Blink

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Reread Malcolm Gladwell’s _Blink_ and took some notes after I hunted in it for some anecdotes about first impressions for my classes.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 2005.

  • Introduction: The Statue That Didn’t Look Right
    • Fast and Frugal
      • U of Iowa card game experiment: picking between red (high stakes) vs blue (moderate, steady gains) decks
      • Two different strategies of thinking
        • conscious strategy: logical, definitive, slow, needs lots of information
          • figures out in 80 cards
        • adaptive unconscious: quicker, reaches conclusions unconsciously
          • figures out in 10 cards
    • The Internal Computer
      • we move back and forth between conscious and unconscious modes of thinking,
        depending on the situation
      • Nalini Ambadi: judging the professor in 10, 5, 2 seconds
      • Three themes in the book:
        1. Decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately
        2. When should we trust our instincts, and when should we be wary of them?
        3. Our snap judgments and first impressions can be educated and controlled
    • A Different and Better World
  • The Theory of Thin Slices: How a Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way

    • Thin-slicing: the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.
    • British interceptors in WW II analyzing Morse code “fists”
      – a distinctive signature/style unique to each Morse code operator
      – emerges naturally
      – reveals itself in even the smallest sample
    • The Love Lab: John Gottman analyzing videotapes of couples in contention

      • 30 min: 95% accuracy in predicting divorce in 15 years
      • 15 min: 90% accuracy
      • relationships between two people have a “fist”

        all marriages have a distinctive pattern, a kind of marital DNA, that surfaces in any kind of meaningful interaction. This is why Gottman asks couples to tell the story of how they met, because he has found that when a husband and wife recount the most important episode in their relationship, that pattern shows up right away. (26)

        • predicting divorce is pattern recognition
      • two states of a relationship
        • positive sentiment override: positive emotion overrides irritability
          • excuses negative behavior as a temporary state
        • negative sentiment override: even relatively neutral thing gets perceived as negative
          • lasting negative conclusions drawn about each other; other person’s character defined in a negative way
      • tracking the trend of the levels of positive and negative emotion
        • once it trends downward, it will continue going down
    • Gottman has found he only needs to focus on the Four Horsemen:
      1. defensiveness
      2. stonewalling (favorite of men)
      3. criticism (favorite of women)
      4. contempt
        • especially contempt: putting yourself on a superior plane
        • completely rejecting/excluding someone from the community
        • universal across men and women
    • Samuel Gosling’s study of dorm bedrooms

      • Big Five personality assessment of subjects
        1. Extraversion. Are you sociable or retiring? Fun-loving or reserved?
        2. Agreeableness. Are you trusting or suspicious? Helpful or uncooperative?
        3. Conscientiousness. Are you organized or disorganized? Self-disciplined or weak-willed?
        4. Emotional stability. Are you worried or calm? Insecure or secure?
        5. Openness to new experiences. Are you imaginative or down-to-earth? Independent or conforming?
      • compare between close friends’ assessment and strangers assessing from a 15-minute look at dorm rooms
        • Friends did much better at extraversion
        • Strangers did almost as good at agreeableness and better at the all the others
      • clues in the bedrooms
        • identity claims: deliberate expressions about how we would like to be seen by the world
        • behavioral residue: inadvertent clues we leave behind
        • thoughts and feelings regulators: changes we make to our most personal spaces to affect the way we feel when we inhabit them
      • important omissions when you’re looking in the room

        What you avoid when you don’t meet someone face-to-face are all the confusing and complicated and ultimately irrelevant pieces of information that can serve to screw up your judgment. (37)

      • better to assess a person indirectly

        • a person’s assessment of self can be misleading since it’s not objective
    • Analyzing the likelihood of doctors to get sued

      the risk of being sued for malpractice has very little to do with how many mistakes a doctor makes…. In other words, patients don’t file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care. Patients file lawsuits because they’ve been harmed by shoddy medical care and … how they were treated, on a personal level, by their doctor. (40)

      • Wendy Levinson recording conversations between physicians and patients
        • characteristics of surgeons who had never been sued
          • spent 3 minutes longer with each patient
          • made more “orienting” comments (“First I’ll examine you, and then we will talk the problem over”)
          • more likely to engage in active listening
          • more likely to laugh and be funny
        • no difference in amount or quality of information given to patients
      • Nalini Ambady took Levinson’s conversations and altered to erase content but keep intonation, pitch, rhythm
        • judges rated for qualities as warmth, hostility, dominance, anxiousness
        • dominant (sounding) surgeons in sued group
        • less dominant, more concerned were in non-sued group
    • The Power of the Glance
      • in basketball: court-sense
      • in military battle: coup d’oeil
      • in bird watching: giss
  • The Locked Door: The Secret Life of Snap Decisions

    • Snap judgments take place in the unconscious, behind a locked door

      We need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why we know and accept that — sometimes — we’re better off that way. (52)

    • Priming experiments

      • John Bargh: unscrambling sentences with keywords to prime you to a certain frame of mind
      • Dutch researchers asking students to write about what it means to be a professor before playing Trivial Pursuit
      • Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson asking students to identify their race before taking a standardized test

      the way we think and act — how well we think and act on the spur of the moment — are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize (58)

    • Unconscious as mental valet

      • Takes care of all minor mental details, keeps tabs on everything going on around you, makes sure you’re acting appropriately -> leaves you free to concentrate on the main problem at hand
      • provides emotional push to do the right thing
      • Antonio Damasio’s study of patients without ventromedia prefrontal cortex
        • rational but lack judgment
          • can’t focus on salient points of decision
          • can’t change strategy to match intellectual knowledge
            • like addicts
    • The Storytelling Problem

      • Sheena Iyengar and Raymond Fisman’s variation on speed-dating
        • participants fill out short questionnaire on four occasions:
          • before speed-dating
          • end of evening
          • a month later
          • six months later
        • conscious ideal doesn’t match what they are attracted to in the moment
        • justifies attraction immediately afterwards, but then reverts back to conscious ideal
      • Vic Braden: athletes can’t explain how they do what they do
        • or explain wrongly
      • Norman R.F. Maier’s rope experiments
        • come up with ways to explain how to tie the ropes together
        • experimenter subtly pushes rope to hint the last solution
        • subjects can’t explain (correctly) how they came up with the last solution

      We’re a bit too quick to come up with explanations for things we don’t really have an explanation for. (69)

      When we ask people to explain their thinking — particularly thinking that comes from the unconscious — we need to be careful in how we interpret their answers. (70)

  • The Warren Harding Error: Why We Fall for Tall, Dark, and Handsome Men

    • Rapid cognition has its flaws and can lead us astray
    • Blink in Black and White
      • The Implicit Association Test (IAT)
        • We make connections more quickly between pairs of ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of ideas that are unfamiliar to us
        • http://www.implicit.harvard.edu
        • Shows our unconscious associations may be deeply at odds with our conscious values
        • Predicts how we act in certain kinds of spontaneous situations
        • >80% have pro-white associations, ~ half of African Americans have stronger associations with whites than with blacks
      • disproportionate number of tall, white CEOs
    • Success of car salesman Bob Golomb

      • Take care of customer
      • Tries never to pre-judge potential customer based on appearance

        • avoid temptation of salesman to spot the sucker (lay-downs)

        He quotes everyone the same price, sacrificing high profit margins on an individual car for the benefits of volume, and word of his fairness has spread to the point where he gets up to a third of his business from the referrals of satisfied customers (95)

    • Think About Dr. King

      • We can change unconscious associations by changing experiences and environment that inform those associations

      If you are a white person who would like to treat black people as equals in every way — who would like to have a set of associations with blacks that are as positive as those that you have with whites — it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren’t betryed by your hesitation and discomfort. (97)

  • Paul Van Riper’s Big Victory: Creating Structure for Spontaneity

    • Gary Klein’s study of those who make decisions under pressure
      • don’t logically and systematically compare all options
      • size up situation immediately and act, drawing on experience, intuition, rough mental simulation
    • Improv comedy

      • spontaneity isn’t random

      How good people’s decisions are under the fast-moving, high-stress conditions of rapid cognition is a function of training and rules and rehearsal (114)

      • rule of agreement to everything that happens
        • developing instead of blocking action
        • counter-intuitive impulse
    • Brendan Reilly’s cardiac triage in Cook County Hospital

      • Lee Goldman’s algorithm

        • only considered three variables
        • you need to know very little to find the underlying signature of a complex phenomenon
        • extra information confuses issues

          This is the same thing that happens with doctors in the ER. They gather and consider far more information than is truly necessary because it makes them feel more confident — and with someone’s life in the balance, they need to feel more confident. The irony, though, is that that very desire for confidence is precisely what ends up undermining the accuracy of their decision. They feed the extra information into the already overcrowded equation they are building in their heads, and they get even more muddled. (140)

      When we thin-slice…we do this process of editing unconsciously…. I think we get in trouble when this process of editing is disrupted — when we can’t edit, or we don’t know what to edit, or our environment doesn’t let us edit. (142)

      And if you are given too many choices, if you are forced to consider much more than your unconscious is comfortable with, you get paralyzed. (143)

    • Paul Van Riper’s Red Team victory in the war game Millenium Challenge

      • Blue Team: crippled by too much information
        • mired in discussions
      • Red Team: in command and out of control

        • overall guidance and intent set by senior leadership
          • analysis was done before battle
        • but forces in field allowed to use own initiative and innovative without having to explain themselves

          • Jonathan W. Schooler: verbal overshadowing

            • moving from right (visual) to left (language) thinking hampers the visual thinking, flash of insight

            “When you start becoming reflective about the process, it undermines your ability. You lose the flow. There are certain kinds of fluid, intuitive, nonverbal kinds of experience that are vulnerable to this process.” (122)

        • communication between headquarters and commanders in the field were limited

        • did not overload team with irrelevant information
        • meetings were brief
  • Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right — and Wrong — Way to Ask People What They Want

    • Why do the aficionados love Kenna but not the focus groups?
    • Pepsi’s Challenge
      • Pepsi better designed for the sip test rather than a home-use test
      • blind-taste test — but nobody drinks Coke blind
        • Louis Cheskin – sensation transference
          • unconsciously, we don’t distinguish between package and product; the product is the package and the product combined
          • adding foil and yellow to Imperial Margarine
      • thin-slicing has to be done in context
    • “The Chair of Death”: Herman Miller’s fight for the Aeron
      • people misinterpret their own feelings
        • different = bad
      • especially inaccurate with something that is truly revolutionary
    • The Gift of Expertise

      The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don’t mean that experts like different things than the rest of us — although that is undeniable. When we become expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is really only experts who are able to reliably account for their reactions. (179)

      • Schooler: explaining our non-expert reactions can actually skew our impressions/judgment

      What he was building, in those nights in the storerooms, was a kind of database in his unconscious. He was learning how to match the feeling he had about an object with what was formally understood about its style and background and value. Whenever we have something that we are good at — something we care about — that experience and passion fundamentally change the nature of our first impressions. (184)

  • Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Art of Mind Reading

    • The shooting of Amadou Diallo by the NYPD
      • they did not see his face
      • high stress chase
      • no time or space to react
      • overconfidence in numbers
    • The Theory of Mind Reading
      • Silvan Tomkins, Paul Ekman: cataloguing facial expressions
      • the face betrays our emotions
      • the face also stimulates our emotions
    • A Man, a Woman, and a Light Switch
      • Ami Klin: autism as the absence of the ability to mind-read
        • faces seen as objects and not repositories of information about emotion, context, and intention
        • mind-blindness
    • Arguing with a Dog
      • in an optimal state of arousal (114-145 heartbeats per minute) performance is enhanced
        • body limits range and amount of information
        • heightened awareness of a few key senses
        • time seems to slow down
      • beyond arousal (>145 bpm)
        • complex motor skills break down
        • breakdown of cognitive processing (animal brain)
        • vision becomes restricted
        • behavior becomes inappropriately aggressive
        • bowels released
      • high incidents of extreme behavior after high-speed chases
    • Running Out of White Space

      • mind-blind when there’s no time
      • white space for bodyguards: the distance between the target and potential assailant
        • more white space=more time to react + better ability to read potential assailant

      “When we make a split-second decision,” Payne says, “we are really vulnerable to being guided by our stereotypes and prejudices, even ones we may not necessarily endorse or believe.” (233)

      • moving from two-officer to one-officer squad cars
        • when officers are by themselves, they slow things down, and when they are with someone else, they speed things up
      • improve what officers do before they encounter the suspect
        • slow down the situation so you don’t have to make an instinctive decision
    • “Something in My Mind Just Told Me I Didn’t Have to Shoot Yet”
      • developing rapid decision making
        • stress inoculation
          • get used to stresses and surprises so it doesn’t take you to hyper-arousal
        • mind reading from faces improves with training, practice
    • Tragedy on Wheeler Avenue
  • Listening with Your Eyes: The Lessons of Blink
    • A Revolution in Classical Music
      • the hiring of women musicians in classical music with the advent of screens for anonymous auditions
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