Friday, April 9, 2010


Title: Blink
Author: Malcolm Gladwell
Genre: Non-fiction
Published: 2005

Recommendation: Some very interesting psychological phenomena, but not a cohesive book as a whole.
Rating: 8/10

Summary: A popular psychology book on how first perceptions affect our judgment and decisions in some very non-intuitive ways sometimes.

Reactions: I spent the last few weeks reading Blink. I primarily read fiction and I found it was quite difficult to keep motivated to come back to this book. While Malcolm Gladwell examines some very interesting phenomena, the moment I put the book down, I felt no compunction to return back to it. Hence I came out of the reading experience with a feeling that the book dragged on whereas it might not be the case for someone with a different mind set.

The subject matter of the book was pretty interesting. I've always been fascinated by psychology and Gladwell discusses some very interesting experiments in the book. He talks of a psychology team studying tapes of couples discussing their marriage and being able to predict the outcome of the marriage by watching very small portion of the conversation. He discusses a case of four policemen shooting an innocent man in Bronx with 41 bullets. He illustrates powers of cognition with some military examples where the teams win against all odds.

Throughout the book, Gladwell attempts to match case studies to psychological studies and explain the phenomena. In some cases, the correlation is clear, in others I felt the connection was a little thin. Even though most of the book deals with how people form initial impressions, how unconsciousness is able to make many decisions, and how it's able to affect decisions negatively which are all related; I did not find that the book was cohesive. I felt the experiment results contradicted each other or were applicable only to narrow situations. I wouldn't say that after reading the book a reader is able to practically take advantage of the subject matter and become better decision makers. But there is certainly valuable food for thought.

The example I found close to my heart was one dealing with how the hiring practices were changed for musician. Apparently in mid 20th century, most orchestras had an overwhelming number of men and only a few women until the blind auditions started to become a popular practice and all of a sudden the hiring rate for women in orchestras soared. The example certainly made me wonder what would happen if we were to adopt the practice for computer science interviews. Put the candidate in a room with a computer and have them solve a problem while using IM as a means of communication. Would we still hire the same people as we do now?

So to sum it up, Blink was an interesting book and I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in popular psychology subjects. At the very least you will come out with some interesting studies to tell your friends about.

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