How quickly can you figure something out? Apparently if you’re good at it, you can tell with very little information very quickly. Malcolm Gladwell explores rapid cognition and what you can figure out without really thinking about it in Blink. It’s remarkable how people can “thin slice” and look at minute (but significant) amounts of data and make decisions. Evolutionarily it makes sense that we have this ability to see small signs that could indicate danger and allow us to react, but generally most of us are not in life-threatening situations, but we still thin slice the data. One thing that I think that I’m good at thin slicing is a film. I’ll generally know if I’ll like a film within the first few minutes or even seconds. The title sequence and style of shooting or music will be enough. Why is that? For me I think that it is attention to detail. The story and feeling have to be just right with a film and if they get it right at the beginning, it almost always continues through. If they’re sloppy at the beginning of the film, they’ll probably not be careful with the rest of the film.
Thin slicing works with people as well. I usually can tell if I like someone right away (as I think most people can). How many times have you heard or thought “I don’t know what it is, but I don’t trust that person…” Some people can even tell if a couple will stay married based on a few minutes or even seconds of observation. Gladwell gives both positive and negative examples of when making a choice in the blink of an eye can save a life or end one. So many things in the world are tenuous, random and fragile and understanding how our brains work and how quickly we can know is a step toward making the world a better place. It’s fascinating to think about how just the right amount of data can enable us to know something without even consciously understanding why we have the feeling that we’re right.
technorati tags: book, review, blink, malcolmgladwell