60+ Quotes from Blink by Malcolm Gladwell

320 Pages

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“The adaptive unconscious does an excellent job of sizing up the world, warning people of danger, setting goals, and initiating action in a sophisticated and efficient manner.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 12

“Nalini Ambady once gave students three ten-second videotapes of a teacher - with the sound turned off - and found they had no difficulty at all coming up with a rating of the teacher’s effectiveness...Then Ambady cut the clips back to 5 seconds, and the ratings were the same. They were remarkably consistent even when she showed the students just two seconds of videotape. Then Ambady compared those snap judgments of teacher effectiveness with evaluations of those same professors made by their students after a full semester of classes, she found that they were also essentially the same.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 12 and 13

“I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg.13

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“Our unconscious is a powerful force. But it’s fallible. It’s not the case that our internal computer always shines through, instantly decoding the “truth” of a situation. It can be thrown off, distracted, and disabled. Our instinctive reactions often have to compete with all kinds of other interests and emotions and sentiments.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg.15

“Gottman, it turns out, can teach us a great deal about the critical part of rapid cognition known as thin-slicing. Thin slicing refers to the ability of our unconscious to find patterns in situations and behavior based on very narrow slices of experience.”  

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 23

“...one of Gottman's findings is that for a marriage to survive, the ratio of positive to negative emotion in a given encounter has to be at least five to one.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 26

“In the negative sentiment override state, people draw lasting conclusions about each other.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 30

“Gottman...has found that he can find out how much of what he needs to know just by focusing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 32

“Gottman has found, in fact, that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 32

The Big Five Inventory:

  1. Extraversion. Are you sociable or retiring? Fun0-loving or reserved?

  2. Agreeableness. Are you trusting or suspicious? Helpful or uncooperative?

  3. Conscientiousness. Are you organized or disorganized? Self-disciplined or weak-willed?

  4. Emotional stability. Are you worried or calm? Insecure or secure?

  5. Openness to new experiences. Are you imaginative or down to earth? Independent or conforming?

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 35

“Gosling says, for example, that a person’s bedroom gives three kinds of clues to his or her personality. There are, first of all, identity claims, which are deliberate expressions about how we would like to be seen by the world: a framed copy of a magna cum laude degree from Harvard, for example. Then there is behavioral residue, which is defined as the inadvertent clues we leave behind: dirty laundry on the floor, for instance, or an alphabetized CD collection. Finally, there are thoughts and feelings regulators, which are changes we make to our most personal spaces to affect the way we feel when we inhabit them: a scented candle in the corner, for example, or a pile of artfully placed decorative pillows on the bed...Anyone who has ever scanned the bookshelves of a new girlfriend or boyfriend - or peeked inside his or her medicine cabinet - understand this implicitly: you can learn as much - or more - from one glance at a private space as you can from hours of exposure to a public face.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 37

“If the surgeon’s voice was judged to sound dominant, the surgeon tended to be in the sued group. If the voice sounded less dominant and more concerned, the surgeon tended to be in the non-sued group.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 43

Related Articles:

“In the military, brilliant generals are said to possess ‘coup d’oeil’ - which, translated from the French, means ‘power of the glance’: the ability to immediately see and make sense of the battlefield.”    - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 44

“It turns out that more than 80% of all those who have ever taken the test end up having pro-white associations, meaning that it takes them measurably longer to complete answers when they are required to put good words into the ‘Black’ category than when they are required to link bad things with Black people. I didn’t do quite so badly. On the Race IAT, I was rated as having a ‘moderate automatic preference for whites.’ But then again, I’m half Black. (My mother is Jamaican.)...What it means is that our attitudes toward things like race or gender operate on two levels. First of all, we have our conscious attitudes. This is what we choose to believe. These are our stated values, which we use to direct our behavior deliberately...But the IAT measured something else. It measures our second level of attitude, our racial attitude on an unconscious level”    - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 84

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“If you have a strongly pro-white pattern of associations, for example, there is evidence that that will affect the way you behave in the presence of a Black person.”    - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 85

“But chances are you’ll lean forward a little less, turn away slightly from him or her, close your body a bit, be a bit less expressive, maintain less eye contact, stand a little farther away, smile a lot less, hesitate and stumble over your words a bit more, laugh at jokes a bit less. Does that matter? Of course it does. Suppose the conversation is a job interview. And suppose the applicant is a Black man. He’s going to pick up on that uncertainty and distance, and they may well make him a little less certain of himself, a little less confident, and a little less friendly. What this unconscious first impression will do, in other words, is throw the interview hopelessly off course.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 86

“Overwhelmingly, the heads of big companies are, as I’m sure comes as no surprise to anyone, white men, which undoubtedly reflects some kind of implicit bias. But they are also almost all tall: in my sample, I found that on average, male CEOs were just a shade under six feet tall.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 86

“Most of us, in ways that we are not entirely aware of, automatically associate leadership ability with imposing physical stature. We have a sense of what a leader is supposed to look like, and that stereotype is so powerful that when someone fits it, we simply become blind to other considerations.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 88

“Not long ago, researchers who analyzed the data from four large research studies that had followed thousands of people from birth to adulthood calculated that when corrected for such variables as age and gender and weight, an inch of height is worth $789 a year in salary.

That means that a person who is six feet tall but otherwise identical to someone who is five foot five will make on average $5,525 more per year.”   

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 88

“Car salesmen have a particular word to describe the customers who pay the sticker price. They’re called a lay-down.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 93

“Our first impressions are generated by our experiences and our environment, which means that we can change our first impressions - we can alter the way we think-slice - by changing the experiences that comprise those impressions...It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis and become comfortable with them and familiar with the best of their culture, so that when you want to meet, hire, date, or talk with a member of a minority, you aren’t betrayed by your hesitation and discomfort. Taking rapid cognition seriously - acknowledging the incredible power, for good and ill, that first impressions play in our lives - requires that we take active steps to manage and control those impressions.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 97-98

“...spontaneity isn’t random.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 114

“One of the most important of the rules that make improv possible, for example, is the idea of agreement, the notion that a very simple way to create a story - or humor - is to have characters accept everything that happens to them.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 114

“If you’ll stop reading for a moment and think of something you wouldn’t want to happen to you, or to someone you love, then you’ll have thought of something worth staging or filming...we’ll pay money to attend enactments of such events.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 114

“Allowing people to operate without having to explain themselves constantly turns out to be like the rule of agreement in improv. It enables rapid cognition.”  

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 119

“Verbal overshadowing. Your 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.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 119

“When it comes to faces, we are an awful lot better at visual recognition than we are at verbal description. If I were to show you a picture of Marilyn Monroe or Albert Einstein, you’d recognize both faces in a fraction of a second. My guess is that right now you can ‘see’ them both almost perfectly in your imagination. But how accurately can you describe them? If you wrote a paragraph on Marilyn Monroe’s face, without telling me whom you were writing about, could I guess who it was? We all have an instinctive memory for faces. But by forcing you to verbalize that memory - to explain yourself - I separate you from those instincts.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 120

“When you write down your thoughts, your chances of having the flash of insight you need in order to come up with a solution are significantly impaired.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 121

“With a logic problem, asking people to explain themselves doesn’t impair their ability to come up with the answers. In some cases, in fact, it may help. But problems that require a flash of insight operate by different rules.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 121

“Insight is not a lightbulb that goes off inside our heads. It is a flickering candle that can easily be snuffed out”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 122

“You get caught up in forms, in matrixes, in computer programs, and it just draws you in. They were so focused on the mechanics and the process that they never looked at the problem holistically. In the act of tearing something apart, you lost its meaning.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 125

“For all the rigor of his calculations, it seemed that no one wanted to believe what he was saying, that an equation could perform better than a trained physician.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 134

“All that extra information isn’t actually an advantage at all; that, in fact, you need to know very little to find the underlying signature of a complex phenomenon.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 136

Related Articles:

“Extra information is more than useless. It’s harmful. It confuses the issues. What screws up doctors when they are trying to predict heart attacks is that they take too much information into account.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 137

“Stuart Oskamp found that as he gave the psychologists more and more information about Kidd, their confidence in the accuracy of their diagnoses increased dramatically. But were they really getting more accurate? As it turns out, they weren’t. With each new round of data, they would go back over the test and change their answers to eight or nine or ten of the questions, but their overall accuracy remained pretty constant at about 30%.”   - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 139

“Two important lessons here. This first is that truly successful decision making relies on a balance between deliberate and instinctive thinking...The second lesson is that in good decision making, frugality matters.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 141

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“More and more commanders want to know everything, and they get imprisoned by that idea.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 144

“A sip is very different from sitting and drinking a whole beverage on your own. Sometimes a sip tastes good and a whole bottle doesn’t. That’s why home-use tests give you the best information. The user isn’t in an artificial session. They are at home, sitting in front of the TV, and the way they feel in that situation is the most reflective of how they will behave when the product hits the market.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 159

“Sensation transference...when people give an assessment of something they might buy in a supermarket or a department store, without realizing it, they transfer sensations or impressions that they have about the packaging of the product to the product itself...The product is the package and the product combined.”  - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 160

“We tested Seven-Up. We had several versions, and what we found is that if you add fifteen percent more yellow to the green on the package - if you take this green and add more yellow to the green on the package - what people people report is that the taste experience has a lot more lime or lemon flavor. And people were upset. ‘You are changing my Seven-Up! Don’t do a ‘New Coke’ on me.’ It’s exactly the same product, but a different set of sensations have been transferred from the bottle, which in this case isn’t necessarily a good thing.” - Davis Masten, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, pg. 163

“Rhea held out a bottle of Classico tomato sauce and talked about the meanings attached to various kinds of containers. “When Del Monte took the peaches out of the tin and put them in a glass container, people said, ‘Ahh, this is something like my grandmother used to make.’ People say peaches taste better when they come in a glass jar. It’s just like ice cream in a cylindrical container as opposed to a rectangular package. People expect it’s going to taste better and they are willing to pay five, ten cents more - just on the strength of that package.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 164

“But thin-slicing has to be done in context. It is possible to quickly diagnose the health of a marriage. But you can’t just watch a couple playing Ping-Pong. You have to observe them while they are discussing something of relevance to their relationship. It’s possible to thin-slice a surgeon’s risk of being sued for malpractice on the basis of a small snippet of conversation. But it has to be a conversation with a patient. All of the people who warmed to Kenna had that kind of context...Judging Kenna without that additional information is like making people choose between Pepsi and Coke in a blind taste test.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 167

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“We like market research because it provides certainty - a score, a prediction; if someone asks us why we made the decision we did, we can point to a number. But the truth is that for the most important decisions, there can be no certainty.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg.176

“[Kenna’s] music was new and different, and it is the new and different that is always most vulnerable to market research.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 176

“‘Rework,’ which is the practice in some food factories of recycling leftover or rejected ingredients from one product batch into another product batch.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 178

“The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don’t mean that experts like different things than the rest of us - although that is undeniable. When we become expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is really only experts who are able to reliably account for their reactions.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 179

“...introspection destroyed people’s ability to solve insight problems.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 181

“...we have a much more specific explanation for why introspections mess up our reactions....Texture, for instance. What does that mean? We may never have thought about the texture of any jam before, and we certainly don’t understand what texture means, and texture may be something that we actually, on a deep level, don’t particularly care much about. But now the idea of texture has been planted in our mind, and we think about it and decide that, well, the texture does seem a little strange, and in fact maybe we don’t like this jam after all. As Wilson puts it, what happens is that we come up with a plausible-sounding reason for why we might like or dislike something, and then we adjust our true preference to be in line with that plausible-sounding reason.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 181

“This time have your tester give you three glasses, two of which are filled with one of the Colas and the third with the other. In the beverage business, this is called a triangle test.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 185

“Ekman and Friesen decided...to create a taxonomy of facial expressions. They combed through medical textbooks that outlined the facial muscles, and they identified every distinct muscular movement that the face could make. There were forty-three such moments. Ekman and Friesen called them action units.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 201

“Ekman and Friesen began to analyze the film for clues. They played it over and over for dozens of hours, examining in slow motion every gesture and expression. Finally, they saw what they were looking for: when Mary’s doctor asked her about her plans for the future, as a look of utter despair flashed across her face so quickly that it was almost imperceptible. Ekman calls that kind of fleeting look a micro-expression, which is a very particular and critical kind of facial expression. Many facial expressions can be made voluntarily. If I’m trying to look stern as I give you a tongue-lashing, I’ll have no difficulty doing so, and you’ll have no difficulty interpreting my glare. But our faces are also governed by a separate, involuntary system that makes expressions that we have no conscious control over.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 209

“...two-officer teams are more likely to have complaints filed against them...Because when police officers are by themselves, they slow things down, and when they are with someone else, they speed things up.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 234

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“What Fyfe found was that the officers were really good when they were face-to-face with a suspect and when they had the suspect in custody. In those situations, they did the “right” thing 92% of the time. But in their approach to the scene they were terrible, scoring just 15%. That was the problem. They didn’t take the necessary steps to steer clear of temporary autism. And when Dade county zeroed in on improving what officers did before they encountered the suspect, the number of complaints against officers and the number of injuries to officers and civilians plummeted.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 236

“Paul Ekman has developed a number of simple tests of people’s mind-reading abilities; in one, he plays a short clip of a dozen or so people claiming to have done something that they either have or haven’t actually done, and the test taker’s teak is to figure out who is lying. The tests are surprisingly difficult. Most people come out right at the level of chance. But who does well? People who have practiced. Stroke victims who have lost the ability to speak, for example, are virtuosos, because their infirmity has forced them to become far more sensitive to the information written on people’s faces. People who have had highly abusive childhoods also do well; like stroke victims, they’ve had to practice the difficult art of reading minds, in their case the minds of alcoholic or violent parents.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 239

“With even half an hour of practice...people can become adept at picking up micro-expressions.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 239

“In some places, rules were put in place forbidding the judges from speaking among themselves during auditions, so that one person’s opinion would not cloud the view of another. Musicians were identified not by name but by number. Screens were erected between the committee and the auditioner, and if the person auditioning cleared his or her throat or made any kind of identifiable sound - if they were wearing heels, for example, and stepped on a part of the floor that wasn’t carpeted - they were ushered out and given a new number. And as these new rules were put in place around the country, and extraordinary thing happened: orchestras began to hire women.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 250

“In the past thirty years, since screens became commonplace, the number of women in the top US orchestras has increased fivefold.”

- Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 250

“‘Some people look like they sound better than they actually sound, because they look confident and have good posture’” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 251

“I began to listen with my eyes, and there is no way that your eyes don’t affect your judgement. The only true way to listen is with your ears and your heart.” - Julie Landsman, Blink by Malcolm Gladwell, pg. 251

“And what did orchestras do when confronted with their prejudice? They solved the problem, and that’s the second lesson of Blink. 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. We can prevent the people fighting wars or staffing emergency rooms or policing the streets from making mistakes.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 253

“It also matters because by fixing the first impression at the heart of the audition - by judging purely on the basis of ability - orchestras now hire better musicians, and better musicians mean better music.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 253

“When the screen created a pure Blink moment, a small miracle happened, the kind of small miracle that is always possible when we take charge of the first two seconds: they saw her for who she truly was.” - Malcolm Gladwell, Blink, pg. 254

What are your favourite Malcolm Gladwell quotes?

Source: Gladwell, Malcolm, 1963-. (2005). Blink: the power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

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