Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking is a 2005 book by Malcolm Gladwell in which he explores the power of the trained mind to make split second decisions, the ability to think without thinking, or in other words using instinct.
What is « tipping point »: the moment when an idea, product or concept suddenly catches fire with the population at large.
Gladwell maintains that we « blink » when we think without thinking. We do that by « thin-slicing, » using limited information to come to our conclusion.
In what Gladwell contends is an age of information overload, he finds that experts often make better decisions with snap judgments than we do with volumes of analysis.
A researcher tells the story of a firefighter in Cleveland who answered a routine call with his men. It was in the back of a one-and-a-half story house in a residential neighborhood in the kitchen. The firefighters broke down the door, laid down their hose, and began dousing the fire with water. It should have abated, but it didn’t. As the fire lieutenant recalls, he suddenly thought to himself, « There’s something wrong here, » and he immediately ordered his men out. Moments after they fled, the floor they had been standing on collapsed. The fire had been in the basement, not the kitchen as it appeared. When asked how he knew to get out, the fireman thought it was ESP. What is interesting to Gladwell is that the fireman could not immediately explain how he knew to get out. From what Gladwell calls « the locked box » in our brains, our fireman just « blinked » and made the right decision. In fact, if the fireman had deliberated on the facts he was seeing, he would have likely lost his life and the lives of his men.
It took well over two hours of questioning for the fire lieutenant to piece together how he knew to get out (#1, the fire didn’t respond as it was supposed to; #2, the fire was abnormally hot and #3, it was quiet when it should have been noisier given the heat).
One take-away from the book is that how we blink is a function of our experiences, training, and knowledge. For example, Gladwell claims that prejudice is so unconsciously woven into our society that, despite intentions, it can affect our blinks.
Gladwell suggests this is why tall people are frequently seen as natural leaders. And, in the case of the Amadou Diallo killing in 1999, Gladwell claims it is why four policemen incorrectly thin-sliced a situation and wound up killing an innocent man by mistake.