According to Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for The New Yorker, much of the conventional wisdom about how our minds and emotions work is wrong. In his new book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Gladwell introduces a number of thinkers who are crafting a new theory of the mind that could have far-reaching consequences for every area of life: business, government, romance, education, law enforcement, and more.
Like his 2000 bestseller, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Gladwell's new book drills down to the micro level, in this case to explore the science of snap judgments and first impressions. Why are some beneficial and some disastrous? Why are some people better at playing their hunches? To make his case, Gladwell draws on an eclectic range of sources - speed dating, military war games, soft-drink taste tests, art forgeries, movie stars, athletes, and the Herman Miller Aeron chair.
The result is a book full of surprise and paradox that will make many readers blink in amazement. Gladwell reaches some unorthodox conclusions, especially for a journalist: "As a society, we are so wedded to the idea that all explanation is good," he says. "We're overcommitted to explaining and rationalization. We've got to accept the mystery of things a bit more."
Properly mystified, we asked Gladwell to explain.
For openers, why the title? What's a "Blink" moment?
I use the phrase to describe rapid cognition and those decisions that instantly bubble up from your unconscious. A gut feeling. I'm very interested in just how quickly we can jump to certain conclusions.
Your book is full of counterintuitive insights. For instance, most people consider "jumping to conclusions" to be a mistake, but you don't see it that way.
No. We rely on snap decisions far more than we appreciate. And we suffer under the delusion that most of our important decisions are made in a very rational, deliberate way, but that's just not true. The romantic model of "love at first sight" is true of many other kinds of decisions. We make powerful judgments about people in an instant, and we don't generally go back and change our minds.
Are these judgments reliable?
A decision made in the first two seconds can be just as good as a decision made over a long period of time with lots more information.