Monday, January 02, 2006

# Posted 11:56 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

BLINK RECONSIDERED: Presumably, I'm not the first person to notice that Malcolm Gladwell bears a striking resemblance to Sideshow Bob. But I figured I'd point it out anyhow before moving on to the more substantive question of Gladwell's ideas about human intuition.

Last April, I gave Blink a fairly critical review because I was dis-satisfied by its cele-bration of intuitive decision-making and concom-itant disregard for the ways in which intuition can pervert our behavior. However, I recently re-read the book and decided that I ought to reconsider my negative response.

What made me change my mind was a reconsideration of just how hard it is for a writer to transform cutting-edge research in cognitive science into a compelling and informative narrative comprehensible to the layman. I've been doing a lot of cognitive science reading lately and have really been struck by just how well Gladwell's recounting both describes important ideas and makes them exciting.

Of course, I can't make this judgment as an expert. I don't read professional journals in the fields of psychology or neuroscience or any of the manifold disciplines that form part of the interdisciplinary field known as cognitive science. (In fact, I'm not sure Gladwell reads them either, since his research seems to consist primarily of interviews with prominent scientists and references to other books written for a popular audience, often by prominent scientists.)

But I have now read a fair sample of books written for the layman and Gladwell's really stands out for both its clarity and charm. Moreover, I have actually found Gladwell's footnotes to be a remarkably useful guide to further reading.

Last April, when Blink was the first and only book I'd read, since college, about cognitive science, I really didn't know whether I could trust Gladwell's basic descriptions of the science he described. But now I can at least say that his descriptions are both remarkably consistent with other descriptions of the same information and that Gladwell relies on the authority of a set of scientists that numerous authors consider to be the leaders in their respective fields.

Thus, leaving aside my disagreement with Gladwell's interpretation of his evidence, I think it is only fair to compliment him generously on his ability to raise hundreds of thousands of readers' awareness of some of the amazing discoveries already made by scientists but little known outside their professional communities.
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You may also find The Tipping Point enjoyable, if not obviously correct in every regard.
So you're saying your first impression was wrong? How ironic.

I too thought Blink was good. It felt a little too fluffy but was an enjoyable read.
I hope you do note the irony in changing your mind about a book that praises instant decision making.
Duly noted, although Gladwell would point out that my initial criticism consisted of an analysis, not an intuition!
my intuition says Blink is full of crap.
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