Sunday, 16 May 2010

Book Review: Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell (2005)

First impressions, gut instincts, pre-conceived notions and physical giveaways to emotional thoughts are the inter-related topics explored by Malcolm Gladwell in Blink.

How do we make instantaneous snap judgements that are so often right? Why causes first impressions to sometimes be disastrously wrong? What are the inputs needed to truly allow us to judge a situation -- and judge it better? And how do we physically reveal through facial and physical expressions our true feelings regardless of our rational attempts to control our public image?

As is his style, Gladwell seeks answers from a wide-range of interesting fields: the art world, where the historical merits of a statue are the subject of intense research and immediate debunking; the consumer world, where our initial opinions about wine and cola are much more complex than we imagine; the world of psychology, where the potential for a marriage to end in divorce can be uncovered from the shortest of seemingly innocuous conversations; and the world of medicine and law, where the ability to determine the risk of a doctor being sued is remarkably easily to predict; and counter-intuitively simplifying a seemingly complex diagnosis procedure allows a hospital to dramatically improve patient care.

Gladwell also delves into the world of the military and police enforcement, to compare deliberate, structured (and often cumbersome) thinking with quick, nimble spur-of-the-moment actions.

Not all of the stories and examples work, and Gladwell is often guilty of losing momentum and allowing unnecessary details to get in the way of the concepts and lessons that he is trying to draw out. His detailed description of facial muscle movements is onerous to the point of extreme tedium and smacks of desperation to fill pages. But despite its failings, Blink is a generally engaging examination of the often critical, but little-understood, rapid decision making process.

Published in hard cover by Little, Brown.
254 pages plus Notes and Index.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review No. 43.
The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

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