Blink – Gladwell

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Gladwell is the master of well written, average quality books. I don't say this to be rude, rather sincere. He is an amazing writer, with a real talent for collecting and telling compelling stories related to a central idea.

Blink is a good example of this. If you are looking at it as an idea book, then you could read a series of tweets containing everything you need to know.

However, if you are looking for light bedtime reading that is compelling and enjoyable, Gladwell is your man.

The only thing you can say confidently about Gladwell is that his books are well written. Other than that, his insights are debatable, and ideas lacking.

If you want to learn more about the power of the subconscious and it's role in making "blink" judgements, you should read Thinking Fast and Slow, which is admittedly less eloquently written, but a much more insightful book.


  • When you try to put a system 1 (deep learning) insight into words, what you are trying to do is put it into concrete ideas. However this is not how the world works. It doesn’t deal with concrete ideas, it deals in potentials. System 1 insights also deal in probabilities, hence their ability to be quickly correct most of the time and also be contradictory. System 2 (conscious) introduces errors when trying to fully categorise everything.
  • He compares the rash judgements we make in times of Adrenalin to being autistic, as autistic people don’t have certain brain function that allows them to empathise and process other humans intent. But really all the examples just seem to be saying that in split second judgements when our subconscious has limited inputs, it is more biased by its underlying assumptions. Feels like a really weak analogy.
  • Decision making follows the 80-20 rule. With 20 percent of the information, you can make 80percent of the decisions better.
  • The only thing you can say confidently about Gladwell is that his books are well written. Other than that, his insights are debatable and his craft questionable.
  • Gladwell is the master of well written, average quality books.
  • Each Gladwell book is one idea expressed to its extreme with examples and anecdotal stories. While I think he does this extremely well, the books are still lacking in depth because of it.
  • If you want to learn more about the power of the subconscious in making correlationairy judgements, you should read Thinking Fast and Slow, which is a worse written, but much more insightful book.
  • In the end, good for Gladwell. He makes his bread doing what he loves; writing well.


  • "'People are in one of two states in a relationship,' Gottman went on. 'The first is what I call positive sentiment override, where positive emotion overrides irritability. It’s like a buffer. Their spouse will do something bad, and they’ll say, ‘Oh, he’s just in a crummy mood.’ Or they can be in negative sentiment override, so that even a relatively neutral thing that a partner says gets perceived as negative. In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other. If their spouse does something positive, it’s a selfish person doing a positive thing. It’s really hard to change those states, and those states determine whether when one party tries to repair things, the other party sees that as repair or hostile manipulation."
  • "what we think of as free will is largely an illusion: much of the time, we are simply operating on automatic pilot, and the way we think and act—and how well we think and act on the spur of the moment—are a lot more susceptible to outside influences than we realize."
  • "brain has a part (the left hemisphere) that thinks in words, and a part (the right hemisphere) that thinks in pictures, and what happened when you described the face in words was that your actual visual memory was displaced. Your thinking was bumped from the right to the left hemisphere. When you were faced with the lineup the second time around, what you were drawing on was your memory of what you said the waitress looked like, not your memory of what you saw she looked like."
  • "'As they received more information,' Oskamp concluded, 'their certainty about their own decisions became entirely out of proportion to the actual correctness of those decisions.'"
  • "The beginnings of this insight came when Ekman and Friesen were first sitting across from each other, working on expressions of anger and distress. 'It was weeks before one of us finally admitted feeling terrible after a session where we’d been making one of those faces all day,' Friesen says. 'Then the other realized that he’d been feeling poorly, too, so we began to keep track.' They then went back and began monitoring their bodies during particular facial movements. 'Say you do A.U. one, raising the inner eyebrows, and six, raising the cheeks, and fifteen, the lowering of the corner of the lips,' Ekman said, and then did all three. 'What we discovered is that that expression alone is sufficient to create marked changes in the autonomic nervous system. When this first occurred, we were stunned. We weren’t expecting this at all. And it happened to both of us. We felt terrible. What we were generating were sadness, anguish. And when I lower my brows, which is four, and raise the upper eyelid, which is five, and narrow the eyelids, which is seven, and press the lips together, which is twenty-four, I’m generating anger. My heartbeat will go up ten to twelve beats. My hands will get hot. As I do it, I can’t disconnect from the system. It’s very unpleasant, very unpleasant.'"
  • "What this research showed, though, is that the process works in the opposite direction as well. Emotion can also start on the face. The face is not a secondary billboard for our internal feelings. It is an equal partner in the emotional process."
  • "Too often we are resigned to what happens in the blink of an eye. It doesn’t seem like we have much control over whatever bubbles to the surface from our unconscious. But we do, and if we can control the environment in which rapid cognition takes place, then we can control rapid cognition."
  • "Lee outthought Hooker, even though he knew far less about Hooker’s army than Hooker knew about his. Hooker was the one who knew exactly how many soldiers his enemy had. Hooker was the one who had two hot-air balloons up in the sky giving him perfect aerial reconnaissance of his enemy’s positions. Lee won the battle despite knowing less than Hooker. But now that you’ve read Blink, you’ll know that I think we ought to turn that sentence around, and say that probably Lee won the battle because he knew less than Hooker."
  • "How does she carry herself while she’s playing? In the classical music world, 80 percent of the information available to the maestros was removed, and lo and behold, the maestros suddenly exercised much better judgment."
  • "The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter."
  • "Sigmund Freud. It seems that the father of the unconscious agreed: 'When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.'


Sebastian Kade, Founder of Sumry and Author of Living Happiness, is a software designer and full-stack engineer. He writes thought-provoking articles every now and then on

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