What Is Gladwell's Purpose In The Last Part Of The Essay

What is Malcolm Gladwell's purpose with Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking?

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Natalie Saaris eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gladwell's purpose is to make his readers aware of how intuition affects their experience of the world. 

He describes the way that a thin slice of information can be used to deduce deeper insights. Psychologist John Gottman can predict with astonishing accuracy whether a couple will stay together or not just by watching them interact for a few minutes. The limited data points that he gathers from this interaction allows him to understand the couple's relationship on a deeper level.

Unlike Gottman's well researched system, however, many of us develop an intuition about things that we cannot logically explain. Gladwell offers the example of a tennis coach who could predict whether a player would double fault. He had no idea what tipped him off to his conclusion. He would just have a hunch, and it was almost always right.

Gladwell does not merely advocate for following our guts, however. He cautions that intuition can lead to making bad decisions, such as the choice to elect President Harding based on his appearance rather than his credentials. Prejudice is another area where following one's intuition can lead to making the wrong call about someone's character.

Gladwell follows this with several more chapters describing the errors in judgment that result in following our intuition or mind-reading. In his conclusion, he advocates for slowing down our thinking and understanding how easy it is for our subconscious to be influenced by factors of which we are unaware. He urges readers to retrain their subconscious in order to make snap decisions that are accurate.

rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Gladwell argues that decisions made “intuitively,” or without analysis or reflection, often can be superior to those carefully thought out—in other words, that conscious decision-making can be inferior to decisions made in in a few seconds by the “adaptive unconcious,” which Gladwell describes as “a kind of giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a lot of the data we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.”

Gladwell argues that much of human cognition is tied to the adaptive unconscious; this is how, for example, humans are able to accurately understand internal emotional states by reading fleeting facial expressions. Gladwell also argues that these snap judgements can be influenced or biased by competing emotions or experiences, so a second purpose of his book is to show when we should “trust our instincts, and when we should be wary of them.” A third purpose is to show how our adaptive unconscious can be trained to make better snap decisions. Much of the book is given to showing how experience can inform and improve our instincts.

The conclusion of the book describes how biases and stereotypes can corupt our ability to make accurate snap judgements, using the example of women who had been excluded from symphony orchestras but were hired when after blind auditions. Gladwell’s point in this last section is to assert that these snap judgements—when free of such bias—can help us understand people for who they “truly” are.

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