Blink Book Review

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Blink is a book that analyzes the way people make decisions. According to the author, Malcolm Gladwell, people use one of two strategies to come to a decision. The first strategy is a conscious one. When using this strategy, people think about what they have learned and develop an answer. The second is an unconscious strategy in which a person's brain reaches a conclusion in a matter of seconds, often times without awareness. These conclusions are what we generally refer to as hunches or instincts and, it is the development and reliability of these types of conclusions that Gladwell focuses on in this book. In doing so, Gladwell sets out to accomplish three tasks. The first is to prove that decisions made very quickly can be as effective as decisions that are made cautiously and deliberately. Gladwell's second task is attempting to answer the question: "When should we trust our instincts and when should we be weary of them?" In support of this question, the author gives several examples of instances where people have made decisions based on their instincts, some resulting in brilliant success, and others in utter disaster. Gladwell's third and most important task is to convince the reader that these first impressions can be educated and controlled. Gladwell acknowledges that the unconscious decisions we come to are often times more accurate than the ones we make after our judgment has been clouded by reason and rationalization. However, it can be hard for people to rely on these instinctive decisions, because the thought process happens behind a "locked door." In order to make these decisions more credible, Gladwell explains the brains ability to "thin slice." According to the author, thin slicing is the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience. When the human unconscious thin slices, according to Gladwell, it sifts through a particular situation and throws out all irrelevant information. This process occurs constantly in our minds, as we move from situation to situation. The information that we gather is stored in our unconscious and manifests itself in very subtle ways in our decision making process. Throughout the book, Gladwell gives numerous examples from research and the testimony of others to determine when our instincts can be very reliable and when they can be extremely deceiving.

Blink deals with several topics that we have discussed in Organizational Behavior. Gladwell uses Warren Harding's rise to presidential office to explain what he calls "the Warren Harding error." Gladwell's explanation of "the Warren Harding error" is very similar to the halo effect. The halo effect refers to our need to have consistent impressions of people. In order to do this, sometimes we have to overlook one or two characteristics of a person that are inconsistent with the impression that we have of them. In the case of Warren Harding, he had the look of someone who inspired confidence. Harding had a charm about him that won the adoration of all those with whom he came in contact, and when people looked at him they thought "You know, he would make a great president." They were completely willing to overlook the fact that Harding lacked many of the qualifications necessary to be an effective president, because their impression of him was that he would make a great president. Gladwell makes the claim that thin slicing tends to create biases in our subconscious in favor of and against certain types of people. If true, this is especially disturbing because it means that we may discriminate against people or lump them into a certain stereotype without even realizing it. In one example, Gladwell polled half of the companies on the Fortune 500 list and found that the average height of their CEO was nearly six feet tall, whereas the average height of the American male is 5'9". To put these numbers into perspective, Gladwell goes on to...
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