I'm a few chapters into reading Malcolm Gladwell's Blink. An entertaining read and Gladwell certainly knows how to spin a good yarn.
But in keeping with the advice I've read so far in Blink, I thought I'd share some potential criticism based on my initial reaction
The central tenet of the book is that we should not ignore our gut feelings – Although we can't articulate why we know something, sometimes we just get a feeling and often this can turn out to be right.
He's provided some very good examples so far of how powerful our subconscious mind can be. Another good book on this sort of thing is consciousness by Rita Carter. Essentially consciousness is what we experience milliseconds after something is happened. The conscious brain is the output of a giant filter and the bits of life we are aware of. The unconscious brain receives a heck of a lot more information and it is impossible for all of this to make it to the surface. However some of it can reach our autonomic nervous system and cause a reaction like sweaty palms. Phobias are a good example of this.
Gladwell also has some good examples of the tennis coach being able to know when a player will double fault. He can't say how he knows, he just knows. The pre-conscious brain is picking up things that the conscious brain can't articulate. Is this a bad thing? Gladwell is right, we probably do place too much emphasis on conscious decision making.
On this I agree.
However, so far, all of Gladwell's examples have involved people using their instincts to make better decision – with the benefit of years of experience. The guy who can predict the outcome of a marriage has been studying it for decades. Guidance counsellors etc performed only slightly better than chance in being able to predict the outcome of a marriage, but how often do guidance counsellors get to see the eventual outcome of a marriage?
Although our preconscious mind is very powerful, it can also be very stupid. In their book 'mistakes were made' Aronson and Tarvis provide some graphic examples of when our gut feel gets it completely wrong. A Police training strategy in the US that showed officers how to look for hidden clues that demonstrated guilt in a suspect. It turns out this training was downright dangerous and responsible for many wrongful convictions. In this case, their training taught them to listen to their gut feel.
There is also mountains of literature on the stupid mistakes we make when it comes to money, especially when we let our natural reactions take over.
Experience + gut will generally (but not always) be more powerful force than someone just acting on intuition.
The firefighter who knew how to get out of the building was using experience + intuition. The people able to judge character traits from viewing someone's room are doing so from a position of experience. We've been around people all our lives so we have all built up experience in this area. That's the difference.
So it is interesting and yes we should listen to our intuition more, but I hope he stresses the opposite side of the coin more. When to listen to your intuition and when not to. Something tells me he won't do enough of this, it might ruin the story. I'll update the review when I've finished the book.
Just a gut feel!