07 July 2005


Blink: the Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell posits that snap judgments are often just as good and in many situations better than long deliberated decisions. His argument compels me to rethink my desire to understand myself and my environment predominantly via introspection.

My good friend Splice claims to have excellent gaydar: she is simply confident that she's right in her assessments even without any subsequent verification. That she is insightful, I have no doubt; but not until reading this book have I really considered that she could be as accurate as she thinks she is. Maybe she's thin-slicing the moment like the tennis expert who can always tell when someone is about to double-fault. Consciously I don't like to categorize people: it's an aversion to labeling by assumption because it increases the likelihood that I'll be wrong at some point. That aversion could well be enough to derail my gaydar (assuming such a thing even exists).

When Splice and I got together recently, we discussed a mutual friend's beau. Splice was dismayed they were still together; having met him once, she branded him a loser though I think she phrased it more diplomatically. I'm not one for settling, but there are circumstances in play which could make it a convenient relationship for now, but then I haven't met him. Splice cited her good judgment when it comes to people while I commented on how little I trust my first impressions. Maybe without overanalyzing, by accepting her judgments as true, she has more reliable access to her subconscious impressions than I do.

The book claims it's possible to make better snap judgments, and I'm intrigued enough to read some of his source materials. I should point out that as much as he praises snap judgments, he's careful to point out the egregious errors which can occur when the subconscious makes the wrong conclusions. I would've liked to have seen some discussion of right and left brain behavior; the book skims past the fact that the two sides of the brain can have conflicting preferences which could account for changes in opinion once you try to verbalize something as much as anything else.


  1. I am so against judging people on first impressions understanding as I do, at my age, how imperfect my eye can be. I actively work against leaping to conclusions and have taught my children to be as openminded in new situations as possible. That said I tentatively assert here to you that almost every time I have jumped in a negative direction, chastized myself, and then given the person or situation another chance (sometimes umpteen chances),it becomes clear that my initial feelings were correct. Yet I still follow this same path because of the one or two times I've been wrong. I would rather err on the side of niceness I suppose.I do have my limits and I am referring to more innocuous events and people. Bigots,racists, fully on mean people are definitely not tolerated.I guess one just has to know our own limits and move on from there.

  2. Erring on the side of niceness, as you put it, is the way I strive to go as well. However, in my experience, I have encountered a number of people that I grew to care for and trust who were then dishonest or unreliable in significant ways. I would hope to get better at recognizing signs of negative behavior before becoming emotionally involved with people who aren't good for me.

    I would also hope that in trusting my own instincts more, I would gain more confidence in decisions I make with less agonizing deliberation.

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comment.

  3. Oh yea...me too as far being deeply disappointed in one I thought I could trust. ergo my divorce. My concern in my life is that I'll go to far the other way and distrust everyone...Life is such the art of balance. I hope I didn't appear too much like a Katy Sunshine girl or Pollyanna. I'm definitely not that way. Thanks for the response.

  4. Not at all (re: Pollyanna). I was, conversely, just trying to clarify that judging people isn't my goal; in trusting my instincts more, I'm looking for greater awareness and understanding of my environment (and the people in it) even though I may not be able to articulate that understanding.