Friday, October 13, 2006

Blink

I finished reading Blink the other night at about 3 a.m.

Why was I reading so late? That's another story, but I really liked the book. It made me think about racism, or my racism and bigotry specifically. At first I told myself that wasn't the author's focus -- the author was trying to tell us about "thin slicing" or "rapid cognition." It all sounded like intuition based on deep experience. Although the author went out of his way to avoid the word intuition. An example of rapid cognition is a basketball player passing the ball to someone behind him who is out of his view. He passed the ball, because he knew his team mate would be there even though he couldn't see him. How did he know the other player was in the right spot? Based on his vast experience playing basketball and playing with that team mate.

The last chapter summed up all the concepts nicely by describing the change in orchestral auditions in which auditioning musicians are hidden behind a screen to prevent the judges from prejudging them. The author says this changed the gender makeup of orchestras.

Another interesting point is that about half way through the book, I went to amazon.com and read some of the book reviews of Blink. They are favorable overall, but some reviewers didn't like the book. The negative comments usually ran along the lines of, "This is too obvious, we already know this stuff, it doesn't deserve this much space." Or they said the author cited a study or example and then took that as fact without questioning the study. Those are fair criticisms open for discussion. I suppose where your opinion falls is a result of your background with the subjects discussed. Something that bothers me about the amazon.com reviews is the meanness shown by many of the reviewers. They write as if the author has personally harmed them. I've noticed this every time I've looked for book reviews in amazon.com. I don't understand it. Disagreement and criticism are wonderful, but meanness gains nothing.

I think one of the best qualities of the book is that the author shows his lack of meanness. In many of his examples, he could have ripped into the people who were later shown to be wrong (like the officers who killed an unarmed, harmless man), but he gave them some credit and explained that we all make mistakes when thin slicing and that it's human nature. He didn't excuse the mistakes, but he treated them rationally.

This morning I went to the author's blog and discovered he is a very thoughtful person. In his latest entry, he says we don't appreciate how hard other people's jobs are. It's worth a read.

My wife handed me The Tipping Point the other day. I'll read that also.

6 comments:

Jeff said...

I'm almost through Tipping Point. I think it's fascinating. I'm reading it with social change in mind...how do I help create a social epidemic? I've read part of Blink...it's on the night stand, waiting to be finished after Tipping Point. There's something about the way Gladwell writes that allows me to read for extended periods of time. It's a real friendly tone...

rigtenzin said...

Jeff, I agree with you about Gladwell's writing style. It appeals to me. Maybe it's the opposite for those amazon.com reviewers who don't like his stuff. I have no idea what style appeals to them.

Anonymous said...

I loved this book. It's nice to know that my intuition comes from somewhere, rather than just my gut. I see this on walks with Sophie, too. Some people she acts all interested in and wants to greet. Others are invisible to her. I want to ask those people, "Are you a sociopath?" :)

Anonymous said...

Gladwell also writes a periodic column for The New Yorker. Always well thought out like Blink and The Tipping Point. The last one was about accepted knowlege. One of the examples he used was the number of dog-biting incidents involving Pit Bulls.

rigtenzin said...

I want to start The Tipping Point, but I have to finish a computer security book that I've been reading at the rate of one word per day -- must -- finish -- this -- very -- dull -- book.

Soph, I looked for his columns on newyorker.com and found a few and maybe found the one to which you refer. While searching I found his interview with the dog whisper (I'm sure you're familiar with the TV show):
http://www.newyorker.com/online/content/articles/060522on_onlineonly01

Eclectchick said...

Well, from my blog, you probably already know I loved the book. Have GOT to pick up Tipping Point. Thank you so much for the reminder.

Must finish Mary Roach's "Spook: Science Tackles the Afterlife" first tho.

I also second what Sophzilla says about people she and Sophie meet on walks. I have oft noticed the same phenomenon with my Hobbster. Always makes me go hmmmmm.

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