BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – A Review

You can call it a hunch, gut feeling, or intuition. Either way, decisions are made every day in a blink of an eye. A business person might choose not to merge their company because it doesn’t feel right, regardless of what the data says. A nurse can know that a baby is sick because of experience even though she can’t necessarily voice what seems wrong with the baby (Gladwell 2005). Or a librarian can start saving an extra snack for a specific teen that seems just like the rest but at the same time might seem a little more grateful for the afterschool treat. David Vabora is a former American football player who once played for the Rams and the Seahawks. He gives a power TedTalk on the power of listening to one’s gut.

Blink, by Malcom Gladwell, is a great book about the decisions we make in just a couple seconds of being presented something new. It’s what we decide before we start to analyze the problem and think things through. It’s our “adaptive unconscious.” Gladwell first wants the reader to know that decisions made quickly can be just as good as a decision made cautiously and deliberately (Gladwell 2005). He then wants us to learn the difference of when we should trust these instincts and when we should question them. Finally, Gladwell hopes the readers will know that these unconscious decisions can be educated and they can be controlled.  

What does this book have to do with our course content? So far, I’ve been intrigued by the concept of the Hyperlinked Library. In Module 3, Michael Stephens mentions that “adapting to change in a positive, forward thinking manner will also be important for libraries and information environments” (Stephens 2020). When I read Blink, and thought of what library services professional I thought of this idea of being open to change in order for libraries and information environments to stay relevant. For example, if a library has only four computers available but those four computers are always taken and there seems to be a line of patrons ready to use them, a thoughtful librarian who may have lived in a library space without technology may scowl those on a computer and reprimand them for not reading a book or instead of checking their social media sites. However, a librarian who is open to change may instead see a need for additional computers to allow for the service need. In Blink, Gladwell shows how our biases can unfortunately take over our snap judgements and corrupt our thoughts. He provides examples of an orchestra leader having a bias against women musicians. He raises the thought of how our legal system can be fairer if the people on trial were not present to protect against unconscious discrimination.

If interested in learning your own personal biases, or as researchers like to call them, implicit associations, you can take the Implicit Associate Test from Harvard. This test shows how we make faster connections with ideas that are already in our minds than those that are strange to us. You might think of yourself as a true feminist and that certainly may be true, but it can also be true that the world around you has brined you with its own biases. Our gut feeling and “thin sliced” decisions are important, yes. But we should be aware of possible prejudices.

Work Cited

(n.d.). Retrieved February 16, 2020, from

Gladwell, M. (2005). Blink: the power of thinking without thinking. New York: Little, Brown and Co.

Stephens, M. (2020). Module 3: The Hyperlinked Library Model

Vabora D. (2016, Dec 9). Trust Your Gut [TEDxSMU]. Retrieved from

2 replies on “BLINK: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking – A Review”

I have tried on more than one occasion to read Blink, but I usually make it to the same spot before I retreat into something that requires less self-reflection. (I’m working on having the fortitude to finish it over the summer).
One detail of Gladwell’s work that I find so intriguing is the real possibility that decisions made in an instant can be as equally good as decisions made with in-depth information, consideration, and analysis. This is so hard for me to believe as a person who usually takes in a lot of information and takes a lot of time to process it before making a decision. It is so out of my way of operating. @michaelstephens mentions in our lecture on Participatory Service, “overthink and die,” and I feel that I would be a library staff member that waits too long to make a decision and then the opportunity to change passes. Do you think the book was helpful in preparing one to trust their initial impressions? Or to improve how one forms their initial impression?

Hi Elva,

I really like all of Malcom Gladwell’s books – include The Power of Habit. I think if you start with another, Blink can become an easy read because you start to understand his way of writing.

To answer you question, I don’t know if the book is “helpful” in that way. If anything, the book makes me aware of my own quick judgements, my gut, and how I come to my own conclusions. The book seemed to help me reflect in all the ways I make a decision, including taking account all my history. So, my impressions are the same, I just am more aware of why I’m making them.

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