in on a bevy of examples that buttress his thesis quite well. From snap decisions, to fascinating aspects of the subconscious mind, to what he calls thin-slicing, each of these ideas is touched upon by the author. All of these concepts help the individual get to the kernel of whatever circumstances they are going through and achieve a deeper, more accurate understanding.
One particular section that was of interest was one called ‘The Importance Of Contempt’, which discusses the work of John Gottman. In it the author details why what looks like positive interactions between married couples, are in fact negative. But this can only be seen if one knows what to look for.
The author also discusses the notion of priming people. Priming is where words are used in order to stimulate the brain to think about a particular thing/emotion. If the person knows not of this technique, they might be subject of manipulation, as countless emotions can be brought to bear by those unknowingly, by simply repeating certain words or having the person read words that convey a common theme.
An excellent, although nefarious, example of this is when George Bush [as well as others] in his post-9/11 speech used the word terrorism dozens of times in that newscast. Of course, the word was immediately ingrained into the populaces psyche, and a new era of terror was brought into the fold. That however was a rather obvious version of priming. If priming is used in a subtle way, it can serve to socially engineering people to particular emotions/agendas.
Moving forward, the author also covers another straight forward experiment in which when people in a minority group were “asked to identify race on a pretest questionnaire, that simple act was sufficient to prime them with all the negative stereotypes associated with being African American and academic achievement – and the number of items they got right was cut in half.”
The author further elaborates:
“As a society, we place enormous faith in tests because we think that they are a reliable indicator of the test taker’s ability and knowledge. But are they really? If a white student from a prestigious private high school gets a higher SAT score than a black student from an inner-city school, is it because she’s truly a better student, or is it because to be white and to attend a prestigious high school is to be constantly primed with the idea to be “smart”?”
The author proceeds to link the above not only into discussions about the unconscious, but also into his central thesis.
As the author states:
“The results of these experiments are, obviously, quite disturbing. They suggest that what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act – and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment – are a lot more susceptible to outside influence than we realize.” [Bold Emphasis Added]
All of the above concepts, and much more, are discussed at length by the author as he links at times seemingly unrelated topics to show how important that initial reaction before one blinks is, and how although it can lead one to profound and correct answers, can sometimes steer one awry.
In the society we currently live in, being able to have lightning-quick, accurate discernment is highly beneficial, especially given how much propaganda takes place in various forms of media.
Being able to ascertain who has agendas, who wants to profit from you, and who doesn’t care about throwing you under the bus is priceless in a world where in certain sectors its getting more ‘dog-eat-dog’.
 Malcolm Gladwell, Blink – The Power Of Thinking Without Thinking, p. 56
 Ibid., pg 56-57
 Ibid., pg 58