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I was first introduced to Malcolm Gladwell a few weeks ago on a podcast for the WNYC program Radiolab. The episode is called "Choice" and if you are new to Gladwell, i would suggest you start there. You'll be hooked.
The negative reviews i've read seem to have felt misled. As if Gladwell were expected to present some unifying theory of intuition. Yet, n a way, he actually does, just not scientifically. What he does present are thought provoking anecdotes about the under appreciated importance of our instinct.. The patches on the quilt missing the thread of your perception. There is lots left to be learned from the experience of others, and luckily there's authors such as Gladwell who will find them.
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Going into this book, I was expecting concrete answers to the questions that this book proposes to the readers: Why are some people brilliant decision makers, while others are consistently inept? Why do some people follow their instincts and win, while others end up stumbling into error? How do our brains really work, in the office, in the classroom, in the kitchen, and in the bedroom? And why are the best decisions often those that are impossible to explain to others?
Unfortunately, it does not answer these questions. The only real conclusion that the book comes to is that split-second decisions are in fact made by people, that these decisions are controlled by our subconscious (which can be highly influenced by external conditions), and that the decisions can have positive or negative results.
The first half of the book touts how powerful "thin-slicing" can be with several examples of various experts in various fields of work that are able to do this. The tone here seems to be to learn to listen to your subconscious.
Near the middle of the book is a few chapters on "mind reading", through facial expressions, which is interesting but again doesn't give you enough information to make any of it useful or practical.
The end of the book seems to say that thin-slicing is a bad thing, which causes us to make snap judgments based on race and gender biases. And that the only way you can tame this flawed decision making process is to become an expert in your field and to always realize that your subconscious is at work in your decision making process. Well, if you are an expert in your field, and you are always dissecting your decisions to look for your subconscious influences, then you are NOT making split-second decisions.
Overall it is a light read (listen) and is informative at a very high, psychology 101, level. It leaves many questions unanswered. Don't expect to take anything too practical or usable away from the material though.
353 of 377 people found this review helpful