Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell

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Dr. John Gottman

A psychologist at the University of Washington, Gottman has been working since the 1980s to develop a system called SPAFF (specific affect), which codes every imaginable emotion a married couple might express during a conversation. Gottman uses SPAFF and his Love Lab to study subconscious dialogues between couples. While a couple carries on a conversation in Gottman's lab, the psychologist and his students study the couples' facial expressions, tones, and reactions and rate the information on the SPAFF scale. Gottman has so finely tuned his ability to use pattern recognition when listening to or watching a couple that he often needs just five minutes to predict accurately the fate of the couple's marriage. Gottman first appears in Chapter 1, but Gladwell references him and his research throughout Blink.

Dr. John Bargh

Bargh is a professor at New York University who regularly stages experiments with college students in which he gives them a list of seemingly benign questions. Bargh peppers the questions with related words such as "disturb," "intrude," and "bold" to get the test takers to act in a specific manner after they have completed the test. Bargh's research on priming people to act in a certain way has led to discoveries of how subtle suggestions can affect how someone performs on a test or how well he or she will do in a competition. Gladwell refers to Dr. John Bargh's priming experiments in Chapter 2.

Bob Golomb

A New Jersey car salesman who sells twice as many cars as the average salesman, Golomb is in his fifties and "looks like a bank manager or stockbroker." Gladwell devotes much of Chapter 3 to describing Golomb's effective strategy of fighting the natural human tendency to base thin slicing solely on appearance. Golomb explains that by treating every customer the same he is able to put aside any initial prejudices toward an "unprepossessing farmer" who owns a four-thousand-acre spread and who is ready to buy on the spot or a teenager who comes in the showroom by himself but who plans to bring back his mom and dad later that night.

Paul Van Riper

Van Riper is a retired Marine Corps general who decided as a young boy to join the Marines after his father read him a story about the Marines in Korea. After serving in the Vietnam War and Desert Storm and retiring, Van Riper was chosen to play the role of the enemy (Red Team) in the U.S. Military's 2000 War Games. Van Riper proves that humans can hone their intuition to act effectively in all sorts of split-second situations: he won the War Games by outsmarting detailed planning and technology (the Blue Team's strategy).


Gladwell does not give Kenna's last name but describes him as an aspiring singer who is the child of Ethiopian immigrants. Although Kenna is popular with seemingly everyone who hears him live, especially college students, he has been unsuccessful in getting a major record deal because his music does not test well on standard radio listener surveys. Music experts love his songs but end up not signing...

(The entire section is 749 words.)