What problems of society are exposed? How does the author respond to the social issue? How are social distinctions identified?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his popular book Blink, journalist Malcolm Gladwell focuses on the issue of how we make judgments based on intuition. He argues that in the first few seconds of meeting a person or experiencing something we use "thin slices" of information to create general opinions or value judgments. He recounts some anecdotes which argue that our intuitive judgments can be very misleading, as when we stereotype people by race or social class but that we can train our intuitions to be more effective. He argues that we often make social distinctions based on superficial information such as looks, and mistake a certain type of appearance for a deeper reality. A striking example of this is Warren Harding, an American president Gladwell claims was elected to a degree on his good looks and proved highly incompetent. 

The major social problem Gladwell engages in this work is that of stereotyping. He argues that our habits of making quick judgments based on thin slices of information lead to reinforcing racial stereotyping. He argues that we need to deliberately train our intuitive mechanisms so as to overcome this instinct to assess people based on their race or external appearance. He gives an example of a car dealer who was unusually successful because, unlike other salesmen at his company, he treated people as individuals rather than stereotyping on the basis of race and gender.

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