Blink Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Gladwell contests the strongly held notion that more information is able to provide a better understanding of any given situation. How does he develop a position arguing that information people take into consideration is irrelevant?

    Depending on the situation and profession, different approaches are used to exclude irrelevant information that can overwhelm the decision maker in times of stress. His example regarding emergency rooms in hospitals revolved around the use of an algorithm that quickly and reliably allows doctor to determine whether a patient is going to have a heart attack or not, despite the patient's insistence or belief that a heart attack is going to happen. His most prominent example is that of Paul Van Riper, the retired Marine who used old tactics and disregarded the highly technical methods (which required a great deal of information) that the Pentagon was using in the Millennium Challenge war game (in which Van Riper played a rogue Middle Eastern dictator). In other words, the way and the type of information that a person should prioritize in a high stakes problem depends on the factors relevant to the profession or field that the problem is situated in. in all the cases Gladwell presents, he shows that ineffective decision making is often a result of taking in too much information, and because of the sheer volume of information, not knowing what to consider and what not to consider.

  2. 2

    Why can disposing of information and thin-slicing be helpful in decision making? How does a person decide what information is important and which is not?

    Gladwell states from the onset that one of the purposes of his book is to convince the reader that decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately. He argues that there are moments, especially during times of stress, when hastily making a decision is not detrimental, and when snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the situation at hand. There are countless times when there is too much information and not enough time, and because there is evidence that decisions made quickly can be effective, Gladwell thinks that there is some consistency that exists in such decisions. It is through constant research, experience, and knowledge that one is able to make these decisions effectively (which is part of the irony in Gladwell’s argument, because in order to make rapid decisions, it takes years to develop a mindset that is able to do so quickly and effectively).

  3. 3

    Why is it that some people can use their innate judgments and make quick, effective decisions, while others cannot?

    This question partly ties in to expertise. Throughout the book, Gladwell presents cases of a wide array of experts who are incredibly effective at what they do and, as Gladwell argues, all of who owe their success partly to the steps that they have taken to shape, manage, and educate their unconscious reactions. Notably, Gladwell also says that this ability to know almost instantaneously is not a talent reserved for the few, but a skill that anyone can acquire. The difference comes in with people who, in Gladwell’s perspective, meticulously analyze their own decisions, and making sense of their selves and behavior.

  4. 4

    Why do people who make successful decisions through rapid cognition have a difficult time explaining their logic?

    Snap judgments are quick and are also unconscious. They take place behind what Gladwell calls a locked door, and he thinks that people are generally not good at dealing with the fact that the door is locked. Gladwell thinks that if people are to learn to improve the quality of their decisions, they need to accept the mysterious nature of snap judgments – an unsatisfactory answer that people looking to improve their decision making abilities in particular would not ostensibly appreciate. He thinks that people need to respect the fact that it is possible to know without knowing why they know, and accept the fact that they are better off that way.

  5. 5

    How does Gladwell make a distinction between the shortcomings and harmful effects of snap judgments and their benefits?

    Gladwell takes the instance in which people become “autistic” – in the sense that they are unable to make social distinctions or recognize non-verbal cues that are often vital to understanding what other people are attempting to communicate. The case of the police officers shooting an unarmed black man who did not have a history of criminality with 41 bullets is evidence that Gladwell uses to explain how split-second decisions can be morally questionable and politically disastrous. He says that there is heightened sensitivity and a fundamental change in body chemistry that can allow for more effective decision-making in situations that are high stakes, but too much sensitivity can result in panic, and that panic can have disastrous result - like the killing of innocent civilians. So the delicate balance between trusting one’s instincts and slowing things down to think hard about important decisions is often dependent on controlling and assessing the degree of arousal that a person experiences in stressful situations where quick decisions are inevitable and necessary.