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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Don't Think. Blink.

Michael Gladwell's "blink" bore me company on Dadar Express from Chennai to Mumbai. For anyone who doesn't know the agony of a 24 hour journey by train, the Chennai-Mumbai leg would be a good starter. After the initial curiosity of gazing at bucolic landscapes and gulping one absolutely horrendous railway Idli-Vada-Chutney (reminded me of 'Anniyan' and 'Kumbee Bagam'), I settled down to read this book.

There have been times when I've taken ridiculous likes/dislikes to people and things. An instinctive feeling of warmth and trust creeps in when I meet some. There are moments when a little voice murmurs, 'No. This thing is BAD for you.' When people belligerently ask, 'So, why in the world don't you like her? You just saw her!', I've never been able to explain WHY. This book explains how we 'thin-slice' all the time and form opinions. The 'Adaptive Unconscious', as Gladwell calls it, guides you surely and firmly in the right direction before your conscious mind even realizes anything. Perhaps this is the 'gut instinct' that people rely on so much.

One thing I found interesting is the fact that people who instinctively make a decision and people who are given time to make a decision eventually make the SAME decision. Perhaps, taking "time" to make a decision is irrelevant? Do we agonizingly confuse issues by poring over too much fringe data? Maybe. Personally, I agree with the author as far as decision making goes. There is only certain core data we need to make a decision and usually, it is available at hand. The other fringe information is for confirmation and safety. And this information, at times, does serve to confuse the conscious mind instead of clarifying it. So we begin to second-guess. Doubt creeps in and the conviction needed to execute actions goes missing.

I believe in instinct. It has saved my bacon a lot of times...:) People sometimes criticize the so-called "feminine instinct". I don't think there's any sort of gender in instinct. I think women are more prone to recognize their emotions and feelings. Perhaps, in the process they end up being more sensitive to that little inner voice.

Definitely worth a read for the examples and real-world incidents that the author details. The good news is that we are born with this instinct and we can hone it. Don't think, Gladwell says, Blink.

14 comments:

Zeppelin said...

hmm.. nice insight...

but seriously, do you need to know about your "gut feeling" by reading from a book ? or someone else tellig you ? .. you just know right ? ..appo edhuku indha book ?? ... "catch my pOint ?" (kameshwaran style) :)

how I wish I could just blink and know ... *sigh*..

Anonymous said...

Even I have to accede to the fact that the instincts tug to do form the likes/dislikes over people and things.I see the term thin-slicing connoting prejudice in a slightly hyperboled fashion just emphasizing a tad rationale in addition to the latter.

Arjuna_Speaks said...

Nice points there..Maybe, we have a certain framework in mind and when a person u meet doesnt suit ur framework, u just dont like them!

U culd have taken the deccan air - its cheap to fly nowdays..

Anonymous said...

And yes, that fringe information is enough, at times, to goad us well to take a second surmise that even might put the actions on stale because of doubt. Instinct would've done better in that case. But if you ask me, decisions ,at times, go at stake. Nice insightful post.

Out of the topic, you had the Jumbo Meals?

V

Arjuna_Speaks said...

anonymous - I like ur words there..good ones :)

dinesh said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dinesh said...

Interesting although not immediately acceptable. Atleast, to me, I do not take a decision instinctively if I can help it. Points about more time serving to confuse you and so the conviction getting lost are taken, but say what you want to..empirical data is often the most reliable !

Subha said...

Zeppelin,
we all know "gut feeling". i guess it is interesting to find out why and how we get that "gut feeling"..:) You do know a lot of things in a blink. You don't realize it. That's what this book is all about! :))

Anon,
thin-slicing is making decisions with only a very few facts at hand...it is not prejudice..

Arjuna,
Framework? perhaps so..:) people can choose to call it whatever they want.
Flying into Mumbai Domestic is akin to flying into a fish market. The domestic terminus is as crowded as a bus stop and flights are usually delayed...:(

Subha said...

V (?!),
sigh..decision making is perhaps the most complex things humans do. Hard to comment on it easily..
No, I spared myself the torture of jumbo meals. I just had plain simple idli-vada which in itself was terrible..:(

Zeppelin said...

hmmm...not convincing enough... but i am blank ! :)

IBH said...

Decision making?!!! i go by insitinct....and has worked very well for me till now subha!

U have written it extremely good!

now tell me is it Lexington aura or something???

but seirously! it is very well written!

MotoRama said...

That's an interesting read!Looks like Malcolm Gladwell is on a mission to squeeze the idea of "little things" making "huge" impact since i am reading "Tipping Point" now by him.(which apparently i picked up at the airport while waiting for delayed flight).

Prabu Karthik said...

MG rocks! do check out his website too. (gladwell.com) do check out his new yorker archives. some of them r absolutely brilliant.
for eg.
http://gladwell.com/2000/2000_08_21_a_choking.htm

BLINK was a sort eye opener to me on things like implicit associative test, warren harding error and the Love lab :)

TIPPING POINT is also very good but a tad slow:(

Subha said...

@Dinesh,
There are moments when empirical data is really not available to you at hand. This book is about how you can make decisions even in those moments!

@IBH,
thanks..:)

@Motorama,

I plan to read the Tipping Point soon.

@PK,
Will check his website..:) Thanks for the tipoff on that other book! :)