Book Review: Blink

For some of us, decision making is one of the most gruelling tasks you could ever assign us to. What brand of cheese do I get? What colour car should I buy? What degree should I choose? Which job should I take? A multitude of options can send us into a heated debate between our logical mind and our subconscious. Our brain will tell us to take the job that earns more money and has more job security, while our intuition will haul us into taking the job that brings us the most career satisfaction. 

I’m sure this is something that you have had personal experience with, but consider this – are you ever able to explain your subconscious brain’s reasoning? Sometimes, you just know without knowing why you know. It’s as if the imaginary compass inside your head has suddenly been toggled with, pointing you in the direction it wants you to go in, however absurd it may be. 

Blink explores the reasons behind our subconscious master, covering how to predict which married couples will last, priming our brains to act in certain ways and the most effective methods for choosing an employee. 

The author, Malcolm Gladwell is a Canadian journalist, non-fiction author and public speaker of English and Jamaican descent. His best-selling books, including Outliers and The Tipping Point also focus on psychology.  

In Blink, Gladwell focuses on the concept of ‘thin slicing’ which is when our unconscious searches for patterns in situations and behaviours based on very short-lived experiences. Often, a snippet of information is a more valuable tool in making judgements than a comprehensive analysis.

Gladwell discusses matters of race and how even anti-racists can succumb to racial stereotypes when not utilising their conscious brain. He highlights the innate association between black and failure perpetuated by society and history, and how during an interview between a white employer and a black applicant, even minuscule, imperceptible signs of racial hostility towards the candidate can affect their performance. 

Reading Blink you begin to realise the power of our primitive brain. We sit here on our high horses, gallivanting in pursuit of more information, placing our highly-developed mammalian brains on to a pedestal, when really, our instincts are often more trustworthy. In complete contradiction to traditional views on knowledge, when making judgements and decisions – less is more. The secret is to find a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking. 

Gladwell makes us realise that we can easily be manipulated. We are what our brains and the surrounding environment lead us to believe. Within his book he covers many societal issues such as racism, sexism, police brutality and even touches on classism. Published in 2005, this book was well ahead of its time, discussing matters that are of great importance today and are now finally beginning to be acknowledged.  

Now more than ever, Blink is an extremely relevant book to read to help us understand our subconscious, including stereotypes, prejudice and other beliefs we were unaware of.

There are many secrets that lie beneath our kind, well-meaning and righteous demeanour. Blink and you’ll miss them. 


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