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“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell – An Incomplete Idea Essay Sample

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“Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell – An Incomplete Idea Essay Sample

In the book “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell, the central theory that Gladwell presents is that often the decisions and observations made in only a split-second, in the blink of the eye, are better than decisions which are made after extensive thought. To present and justify this idea Gladwell describes the lives of several people who make, or have made, important snap decisions with a high level of success or failure. He then explains the logic behind each story and relates it back to his original principle. The narratives include the story of a fake Greek statue and the debate of it’s authenticity, a retired U.S. general who defeated the best of the military with quick thinking, and a group of police officers who killed an innocent immigrant because of a tragic misunderstanding, among many others. While I found many of these anecdotes interesting and do agree to a certain point that on occasion trusting your intuition is more effective than boundless thinking, many of the examples used in Blink oversimplify or misstate the importance of “those first 2 seconds” (8).

One instance in “Blink” where I believe Gladwell is overstating the truth is with his story of Paul Ekman and his technique to evaluate faces to determine whether someone was lying or not. In the book Gladwell writes in a very matter-of-factly way about Ekman and his ability to tell if someone is lying by watching video of them, however if Ekman had actually developed a surefire way to detect a lie, it would revolutionize the justice system. While I do believe Ekman may be better able to make educated guesses due to his research, I don’t fully believe that he is as able as Gladwell seems to describe him. Another problem I found with Blink is in Gladwell’s description of the incident where a fake statue is sold to the Getty museum. He defends his gut-feeling theory through this first story in “Blink” by saying how several art experts instantly knew something was wrong with the statue while months of chemical tests proved to be wrong when they found the statue was legitimate.

But Gladwell doesn’t so much show that intuition is more effective than articulate thinking as show that the Getty museum made a poor decision. Had they allowed the art experts to have more than a quick view maybe they would have been able to justify their feelings and been able to prove that the statue was a fake before the Getty bought it. I also found it a bit odd that Gladwell uses the concept of “thin-slicing” (23) is a book about quick decisions. While this technique does look at fast actions made by people’s subconscious, thin-slicing in and of itself is the product of extensive thinking. The idea didn’t simply came to John Gottman in the blink of an eye, but instead was developed over years of research and testing. The development of this technique as well as the facial coding system developed by Ekman are products of years of research even more extensive than the tests performed on the kouros statue at the Getty which ended up being incorrect.

While all the stories throughout Blink are definitely entertaining and interesting, many don’t pertain well to Gladwell’s original theory, or aren’t explained well enough to relate back successfully. The cynic in me finds what Gladwell doesn’t say many times throughout the book more relevant than what he does choose to say. Despite Blink’s entertainment value, I feel like Gladwell failed to piece together what could have been a very smart idea, and instead settled with piecing together a bunch of loosely connected anecdote about interesting individuals.

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