Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking

by Malcolm Gladwell
Start Free Trial

Where is the summary for Chapter 6 of Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although Malcolm Gladwell's book, Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking, is mainly concerned with the ability of the human mind to make quick, accurate judgements, the sixth chapter of his book provides one example of an occasion on which such a snap judgement was tragically mistaken.

The incident occurred during the winter of 1999, when a 23-year-old Guinean immigrant named Amadou Diallo was shot to death outside his South Bronx building by a quartet of mostly young, plainclothes New York police who mistook the wallet he was withdrawing from his back pocket for a gun.

Given the fatal result of the officers' failure to correctly interpret the response of their victim, Gladwell seeks to examine the scope of human ability to read the behavior and facial reactions of others in social, public situations, as he discusses the work of Sylvan Tompkins and Paul Ekman. After decades of research, these psychologists have found the muscular patterns of human facial responses to be surprisingly universal in the emotions they express. At the same time, his description of an autistic man's 'mindblindness', an inability to read the expressions and behavior of others, demonstrates an extreme of human incomprehension.

Gladwell finally returns to the possible causes of police error in the Diallo case. The inexperience of three of the officers, the distorted tunnel vision provoked by an extremely stressful situation, and biased judgement based on racial prejudice, whether conscious or unconscious, all seem to have played on a role in this awful event.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

If you follow the link below, you’ll find a brief summary for each chapter of Blink.

Chapter 6 begins with details of a shooting that happened in the Bronx on February 3, 1999. Amadou Diallo, a twenty-two-year-old dark-skinned peddler with a stutter, was fatally shot by plainclothes police officers after they thought he was acting suspiciously. Someone thought he was reaching for a gun. He wasn’t given a chance to explain, and he was shot and killed as a result. Gladwell labels this tragedy a “mind-reading failure” on the part of the police officers, and one that “falls into a kind of gray area, the middle ground between deliberate and accidental.” He then analyzes additional examples of these kinds of situations. He looks at their ramifications, in terms of quick reactions and even heightened heartbeats during high-speed chases. This is eye-opening information to those of us who are neither policemen nor criminals.

Blink was first published in 2005. In the years since, more incidents like the one that happened to Diallo have taken place, and they have been caught on camera and widely publicized. They fostered the growth of the movement known as “Black Lives Matter.” Gladwell’s analysis in Chapter 6 turns out to be more relevant to real life experiences than ever before. And yet, such tragedies continue to happen. This could be an interesting topic for a research paper related to this book.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial