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Review: Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

BlinkBlink by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Gladwell shares intriguing examples of the role of the unconscious in making decisions. He tells of the surprising accuracy of snap judgments, and how people’s experiences greatly influence their decisions, despite their unawareness. Many of his stories are fascinating, but his slow, winding way of telling them is frustrating. I wanted to shout, “I get the point! Move on!” I didn’t like this book as much as Outliers (read my review), but I wasn’t as interested in this topic as the subject of Outliers (achieving success).

I really liked the investigation into how ignorant people are of the factors that affect their decisions. One of my favorite sections was about how people perceive food to taste better or worse based on the food’s branding and packaging. Gladwell also shows that, counter-intuitively, too much information or too many choices inhibit judgements, because they become distracting. This idea is also explored in Nudge (read my review), which I highly recommend.

I had heard of this book before, but finally decided to read it after Brendon Sinclair recommended it in the The Web Design Business Kit 2.0 from SitePoint. In the kit, Brendon explains that web designers need to design websites that make great first impressions and are simple enough to facilitate quick, unconscious decisions. I’ll try to keep these lessons in mind for my web design company, OptimWise.

Gladwell shows that snap judgments can be quite accurate because of thin slicing; the brain is able to get a “read” on a person or object based on a very short exposure to them. Of first impressions, he says that “sometimes we can know more about someone or something in the blink of an eye than after months of study.”

We make judgments based on our experiences and situations, so prejudice and stereotypes can lead us astray. To minimize their effects, Gladwell suggests that we change our experiences. For example, by spending more time with the people against whom we’re prejudiced, we can retrain our brains to overcome the prejudice.

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