Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell
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What is the exigence of the book "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell?

Expert Answers

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In any work, the exigence provides the impetus for an author to speak out or to write about an obstacle or dilemma. The exigence involves the desire to effect change and to convince others that the change is necessary. So, you can say that exigence is the purpose for a particular work.

Thus, the exigence for the book is that "decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately." Gladwell wants to dispel the notion that good decisions are only made through careful deliberation. He argues that there are benefits to making split-second decisions, especially in times of stress or danger; he refers to "thin-splicing," where we make decisions based on relatively little information.

Gladwell contends that we can change our lives for the better if we will only explore the value of intuition in specific circumstances. He maintains that, if we took our instincts seriously (and learn when we can trust them and when we can't), it will "change the way wars are fought, the kinds of products we see on the shelves, the kinds of movies that get made, the way police officers are trained, the way couples are counseled, the way job interviews are conducted..."

Basically, Gladwell wants his readers to be aware of the possibilities that await them by acknowledging that "there can be as much value in the blink of an eye as in months of rational analysis." He asserts that we can learn how to make better "snap judgments," and in doing so, we will learn how to be successful in the working world as well as in our personal lives. Gladwell provides an example for his hypothesis in the introduction to the book.

Accordingly, in September 1983, Gianfranco Becchina, an art dealer, approached the J. Paul Getty Museum about buying his supposedly sixth century male kouros, a nude statue positioned with the left leg forward and arms at the sides. To aid the museum in its research, Stanley Margolis, a geologist from the University of California, spent two whole days examining the surface of the statue with a high-powered stereomicroscope. He took samples and examined them, eventually coming to the conclusion that the statue was thousands of years old.

However, three other experts took a look at the statue, and without examining it or performing tests on it, immediately concluded that the statue was a fake. Frederico Zeri (an Italian art historian), Thomas Hoving (a former director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), and Evelyn Harrison (an expert on Greek Sculpture) all instinctively felt an "intuitive repulsion" within moments of seeing the statue. How did they know that the statue was a fake? All concluded within seconds that the statue had an unseemly look of "freshness" about it. It looked like it had never been in the ground.

Thus, three people understood more about the nature of the statue in the first two seconds of looking than a team of museum experts after fourteen months. Gladwell's book is indeed, about the power of the instant impression.


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