Friday, July 15, 2005

Review: Blink

This book read surprisingly quickly for what is basically a sociology text. It's really not very long, and it dissects a concept called the adaptive unconscious, which is described by the subtitle of the book, "The Power of Thinking Without Thinking". This is a trait that allows one to make snap decisions based on input that one is not even aware of.

The most striking example that Malcolm Gladwell gives is of a situation where the mind's ability to interpret facial expressions and body language failed, which is the case of Amadou Dialo, an innocent who was shot 41 times by NYC officers in a blind panic a few years back. In more subtle cases, he describes how corporations use packaging shapes and colors to influence consumers. It is definitely a book that provides food for thought, and surprisingly readable for a book dealing with such an abstract concept.

And not one to miss an opportunity for subtle digs, the military exercise chapter is frightening -- when faced with unconventional tactics during war games that cost them victory, the powers that be call a "do over" and handicap their faux renegade general so that they can predict the outcome. Given that this occurred back in 2000 according to the book, it's easy to see how the US military can apparently be taken off guard.

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