Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

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Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking General Psychology
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Best-selling author Gladwell (The Tipping Point) has a dazzling ability to find commonality in disparate fields of study. As he displays again in this entertaining and illuminating look at how we make snap judgments—about people's intentions, the authenticity of a work of art, even military strategy—he can parse for general readers the intricacies of fascinating but little-known fields like professional food tasting (why does Coke taste different from Pepsi?). Gladwell's conclusion, after studying how people make instant decisions in a wide range of fields from psychology to police work, is that we can make better instant judgments by training our mind and senses to focus on the most relevant facts—and that less input (as long as it's the right input) is better than more. Perhaps the most stunning example he gives of this counterintuitive truth is the most expensive war game ever conducted by the Pentagon, in which a wily marine officer, playing 'a rogue military commander' in the Persian Gulf and unencumbered by hierarchy, bureaucracy and too much technology, humiliated American forces whose chiefs were bogged down in matrixes, systems for decision making and information overload. But if one sets aside Gladwell's dazzle, some questions and apparent inconsistencies emerge. If doctors are given an algorithm, or formula, in which only four facts are needed to determine if a patient is having a heart attack, is that really educating the doctor's decision-making ability—or is it taking the decision out of the doctor's hands altogether and handing it over to the algorithm? Still, each case study is satisfying, and Gladwell imparts his own evident pleasure in delving into a wide range of fields and seeking an underlying truth.

Editorial Reviews

We need to place more trust in our "thin-slicer"-our capacity to make instant judgments-but we also need to sharpen its edge more keenly with experience and education.Gladwell's second entry into the aren't-our-brains-amazing genre (The Tipping Point, 2000) has an Obi-Wan Kenobi flavor, a "trust-your-feelings-Luke" antirationalism that attempts, in some ways, to deconstruct the Force. The author's great strength lies in his stories, and here he crafts a number of engaging ones: an account of art experts fooled by a fake; a summary of how a psychologist, looking at an hourlong video of a married couple conversing, can predict with 95% accuracy if they will divorce; an unnerving narrative about the Millennium Challenge, a war game in which a maverick commander deals a devastating blow to the bean-counting rule-followers on the team that was supposed to win. There are stories of a rock star fighting the odds, of cops shooting an innocent man who looked suspicious, of Coca-Cola making a big marketing mistake. We learn about the Aeron chair, All in the Family, Lee at Chancellorsville. (Unconventional people sometimes surprise.) We ponder the odd political rise of Warren G. Harding. We have a power lunch with some professional food-tasters-the author quips that it was like cello-shopping with Yo-Yo Ma. We chat with a car-selling superstar. Gladwell also rediscovers something Poe described in "The Haunted Palace": our eyes and our faces are windows to the soul. He tells us that the autistic are unable to decode or even notice the facial information of others. All these stories are nicely written and most inform and entertain at the same time, but they don't add up to anything terribly profound, despite the author's sometimes Skywalker-ish enthusiasm. Brisk, impressively done narratives that should sell very well indeed, particularly to Gladwell's already well-established fan base.Author tour Copyright Kirkus 2004 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

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