2000 - 2007 Non Fiction

Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Blink explains our instinctive ability to make decisions without thinking about them. Using a series of examples the book analyses the way in which we are able to make critical, often life-saving actions without understanding why we are performing them.

I loved Malcolm Gladwell’s bestselling book The Tipping Point, but I don’t think Blink was quite as good. It had the same number of well researched examples, a large number of those interesting little facts that you find yourself sharing with friends, and the same light hearted, but scientific tone, but overall I felt this book was less useful.

The premise implies that we are all able to make split-second decisions, but reading the book revealed that most of us are likely to be wrong – the ability to make the right choice takes a lot of training.  One of the sections I found most interesting was about a marriage counsellor called John Gottman. He is able to predict whether a couple will still be together fifteen years from now, just by looking at a short film of them talking. John Gottman has worked out that couples who display the tiniest amount of contempt for each other are unlikely to stay together, so he watches for specific indications of contempt, ignoring how aggressive or friendly they appear to be. Other people fail to spot these signs, but once John Gottman has trained them they will be almost as good as him at predicting the success of a relationship.

The book gave many other examples of people who are able to make important decisions based on an instinct that they may not understand. Often concentrating on police officers or fire-fighters the analysis was fascinating, but not of much use to the average person.

Recommended to anyone who enjoys sociology books, but don’t expect it to change your life in any way.

Which is your favourite Gladwell book?

Can you recommend any other authors who write similar books?