Littler Books cover of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Summary

Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Summary and Quotes

Malcolm Gladwell

2 minutes to read • Updated May 22, 2024

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A thought-provoking classic that explores the power of our intuition and the importance of making snap judgments.

Bullet Point Summary

  1. We use our intuition in decision-making more than we think. Intuition can often lead to better judgments by cutting out irrelevant information, but can also be influenced by unconscious biases. The key to making good decisions is knowing when to trust your intuition and when to analyze a situation more deeply.
  2. The human brain has two strategies for decision-making: conscious analysis and unconscious snap judgments. Snap judgments allow the brain to quickly process situations and decide the best course of action. People often distrust snap judgments, but they can be superior to conscious decisions.
    1. Many art experts can spot fakes within seconds because they get an odd feeling when seeing a forgery, even though they can't explain why.
    2. Some tennis professionals can immediately predict when a player is about to serve a fault.
    3. A study found that the quality of a marriage can be assessed with great accuracy from observing just a few seconds of a normal interaction between the couple.
  3. The unconscious mind can quickly differentiate between important and irrelevant information, making it easier to make accurate judgments. It's often better to focus on a few key factors rather than suffering analysis paralysis -- analyzing every bit of available information when making decisions.
    1. A more accurate and quicker method to diagnose heart attacks was developed by using much less information than was previously standard.
  4. The ability to make quick judgments based on only a small amount of information is called thin-slicing.
  5. We sometimes try to fabricate logical explanations for our snap judgments. For example, when we meet someone we will intuitively know if we like them, but they will often contradict the rationally compiled list of desirable characteristics we had before.
  6. Professionals, from goalkeepers to investors, all rely on their intuitions, which are developed by experience, training, and knowledge.
  7. Our unconscious associations can impact our behavior and decision-making. This phenomenon is called priming.
    1. A study involving participants competing in Trivial Pursuit showed that individuals who visualized being a professor outperformed those who visualized being a football hooligan.
  8. We unconsciously associate certain attributes with qualities like power and competence. Such associations can be dangerous.
    1. Research has demonstrated that being a tall, white male results in higher salaries and greater access to top management positions.
    2. Warren Harding, arguably the worst US president in history, was elected as US President based solely on his presidential appearance and not his skills.
  9. The best way to overcome our prejudices is to experience new things and meet new people.
  10. Emotional expressions are universal and can make connections in ways that logic alone cannot, but stress can impair our ability to recognize them. This tunnel vision can make us temporarily autistic, similar to those with autism who struggle to read non-verbal signals. It's important to reduce stress to avoid this and prevent unpredictable behavior.
    1. Tunnel vision caused by stress is a factor for many police shootings of innocent people.
  11. Market researchers often fail to predict consumer behavior.
    1. Coca Cola's introduction of New Coke was a massive failure despite positive taste tests. This was because of unrealistic testing conditions (test subjects only had a single sip).
    2. To ensure accuracy, market research should closely resemble the actual consumption environment of the product.
  12. Consumers tend to rate innovative products negatively at first, needing time to get used to them.
  13. To prevent unconscious prejudices from affecting our decisions, we should avoid irrelevant information.
    1. The music industry began using screens during auditions to hide the gender of the musicians so that they could be evaluated solely on their performance, leading to more opportunities for talented female musicians.

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