Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Essay - Critical Essays

Malcolm Gladwell

Literary Criticism and Significance

Gladwell's first book, The Tipping Point, was a bestseller, and Blink has also sold well and has generally received positive reviews. Most critics view Gladwell as a science-mixed-with-culture writer because The Tipping Point; Blink;and Gladwell's newer book, The Outliers, rely on the blend of scientific research and social issues.

Many readers respond positively to Gladwell's subject and his anecdotal style. Blink has been deemed a sort of self-help book by some critics. David Brooks's January 2005 review of Blink for The New York Times argues that Blink almost seems to offer humans the ability to train a magic power (intuition) that lies dormant within them. Brooks praises Gladwell's use of interesting studies and anecdotes, but he finds himself questioning which bestseller is correct (Blink or other recent books that tout the pop culture use of statistics). He asks, "What is the relationship between self-conscious reason and backstage intuition? Which one is right more often?"—a question that he believes Gladwell leaves unanswered.

Howard Gardner's review of Blink for The Washington Post (a newspaper for which Gladwell previously wrote) echoes much of Brooks' sentiment. He appreciates Gladwell's writing style and his ability to synthesize numerous studies, but he questions whether Gladwell's work could be used in a psychology classroom because some of the author's examples "seem stretched simply to fit under the blink-of-an-eye umbrella." He suggests that Blink is more fitting for a journalism class.

Much of the debate about Blink is not over its entertainment value: it received high praise from most entertainment-driven critics. Rather, the debate centers on the value of the book as a whole. For the novice psychology student, Blink is a rather brief synthesis of many groundbreaking studies and could certainly motivate a student to dig deeper into various psychological theories. For the aspiring writer, Blink provides a model of witty, relevant writing and demonstrates how an author can effectively draw support from seemingly unconnected areas of life to prove a thesis.