Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Suggested Reading: A Word On Gladwell's "Blink"

I spent Sunday afternoon at a cafe in the West Village, drinking my peppermint tea while trying to convince my ex girlfriend that Gladwell's second book "Blink" was truly something else. I am still not done with the book, but I must say I am quite impressed with this marvel of pop psychology. For some reason or another, she saw the cover of the book and called it "self help mush" (which I do read a lot of--Brian Tracy and Stephen Covey being some of my favorite self improvement authors), so I explained to her that the book explored issues dear to her heart--perception, intuition, and judgement. She was a psychology double major in college after all; aren't you guys obessesed with cognitive development? I guess she is getting the point because today she sent me an article on "Blink," which is currently the No. 1 nonfiction book in the country. At the heart of "Blink" is
the idea that snap judgments -- even apparently instinctual, gut reactions -- are accurate. It's what cognition experts call "thin-slicing," which Gladwell defines as "the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience." But there are caveats, of course. We may not realize it, but our snap judgments -- our thin-slicing -- are based on experience and perception, and both can be skewed.
Drawing on the power of unconscious experience to illustrate how intuitive decisions lead us astray less often than imagined, "Blink" can also serve as prism through which one can view the endlessly morphing stock market, where first impressions engulf traders and investors alike, sometimes pushing them to save (or lose) big money in a matter of seconds. Snap decisions it would seem are the sin qua non of the Wall Street life. The overriding irony of course is that those market players making the snap decisions are doing so based on years of experience trading under pressure. But that is another book in and of itself.

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