Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

Not just journalists but everybody should read this book. How wouldn't you? How couldn't you? You don't have time? Don't log into facebook 10 times a day. Reading moves you. Reading changes you for the best. It strengthens you. It takes you to places you wouldn't go otherwise; at least not 'til next year, or a couple more years. I can't imagine a journalist who doesn't read, but then again, I would tell everybody, regardless of your profession, to read, read and then read some more. And talking about that topic, I just finished reading "Blink", a book I find I can best described with the Sigmund Freud's quote the author cites on page 268:

"When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. IN the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature."

Blink is a book about the good decisions you make in the blink of an eye and about the mistakes you could make by acting based on what you see just once, in the blink of an eye. But it's more than that. It's a book about specific, nonfiction studies that corroborate ideas that will amaze you.
Some of my favorite portions of the book are the following:

John Gottman's The Mathematics of Divorce and the author adds that: "a central argument in Gottman's work is that all marriages have a distinctive pattern, a kind of marital DNA, that surfaces in any kind of meaningful interacion" (26)

My favorite part of the book is titled "Seven Seconds in the Bronx: The Delicate Ar of Mind Reading", which narrates the story of Amadou Deiallo in the New York City of the late 1990s. On February 3, 1999, Diallo was at the top of the steps of his building, just taking in the night, when four police officers passed by it and found him suspicious. They got out of their police car and by a series of deliberate/accidental mistakes, shot him 41 times and couldn't find a weapon on him when they searched him after. Among other interesting points given by Gladwell, he adds: "Perhaps the most common-and the most important-forms of rapid cognition are the judgments we make and the impressions we form of other people. Every waking minute that we are in the presence of someone, we come up with a constant stream of predictions and inferences about what that person is thinking and feeling. When someone says, I love you, we look into that person's eyes to judge his or her sincerity. When we meet someone new, we often pick up on subtle signals, so that afterward, even though he or she may have talked in anormal and friendly manner, we may say, I don't think he liked me, o I don't think she've very happy" (194)

"We live in a world saturated with information. We have virtually unlimited amounts of data at our fingertips at all times." (264)

"Meanwhile, who did the best job in predicting what the Japanese were up to in the summer and fall of 1941? Journalists. If all you had done was read the New York Times, you would have been in a better position to understand Japan's intentions than if you had had access to all of the military's secret reports. That's not because journalists knew more about Japan. It's because they knew less: they had the ability to sort through what they knew and find a pattern." (265)

"The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter." (265)

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