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Blink

By Malcolm Gladwell

*A Book Review*

by Michael C. Gray

© 2011 by Michael C. Gray

"Blink" is about the first two seconds of impression. It’s about the psychology of how we process information when we make decisions. Malcolm Gladwell, who previously wrote The Tipping Point, was intrigued that initial impressions can sometimes be superior to educated study.

His first example is a statue of a nude male youth that was purchased by the Getty Museum after extensive study by scientists dated it as a Greek statue from the sixth century B.C. Experts in antiquities had an uncomfortable feeling whenever they first saw the statue, leading the museum to eventually conclude that the statue was a fake.

How could an initial impression of these experts be superior to scientific testing? The reason is these individuals were so educated and experienced that their subconscious minds could give synthesized information in a blink of an eye.

Another example where the "scientific approach" failed is "new Coke." Study subjects tasted "new Coke," "old Coke" and Pepsi in blind tests. The subjects preferred "new Coke". But consumers don’t consume products blindly. The package is part of the product. "Coke doesn’t taste like that!" New Coke met with a huge backlash and failure.

Our first impressions aren’t always reliable. Sometimes they are colored by our personal or cultural biases. For example, in 1980 there were very few women playing as professional musicians in symphony orchestras. The individuals who made the hiring decisions and evaluated auditions were men who believed women didn’t have the strength to play concerts. Finally, after discrimination lawsuits, the procedure for auditions was changed so the audition takes place behind a screen. Now about half of the musicians in symphony orchestras are women.

Cultural biases can color our impressions, leading to errors in judgment. For example, Amadou Diallo was a black man who was innocently looking out at his neighborhood in the South Bronx at midnight from the top of the stairs at his apartment building. Some police officers saw him and thought he looked suspicious. They approached him and Diallo reached in his pocket. The police assumed he was reaching for a gun and killed him. He was reaching for his wallet. Because of many similar incidents, police forces are initiating procedures to slow down encounters with law enforcement officers.

What are some valuable lessons of Blink? (1) Customers make instant judgments of ourselves and our offerings. They have a way of sensing dishonesty, insincerity, caginess and deceitfulness, even in print, which raises their defenses. The marketer and salesperson should start from a base of sincere belief in what he or she is offering. (2) It pays to acquire profound knowledge, expertise and experience in your product or service area, leading to more reliable instinctive judgment. (3) For emergency situations, such as in wartime, the time for preparation and study is before the encounter. When it is happening, you usually must act quickly and rely on your preparation to carry you through successfully. (4) Pay attention when you have a physical or emotional response. Your subconscious mind is trying to tell you something.

Buy it at Amazon: Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

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Michael Gray, CPA
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