Blink by Malcolm Gladwell
Decisions—even snap decisions—must come from somewhere. Some part of the brain must select, plan, and execute every one of our actions, even if the entire process unfolds in milliseconds, too fleeting for scrutiny by the conscious mind. At the same time, other parts of the brain must sift the torrents of information that inundate our senses, choosing which of the various streams to direct to our attention and which to divert. Only rarely is there time to ponder. More often we react in an instant: we like a new food or hate it; we smile at a stranger or look away; laugh at a joke or roll our eyes. All of this happens in the span of a heartbeat. And most of us, for the most part, have as little insight into our thoughts in that one beat as Macbeth claimed to have had when he murdered King Duncan’s chamberlains.
Malcolm Gladwell, a staff writer for the New Yorker and the author of a previous bestselling book, The Tipping Point, about how “little things can make a big difference,” wants to know how this works. He calls this kind of cognition Blink—as in the blink of an eye. What is more, he suspects that “blink,” or, as his subtitle puts it, “thinking without thinking,” might sometimes be more accurate and more powerful than reason, even if at other times it leads us astray. His ultimate aim is to discover what makes for good instincts and, conversely, why our instincts are sometimes wildly off the mark.
About the Author
Kevin Shapiro is a research fellow in neuroscience and a student at Harvard Medical School.