Malcolm Gladwell's Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, like his previous bestselling nonfiction book, The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, is in certain ways a collection of clever aphorisms and anecdotes expanded into book form. The book's major argument is that our brains have a subconscious ability to synthesize vast amounts of information into a quick gestalt, and that we use this ability to make judgments which can often be strikingly accurate. His book itself is designed to be read in precisely the fashion he recommends for thinking in general, with readers leaping quickly from anecdote to anecdote, appreciating the striking images and dramatic revelations, and such soundbites as:
... our world requires that decisions be sourced and footnoted, and if we say how we feel, we must also be prepared to elaborate on why we feel that way...We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that - sometimes - we're better off that way.
In one way, this sounds very appealing, as it seems to take much of the effort out of decision making, but it can also lead to some very bad decisions. For example, if you are buying a house or a car, even if your intuition says it's a good deal, you still need to get a termite inspection or have a mechanic look under the hood, because your intuition is no real substitute for what lawyers call "due diligence." Gladwell admits that being able to make good intuitive judgments doesn't just happen at random; instead:
... being able to act intelligently and instinctively in the moment is possible only after a long and rigorous education and experience ...
Gladwell's main theme, however, is that instant intuitive reactions can lead to good decisions, as he emphasizes in this statement:
We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it...We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible an depending as much time as possible in deliberation. ... But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.