Book: “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell

"Blink" by Malcolm GladwellI borrowed “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell from the library after seeing it reviewed elsewhere.

Overall, I found it very readable and interesting.  There is a lot of information about various psychological research studies and the academics who worked on them, as well as examples from various places of how experts in particular area (eg art) can make immediate judgements unconciously (what I might think of as “gut instinct”).

One section I found fascinating was the part about “unconcious bias”.  This is the snap judgements we make about people based on first impressions, often boosted by the attitudes of people and media around us.  The Harvard “Implicit Associations Test” is available online and measures how far you are biased towards or against certain stereotypes of groups of people.  It is well worth taking and considering the results – you might well be very surprised!  I was fascinated to find out that unconcious biases are very difficult to combat on a concious level, but there are good results from attacking it on an unconcious level – that is, by observing people who break stereotypes and taking in that experience, rather than just telling ourselves or others about such people.

The book makes the case that trusting those gut instincts can be very useful – and indeed, who doesn’t do this from time to time?  Noticing that a car is moving slightly oddly so avoiding it and avoiding an accident, for example?  However, the book also points out that the unconcious bias shows us that snap judgements and gut feelings can be mistaken due to upbringing or cultural beliefs.

I think the message to take from this is that gut feelings are useful, but should be filtered and checked carefully before acting upon them.  I believe that the unconcious has a lot of interesting and useful things to tell us, but we must be careful not to get carried away.