I bought this book because I loved Tipping Point but it kind of disappointed me. To be fair, it would be hard to live up to a book like Tipping Point. All said and done, Gladwell is an amazing writer and although there are no earth shattering insights in the book, you still don’t feel like abandoning it.
Blink talks about the power of flash decisions, those which are not thought out, but just happen. It mainly deals with how intuitive decisions take place. They are very powerful yet sometimes go terribly wrong. Here are some interesting thoughts from the book.
Let us say I ask you to recall the face of a waiter who served you last time you went to a restaurant. Now if I ask you to pick this person from a police line-up would you be able to do it? Apparently you would. But, suppose I ask you to take a pen and paper and write down as much detail as you can of the person. Apparently you will do lot worse in picking the face from the police line-up. Verbally describing a face impairs your ability to recognize it!!!
Here is an interesting Psychology test to help you understand the power of the subconscious. In the table below, assign each name to a category
——– John ———
——– Bob ———
——– Amy ———
——– Holly ———
——– Joan ———
——– Derek ———
It was easy. Now try this
European American African American
——– Hurt ——–
——– Evil ——–
——– Glorious ——–
——– Wonderful ——–
Was it as easy as the first one? This is called the implicit association test (IAT), you can take it online at www.implicit.harvard.edu. We can make connection between two ideas which are already related in our mind more easily then we do between pairs of ideas which are unrelated. For most people, it is much harder to put glorious and wonderful with good when it is paired with African American. That is the power of the subconscious. Our stated and conscious position on racism may be very different from what we feel at an unconscious level.
Another very interesting example is from the world of classical music. Until recently it was a dominated by white men. It was believed that women could not play like men. In recent times the musicians established a union and many rules were formulated for the selection process. During the selection process, participants were identified by numbers and had to perform behind a screen. So selectors have no knowledge of who is performing. Since this practice was established the number of women in the top US orchestra has increased five fold.
The point that should be noted in these examples is that none of these people were consciously gender biased or racist but the subconscious is so powerful that one is not even aware of its influence.
I was talking to my friend last week. She was very upset about how people treat gays and transgenders in India. She was talking about establishing a school for them to run. I asked her if anyone would put their children in such a school. Even I wouldn’t. Believe me, I understand their problems and empathize with their issues. But, would I trust them with my son? Honestly, I don’t think so.
If not anything, Blink made me examine my own prejudices and I think I will be less judgmental about others’ henceforth.