Blink

I read "Blink" of Malcolm Gladwell’s because I’ve enjoyed reading "Outliers".  But this time, the feeling of freshness has disappeared and now I seem to know Gladwell.  This is no more as surprising as when I was reading "Outliers".
 
As the author has probably admitted, the most difficult part is when to use snap judgement/thin-slicing  and when not.  I’m convinced by the author that in some circumstances, eg. when the time is very limited (during a war), snap judgement based on a few facts is necessary and may give better result than trying to analyze all the available information.  But I think this is only because you know what few facts to consider compared to being overwhelmed and inundated by too much information.   Given enough time, in scientific/logical matters, one may know which fact/information one should consider more than the others and the result is probably better than the best snap judgement.  The example of the Cook County hospital in Chicago is the best illustration.  It’s through the detailed analysis that helps us find out what the most important factors are related to the heart attacks.  Only then can we be able to concentrate on those few factors without being distracted by other factors.  This is definitely not an example of snap judgement better than detailed analysis.
 
Snap judgement/thin-slicing may give wrong result as well as great result.  This is the "only" downside.  In fact, only with all the information at the end can enable us to judge whether the judgement is right or wrong.  Snap judgement is always taking a risk.  Paul Van Riper didn’t help US win the Vietnamese War. Though Robert E. Lee won in the Battle of Chancellorsville, he was finally defeated in the Battle of Gettysburg because his snap judgement turned out to be wrong this time.
 
The other aspect is the bias — a type of false snap judgement.  The author said that we were fooled by the extra information.  Our predisposition has somehow told us to use the wrong factor to make judgement.  To me, this is an example of having a detailed analysis and a thorough thinking process but relying on too much on snap judgement, probably even without being aware. 
 
I’ve enjoyed learning that the unconscious part of thinking/judgement is in a different part of our brain.  The exmaple of identifying by impression and the identification being weakened after trying to verbalize the characteristics or write them down is perhaps the best example of using the unconscious.  But, to me, it’s because we have a limited memory in the 2nd method (ie. trying to write down the characteristics).  If we have infinite memory, eg. we have the person’s picture in front of us, the 2nd method may be even better than the first one by the unconscious.  The unconscious help us make judgement in some limited time or limited memory situations and it may apparently have a better algorithm when the time is short and resource (such as memory) is diminuitive.
 
The example of choosing the kind of girlfriend or the boyfriend different or even opposite from what we think who we want is a brilliant one of using the unconscious.  Here, it’s probably the furthest place from science and logics.  Here, probably it’s a problem of taste in an abstract territory or what we like or not like.  It’s rather like a artistic judgement.  Probably, it’s also because we don’t understand our "subconsciousness" or "unconsciousness" — limitted intelligence (!) and therefore we can’t tell what factors should be considered. Maybe, one day when we know how the unconscious work, we can get rid of the unconscious.
 
But it’s true that understanding is more important than merely collecting more information.
 
I’ve learnt quite a bit from this book.  But Gladwell is probably no longer the mythical writer to me any more.  I may not want to rush to write the 3rd book of his. This 2007 paperback of the book has 11 pages of Gladwell’s first book "The Tipping Point".  I’ve read all these 11 pages but it doesn’t really urge me to want to get the book. The version has the "Afterword" which probably to show that he knows that the downside of this book is that one can’t tell when to use snap judgement and when to use a detailed analysis.  It also contains "A Conversation with Malcom Gladwell" and "Questions and Topics for Discussion" which seem to be for a book club or something like that.
 
Kin 
 
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About kinyip

An experimental particle physicist ...
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