Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – Malcolm Gladwell

Here are my comments on the book:

How significantly can your subconscious influence your decision making processes? Malcolm Gladwell, Canadian journalist and bestselling author, argues that at times your decisions will have already been made by your subconscious even before you consciously make your decision. This part of our brain is a double edged sword in the sense that it at times can help us and, at other times work against our decision making process. Our brains consistently looks for patterns and groups them to make our lives easier whether we know it or not which then allows us to form certain interpretations and perceptions based on a limited set of data, also known as “thin-slicing”. This is exactly why prejudices and stereotypes exist due to the fact that our subconscious will have already programmed us to think a certain way about others. Here are some points from the book:


1. What you choose to put in your mind will have a direct effect on your brain’s output whether you know it or not. Words alone can change your actions on a subconscious level. That’s why it’s so imperative to get rid of or block out the negativity, doubters, and haters in your life. To become the better you, you can’t let the poisonous and toxic words get to you. They used a group of undergraduates as subjects and gave everyone in the group one of two scrambled-sentence test. The first was sprinkled with words like ‘aggressively,’ ‘bold,’ ‘rude,’ ‘bother,’ ‘disturb,’ ‘intrude,’ and ‘infringe.’ The second was sprinkled with words like ‘respect,’ ‘considerate,’ ‘appreciate,’ ‘patiently,’ ‘yield,’ ‘polite’ and ‘courteous.’ In neither case were there so many similar words that the students picked up on what was going on. (Once you become conscious of being primed, of course, the priming doesn’t work.) After doing the test-which takes only about five minutes-the students were instructed to walk down the hall and talk to the person running the experiment in order to get their next assignment. Whenever a student arrived at the office, however, Bargh made sure that the experimenter was busy, locked in conversation with someone else-a confederate who was standing in the hallway, blocking the doorway to the experimenter’s office. Bargh wanted to learn whether the people who were primed with the polite words would take longer to interrupt the conversation between the experimenter and the confederate than those primed with the rude words. He new enough about the strange power of unconscious influence to feel that it would make a difference, but he thought the effect would be slight. Earlier, when Bargh had gone to the committee at NYU that approves human experiments, they had made him promise that he would cut off the conversation in the hall at ten minutes. ‘We looked at them when they said that and thought, You’ve got to be kidding,’ Bargh remembered. ‘The joke was that we would be measuring the difference in milliseconds. I mean, these are New Yorkers. They aren’t going to just stand there. We thought maybe a few seconds, or a minute at most.’ But Bargh and his colleagues were wrong. The people primed to be rude eventually interrupted-on average after about five minutes. But of the people primed to be polite, the overwhelming majority-82 percent-never interrupted at all. If the experiment hadn’t ended after ten minutes, who knows how long they would have stood in the hallway, a polite and patient smile on their faces?


2. Ever experience a time where you’re torn between decisions? Well, that may be because of a disagreement between your conscious and subconscious. Your subconscious may be telling you one thing and your conscious telling you another, causing you to stay confused over your decision. They couldn’t agree.  But then, that’s because there isn’t a right answer. Mary has an idea about what she wants in a man, and that idea isn’t wrong. It’s just incomplete. The description that she starts with is her conscious ideal what she believes she wants when she sits down and thinks about it. But what she cannot be as certain about are the criteria she uses to form her preferences in that first instant of meeting someone face-to-face. That information is behind the locked door. Braden has had a similar experience in his work with professional athletes. Over the years, he has made a point of talking to as many of the world’s top tennis players as possible, asking them questions about why and how they play the way they do, and invariably he comes away disappointed. ‘Out of all the research that we’ve done with top players, we haven’t found a single player who is consistent in knowing and explaining exactly what he does,’ Braden say.


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3. We subconsciously look at those who are taller to be more “capable”. I personally believe that this has to with the “authority bias”which states that we tend to take the opinion of someone who’s seen or perceived as an authority on a subject. When looking up or down at someone, we subconsciously tend to feel a power difference between that person and ourself which, in turn, affects how we treat them. Not long ago, researchers who analyzed the data from four large research studies that had followed thousands of people from birth to adulthood calculated that when corrected for such variables as age and gender and weight, an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary. That means that a person who is six feet tall but otherwise identical to someone who is five foot five will make on average $5,525 more per year. As Timothy Judge, one of the authors of the height-salary study, points out: ‘If you take this over the course of a 30-year career and compound it, we’re talking about a tall person enjoying literally hundreds of thousands of dollars of earnings advantage.’ Have you ever wondered why so many mediocre people find their way into positions of authority in companies and organizations? It’s because when it comes to even the most important positions, our selection decisions are a good deal less rational than we think. We see a tall person and we swoon.


4. Humans are creatures of habit. The habits that you build over time has a compound effect as stated by Darren Hardy in his book The Compound Effect and can either work for or against you. When we watch professional athletes perform, we’re usually awed or fascinated by their level of skill. These skills that they have were all developed over time with the right habits that when we watch them play, it’s almost as if their skills are second nature to them. To excel at anything in life, good habits need to be so engrained that it looks second nature to others. Basketball is an intricate, high-speed game filled with split-second, spontaneous decisions. But that spontaneity is possible only when everyone first engages in hours of highly repetitive and structured practice perfecting their shooting, dribbling, and passing and running plays over and over again-and agrees to play a carefully defined role on the court. this is the critical lesson of improv, too, and it is also a key to understanding the puzzle of Millennium Challenge: spontaneity isn’t random. Paul Van Riper’s Red Team did not come out on top in that moment in the Gulf because they were smarter or luckier at that moment than their counterparts over at Blue Team. How good people’s decisions are under the fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal.

By Ryan Lee


My rating:
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Check out the book here:

Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK


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