Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking Themes

Malcolm Gladwell


Less Is Better

In Gladwell's descriptions of thin slicing, he found that in all cases knowing a very specific, small amount about someone or something enables an observer to more accurately predict or conclude truths about that person or thing. He argues that a researcher does not need copious notes and tests to predict or conclude accurately. Gladwell then offers examples of Dr. John Gottman's Love Lab and writes that Gottman has honed his thin-slicing skills so well that he is able to eavesdrop on a couple sitting near him at a restaurant and predict with great accuracy whether the couple's relationship will last. Other examples of effective thin slicing such as a dorm room test to determine a stranger's personality and the opening example of the experts' taking a brief glance at the statue lend credence to Gladwell's theory that often the less we know about a subject, the more we will listen to our intuition.

Intuition vs. Experience

Chapter 3 discusses the emphasis that our subconscious mind places upon appearance. Thus, while we might think that we are making an informed decision about someone or that we are following our unbiased intuition, we often do not realize that our intuition can be influenced significantly by various life experiences. This especially holds true when humans are presented with race IATs. No matter how unbiased a person thinks he or she may be, when taking the race IAT, that person's intuition relies on the race-related experiences that have shaped his or her life.

Moreover, humans' ability to mind read someone's intentions by quickly summing up his appearance, gestures, and facial expressions is affected by previous experiences, poor training, or simply an unawareness of mind reading. The case of the Bronx officers and the young immigrant demonstrate this truth about the limits of tainted intuition.


At the book's end, Gladwell simply asks his readers to be aware; to give credence to their first, two-second impression; and more importantly, to realize that their subconscious is affected by experiences and society. The author's solution to knowing that your intuition is in tune is to condition it—much like the food tasting experts who can tell companies if a product will be successful. This is why their predictions are accurate and why surveys completed by the average potential customer are normally unreliable. If people did not consider their first impressions to be unaffected by bias or other outside influences but, rather, ensured that their intuition had not developed illogical biases, then it would be less difficult for them to "blink" an accurate judgment of what they see.