In his examination of the power and strength of some nebulous emotional thrust toward making a decision that has been given the name “instinct” over a meticulous consideration of appropriate data analyzed from every possible angle, author Malcolm Gladwell concludes that more often than might be assumed, the decision made from the gut proves every bit as wise and endowed with the capacity for forethought as the decision that stems from logic. Hence, the title Blink…as in making a decision of an unknown quantity of consequence in the blink of an eye. The guiding premise behind Gladwell’s proposition is theory referred to as “thin slicing” which is a simplistic boiling down to the essentials of a much more complicated process that can also be reduced for the sake of simplicity thusly: our minds slice that information found irrelevant to solving any particular need for which finding a solution is uppermost in our conscious mind. The useful information which gets filtered from the useless waste then becomes lodged in the unconscious mind to evolve into prejudices and stereotypes which unknowingly impact that complicated process known as going with what our gut tells us to do when it is time to make a difficult decision.
Much of the criticism level at Gladwell’s proposition is that he arrives at decisions based too often on anecdotal evidence lacking the required scientific discipline desire in serious analysis. One of those bits of anecdotal evidence is especially illuminating when it comes to explaining the central message of Blink. A survey of companies listed on the Fortune 500 reveals that when it comes to height, CEOs are slightly taller on average than the population as a whole. As far as Gladwell’s theory about “thin slicing” of information not filtering out information deemed important enough to maintain in the region below consciousness, consider this: scientific application of statistical probability concluded that the likelihood of such a larger percentage of CEOs being taller than the average height of the population as a whole almost verged on the unexplainable. Raising the question of why would so many heads of the most successful companies in the world need to taller than average?
The answer, of course, is that there is no logical reason. Gladwell takes this statistical improbability a bit further and makes the analytical leap of faith highly suggestive of the probability that information has become lodged in the subconscious of those charged with making important decisions in the world of business wherein a prejudice toward height has evolved into a stereotype capable of producing an unconscious correlation with desired leadership traits. The capper, of course, is that the statistical probability of finding anyone in the boardrooms of these successful companies willing to admit that the height of a candidate played any role in choosing a CEO is very likely a few decimals to the right of zero.
The point of this rather illuminating and certainly somewhat convincing argument by Gladwell of his underlying proposition is that decisions that are made at the gut level on pure instinct driven by unrealized subconscious prejudices can ultimately result in consequences of greater intensity that hold sway out over lives for an even longer period of time than decisions made after a prolonged period of analysis and debate. As for those who reject the basic foundation of Gladwell’s reliance on the “thin slicing” theory behind instinctive decision-making, it is worth pointing out that the process which is outlined throughout Blink has analogue which has been long been accepted even within the scientific community demanding less anecdotes and more data before welcoming Gladwell’s theory into the f0ld.
Practically from the first day of kindergarten—and in the age of tablets and smartphones even earlier—people are instructed in the sublime art of scanning over a wealth of information far too immense to digest in its entirety in order to skim past the least important parts in a mining operation to extricate the most vital elements. By the time kids hit high school, most have mastered at least the basics of scanning and processing on a subliminal level even if they fail to adequately demonstrate that ability during standardized testing. After all, the scan and process means of acquiring knowledge has become so hardwired into one’s analytical abilities that it becomes a subconscious strategy. The reason for failures in testing the process likely have to do with the entire premise of standardization: the assumption that everybody views what is important information in the same way.
Applying the scanning model to Gladwell’s theory of “thin slicing” becomes analogous, but very likely integral. Educational instruction in the procedure of filtering information deemed less relevant in order to locate essential information becomes in this perspective nothing short of a conscious replication of the subconscious process that Gladwell reveals is prevalent throughout society in an array of anecdotal evidence supporting the philosophical foundation of Blink. Perhaps scanning and filtering on a conscious is merely the logical outgrowth of an unconscious pattern of information retrieval and manipulation that we are only now starting to see is absolutely on target.
If only on a gut-feeling level.