« Gladwell v. Gopnik | Main | Gladwell v. Gopnik con't »


Steven Livingstone

I have literally finished reading Blink just this minute and whilst bookmarking some books by Paul Ekman, discovered you had a blog! Welcome and i guess sometimes you blink, sometimes you don't :)

I have been thinking about Blink in a number of areas and do believe there is a lot more to come. I posted some initial thoughts in my area in the topic here:

What i really want to think about in my own area is the expert "sip test" that makes people make almost instinctive decisions in software that just end up correct. It can only be put down to experience when you are able to look at it and say you made a concious decision, but often it is only the reflecting of a collection of chaos (and software can be that way!) that you realize a collection of instinctive choices were actually collectively correct. I wonder whether we can see it - we just don't know we can. Fascinating anyway.


I don't think that the study confirms Blink. Rather the opposite. The advice from the study in Science was "sleep on it", not make a snap decision. It was during sleep that the "unconscious" mind weighed in balancing the factors that were too many for the conscious mind to balance.

Blink I thought was about the power of first impressions and snap decisions.

Both "sleep on it" and "go with your gut" may be non-rational exercises, but I think you'll agree they are polar opposites.


I enjoyed the stories in Blink (audio version) but don't think the hypothesis actually worked. I think the Chicago emergency room example really destroys the idea - that wasn't blink it was the reverse - in the 'blink' of an eye, doctors couldn't make a determination about whether to triage a patient or not; it was only when the data was collected and analyzed that the true 'simplicity' came forward.

One other point: You said something like "the next time you are annoyed by a doctor's bedside manner, listen to yourself" in the piece about doctors being sued. But you disputed the correlation between lawsuits and skill. So you were effectively suggesting that you shouldn't go to a doctor who may be more skilled because he gets sued a lot for his bad bedside manner. Anyone going under the knife should make their evaluation based on skill (which has no correlation) not personality (which does).

Joey Valdez

While I did enjoy BLINK, it seems to me that the ability to make snap judgments well comes from experience. Until we accumulate experience, we continue learn through failure.

Also, snap judgments don't work as well in cases where people assess probabilities. For example, the birthday problem - most people think that given 23 people at random, the probability that at least two people have the same birthday is relatively small, when in fact it's more than 50%. Similar errors in judgement are made in the Monty Hall problem.

Glad you have a blog now! Welcome to the blogosphere, Mr. Gladwell!


Cog is right, you're mis-interpreting the research here. I happen to have had one of these scientists through my office, and he explicitly said that this was an approach to decision making that he felt blink had neglected.


"that purchases of complex products were viewed more favorably when decisions had been made in the absence of attentive deliberation. "

It seems like the results above indicate that "gut" decision making can lead to a more favorable subjective experience of a complex decision. But this is a little bit different than saying that decisions made in this way are objectively better. Obviously, in many cases it is not possible to determine what the objective best decision is. This is particularly true in the context of consumer choice, where ultimately it really is probably about, what makes the individual happiest.

So if I'm trying to decide between the 30gb video iPod or the Creative Zen Touch 40gb, maybe a gut decision is best, especially if it is more likely to help me feel better about my choice over time.

But the same may not be true of a lot of other decisions, like which doctor to choose, where it is possible that one doctor may be statistically much more likely to do a better job taking care of my problem, so there is more of an objective basis for evaluating the result of my decision. In that scenario, a little more conscious deliberation, might be helpful (although to the extent that in many scenarios there may not be a statistical difference betwee doctors, I can certainly buy the argument that a gut decision may be just as effective (or moreso)).

George Beinhorn

Intuition works in sports training - fer sure. Careful, now...reason and feeling can both be intuitive, if they're calm and dispassionate. But there's no doubt that the exercising body speaks to us through the feelings of the heart. I wrote a book about it...well, a ms....well, no, I haven't got an agent yet. Anyway, I enjoyed Blink! very much. Thanks.


In the article "deliberating costumers" making simple decision in choosing kitchen accessories are mentioned to have higher satisfaction; compare to other "deliberating constumers" making complex decision about furniture from IKEA.

It is argued in the article that this finding is related to the nature of the problem, the conscious deliberation is more suitable for simple problem, while its subsconsius, instinct non deliberating thought process is more suitable for complex problem.

I wonder though, whether the expectation of the customer when they make "deliberate decision" would affect their satisfaction. People tend to expect better results after they deliberate and consciously consider all alternatives. Chances of meeting this expectation is bigger for the simple problems, compare to the complex problem. This might make impression that "deliberation" is suitable mode of thinking for simple problem.

Manny Stiles

Blink is stupendous!!! Of course it's right, we all live it everyday!!! Baffling to realize how little we really know and recognize ourselves...

I have been squinting for months hoping to catch myself right at the Blink


An awareness-shifting, life affecting and beautiful literary illustration of your amazing mind, Mr Gladwell!!! Your writings are a joy to read and share!

Michael Mossey

I read Blink and enjoyed it.

I see a lot of criticism here centered on the idea that Gladwell's "claims" are contradictory or biased from his own point of view.

This makes me angry, because one of the nasty debate tactics people can use is 'solidify' their opponent's statement--to take an original statement that addressed a complex, possibly paradoxical issue, and then to make it seem like a monolithic all-or-nothing black-or-white claim.

First of all, whatever you think of Gladwell's summing up or linking together of the research he cites, you have to acknowledge that he cites valuable research. The facts stand for themselves, folks. We have research indicating that poeple can make accurate judgments from a thin slice of data, in contradiction to what we might expect through common sense. We also have research indicating that people can make poor judgments, again in situations where we have every reason to believe they are acting rationally.

Are these contradictory? No, becasue they simply reflect the rich, complex experience of being human. What unites this research it that it shows where our common sense about what we expect---that is, when we expect a particular method of data-collecting and judgment-forming to be accurate or not accurate---is not borne out by the research.

So where's the simple formula telling you whether to trust your snap judgments? Guess what folks--there is no simple formula. There's no simple formula to give you answers to any important questions in life, like whom to marry or what career to choose.

But we can educate ourselves. We can learn as much as possible about the operation of this brain we have. And yes, there are many paradoxes involved in being human. The Buddha could have told you that 2500 years ago, not to mention all the other great spiritual leaders. The education, the learning, the reading about research, all goes into our experience and we slowly get better at living.


Hmmm, I haven't read the full thread, so I'm not sure why this is controversial. The research referenced in the link is about background processing of information. It's not a split second judgement. It's about absorbing all the information one can rationally, and then distracting the brain so that additional processing takes place below the conscious level. It's quite different than first impression judgements, which is the focus of blink.


Blink. Saw it on the public library shelf and said, I gonna read that.

For, 22 years I did the big Protestant mininstry thing. Last year I said, you know, I think I wanna go back to making original works of art and I think I'm gonna check out the one group that everyone feels it's OK to be prejudiced against.

So I did and now, I am a working visual artist whose also Catholic. Blink!


Heck yeah, Blink artfully articulates what a lot of us know. As a manager, I have relied on thin-slicing to make key personnel decisions, and never regretted that. I've only regretted wilfully ignoring that beacon in my head telling me what to do.

It also worked for the love of my life. We still waited a year to move in together, but fourteen happy years later I can still look back at that first moment and know I made some important filtering decision!

I still think that article you did a while back about SUVs was sooooooo good--maybe your best; beautifully written, persuasive, fresh. But when are you not good? Welcome to BlogLand!

Kelly Kennedy

I think Blink attracts a certain kind of person - someone who probably buys into some form of Blink theory already. That's how it is for me, anyway.

One point of disagreement though, is on intuition. Intuition has gotten a bad rap, but I think it's exactly what Blink describes. Intuition gets dismissed as an emotional thing because we've had no better way to describe it. I firmly believe that intuition is the convergence of a lifetime of knowledge and experience that's stored beind that locked door. Ironically, it was in law school, of all places, that I finally learned to trust my instincts. Ignoring them and thinking too hard usually led me down the wrong path.

As to "good" blink and "bad" blink, it's our biases that get us in trouble.

Glad you wrote Blink.


Blink cannot be right or wrong. It had no thesis. It was basically a collection of cute stories of good intuation and bad intuition.

If I'm wrong, please correct me and let me know what the thesis of Blink was. I look forward to your reply.


I enjoyed blink and as an exploration of a concept, I think it was a good book. It did not however possess the cohesiveness of argument to qualify as a truly persuasive advocate of that concept. I was unable to satisfactorily find substantiated explanation for internal inconsistancies between various anecdotes.

It is a powerful demonstration of "thin slicing" for gamblers to intuit from limited experience that blue cards were a better draw than red cards, but it is a failure of judgement for car dealers to learn from their expereince (real or rumored) that they can make more money off of blacks and women then they can off of white males.

Don't get me wrong, I don't condone such thinking, but I fail to see the difference between what the gamblers in Iowa (Idaho?) were doing and what the car dealer's in Chicago were doing except that the car dealers actions were morally repugnant.

The mental process by which they arrived at their decisions was the same. They made a snap judgement based upon the color of the card/person in question.

Blink explores a wonderful concept and I found the chapters related to military exercises a david and goliath type delight to read. I would have liked to see more of a guidance by the author as to how the reader should think of these inconsistencies (there were many others) and perhaps a chapter with a practical guide as to how the average person could impliment this technique/philosphy/process safely and with the greatest chance of success in their own lives.

So...the BLINK version of this review would go something like this.






Peace out.

Alicia Parker

Hello Mr. Gladwell,

In the process of reading your latest book, Blink, of which I'm finding extremely interesting. A big fan of Pop Psych myself, I enjoy reading studies that attempt to prove and further examine what we all do/know instinctively!

However, I do have one serious caveat with your arguement.

It seems as though in your thorough examination of our first impression and snap decision making you have neglected a crucial element; how our own sense of self and emotional state often colors and determines the way in which first impressions are made. take this for example:

say you are a young woman having a great day, walking down the street with a smile on your face, happy and confident and a good looking man accidentally bumps into you, you'd probably smile and say 'sorry bout that!' and think to yourself wow he was attractive.

now say you are the same woman having a terrible miserable day, you're stressed and anxious and the same good looking man bumps into you. chances are you're not gonna be impressed by him, you're more likely to think 'god what an asshole, why doesn't he watch where he's going'

do you see my point? our minds are professional spindoctors and we will perceive a situation how it suits us at the moment. you are assuming this split second impression is an objective one but I find it far from objective. Valid perhaps but our impressions of others may have more to say about ourselves and our insecurities than about the people we are judging.

Comments would be appreciated!


I am re-reading Blink right now and I'm enjoying it very much. Good job!

Pablo Garcia

Just finished reading Blink, it was a good read, but it was sort of inconsistant, and some stories seemed to kind of drag. But i will definitely use what i learned, about face emotion, and everything and first instinct, to help me in real life. I want to say, that i think Peyton Mannings heart rate should be measured during the regular season, and then during playoffs, just to see if his heart rate goes above the 150 bpm, and he becomes autistic. That would be interesting.

In your achknowledgements, you say that you let your hair grow out and you began to get tickets, and pulled over. I had the same thing happen to me, except i got hit in the face, and i got a black eye. People who knew me came up to me and asked me what had happened, but then i went to the mall, and i was on my way to buy your book Blink, and people would make eye contact with me and instantly look away or down. I got hit in the face with a baseball, but they didn't know that, and the fact that i was mexican, i think, led to them making a judgment in the first two seconds they saw me, that i was a thug, and that i would start some problems with people.

I enjoy your perspective on everything, and you should just write books from now on because you got great views. Keep it up Gangsta.


This study was done here in The Netherlands. Considering the strength of the transactional society here, `i think you have to think about the context of this study. Think "push" and "target consumers".

If you want to compare this to Blink, then perhaps you should deeper into cultural behavior and mindset.

Robert Felix

I was fortunate enough to see you speak at our Help-U-Sell convention in Las Vegas, it was great. I have a question. Do you think that Howard Stern's move to Sirius radio, the immediate increase in subscriptions, and the immediate drop in ratings on regular radio could be another tipping point in the radio industry?

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo


  • I'm a writer for the New Yorker magazine, and the author of four books, "The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference", "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" and "Outliers: The Story of Success." My latest book, "What the Dog Saw" is a compilation of stories published in The New Yorker. I was born in England, and raised in southwestern Ontario in Canada. Now I live in New York City.

    My great claim to fame is that I'm from the town where they invented the BlackBerry. My family also believes (with some justification) that we are distantly related to Colin Powell. I invite you to look closely at the photograph above and draw your own conclusions.

My Website


  • What the Dog Saw

    buy from amazon


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK


    buy from amazon

    buy from amazon UK

    Tipping Point

    buy from amazon

Recent Articles

Blog powered by Typepad