Malcolm Gladwell

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell is number 4 on the Globe and Mail's list of best selling non-fiction books.

What were the thoughts that came into your mind as you read that sentence? Did you form an opinion about Blink? Well, those instant judgements or decisions are precisely what Blink is about: those first impressions and the thinking that takes place the instant we see something for the first time.

As is pointed out in the book, many of us were raised to think before we act and therefore, don't always trust our first impressions. One of the goals of the book is to "convince you of a simple fact: decisions made quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately." Blink is filled with a number of convincing examples to help drive that point home.

On the opposing side, Malcolm Gladwell also provides a number of examples of where the first impression was incorrect and we're reluctant to change our position despite evidence to the contrary. A young curator at the Getty Museum, involved in one of his first purchases for the museum, came to close to purchasing a fake. Despite having examined the piece for over a year, and being a true expert in his field, the curator was fooled by what he wanted to believe. The purchase was only cancelled when a world-class expert viewed the statue and knew instantly it was a fake. Blink tries to provide a better understanding of why such a phenomenon occurs: why the subconscious can seem to work against us.

Finally, Gladwell wants to "convince you that our snap judgements and first impressions can be educated and controlled". He believes developing more accurate first impressions is a skill that can be learned. He uses a very powerful example of a veteran police officer who had lived through many violent encounters over his career. While many of the incidents took mere seconds to unfold, the officer had been able gather all sorts of information, information vital to his safety as well as the safety of others. It was as if the officer had been able to slow down time and see the event almost like a movie, frame by frame. That he could remember anything at all is almost beyond comprehension but this officer had trained his eye and his mind, to capture and retain information at a very rapid pace.

Blink is a very entertaining read although a bit repetitive. The concepts are easily understood and perhaps it would have been a crisper read if the book was shorter. Definitely worth a look.

This book review was written by Helen Latimer.

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