Monday, February 17, 2014

To Blink or Not to Blink

Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Trying, attempts to do a very difficult task.  Gladwell wants to show when it is most efficacious to make snap decisions without gathering very much knowledge and information, and when it is best to make very deliberate decisions.

Of course, many times we don’t have a choice.  We must make quick decisions without complete information, and under extreme stress.  Gladwell gives numerous examples of how snap decisions can often be the best decisions we can make.  He also gives a wealth of examples on how they can lead to our doom. 

But equally, gathering too much information can foul up decision making.  Gladwell gives examples of such occurrences, and also positive examples of fully informed decisions.

So, Gladwell walks the tight rope in Blink.  He wants to prove a point: that very often, our first impressions about people, events, ideas, are the correct one.  Gathering more information only fouls up that initial, correct assessment.  Yet this can go wrong as well, and he gives a wealth examples of how we carry our prejudices with us during our quick, uninformed decisions.

This will leave a casual reader a bit confused about Gladwell’s point, because his point his subtle.  Sometimes deliberation is in order; sometimes we must make decisions in the blink of any eye.  A great deal depends upon context.

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